There will always be circulating ideas about what is best for the pet community. Some of these trends are new and emerging, and some have been around for a while. Whether you’ve heard about it through a friend, online, or in a local paper or pet store, many of us have heard different ideas of what is best for our beloved cat or dog. Sometimes though, it may be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction, or basically, what the truth is about pet foods and what is really best for your pet. So, how do you really know what your pet actually needs? Take a look at our article about the raw meat diet trend below to find out the latest information from the veterinary community. All information has been scientifically proven through studies and takes into account everything an animal needs to stay both healthy and well balanced.
One idea is that feeding raw meat diets can be better or more beneficial to your pet. There are numerous reasons why people decide to choose this diet. One of those reasons is that they believe animals should eat what they do in the wild. It is true that animals such as wolves eat raw meat, but their life expectancy is also much shorter than that which you would strive for in your own pet. The reason animals who eat raw meat may tend to live shorter lives can be caused by several factors, including the presence of bacteria in the meat. There are several types of bacteria found in raw meat, such s salmonella, which can be highly dangerous if consumed. Even if you purchase ‘human grade’ meat, it is still dangerous if left uncooked.
Raw meat contains no fillers, is this not better for my pet?
Another myth is that raw diets are more beneficial because they contain no ‘fillers’. But the truth is that grains are not always added as fillers in pet foods, but they are actually added in order to provide health benefits for the animal. Fillers such as grains (corn, oats, barley, rice and other grains) contain minerals, vitamins and protein that can be part of a well balanced and nutritional diet for your pet.
Aren’t by-products in commercially made cooked diets harmful to my pet?
On top of the filler myth, many people also believe that the by-products in commercial diets are unsafe or harmful. By-products may be parts of the animal that we don’t typically eat ourselves, but that are not actually harmful for the animal to eat. Furthermore there are specific definitions/restrictions given to manufacturers that verify what by-products can or cannot include. In truth, many homemade or commercial raw diets also contain these by-products!
Don’t raw meat diets offer additional health benefits over commercial cooked diets?
One important fact about raw meat diets, state that there are no actual scientific studies published stating the improved health benefits of this diet. There is NO difference in digestibility between the raw meat diet versus a cooked meat diet. Furthermore, there are more and more studies showing concerns for animals on raw meat diets, such as: nutritional imbalances, risks to the animal (such as the high numbers of bacteria being present in uncooked meat) and also concerns for public health.
Why would a raw meat diet cause nutritional imbalances in my pet?
Studies conducted in several countries showed that there were multiple nutritional imbalances present in homemade and commercial raw meat diets, some of these were major nutritional imbalances! Some raw meat diets also contain nutrient excesses. One imbalance these diets tend to cause, is an imbalance in potassium and phosphorous. It is for this reason that we must choose carefully balanced, and scientifically proven diets for the benefit of our pets.
If I add bones to the raw meat diet, would this not help make it more balanced?
Most commercially made and homemade raw meat diets are extremely deficient in calcium even if bones are added (or other calcium sources, such as crushed eggshells example). This can be dangerous for your pets, especially if they are growing.
In meat which contains bones there are also additional risks, such as: perforation (tearing) of the gastro intestinal tract, or broken teeth which can be painful for the animal and expensive to repair.
What are some of the additional health risks my pet may face if consuming a raw meat diet?
One of the main risks of eating a raw meat diet includes gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the digestive system, which usually results in vomiting and diarrhea. Excessive or prolonged vomiting/ diarrhea can cause serious health risks to your pet, such as dehydration. In a raw meat diet, gastro intestinal disturbances may be caused by the high amounts of bacteria or fat content in the meat.
In at least one study, the animal’s blood values also change for the worst. In one study, dogs that ate raw meat diets had higher kidney enzymes than those on a normal commercial diet. As well, cats in this study showed high cholesterol levels. This could potentially lessen the lifespan of your pet.
As mentioned earlier in this article, bacteria is also one of the major concerns with consuming raw meats. Recent studies have shown that between 20-44% of commercial/ homemade raw meat diets are contaminated with salmonella (Weese , 2005:Strohmeyer2006; Finley 2007). This is dangerous to people as well as other animals because this bacteria can be shed in the stool of the infected animal. People or animals who are especially susceptible are those who are young or immune-suppressed. Therefore this can be seriously detrimental to those in, or nearby, the household of the infected animal.
When considering pet foods, always chose what is best for your pet. Just as you would not consume a raw meat only diet, our pets too need a proper balanced, nutritionally sound diet. If unsure what the best diets refers to, please speak with professionals who are properly trained and educated on the most scientifically proven diets available. The staff of the Lansdowne Animal Hospital would be more than happy to discuss with you the benefits and risks of commercial versus homemade diets, or any other diet trend. We care for what is best for our customers… the cats and dogs who walk through our doors each and every day!