(NaturalNews) If you are a cat owner, more than likely you understand the importance of providing your feline friend with optimal nutrition. Your cat's nutrition can be a very confusing topic if you are like a lot of pet owners out there. Nutrition is not a simple topic to cover; the amount of contradictory information available is enough to make a professional animal caregiver cringe. When you take your cat to the vet for a routine checkup you are told she's overweight and given a wet food to try. The wet food is important because cats don't drink enough water to stay fully hydrated on a dry commercial food diet. The first three ingredients on the can read: water, liver and beef. Those ingredients don't look so bad. Since canned food is predominantly water, why wouldn't the first ingredient be water? Notice how general the ingredients are though. Liver, well there aren't many mammals that don't have one of those. Beef is a little more specific but then you are left wondering about the quality; Was it a downer cow? The list of ingredients on this particular food is well over 20, many just as vague as the first few. As you move through the ingredients list you come across quite a few ingredients that you can't pronounce and don't know what are. Would you eat something with an ingredients list like this? Would you eat it every day of your life? Do you feel like this would promote a happy and healthy life? If these questions resonate with you, raw food may be a good option.
Feline Physiology Cats are obligate carnivores. Their teeth are designed to rip flesh and crack bone. In the wild they feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Cats may eat grass but their teeth do not allow them to masticate it so it travels through their system in its whole form. If you open your cat's mouth you will see 30 sharp teeth, all with specific purposes. The feline digestive track is designed to digest meat. A cat eating a diet high in carbohydrates could cause a multitude of problems, most of which don't show up until much later in life. Diseases including dental disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, obesity and kidney failure are becoming more common and even acceptable. One nutrient that cats must get from their diet is taurine. They are unable to produce this particular amino acid on their own so they must consume meat or get it through supplementation (in commercial foods). Cats that consume a high carbohydrate diet are consuming a lot of filler material that their body doesn't know what to do with. The consumption of food that their bodies can't process results in larger, more odoriferous bowel movements. Left to their own devices, cats would hunt and "consume prey high in protein with moderate amounts of fat and minimal amounts of carbohydrates." (Cornell) Their entire body is designed to hunt; from their needle like claws and sharp teeth to their long legs and slender body.
Benefits of Raw Food Feeding your feline companion a raw food diet isn't a mainstream practice yet but neither is being vegan. The choice to feed your cat a raw food diet is just as important as choosing to feed yourself a vegetarian or vegan diet. The benefits are substantial. Since cats are obligate carnivores they are able to meet their nutrition requirements by consuming fresh raw meat. It is advised to feed a species specific diet; providing your cat with meats that they could catch in the wild. Poultry is a great option. These meats are high in protein and not as fatty as beef or pork. To provide your feline friend with a diverse diet, you could rotate in rabbit and small amounts of larger mammals or wild game. It is important that the cat is allowed to consume the intestines (including the heart, lungs, liver & kidney) as well as muscle meat and bone so they are getting a well balance diet.
If you were to ask your vet about making your own cat food you may find that it is frowned upon. Cats require a balance of multiple different nutrients including fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Cats are very susceptible to deficiencies. If you ask about feeding your cat raw food, unless your vet is very well versed in nutrition and the benefits of raw food, they may try to talk you out of it. Make sure you are prepared to have this conversation with your vet by educating yourself and having documentation with you during your cat's routine visit.
Cat's mouths benefit greatly from the chewing action required for them to consume whole pieces of raw meat and bone. This chewing action breaks tartar and gingivitis off the teeth and stimulates the gums, acting like a natural tooth brush. Cats that eat dry or wet food do not get this benefit, the only way to remove the tartar and gingivitis is to put your cat under anesthesia and scale and polish their teeth. In most cases, if the cat has to be put under anesthesia it is because they are already exhibiting signs of dental disease like bad breath or pain when eating. Depending on the severity of the dental disease it may take a couple procedures to finish cleaning your cat's teeth. Another thing to consider is the number of times during your pet's life that she will have to undergo this procedure. The exploitation of dental disease through exams and minimal education is one way veterinarians make money. Since a majority of pet owners feed their cats dry or wet food there is a prevalence of dental disease in the companion animal community and a consistent revenue stream for animal dental hygienists.
