Monday, March 10, 2008

It's A Dog's Breakfast - Part 1

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.


  1. "Raw food diets, whether commercial or homemade, may make your pet and your family ill."

    Yes, if you do not take the time to properly research and impliment a raw diet or if you are an idiot and do not understand the fundamentals of handling raw meat products in a safe manner. In which case, I would hazard to recommend that you not attempt to prepare any meals for your human family either.

    A well researched raw diet formulated and implimented with sufficient thought and consideration poses no risk of making your pet or family ill.

  2. Thank you for the posting the article. I look forward to reading your next post.

    I did find that feeding certain brands of raw chicken did make my animals sick. It seems to work best to feed our gang raw beef bones and Evo. As long as I space the feeding out about five hours apart we are good to go.

    Thanks again,

  3. Thank you for this blog. While I do not need any more reason to never feed my beloved dogs a raw diet, it appears thousands upon thousands of foolish dog owners everywhere still need to see the light. I have a feeling the raw dog diet will kill more pets than the recall fiasco of last year. Thanks again.

  4. LOL… Why is it when someone is trying to inform individuals and give them information concerning their well being and those of their animals that people become defensive? Making Anonymous negative comments such as idiots and foolish are unnecessary. No one has all the answers or is perfect. I am always open to new research and suggestions.. Thanks again for the information Phyllis

  5. I think rawfeeders think the same of kibble feeders lexiedoodle.Why do kibble feeders get defensive when we try to tell you the harm kibble can do to dogs? Scientific fact that the majority of kibble fed dogs have diseased mouths by the age of 2.That is peer reviewed fact, not just opinion.Plenty more besides that.Have you seen hundreds of dogs dying from raw diets like you do kibble diets when there is a recall? Why would anyone feed raw diets if their dog and family was sick from the germs all the time? I've fed over 3,000 lbs of meat to my dog over the last couple yrs. No illness in either the dog or us, including a toddler and infant in the house.

  6. Anonymous, I am interested in your comment about diseased mouths.I would appreciate it if you would either post the links to those peer reviewed facts, or email them to me, if you prefer. I will be happy to read them.


  7. I agree with you. A great majority of animal lovers want to do want is best for their animals. The manner in which the information on correct diets, ect… is presented is very important. Before deciding what would work best for my situation I did a lot of research and asked several individuals what had worked best for them. Feeding the raw diet was completely new to me and I have had dogs for my entire life.

    I am very thankful I was not one of the individuals who used the kibble that had fatalities. My heart goes out to them. In my 50 plus years of life that is the first time I was aware of anything like that happening.

    As far as kibble goes I can say some of my dogs did experience dental problems. When I purchased my last sweetheart that is when I was introduced to the raw diet. I have noticed a huge difference in our dogs teeth since I have been feeding raw beef bones. As I said in my previous post I did try the raw chicken and the dogs became sick several different times. After doing some research I found out that if the raw chicken is not natural or organic there are preservatives added. Which I believe made my animals sick… Just my personal opinion which may be totally incorrect.

    After much discussion and talking with individuals we decided to do a combination of raw beef bones and Evo(which mimics the raw diet). I can say that our animals have trimmed up and their teeth are super white with no decay. Since we have implemented feeding with bones/Evo our son has started feeding his pugs the same. Both pugs have suffered from skin irritations and bumps under their chins. They have been to different vets numerous times trying different medications. Nothing seemed to completely clear up their outbreaks. The medication would give temporary relief. After being on the Evo for three weeks their skin has completely cleared up not to mention they have really slimmed up too.

    I did discuss the raw diet with my Vet and he was more concerned with the manner in which the meat had been handled from the slaughter house down the line. In the wild the animals were hunted, killed and then eaten were his thoughts with no humans handling the meat with ??? being passed along... Just gave me some things to think about. As with anything it is better to know as many of the facts as possible and make the best decisions for ourselves.

    Always open to suggestions to improve our lives.

  8. If I could afford to feed my dogs completey raw, I would, but since I can't, I feed them a combination of raw venison and kibble that gets mixed with other foods such as sardines and cottage cheese. They love the venison, and I feel comfortable feeding it to them because I know exactly where it has been. Nobody has touched it but me, so I know that it is safe. Neither of my dogs suffers any sort of skin problems, weight issues, or any health problems whatsoever. Their teeth are white as snow and they don't even have bad breath.

