Raw Diets - Are They Safe?

The following is my response to a discussion about the benefits and safety of raw diets which was prompted by the AVMA's current opposition to raw diets.  I haven't seen such vitriol since my advocacy of training collars and my discouragement of the use of treats for training.  Don't get your knickers in a twist!  Just read the information and be glad people are taking an interest in what to feed our pets.


My first entry to the discussion:


My father was a preventive medicine physician.  My mother was a nutritionist.  So I come to the discussion with both knowledge and experience.  If a raw diet is complete in nutrition, I agree that it is the better choice; however, it is not a good choice for dogs who participate in pet therapy in acute care hospitals and facilities with immune compromised patients.  When a stool culture result shows salmonella or campylobacter or any finding that is highly contagious to humans, a veterinarian is faced with treating something that they would not normally treat.  Additionally, a bacteriocidal dose (21 days or longer) rather than a bacteriostatic dose must be prescribed to satisfy the infection control department of the facility.  It is obvious that I would hate to give that amount of treatment to my pet.  The participants in my pet therapy program must have stool cultures every 6 months.  Those who feed raw diets have far more incidence of failed culture results.  With 25 years of experience in pet therapy, I have concluded raw diets are not the best choice for pet therapy participants.  To do good work in visiting the sick, I have had to sacrifice the better diet choice for my dogs.  Shannon Schaefer / Doggie Tech


Response to my first entry by XXXXXX:


Doggie Tech, I  don't know much about the health testing the therapy dogs go through. Maybe you can answer these questions for us: What of all the commercial dog food recalls due to salmonella? Are therapy dogs being prohibited from eating a brand of commercial food that's been subject to a recall?  How do owners prevent the dog from snacking on "off-the-menu" items such as rodents or what have you while at liberty in the yard?  The only dog I've ever fostered or owned (well over 200 dogs at this point) who was infected with campylobacter was a dog who had been fed strictly kibble her entire life, so I'm wondering how they come to the conclusion that raw-fed dogs are a greater risk than those who are kibble-fed.


My second entry:


 In respectful response to your questions, I would ask you a question:  Why would my observations and experience be so offensive to so many pet health enthusiasts? Is everyone so upset because I am not in lockstep with the energetic defense of raw diets?  If you will read my statement again, you will see I am fully aware of the benefits of raw diets; however, I have absolute documented proof that the dogs on raw diets who have stool cultures every 6 months have more failed lab results than dogs who are not fed raw diets.  This is over a period of 25 years experience and hundreds of dogs.  And "they" did not come the the conclusion about raw-fed dogs.  "I" came to that conclusion because the lab results have come to my desk for 25 years.  All the variable factors you cite may be a part of the picture; however, you really can't be serious to scoff at a conclusion after that many years of experience!  And my point was, not that anyone was paying attention, that I feel it a necessary sacrifice to not raw-feed in order to avoid the excessive treatment required by the facilities and infection control.  The facility does not care what kind of diet the dog is fed.  I clearly stated: "To do good work in visiting the sick, I have had to sacrifice the better diet choice for my dogs." And it would be an educated guess to say that very few dogs have complete ova and parasite testing and stool cultures as a routine veterinary procedure repeated every 6 months.  Additionally, the majority of the failed lab tested pet therapy dogs are symptom free. So I would respectfully submit that a majority of raw-fed dogs will never be tested and, therefore, remain undocumented. If push comes to shove in this discussion, would all the raw food enthusiasts who describe the diet benefits please produce stool culture results?  I love all the encouraging testimonials. But do they all have the lab results? Or are they just assuming their symptom-free dog would test clear?  Shannon Schaefer / Doggie Tech