Cats are able to digest meat and bones. Their systems were built to do it. People have only been feeding their pets processed foods for about 100 years. Commercial pet foods became popular in the 1930's during the Great Depression. Commercial food wasn't developed to promote health and well being; it was made of cheap ingredients and designed to sustain life not nourish it. When given the opportunity cats still hunt and consume their kill. Due to cats short intestinal tract and a reduced time required for digestion there is little concern for bacterial proliferation. The highly acidic environment that their bodies create when a meal has been consumed quickly breaks down meat and bones to extract its nutrients. Some feel it is important to supplement their pet's diet with a cat specific multi-vitamin or supplement powder so they get a full spectrum of nutrients as well as greens. Depending on personal knowledge and research this is an area where people who feed raw differ greatly.
A cat's outward appearance benefits greatly from a high protein natural diet. You will see a healthier fur coat, brighter eyes and healthier skin just to name a few. By supporting your cat's heath with raw food you create a happy healthy cat that will not need to go to the vet as often. Their immune system will be stronger and they will be less susceptible to parasites. You may find that you no longer need to use chemicals to prevent fleas. With a decrease in vet visits it is possible to put more money towards promoting the health of your feline friend. When you take your cat to the vet don't be surprised if your vet or the technicians make comments on how healthy your cat looks. This may also provide you the opportunity to educate your vet on the benefits of a raw food diet.
How to make the Switch These lanky little carnivores will thank you with many years of health if you decide to support their systems by providing them with natural fresh meats. The cost of feeding a raw food diet to your cat may prove to be less expensive than the super premium foods you currently feed. There are multiple options for feeding your cat raw food. You can order your food online through a company like Primal Pet Foods, Inc. or Hare-Today, buy it at a local natural pet food store, join a local raw pet food co-op, visit a local farmer or butcher shop, or pick it up at the grocery store. Purchasing pre-packaged foods has the advantage of simplicity, but you don't know exactly what went into your pet's food. Buying whole meat and cutting it up is less convent but you do know exactly what your cat is consuming. It is advised to feed 4% of your cat's body weight (a little less if you are looking to get them to lose weight, a little more if you are looking to get them to gain weight) or 4% of their ideal weight.
Once you have a preferred source of meat (whole or pre-packaged and preferably organic) you have to get your cat to convert over to raw from kibble or wet food. This can be a long, drawn out task. Cats like their commercial food; getting them to switch over to raw is similar to getting a kid raised on fast food to switch over to a vegetarian diet. If your cat is young it may be easier than if your cat is older. Cats become addicted to the flavoring and sugars in the commercial foods. Raw meat does not have the odor that commercial foods do. It is designed as nature made it, not in a lab. A little coaxing may be necessary. Make sure your serve the raw food at room temperature, cats are more inclined to eat food that is near body temperature. Starting by getting your cat on a 100% wet food diet is advised. Ground up pieces of raw food can then be mixed into the canned food, slowly replacing the wet food. Once your cat is on 100% raw food you can start making the pieces larger and giving them small bones to consume. They will catch on quickly once they are on a 100% raw diet. This whole process can take anywhere from a couple weeks to months. Don't get discouraged, it is worth the time and energy.
In Conclusion Remember that you aren't alone when you decide to make this switch. There are enlightened veterinarians out there who are very helpful; there are also many different internet communities whose main focus is pet health and nutrition. The opportunity for you to learn and grow your pet nutrition knowledge is limitless and you may be surprised to see how the knowledge gained from feeding your pet well affects other aspects of your life. The greatest reward is having your happy health cat that is 10, 15 even 20 years old not be plagued with the health issues that most are. This is not to say that a raw food diet will prevent them from ever getting sick, but it will support their body and immune system making it less likely.
Feeding your cat a natural diet is not intended to substitute for veterinary care. If your cat already has a compromised immune system you should work with a veterinarian, animal nutritionist and/or nutrition consultant to make sure you do not tax your cat's already overworked system. To best serve your cat it may be advisable to use nutrition as a complimentary therapy to Western practices. Once you have made the switch to raw it will take a little time to see the full benefits. Fur coat, skin and eyes may take a little while whereas you may notice the litter box and energy level (depending on age) right away.
What is the B.A.R.F. Diet? - Primal Pet Foods
B.A.R.F. (Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) is a diet for animals based on raw meaty bones, muscle meat, organs and raw, fresh fruits and vegetables. This diet mimics the eating habits of animals in their natural habitat, the wild, where they subsisted on the flesh and bones of their prey, the innards, and any predigested fruits, grasses, leaves and seeds.
