Is BARFing good for your pet? - Page 2

PETS ISSUE: The raw food diet has devoted supporters — and harsh critics
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Raw-food aficionados Susan Yannes and Shireen Nyden, co-owners of Pawtrero, with Jackson and Soda Pop
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY BEN HOPFER

And according to Bowman, even the best grade of meat can carry diseases: "Even human-grade meat that's processed and shipped distances carries bacteria, and it's not meant for raw consumption." Bowman suggests that pet owners at least sear the meat first, since the bacteria tend to be on the surface.

Dr. Rebecca Remillard, a veterinarian and pet nutritionist, is one of the harshest critics of the raw diet. "This is not a safe practice," she writes on her Web site. "Dogs fed raw meat or eggs may develop mild to severe gastrointestinal disease from consuming products contaminated" with disease-causing bacteria.

Koss says that's just misinformation. "Bacteria and pathogens are a concern in the entire food industry," he said. "But if the food is handled properly, there is no danger at all to pets."

Susan Lauten, who has a master's degree in animal nutrition and a doctorate in biomedical science, runs a veterinary consulting business in Knoxville, Tenn. She agrees that, for the most part, healthy dogs and cats can safely eat raw food. But she's less enthusiastic about comparisons to the diet these creatures ate in the wild.

"In the wild, dogs didn't live very long," she told me. "And one reason was that they got sick from eating contaminated meat."

Lauten has a different concern about the raw diet. Animals that eat raw meat can release salmonella and other dangerous pathogens in their stool. "You don't want that around if you have kids or immune-compromised people," she said. "You can clean up after your dog, but you might not get everything."

And she raised another issue: economics. "Do you tell people that they can't have a cat unless they can afford the most expensive kind of food?"

Dr. Hannah Good, who practices holistic veterinary medicine in Santa Cruz, argues that "there's a lot that can be accomplished by going in a different direction than kibble." She noted that "a lot of diets are 100 percent garbage."

But she also said that high-grade kibble diets are balanced to include all the nutrients an animal needs.

And what do the vets feed their pets? Good said her dog "eats whatever I eat"; she prepares a version of her own meals for her canine companion. Lauten's dog has inflammatory bowel disease "and does very well on a commercial veterinary diet."

Bryan, who thinks what a dog eats is an important factor in its health, doesn't do the BARF thing either: "I give my dog Science Diet."

Comments

I am delighted to see veterinary acupuncture and raw feeding get write ups in The Guardian, but seriously:

We're in San Francisco, for goodness sakes. We have a raw feeding co-op! (sfraw.com) We are home to fantastic holistic vets who support responsibly produced raw diets. We're home to locally produced raw foods! There's no reason to be referencing veterinary consultants in Knoxville, TN or vet blogs.

It's nice to see veterinary acupuncture used as an adjunctive to western practices, but again, there are fantastic holistic vets who don't view it as the second choice treatment. It's safe and embodies the first, do-no-harm philosophy that should be leading the decisions made by our veterinarians.

There's a reason vets recommend Science Diet. It's familiar. It's the company that more than likely provided the minimal nutritional training portion of their education. It's often given free to vet students to feed their own animals.

Feeding your pet a balanced diet made from fresh ingredients is a matter of common sense. No parent would respect the advice of a pediatrician who recommended giving their child only packaged, premixed, processed foods for life.

The safety record for balanced raw feeding is outstanding and rivals that of canned or dry foods. This is especially true when we choose ranged, hormone and anti-biotic free meats to feed our pets. The level of harmful bacteria is significantly lower in the meat of ethically raised animals and is more than balanced by the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) available in raw meat. We're also working with the remarkable biology of the carnivore digestive tract, which is short and acidic and able to handle bacterial loads that could be harmful to a human.

Processed pet foods are a relatively new phenomenon, initially designed as a way to discard of indigestible protein material and poor quality commodities no longer consumable by humans. In the worst foods, that protein is sourced from dead, diseased and dying animals and these commodities can contain aflatoxins that can lead to cancers and organ damage. After generations of crap-feeding, we are dealing with immune compromised animals with massive allergies, diet-related conditions like diabetes and diseases of the digestive tract and a heck of a lot of cancers.

I would love to see more longterm research that supports raw feeding and hope that the veterinary profession will find the value in that research. But let's face it, healthy animals do not go to the vet as often. If vets aren't seeing these animals, they aren't supporting raw feeding. Like Susan Yannes from Pawtrero said, "People who try this don't go back."

Posted by Anna Thiel on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 5:33 pm