The unprecedented 2007 pet food scandal sent a large number of dog owners on a search for a nutritious, safe alternative to dried or canned pet food. One option that many people investigated, and some people switched to, was a raw meat diet.
Feeding raw meat - either a commercial product or direct from the supermarket meat counter - has become increasingly popular in the last several years. Advocates of “raw feeding” claim that their pets are healthier, live longer, and are free from allergies and chronic diseases.
Poultry is a major component of most noncommercial raw food diets. Dogs are fed chicken wings, breasts, legs, backs and necks - all “on the bone”. Beef and lamb may also be part of a “raw meaty bone” diet, as is venison (especially in deer-hunting season) and other types of meat.
An indication of the increased popularity of raw meat pet diets is the availability of a very large selection of commercial “raw” products - typically in the form of frozen or freeze-dried patties. These are more convenient than do-it-yourself diets, and freeze-dried patties are much more practical when either boarding or traveling with a pet. There’s also comfort in feeding a commercial product - the feeling that the product is consistent in quality and is safe to use. After all, aren’t commercial pet foods regulated?
Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no regulations - other than the usual “truth in labeling” laws and the prohibition against knowingly selling adulterated products - that govern the safety of commercial raw pet foods. All that exists is Guideline #122, a Guidance Document issued in 2004 by the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). In this document, the FDA states that it “... does not believe raw meat foods for animals are consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks, particularly when such products are brought into the home and/or used to feed domestic pets."
The CVM hasn’t proposed a formal set of regulations to govern the safety and quality of commercial raw pet food. With just two people within CVM assigned to the entire pet food sector, the agency has neither the money nor the manpower to enforce any new mandates. But there is a much larger problem than the lack of FDA regulation of these products. Raw food diets, whether commercial or homemade, may make your pet and your family ill.
Watch for Part 2 of this series, “Common Misconceptions”, which will appear on Wednesday, March 12th.