Primal Pet Foods Formulas offer an easy way to keep your pet’s diet as close to nature as possible. By eating raw, fresh and wholesome foods, your pet receives optimum nutrition through active enzymes, unprocessed amino acids and necessary vitamins and minerals that are essential to a natural long, happy and healthy life.
Grain-Free Diets Need a Balanced Approach - Wellness
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As Americans strive to eat a healthier diet, they don't plan on leaving their pets in the doghouse.
There is growing popularity for a feeding philosophy that emphasizes a higher-protein, grain-free diet similar to what a cat or dog might eat in the wild. Just one of many choices, this feeding approach can have numerous health benefits if done thoughtfully.
Choosing a healthy diet is a balancing act. But adding more meat in pursuit of higher protein content can also mean too much fat, calories and minerals, which can cause health problems such as weight gain or even obesity. Wellness is one brand that has taken that balance into account.
Natural products such as Wellness® CORE™ for Cats provide this type of grain-free, protein-enriched diet with balanced levels of minerals to promote a healthy urinary tract.
Grain-free cat food should be high in lean-quality meats, and contain Omega 3 fatty acids like those found in flaxseed and salmon oil for feline skin and coat health.
Natural dog products such as Wellness® CORE™ for Dogs are grain-free and packed with lean, high-quality proteins. CORE also contains glucosamine and chondroitin to promote bone and joint health, plus nutrient-rich greens and botanicals such as kale, broccoli, spinach and parsley.
Balance is key to healthy pet nutrition. Pet food makers who add extreme levels of protein and fat are barking up the wrong tree. Consumers should look for products like Wellness CORE, with the optimum balance of protein, fat, calories and minerals, to keep their dogs and cats happy and healthy.
Unique Dietary Needs of A Feline: 5 Interesting Tidbits - Wellness
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When it comes to eating behavior and nutritional needs, it is essential pet owners recognize cats are not "just small dogs" and have unique and interesting needs when it comes to proteins, amino acids, essential fatty acids, water and more. Here are 5 tidbits you may not know about your cat's diet:Protein metabolism is unique in cats, requiring a higher protein intake in comparison to dogs. Animal sources of protein such as chicken, chicken meal, fish or fishmeal should always be on the ingredient list.
In cats, dietary taurine (a sulfur containing amino acids) is essential, and cardiac and eye problems can result if insufficient amounts are present in food. Most animal tissues contain high levels of taurine. Also, look for taurine to be listed separately in the ingredients.
Sulfur containing amino acids methionine and cystine are required in higher amounts by cats than most other species. A deficiency of these amino acids can lead to problems like weight loss, lethargy, eye discharge, dull coat and more. Again, these amino acids are found in animal tissue.
Unlike dogs, cats cannot produce arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and therefore require a source of animal fat in their diet, such as chicken meal or fat. A shortage of these fatty acids can cause problems like fatty liver, reproductive failure, poor skin condition and impaired wound healing.
Cats do not adjust water intake based on their diet, and have reduced total water intake when fed dry foods only.
Pet owners should encourage cats to drink water and have an adequate fluid intake daily.
Controlled Nutritional Intake for Puppies - Wellness
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As a puppy owner you may believe that your growing "baby" cannot eat too much. Concerned that you pups may not receive enough nourishment, you may actually fall into the trap of overfeeding.
According to Dr. Edward Moser, a consulting veterinary nutritionist to Wellness, a proper diet hinges on energy intake. The body burns what it requires from a diet's energy-yielding nutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates, as opposed to vitamins, minerals, crude fiber and ash, which are non-energy producing nutrients) and stores any excess. Allowing a puppy, however active and fast-growing, too high an energy intake can cause obesity and the sort of rapid growth that leads to orthopedic problems later in life.
In order to optimize growth, pet parents must first recognize that the goal in feeding puppies is not necessarily to have them grow as big and as fast as possible. In designing a proper feeding plan, they must consider such factors as the animal's surface area (smaller animals have larger surface areas, which typically indicates a higher energy intake need). As an owner, you should never allow an animal - juvenile or otherwise - to engage in what's called "free-choice eating" (eating as much as it wants, when it wants). Instead, you should consider two feeding periods lasting between 10 and 20 minutes when the dog can eat the recommended amount, but after which food is not available until the next meal.
