Q: I want to feed a commercially available raw diet to my pets, but my veterinarian says it’s unsafe. Is this true?
A: The AVMA, veterinary medicine’s leading professional group, thinks feeding raw diets to pets is a definite no-no. According to its formal policy statement on this subject, the organization “discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans.”
The problem as the AVMA sees it (along with all mainstream veterinary groups) is that there’s a high level of evidence showing that raw or undercooked animal-source protein may be contaminated with a variety of pathogenic organisms that can cause infections in pets, often without their owners knowing they’re ill. What may be worse, however, is that recent studies have convincingly demonstrated that even pets with no symptoms can transmit these diseases to their humans.
So why take the risk, you ask?
Some pet owners have become so convinced of these diets’ benefits to their pets’ overall health that they’re willing to set caution aside on this issue. Dental heath, allergies, skin disease, orthopedic health, cancer prevention … They’re all cited as potential benefits by its devotees.
Sounds great, but unfortunately, there’s as yet no evidence to support these contentions.
For the record, I’m opposed to raw feeding as a matter of fundamental safety and professional liability. I do not, however, condemn my clients for feeding raw. In fact, I’ve even been known to feed my dogs and cats raw treats (a chicken heart here, a sliver of liver there).
Moreover, I recognize that the veterinary rationale against raw feeding is exclusively safety based and that our science in no way addresses the potential benefits of feeding these diets. As such, it’s impossible to properly assess the risk and rewards as we do in other aspects of our practice.
And don’t forget: Our physicians make lots of recommendations we don’t follow either. I eat raw fish and consume semi-raw eggs on a near-daily basis. I even (horrors!) make a nice beef tartare once in a while. And yep, I order my burger black and blue.
But is your veterinarian correct to dissuade you? Of course. You’d be shocked if any doctor told you a raw diet was 100 percent safe!
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.