An article being published in multiple newspapers on Sunday, 3/25/07 features a self-proclaimed dog nutrition specialist touting the “benefits” of a raw-food diet (sometimes known as BARF–Bones And Raw Food diet) for dogs. Apparently, she will be giving a public presentation, and was fielding phone calls all last week, as many people are considering a raw-food diet for their pets in response to the pet-food recall.
I am not linking to the article, as I stand by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s position on raw-food diets, and believe it would be professionally irresponsible to direct people reading my blog to “advice” that is against the interest of public health and safety.
The American Veterinary Medical Association’s scientifically-supported position on raw-food diets is that they are NOT recommended, “…because of the risk of foodborne illnesses in pets as well as the public health risks of zoonotic infections.” Feeding one’s pet a raw-food diet puts both pets and their owners at risk of salmonella and other pathogenic poisoning.
From Raw Meat Diets Spark Concern–American Veterinary Medical Association, January 15, 2005 (BlackCat Note: Emphasis Added):
In recent years, feeding dogs raw meat has become increasingly popular. The trend, however, has sparked health concerns, because of the risk of foodborne illnesses in pets as well as the public health risks of zoonotic infections. Now, a new study that identifies potentially harmful bacteria in 21 commercial raw meat diets bolsters these concerns.
“This has some potential public health concerns for both the animals being fed these diets and their human owners,” said Dr. Rachel Strohmeyer, a researcher at the Animal Population Health Institute, Colorado State University…
“There is a greater apparent risk to animals and humans from feeding a raw meat diet,” Dr. Strohmeyer commented. “I really do not think that there is any advice we, as veterinarians, can give to improve safety. You can give basic food safety guidelines like hand washing, cleaning surfaces, and bowls, etc., not letting the food sit out for extended periods of time. I just think that it would be a disservice for a veterinarian to give any recommendation for the safety of dogs and their owners (except to not feed raw meat to pets). Bacteria are not the only health concern, there are also parasites and protozoal organisms that can be transmitted in raw meat, even meat labeled fit for human consumption.”
Other veterinarians, including Dr. Jeffrey LeJeune, a food safety molecular epidemiologist and microbiologist at The Ohio State University, agree that pets should not be fed raw meat. *End of Excerpt*
The loudest voices speaking up in favor of a raw-food diet tend to be those of breeders, show-dog handlers, and groomers–NOT medical specialists, scientists, researchers, or clinicians. The highest scientific and/or medical credential of the woman featured in the article is “veterinary technician”, which, I can personally attest (as I am a technician myself), does NOT constitute scientific expertise. “(She) said she doesn’t have a veterinarian’s opinion to offer because she hasn’t needed one…” and her recommendations are “supported” by “newspaper articles from around the country”.
It’s crucial that one acknowledge the limits of their knowledge, the limits of their expertise. I personally prefer to follow–and offer–the recommendations of recognized professionals in the field, and facts stated and published by university scientists. I am a just a veterinary technician; those people know a lot more than I do. Newspaper articles are not professional journal articles, and phone calls to veterinarians are not equivalent to peer-reviewed published research studies.
The genuine experts agree: Raw-food diets are risky business, and are NOT advised.