Though the proportions of various ingredients differ in puppy and adult recipes (a puppy food is more nutrient-dense than maintenance varieties), it's important to that the overall ingredient list should not vary.
Both Wellness Super5Mix® Just for Puppy Formula, in a smaller kibble size just perfect for puppies, and Wellness Just for Puppy Formula in cans provide similar ingredients to those of their Wellness adult counterparts, ensuring a high rate of digestibility and a healthful, delicious product for dogs of every age.
Raw Diets for Pets - Nature's Variety
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The issue of feeding pet dogs and cats a diet of raw meat has spurred much controversy and debate among the veterinary community, government regulatory agencies, and consumers. Commercial and home-prepared raw diets have been fed to dogs and cats for many years. However, the recent pet food recall due to melamine contamination has brought increased attention to raw diets. More pet parents are choosing to prepare raw food for their pets or to purchase commercially prepared raw diets. So, with the rise in raw food popularity and the availability of pet food cookbooks or commercial diets, the topic of raw food and potential zoonosis is gaining considerable attention.
Critics claim raw food diets are dangerous to pet and human health because of the risk of spreading helminths, bacteria, and protozoans. They argue that raw diets still represent a human and public health threat despite proper food handling and sanitation practices. Further, they state that pathogens in raw meat are capable of causing illness in dogs and cats. Supporters of raw diets defend the health benefits of raw food, arguing raw diets are far superior to that of cooked food. Dogs and cats descended from predators that caught and ate their prey raw. Proponents claim that many of the health issues facing our pets today are due to the development of cooked pet food in the second half of the 20th century. For them, the issue of pet and human health is moot; preventing illness is simply a matter of common sense hygiene. First, it is important to note that there are 4 main types of raw food diets and that each will carry its own inherent risks. Broad statements made by both sides of the issue may not apply depending on the type of diet fed and the quality of the ingredients used in the raw diet.
1. Raw diets used at zoos, wildlife parks, wolf rescues, and greyhound facilities a. Usually fresh or frozen raw meat bought in bulk from slaughterhouses. b. Meat quality varies and may include 4-D (dead, dying, diseased, downed) animals, road kill, or other animals not fit for human consumption. c. Meat may be slightly rotten.
2. Biologically appropriate raw food (BARF) a. Consumer-bought meat and bones and prepared at home. b. Meat is human-grade; bones are usually whole. c. Meat and bones are handled by consumer and may not be done in a sanitary manner.
3. Mixes of dry fruit/veggies/grains a. Designed to be combined with fresh meat the consumer purchases. b. Meat is human-grade; bones are usually whole or not used. c. Meat and bones are handled by consumer and may not be done in a sanitary manner.
4. Commercially prepared diets a. A blended mixture of raw meat, vegetables, fruit, and ground bones that are properly packaged and sold frozen at specialty pet stores. b. Meat and bones are from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspected animals deemed fit for human consumption; bones are usually ground or sold whole. c. Meat and bones are handled in a sanitary manner, typically in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
5. Raw diets used at zoos, wildlife parks, wolf rescues, and greyhound facilities a. Usually fresh or frozen raw meat bought in bulk from slaughterhouses. b. Meat quality varies and may include 4-D (dead, dying, diseased, downed) animals, road kill, or other animals not fit for human consumption. c. Meat may be slightly rotten.
There are relatively few scientific studies exploring the issue of raw meat based diets. Even with these, there is still a dearth of reliable data. Moreover, there are very few, if any, reports that can actually link human illness with feeding raw diets. There are numerous reports from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) detailing Salmonella transmission between reptile and child or rodent and child (CDC reports). Similar reports about the dangers of petting zoos abound, highlighting the potential danger of Salmonella and Escherichia coli transmission. In fact, there are now warning signs posted at petting zoos/fairs. Likewise, many pet stores have signage about health hazards associated with pet reptiles and rodents. The CDC recommends proper hand washing, education, and posted warning signs, yet does not ban the sale of these pets or the operation of petting zoos and fairs.
It is difficult to find evidence based-CDC reports about dog/cat to human transmission of Salmonella or E. coli, let alone such cases in which dogs or cats were fed raw diets. The one report that could be found occurred in 1973 and linked the transmission of Salmonella from a clinically ill dog to a young child (Morse et al., 1976). Details of this case indicate the dog was intentionally fed contaminated chicken broth; it was left at room temperature for 2 days. The dog soon developed a clinical case of salmonellosis, profusely disseminating Salmonella in its loose and runny stools. It is important to note that the child that became ill was teething at the time, constantly putting things in her mouth. It is clear to see how transmission occurred. No other persons in the household were affected.
