I like to be open minded. That’s why I gave Jim McBean at DoggyBytes a forum for his advocacy of raw feeding the other day. But I’m not convinced its benefits outweigh its risks and here’s why:
- Dogs are no longer living in the wild. Yes, they are equipped for eating raw meat. So are we. Just because we can doesn’t mean we have to — or even should. Because…
- Most meat we buy today comes from animals that eat corn and other unhealthy feed and that are injected with hormones and chemicals (not to mentioned slaughtered in inhumane conditions). Just watch the movie Food Inc. — if you have the stomach for it. If a raw diet were to consist of meat that came from animals that were free-range, grass-fed and not subject to any growth hormones or other chemicals, great. But don’t tell me that feeding such meat every day wouldn’t be expensive.
- The more raw food you eat, the greater your chances are of getting some that has harmful bacteria in it. I eat sushi. I eat steak tartare. But not every day because I worry about mercury. And because I’m not in France.
- A dog with a compromised immune system, as Frankie’s is because he has diabetes, shouldn’t be taking the chance. Here’s what my pal Susanne Fritz wrote in response to Jim’s earlier comments:
I personally don’t give Jasmine raw bones for her teeth any more. I did for many years, and they did the job, but they also gave her the occasional stomach upset. Then a couple months after she was diagnosed with diabetes I gave Jasmine a big juicy bone as a treat just before Christmas. I consequently spent an expensive Christmas eve at the vets because she had been vomiting frequently, had diarrhea, and wasn’t eating (not good in a diabetic dog). The gastrointestinal bug was traced back to the bone, Jasmine got a couple of weeks of antibiotics, and my pet insurance company got yet another big bill (phew!). Since then bones have been off limits, and I have found Jas’s teeth have done fairly well feeding her a largely dry food diet.
- Because the alternative to feeding raw is not always feeding commercial kibble. A false dichotomy is posed by raw food advocates. There are other alternatives to feeding raw than supermarket brands. I feed Frankie Wellness Core topped with cooked lean beef or chicken.
- Because BARF (Bones and Raw Food) is a ridiculous acronym and the name for the website is even worse: Barfworld. I’d be embarrassed to feed my dog a puke-referencing diet. If I were to come up with a raw diet, I would call it BARC: Bones and Raw Comestibles, a dining plan that has a far better, and vocabulary enhancing, acronym.
Update: As it happens, my Aussie pal Susanne Fritz, who is quoted above, came up with a far more scientific — and far less childish than “because it uses the word ‘barf'” — contribution than mine to the raw food debate, which she sent to the “pro” post. As you’ll see, she is not opposed to raw feeding; she just urges people to use caution. I’m including it here:
A word of caution – dogs have evolved as omnivores and to state they are meant to be solely carnivorous is incorrect. “Dogs are opportunistic eaters and have developed anatomic and physiologic characteristics that permit digestion and usage of a varied diet.” Source: Hand, M. and Novotny, B. (2002) Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. Dogs require a diet that in addition to protein and fat includes a carbohydrate source, some fibre, and nutrients that they will not get eating meat alone. Wolves achieve this through eating the stomach contents of the herbivores they kill, and it has been documented that this is one of the first parts of the kill they will devour. In times when prey is scarce wolves also eat seeds and berries to supplement their diet.
It is possible to feed a domestic dog a vegetarian diet as long as it contains the appropriate levels of protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients to meet the dog’s daily metabolic energy requirements…. And there is nothing wrong with feeding your pet dog on a diet of raw foods you put together yourself at home as long as it meets all the dog’s nutritional needs i.e. contains enough protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber etc. A vet could give you suggestions on how to achieve this, or an animal nutritionist could also provide feeding plans. The area where care needs to be used if doing this is when substituting ingredients from the recommended diet plan, say due to a listed ingredient being unavailable, or deciding to use other ingredients because they are cheaper etc. This can result in nutritional deficiencies, which over time can cause health problems.
Sorry to get academic on you, but I had to clarify the dog – carnivore issue as it is a common misconception and can result in a sick pup in the long term. There are many excellent texts available, including the one I mentioned already, or the likes of “Animal Nutrition” by Mc Donald, Edwards, Greenhalgh and Morgan – a more technical text that goes into calculating daily metabolic energy requirements to develop appropriate diets for a variety of domestic animals (lots of boring calculations and such, but if you are into that sort of thing it’s a great book). I have a feeling what I have said is going to rile some people up so I’ll throw some qualifications out there to back up what I said (at the risk of being all academic yet again)
Susanne Fritz B. Science (Biology) B. Arts (Science Communication) Grad Cert Food Science There you have it – the science geek has been outed! 😉