Raw Food Diets: What are the real benefits of feeding raw?
The feeding of raw food diets to domestic species has long been a contentious issue. Often, these diets include raw meat, in particular poultry and beef (Finley, R. et al. 2006). However, the majority do not undergo any sort of heat treatment or sterilization in order to kill any bacteria present (Finley et al., 2007).
Those who support this method argue that raw diets are the ancestral food of both dogs and cats and will provide all the necessary nutrition for optimal health (Hamper et al., 2017). They boast improved skin and coat quality, improved stools and decreased incidence of diseases such as obesity and diabetes (Bernard, 2004). However, it is important to note that none of these claims have been scientifically proven. In fact, one study highlighted that kittens placed on a raw food diet did not show any significant difference in growth rate compared to those placed on a commercial cooked diet (Hamper et al., 2017).
In contrast, there have been several peer reviewed studies which highlight the negative impacts of these diets on both animal and public health (Morley et al., 2006; Weese et al., 2005). For example, Campylobacteriosis is the most frequent gastrointestinal infection in humans and one of the transmission routes is via animals, predominantly pets (Butzler, 2004). The epidemiology in pets is similar to that in humans, with undercooked or raw meats, such as those that make up a raw food diet, considered the main source of infection (Fox, 2006). Bojanić et al. (2017) found that of 50 samples of commercially available raw food diets, 47 of these tested positive for Campylobacter. A further risk to both animal and human health is Salmonella. Finley et al (2008) found that samples of frozen raw food diets taken from randomly selected pet stores in 3 different Canadian cities showed an overall Salmonella prevalence of 21%, with 18 different serotypes discovered. Resistance was observed to 12 out of 16 antimicrobials used, highlighting the potential risk of raw food diets not only to animals but also to humans, particularly those that are immunocompromised (Finley et al. 2008).
Raw food diets require much stronger regulatory guidelines in order to control and ideally remove any bacterial risks associated with their use.
Below are a few articles where you can find out more information regarding raw food diets:
Bernard, M., 2004. Raising Cats Naturally : How To Care For Your Cat The Way Nature Intended. Salt Lake City(Utah): Aardvark Global Publishing.
Butzler, J., 2004. Campylobacter: From Obscurity to Celebrity. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, Volume 10, pp. 868-876.
Finley, R. et al., 2008. The Occurence and Antimicrobial Susceptibility of Salmonella Isolated From Commercially Available Canine Raw Food Diets in Three Canadian Cities. Zoonoses and Public Health, 55(8-10), pp. 462-469.
Finley, R., Reid-Smith, R. & Weese, J., 2006. Human Health Implications of Salmonella Contaminated Natural Pet Treats and Raw Pet Food. Clinical Infectious Diseases, March, 42(5), pp. 686-691.
Finley, R. et al., 2007. The Risk Of Salmonella Shedding By Dogs Fed Salmonella Contaminated Commercial Raw Food Diets. Canine Veterinary Journal, Volume 48, pp. 69-75.
Fox, J., 2006. Enteric Bacterial Infections: Campylobacter, Gastric Helicobacter and Intestinal and Hepatic Helicobacter Infections. In: Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat. s.l.:s.n., pp. 339-354.
Giacometti, F., Magarotto, J., Serraino, A. & Piva, S., 2017. Highly Suspected Cases of Salmonellosis in Two Cats Fed With A Commercial Raw Meat-Based Diet : Health Risks To Animals and Zoonotic Implications. BMC Veterinary Research, pp. 1-5.
Hamper, B., Bartges, J. & Kirk, C., 2017. Evaluation of Two Raw Diets vs A Commercial Cooked Diet on Feline Growth. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 19(4), pp. 424-434.
Morley, P., Strohmeyer, R. & Tankson, J., 2006. Evaluation of the Association Between Feeding Raw Meat and Salmonella enterica Infections at a Greyhound Breeding Facility. Journal of the American Veterinary Association, Volume 228, pp. 1524 - 1532.
Weese, J., Rousseau, J. & Arroyo, L., 2005. Bacteriological Evaluation of Commercial Canine and Feline Raw Diets. Canine Veterinary Journal, Volume 46, pp. 513-516.
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