Data show that up to 30% of all raw chicken sold at grocery stores is contaminated with Salmonella. Likewise, beef and other meats often harbor non-type specific E. coli. Raw meat purchased for human food must be handled, stored, and cooked properly to prevent disease transmission. Consumers are advised to wash and disinfect all surfaces, cutting boards, utensils, and hands that have come in contact with the raw meat. Education, proper handwashing, and common sense are a part of human food preparation and should be extended to preparing food for pets.
That said, health officials appear to be mildly concerned about handling raw diets and are strongly concerned with pathogens being shed in pet feces. For example, it is known that the same strains of Salmonella that may make a human ill may not always make a dog or cat ill. Dogs and cats have unique physiochemical adaptations that reduce the chance of developing food-borne bacterial disease. Researchers have learned that saliva Hart and Powell, 1990), acidic gastric, and pancreatic excretions (Rubinstein et al., 1985; Laubitz et al., 2003) possess antibacterial properties effective in preventing pathogens from colonizing. These pets may never contract bacterial infections. However, for those that do, many will be asymptomatic – they may have active or low-level infections and actively shedSalmonella in their feces but never display clinical illness. This same argument has been extended to include E. coli, Campylobacter, Listeria, helminths, and protozoans.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has not yet taken an official stance on raw diets; however, the majority of members are anti-raw, citing zoonoses, foreign bodies, and cross-contamination. Still, there is little scientific evidence to support these claims and even fewer evidence-based case reports that verify fecal-oral transmission to humans of pathogens shed from pets fed raw diets. Thus, the risk of transmission is low. Raw food is not the only public health risk that pet food poses to humans. Other pet foods that have been processed and considered “sterile” have been contaminated with pathogens. In August 2007, a multi-state Salmonella outbreak was linked to dry dog food produced by Mars PetCare (CDC, 2007). Other dry pet foods have been recalled due to Salmonella (i.e. Walmart’s Ol’Roy in 2007). Canned food is not immune to bacterial contamination either (i.e. Dick Van Patten’s Eat-ables and other canned pet and human foods contaminated with botulism toxin in 2007). In one study, the feces-associated bacteria Campylobacter was detected in canned dog food but not commercial raw diets (Strohmeyer et al., 2007). Among natural treats, pig ears are blamed as a potential source of Salmonellacontamination (Finley et al., 2006).
The few scientific papers that deal with the issue of raw diets are rudimentary at best and describe instances that are not directly applicable to commercially produced raw diets. Moreover, some are strictly reviews or opinions. Of those that are true scientific studies, a number of strongly worded “Letters to the Editor” surfaced from veterinarians in defense of a pet owners’ choice to feed raw and the health benefits raw food provides to dogs and cats. In a review of Salmonella-contaminated natural pet teats and raw food, Finley et al. (2006) point out that no human cases have been definitely linked to these foods despite the fact that approximately 50% of all pets share their owners’ bed. More importantly, they emphasize the lack of information detailing how raw pet food can impact human health. Interestingly, humans can transmit disease to their pets (Mayr, 1989)
Parasites Are Not an Issue in Commercial Raw Diets: Commercially prepared raw diets, aside from using quality meat and organ meats, pose little risk of parasite zoonosis. Most are frozen at temperatures of -10˚C or lower and are shipped and stored frozen. The average amount of time spent in the frozen state before consumption is about 18 days. It has been shown that most parasites cannot survive cold temperatures (Doyle, 2003). Similarly, the manner in which commercial raw diets are handled and processed also limits parasite risk. Adult tapeworms and flukes that may occur in raw organ meat cannot be transmitted to pets because the lifecycle of the helminth is broken; an intermediate host is required to complete the life cycle (Doyle, 2003). Since brain matter, intestines, bladders, and condemned carcasses are the source of many parasites, there is a heighten risk associated with incorporating such parts into raw diets. Most reputable commercial raw diets do not include such high risk, inferior animal parts.
