In my previous article, we discussed the raw food diet. I also made mention of the debate surrounding this subject and existing studies. If you didn't read it, I invite you to read it before you go further.
Unlike our regular articles, this one is a little longer since it is difficult to summarize in just a few words a clear fact and accurate explanations.
I will try to debunk the arguments concerning the raw meat diet, whether it be for or against it. The statements in italics are the most used arguments by people using raw meats. They can be found on the websites of the company or in the testimonies of satisfied clients. Each argument will be analyzed and commented on the most objective way possible based on facts.
Arguments used by raw food adepts
"The dogs fed raw meat diets have better digestion and make fewer stools. "
TRUE & partially FALSE :
This statement is difficult to assess. These testimonies are often people that changed their dog food from commercial kibbles to raw meat diets. It is TRUE that in general, many commercial diets produce more stools than feeding meat alone. Unfortunately, this statement is FALSE because no study compares a good diet with raw diet or even just the digestibility of raw meat versus the same meat but cooked. Several companies that are doing research in the veterinary field will provide studies on the digestibility of preparation, some up to 92% digestibility, which is not a large volume of stools, probably quite similar with the raw diets. The same statement could be made by comparing two normal kibbles diets from two companies or different quality.
"Dogs are carnivores and should only eat meat, like the wolf. The meat is best suited to their physiology, since they do not have the enzymes necessary to metabolize kibble. "
Genetically, the domestic dog is no longer a wolf. The dog and the wolf are different 10 genes away in their genetic code. These genes are, among all, responsible for the digestion of starch and the metabolism of fat. This means that the wolf is a carnivore, but the dog, it is rather an omnivore.
The cat is actually a carnivore. The companies say that their diets for cats and dogs are the same, might cause short or long term, deficiencies, imbalances and various health problems.
The same companies make you add fruits and vegetables several times a week, as well as supplements (like yogurt), oil and even algae and herbs. If the dog should eat only raw meat, why is it necessary to supplement it with all this?
Also, wolves do not have the same life expectancy that our dogs, which lives longer and older. In nature, the bacterial contamination risk is different, since the meat is eaten as soon as the prey is killed. If a wolf contracted a bacterial or indigestion fact, he may surely die, having no one to look after him.
"Cooking destroys proteins and enzymes of the meat. "
The kibbles’ manufacturers method does not destroy the protein or other nutrients. On the contrary, well prepared and cooked, it makes certain food such as corn protein much more digestible than if ingested raw.
Enzymes are not produced by or in the meat, but by the dog itself. And as seen above, genetically, he has what it takes to digest food.
"In raw diets, there are no by-products / grains / starches.
It is an organic diet / holistic / preservative free. "
TRUE and False
This statement cannot be generalized, it is therefore false a priori. However, it is likely that many raw diets indeed meet these criteria when compared with dozens of commercial formulas on the market.
Most raw diets are made with the same byproducts than commercial diets. Be it with kibble or raw, companies will write 'liver' for example, instead of 'by-products' because of the bad reputation of these.
The grains / starches are needed to diet dogs. They provide essential benefits, ensure good intestinal transit, and their absence could cause deficiencies or health problems. If we remove the grains like corn, it will be supplement with something else, such as rice, peas or other vegetables that contain fibers and other nutrients provided by the grains.
"My pet has a beautiful coat and is more muscular and less fat.
It has more teeth. He has more energy. "
TRUE and partially False.
It is TRUE that many animals on raw meat diets are less fat and have a beautiful coat than with the majority of commercial diets. Since they are fed with meat, they ingest little fat.
Also, chewing meat and bones produces a mechanical action that cleans the teeth.
HOWEVER, in veterinary clinic, we see dental problems in all animals, feed raw or not. We also see animals with a beautiful coat and perfect body condition on commercial diets of good quality.
"The food companies only seek profit and not the health of the animal.
They are told to research what the advantage.
Veterinarians and technicians are not trained in nutrition and conferences are sponsored by food companies. "
Every year, animal health professionals must take continuous formation. The conferences are on various subjects such as anesthesia, surgery as well as on behavior or nutrition. Saying that nutrition conferences are biased means that all continuous education given to the veterinarians and technicians is invalid!
Several food companies have large research centers to ensure optimal health of pets. Diets found in grocery stores today, for example, are much better than those sold there like 10 or 15 years ago. Because companies do research, they improve the kibbles of all quality. Diets sold through veterinarians are at the cutting edge of technology, but many commercial diets are also excellent. What’s more worrying, are those small companies that market diets with only testing on a small population of animals (a hundred or often less). These animal that then the long-term guinea pigs of those food.
"When the meat is well cooked and frozen, it poses no risk of bacterial / parasitic contamination.
My dog has no diarrhea / vomiting / other, so there is has no contamination in meat. "
Freezing does not kill all the bacteria and parasites. Dehydration or drying cold neither. Some are resistant and will fall into dormancy, while others simply will not be reached by the temperature, being in the center of the frozen meat.
The majority of animals contracting salmonellosis or E. coli (to only name a few) will have no clinical signs. But they will be carriers of these bacteria. If your dog licks your hands, licks the floor or the face of your child, it can transmit them. The stools can shed the bacteria for 14 days after ingesting a single meal containing salmonella (then contaminating your lawn or floor, for example). The bowls are also vectors and contaminate your sink, dishwasher and your dishcloths.
MAPAQ issued recommendations for handling raw meat for dogs, in connection with the possible risk to humans. This risk has therefore not been invented by veterinarians and food companies.
When disease / food poisoning appear, it is often sudden and intense, or installed for a long time.
"I have cured cancer / allergies / urinary infection / other diseases of my animal by transferring the raw."
TRUE, but at what level?
All these stories are touching. And true course! But they are not compared to other cases. These are testimonials. No studies on large populations of animals. Clinically, we sometimes see dogs eating raw with urinary tract infections, cancer or unresolved allergies. And we sometimes see dogs on commercial diets with the same results. Without studies, this remains testimonies, simply. But how much testimony concerning dogs that feel better after a change of kibbles brand? Just as much surely! But THAT ONE dog that comes to clinic because he has bloody diarrhea caused by E. coli or Salmonella, is this one really in better shape since it switched to raw meat diet?
In short, many arguments in favor of raw food are brought, but when examined closely, they are either inaccurate or have no comparative or are simply dangerous, as the risk to public health by bacterial and parasitic contamination. This last point is the most important because it is also the most trivialized by the followers of raw meat diets.
Next week, I will make you a list of recommendations for people wanting to feed raw diet, as well as the alternatives available to you if you want to avoid diets commercial kibbles.
It is possible to feed the animal avoiding commercial diets, but it must be done so, while being informed and take the necessary precautions.
Marie-Christine Hamelin, Veterinary Technician