  9. The FDA is opposed in principle to a raw diet primarily due to foodborne pathogens that may be on raw meat and the potential of infecting humans. Generally, the bacterial load must be very high to cause clinical illness. The dog's physiology, i.e. it's short digestive tract and immune system will protect it from illness unless something is very wrong with the meat and/or the health of the dog.

    There is evidence to suggest that dog's may shed bacteria such as salmonella in its feces which can survive in the environment and may infect humans. However, I am not aware of any cases of infection in humans occuring in this manner.

    Humans are much more susceptible to foodborne pathogens than dogs. Using safe food handling practices, buying meat from a trusted source and using only quality, inspected meat and keeping it properly frozen and defrosting it in the refrigerator reduces much of the risk.

    I am not convinced that the food handling practices of commercial raw is any better than that of traditional dog food companies. There MAY be a higher probability of bacterial contamination. Anytime you are buying commercial, you are multiplying the variables that must be considered, e.g. transport, staff, equipment, etc.

    The raw diet should not be considered without full knowledge and understanding of the risks/benefits and its not for everybody. Generally, I find that raw feeders are highly educated, analytical, thoughtful individuals who do not just throw themselves into a "fad."

    There are, in fact, many health benefits to a raw diet if done properly. Unfortunately, this information is anecdotal for the most part as most veterinary researchers are funded by commercial dog food companies and very little credible research has been done on raw diets to examine health outcomes.

  10. I address many of the points raised in the most recent comments from Anonymous in the remaining four parts of "It's A Dog's Breakfast".

    As for the bacterial load necessary to cause illness, this depends very much on the specific bacteria present. Some Salmonella can provoke symptoms with just a few live cells; other Salmonella need larger populations. It's not possible to generalize.

    Part 2 of the series is now available. Please read on.

    Thanks to all for keeping this discussion courteous.

  11. What everyone needs to remember is that raw meat is handled by many pet owners every day. In most homes it is referred to as "making dinner" instead of "feeding the dog." I do feed raw & I do use raw meat as a main ingredient in my human family's dinner most nights. There is always the possibility that improperly handled raw meat from either of these sources could cause illness in my human family. In the years I have been feeding raw to dags & cats I have never had a food-borne illness hit them.

    To handle raw meat properly, for pet food or human food, proper sanitary measures must be followed. Furthermore, pet feces should be removed promptly and in a sanitary manner - no matter what you feed your pets. Soap & water is your friend - use it.

    If you believe that a raw diet is unhealthy for pets you will need to use a better excuse than the improper handling of food & waste to convince those of us who have been raw feeding for a long time with excellent results.

  12. "I have a feeling the raw dog diet will kill more pets than the recall fiasco of last year. Thanks again."

    Sorry you have a problem with intrusive negative thoughts. I don't and see no data showing raw diets to be less safe that commercial processed pet foods.

    Please feed food you are comfortable with and allow others to do the same. That is all I ask.

    It does not cast the FDA in a good light when they focus taxpayer money into areas where there is not a justifiable public health benefit. People suspect they are unduly influenced by big business when they do that and that perhaps consumers would be better off not paying for their 'help.'

  13. As a courtesy to all readers, I request that everyone identify himself or herself at least with some random initials so that a train of though can be maintained. I have enabled my moderation option and will block any posts that do not contain at least a minimal level of identification.

    Phyllis Entis, MSc., SM(NRM)

  14. Well I have been feeding raw diet to my cats for 2 years now and they are the picture of health. I also have a vet now that supports what I am doing. They are super healthy and bloodwork lab reports A+.

    The FDA? Who let in the tainted gluten? Why on earth would anyone listen to them?

    There's lots of research out there that talks about how to prepare a good raw diet like

    I agree with the others that if you read and research it correct and feed cats, who are obligate carnivores meat (not carbs) you will see the benefits of it. Healthy happy cats and no big vet bills from kitties sick from long-term feeding of bad vet kibble


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