Tapeworms can be found in most animals. Adults live in the intestine (a part not used in raw diets) while larvae may live in muscles or organs. Taenia larvae are found in the muscle of cattle, rabbits, and pigs. Dogs serve as the final host and may pass eggs in their feces, which humans may accidently ingest. Humans develop a fatal disease called hydatid cysticercosis. The EU Food Safety Authority recommends that Taenia can be killed by freezing meat at -10˚C for 10 days (The Farm, 2005). Andersen and Loveless (1978) found that larvae of Echinococcus granulosus cannot survive beyond 4 hours at -10˚C. Destruction of tapeworms by low temperatures is well documented(Ransom, 1914; Ackert, 1915; Hillard, 1958; Colli and Williams, 1972). Moreover, commercially prepared diets are typically finely ground. The mechanical tearing of the meat also tears the larvae, killing it.
Trichinella spiralis is a helminth found in striated muscle from a variety of animals, most notably pigs. Larvae encysted in the muscle tissue are killed after 14 days at -10˚C (Lunden and Uggla, 1992; Doyle, 2003). Strains ofTrichinella that occur exclusively in game meats such as horse, boar, fox, and polar bear, are part of the sylvatic life cycle, well adapted to surviving extreme cold for extended periods of time (Kapel et al., 1999; Malakauskas and Kapel, 2003). After 4 weeks at -18˚C, ability of larvae to survive and infect a lab rodent was decreased by 96.2% (Hill et al., 2007). Due to major health campaigns by in the 1950’s, there have been no reported cases of trichinosis in U.S. commercially processed pork since the latter half of the 20th century. The EU supports freezing of meat to prevent infection (Pozio et al., 2006).
Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite found in the striated muscle cells of infected animals, mainly pork, beef, and lamb. The form found in meat is a non-infectious cyst. The oocysts are the infectious stage and are passed in the feces when infections are active. Oocysts are resistant to freezing, but cysts are not. Freezing meat for 14 days at -12˚C destroys the cysts that may occur in meat (Frenkel and Dubey, 1973; Dubey, 1996; AVMA fact sheet).
Ascarid is a generic term used to describe roundworms such as Ascaris, Toxocara, and Baylisascaris. Many of these have a direct life cycle meaning that the adults pass eggs and the eggs are infectious to pets or humans. Dogs that ingest infected meat have the potential to pass eggs into the environment, potentially infecting a human that inhales dust or is gardening. There is a much greater risk of wildlife passing eggs than pets since adult worms reside in the intestine, a part not used in raw diets. Occasionally larvae may be found in ovine muscle, however, these typically are destroyed by freezing and grinding.
Neospora caninum is a protozoan acquired by dogs that eat aborted fetuses due to Neospora infection. Aborted fetuses are not used in commercial raw diets.
Raw fish is notorious for harboring a variety of parasites such as tapeworms, nematodes, and trematodes. However, there are few fish-based raw diets on the market and of those, the grinding or a broken life cycle is sufficient to eliminate the risk of a pet contracting a parasite.
Zoonotic Risk of Commercially Prepared and Frozen Raw Diets: Zoonotic risk from home prepared raw diets is greater than that from commercially prepared raw diets because the source of the meat is often unknown. Meat quality, source, and processing are critical hazard points (Harrison et al., 2006; Morley et al., 2006; Doyle, 2003; Lewis et al., 2002) that can be controlled or eliminated by purchasing commercially prepared raw frozen diets. Consumers need to be educated about safe handling practices; many commercial raw diets have instructions printed directly on the bag of raw food. Since even human food is tainted with pathogens, it is important to realize that pets may be sub-clinical carriers. Sanitation is paramount. It was found that stainless steel bowls scrubbed daily and disinfected with bleach are far safer than plastic bowls receiving the same treatment (Weese and Rousseau, 2006). While this study specifically used raw food, the findings suggest that a bio-film build-up encourages bacterial growth. That said, canned food and ultra-high fat dry food have the same potential to form a bio-film on bowls as raw food. Along with properly cleaning pet dishes, fecal material should be handled properly. All dogs and cats have the potential to be sub-clinical carriers of pathogens, even those not fed raw diets (Fantasia and Filetici, 1986). Feces from dogs fed conventional dry diets are rich in many bacterial pathogens (Balish et al., 1977) and those that may be sub-clinical carriers are not necessarily shedding pathogens all the time; shedding is intermittent. Risk assessment of commercially prepared raw diets:
Bacteria – limited Meat from USDA inspected and passed animals are used Safety and handling instructions on bag just like human food Pets may shed but owners should use common sense when cleaning yards or litter boxes Meat is frozen so that any bacteria are rendered static and not multiplying
Parasites – none High quality meat is used, not offal or condemned animals Most parasites are destroyed by freezing and grinding Many life cycles are broken and parasite cannot be transmitted
Literature Review: Strohmeyer et al., 2006: This study evaluated the presence of bacteria and protozoa in commercially available raw diets purchased during 4 different time periods. They tested 240 raw diet samples and 20 dry/canned samples using bacterial culture and PCR. Overall 59.6% of raw diet samples and 20.8% of dry/canned samples were positive for non-type specific E. coli. Salmonella was not found in dry/canned, but occurred in 7.1% of the raw samples. PCR detected the DNA of Cryptosporidium in raw samples and Campylobacter in canned samples. The authors concluded that commercially prepared raw diets are a potential source of pathogens.
