September 27, 2016

Raw Food Diets: High Risk and Little Reward

Organic and clean eating trends may be good for human consumers but, raw food diets put both companion animals and their owners at risk for food-borne illnesses and nutritional deficiencies.
By Jenina Pellegren
There are several studies that document the presence of infectious agents in raw foods and the potential for shedding these agents in the pet’s environment. Salmonella shedding by dogs or cats can result in illness in humans. In 2009, an outbreak of disease due to multi-drug resistant Salmonella typhimurium in four animal facilities was reported and illness occurred in animals, employees, and clients. Eighteen humans and 36 animals were fecal culture positive for Salmonella.

While there are ways to reduce the risk of infections from food-borne illness, in a conversation with American Veterinarian, Emily Yunker, DVM and Associate Veterinarian with the Branchville Animal Hospital in Alabama, said that with a raw food diet, especially where owners are preparing it at home, “It is hard to determine if the animal is getting a balanced diet. It is also hard to see any deficiencies in the short term.” This means more wellness visits and bloodwork are needed to determine if a pet is enjoying a fully balanced diet and if adjustments should be made, like adding vitamin supplements; this can become costly for pet owners.

Dr. Yunker, DVM does not recommend raw food diets, but she does recommend that pet owners, “learn about the companies making food for your pets. Have they had many recalls? If so, what did they do about it? Can they provide you with information about where they source their ingredients?”

There may be some benefits to feeding your companion animal a raw food diet as part of an integrative or enhanced part of a more conventional diet. However, pet owners are advised to speak to their veterinarians to learn more before they decide to transition their pet to a raw food diet.

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