Every day, I receive a slew of articles from Pet Food Industry News in my inbox. Not many of them are about raw pet food, so when I see one, I pay attention. Today was an attention grabber;” Research Indicates That No Human Disease Has Come From Raw Pet Food Worldwide”. This stands in stark contrast to most US veterinarian and pet food industry recommendations to avoid feeding raw pet food.
New Raw Pet Food Study
A study that was recently published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science surveyed pet owners around the world. According to the study, thousands of pet owners who feed raw pet food did not report a single confirmed case of those foods passing disease-laden microbes to humans.
Less than a dozen experienced probable transmission. The gist of the study was that scientists didn’t find overwhelming, or even much evidence that households feeding raw pet food had suffered disease or illness caused by contamination.
Study co-author Nicole Cammack and colleagues gathered responses from 5,611 households from 62 countries. Three fourths of the subjects purchased raw, commercially prepared, and minimally processed diets for their pets (dogs and cats).
One takeaway from the study was that in households who prepared or fed raw pet food, the same utensils and surfaces that human foods were prepared on were used to prepare raw pet food. By utilizing the same utensils they used for their own families, they were more apt to thoroughly clean and sanitize after food preparation.
Personally, since beginning my dogs on raw pet food, I thoroughly clean their dishes every time they eat and clean the counter after I’ve prepared their meals. I know I did not wash their dishes that often when my dogs only ate kibble, though I should have.
Industry Warnings: Avoid Raw Pet Food
Many US organizations such as the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) recommend against feeding raw pet food that has not been subjected to a process to destroy pathogenic bacteria. The linked article notes that the AVMA does acknowledge that new processes are being developed to mitigate pathogenic contamination. These processes include High Pressure Pasturization (HPP) and irradiation.
Much of the reasoning behind avoiding raw pet food is due to contamination risk from your pets and preparation surfaces. The concern is that pets may harbor the bacteria in their mouths, on their fur, or in their feces. When they have contact with humans and things in their environment, the common worry is that there is risk of the pets shedding the disease-causing microbes into the environment. Therefore, people in the home would be at risk of getting sick.
Differences By Regions
In other countries, for example, many European countries, it is more common to feed pets raw or minimally processed diets. The belief behind raw diets is that the meat is less processed than kibble, which undergoes several heating cycles. As a result, raw feeders believe they are feeding a minimally processed and more nutrient dense diet.
In the USA, the dog food of choice is overwhelmingly kibble or canned pet food. With recent kibble recalls ranging from aflatoxin poisioning, excessive amounts of vitamin D, and cases of horrifying meat products being mixed in with pet food (recent court documents just released in the Rachel Ray Nutrish Just 6 class action lawsuit showed evidence of dog and horse DNA in the food), of course pet owners have reason to be wary.
Many pet owners choose a raw diet because there are often fewer ingredients in raw diets. Additionally, commercially prepared raw pet food is not subjected to the rendering processes that kibble dog food is, which is where some of the questionable and unethical meat products are introduced into the pet food chain.
Change in Narrative?
The general stance of the AVMA is to avoid these raw diets because of the risk of pathogen exposure, either from preparation, or from pets shedding the pathogens in the environment. Commercially prepared raw diets are held to the same standards and zero-tolerance policy as commercially produced kibbles and other pet food mediums.
Still, there is concern and warning for those who prepare their pets’ raw diets with meats sourced from the grocery store. Consequently, this is what I hear from my vet regarding Wally’s raw diet; we cannot control the environment the meat is processed in, the things it is exposed to, and all of the places it has to travel and be handled.
Therefore, the AVMA still recommends against DIY raw diets sourced from the grocery store. Meats in the grocery store do have an allowable pathogenic load, as they are sold with the intention of being cooked.
Many pet owners are concerned about talking to their trusted vet about their pet’s raw diet. First and foremost, your vet is your ally and has your pet’s best interest at heard, regardless of dietary recommendations. You do owe it to your vet and your dog to be forthright and transparent about your pet’s diet.
According to Cammack, “AVMA and other organizations could benefit from updating their policies to reflect these differing risk factors which could help with engaging raw-feeding pet owners in a meaningful and respectful way”.
The Future of Raw Pet Food
This paints a stark contrast to the regular outbreaks of disease and disease-related recalls related to dry pet foods and treats. Does this mean that raw diets, particularly commercially prepared, using safe and sanitary methods may become more mainstream? Perhaps more accepted in the professional community? Maybe in the future it won’t be so awkward to discuss your pets’ raw diet with your trusted veterinarian? Only time will tell.
Cammack, N. R., Yamka, R. M., & Adams, V. J. (1AD, January 1). Low number of owner-reported suspected transmission of foodborne pathogens from raw meat-based diets fed to dogs and/or cats. Frontiers. Retrieved February 6, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2021.741575/full
Wall, T. (2022, January 14). No confirmed human disease from Raw Pet Food Worldwide. PetfoodIndustrycom RSS. Retrieved February 6, 2022, from https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/10952-no-confirmed-human-disease-from-raw-pet-food-worldwide?v=preview
Raw or undercooked animal-source protein in cat and dog diets. American Veterinary Medical Association. (n.d.). Retrieved February 6, 2022, from https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/avma-policies/raw-or-undercooked-animal-source-protein-cat-and-dog-diets