This study did not feed the diets to dogs and therefore could not assess whether pets would shed pathogens. Moreover, it was not balanced; more raw diets were sampled than dry/canned. Increasing the dry/canned sample size may have a dramatic impact on the findings. It is important o note Campylobacter, a fecal bacteria, was found in “sterile” canned diets and not the raw diets. The authors point out that the use of PCR to detect DNA does not mean the organism is alive.
Finley et al., 2007: Dogs were screened for bacterial shedding 3 days prior to feeding Salmonella-positive raw diets or Salmonella-negative raw diets. Only dogs not shedding were used in the study. The diets were commercially prepared frozen raw diets bought at local Canadian pet stores and tested for Salmonella by the Canadian Food Safety Department. The paper did not report degree of contamination. None of the control dogs (0/12) shed Salmonella. Of the dogs fed contaminated food, only 44% (7/16) shed Salmonella 1-7 days post feeding; none showed clinical signs.
Importantly, of the 7 dogs shedding, only 5 shed the same serotype isolated from the food. Moreover, the paper did not describe how the raw diet was handled, stored, or thawed prior to feeding. Because Salmonella is shed intermittently, it is probable that 3 days of screening were not sufficient to ensure all dogs were infection-free before beginning the study.
Bagcigil et al., 2007: The degree of Salmonella shedding by100 dogs admitted to a European veterinary hospital or 100 dogs living in a crowded kennel was determined by taking a single rectal swab. All dogs showed no signs of salmonellosis and it was noted that they were fed “good quality food” that consisted of commercial food (dry or canned) and table scraps (most likely cooked).
The results indicated that Salmonella shedding was extremely low but that prevalence most likely varies with country. It should be noted that diet was not detailed and that rectal swabs were taken only once despite the intermittent nature of Salmonella shedding.
Morley et al., 2006: Sparked by the recent Salmonella-related death of several puppies at a greyhound breeding faculty, veterinarians investigated the source of the contamination. Samples were taken from food, feces, and the environment. Dogs were housed in outdoor runs with a dirt floor, fecal matter removed daily but runs were not disinfected unless new dogs were introduced into the facility. All dogs were fed a raw meat diet consisting of meat deemed unfit for human consumption and thawed at room temperature for 24 hours. Food was provided ad libitum from stainless steel bowls, but the bowls were not cleaned until new food was added. It was obvious that the facility lacked proper sanitation methods – disinfection solution was mixed improperly, flies were abundant, and kennels were not disinfected regularly. Salmonella was isolated from the diet (75%), feces (93%), soil (32%), sponges, water buckets, food in bowls (100%), flies (100%), and the majority of surfaces. The authors estimated that normal shedding rates are 0-2.8% in dogs not fed raw diets. They advised the facility to control insects and properly sanitize surfaces.
This study clearly demonstrates the hazards that could occur when raw meat diets are not handled properly and husbandry practices are lax. More specifically, however, it frowns upon the feeding of inferior meat from condemned or 4-D animals and supports feeding quality meat from animals that have been inspected and passed USDA standards. In general, the typical house pet is not exposed to sanitation hazards like those found at this large scale breeding facility. Flies are the likely mechanical vector spreading Salmonella from food and feces to dogs (Urban and Broce, 1998)
Weese et al., 2005: Commercially prepared and frozen raw diets (24) were bought from local Canadian pet stores and cultured for several pathogens. All but 2 of the diets were single source meats and 1 was a freeze dried diet. Chicken was the most common meat (28%) but other meats included venison, rabbit, ostrich, beef, lamb, goose, turkey, quail, buffalo, and salmon. The diets were thawed at room temperature before culturing. It was found that the average coliform count was 8.9 x 105 with E. coli present in 64% of the samples. Salmonella was found in only 20% despite chicken being the most common meat source. Campylobacter was not found, however,Staphylococcus aureus (a pathogen found on skin), Clostridium difficile, C. perfringens, and spore forming bacteria were found in 4%, 4%, 20%, and 16%, respectively.
The raw diets were never fed to dogs to assess whether a dog would shed pathogens in feces. The presence of coliforms indicates high level of fecal contamination, yet meat quality of the raw diets was not specified; it is not known if the meat was from animals slaughtered for human consumption or from condemned and 4-D animals. Furthermore, the diets were thawed at room temperature for extended length of time, potentially allowing bacteria to grow and bias the findings.
Joffe and Schlesinger, 2002: The risk of Salmonella transmission from dog feces was investigated in2 types of diets: commercial dry and owner prepared BARF (raw and bones). Both the diet and the dog feces were tested for Salmonellaafter 2 months of feeding. The controls, commercial dry food and respective dog feces, were negative. Over 80% of the BARF diets were positive for Salmonella but only 3 fecal samples tested positive. The same serotype found in the food was isolated from only 1 dog, 1 dog had a serotype different from the food, and 1 dogs had Salmonella but the food it was fed did not.
While they concluded that BARF is more likely to increase the risk of zoonosis ((P>0.001), this study had several flaws, namely the fact that clients made the diet and did not specify how it was handled, the meat quality, or the number of different lots/batches of food they made. Food should have been pooled from every batch fed over the course of 2 months. Moreover, the feces were sampled only once rather than pooling several fecal samples to account for the intermittent nature of Salmonella shedding.
Freeman and Michel, 2001: In this study, 3 types of raw diets (BARF, Commercial, and Mix) were evaluated for nutritional adequacy and bacterial contamination. They found that raw diets did not meet AAFCO nutritional guidelines. The commercially prepared raw diet was the most adequate and had a balanced calcium-phosphorus ratio. It was negative for E. coli; Salmonella was not tested. The BARF diet, aside from major nutritional imbalances, tested positive for E. coli; Salmonella was not tested. The Mix was also nutritional deficient but was negative for E. coli; Salmonella was not tested.
The authors did not feed these diets to dogs. Moreover, wet lab chemistry was based on single samples of each diet. More alarming, however, was that fact that several nutrient values were incorrectly reported; a correction was printed.
LeJeune and Hancock, 2001: This review of the literature pertaining to public health concerns with raw diets fed to dogs admitted that 89% of human food is contaminated with pathogens (bacteria, protozoans, and helminths). Thus, proper handling is essential. They asserted that despite proper handling, dogs fed raw may potentially shed these pathogens as subclinical carriers and represent a real risk to humans that live in close contact with their pets. They noted that there are several studies that have matched the same pathogen strain shed to the strain in the raw diet.
This paper assumed raw pet food was made with low quality and less stringently regulated meat from condemned, 4-D, or inedible offal as opposed to high quality meat from USDA inspected and passed animals. Moreover, the parasites they spoke about pose little risk to humans when commercially prepared raw diets use quality ingredients and are properly frozen. Excluding high risk material from raw diets, such as aborted fetuses, raw fish, inedible offal, condemned carcasses, or 4-D animals, effectively reduces the threat to human health.
Lewis et al., 2002: An investigation of the diet fed to zoo-captive carnivores was undertaken to determine if the quality of the raw meat diet was responsible for 94% of all the zoo’s felids actively passing Salmonella. The source of the Salmonella was never identified. Previously, all the felids were fed raw horsemeat and raw chicken (included condemned and 4-D animals) made in a non-USDA approved facility. The zoo switched to raw horsemeat diet made in a USDA approved facility that banned the use of 4-D and condemned animals. Prevalence of shedding decreased to zero.
Of particular importance, this study demonstrated that changes to meat quality without changes to husbandry practices are sufficient to reduce zoonotic risk to humans. The zoo concluded that feeding high quality meat from a USDA approved facility that excluded 4-D and condemned animal carcasses was highly effective in reducing the risk of zoonoses.