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The Beginning of the End for Raw Pet Food?

It has been reported all over the internet that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), a leading authority on animal healthcare, plan to adopt a policy discouraging pet owners from feeding their dogs and cats a raw food diet.

It appears that the AVMA has failed to recognize that dogs have thrived on raw foods for centuries… WAY before the introduction of commercially prepared pet foods came along in the mid-1800s. So the question is, who is the AVMA and why are they so against us feeding our pets raw food?

Read on, intelligent pet parent, as we uncover truth.

Pet Food Beginnings

Before the kibbles and canned foods of the world, dogs would go out, catch, and kill their prey or feast on scavenged foods found in the wild. They did not fear risk of bacteria or illness. The high acid environment of their digestive system and the presence of live, active enzymes found in the raw food they ate helped to expedite the digestive process and minimize risk of illness from bacteria. So we know that dogs can handle the normal amounts of bacteria that may be present in raw foods.

Cooked foods – on the other hand – are a different story.

Dry and canned pet foods are heat-treated and therefore lack the enzyme levels necessary for optimal digestion. That is why dry and canned dog food diets stay in your dog’s digestive tract an average of 4-6 hours longer than raw foods do. So when you hear that salmonella-tainted dry dog food has sickened pets, it’s because the food has stayed in their system much longer than intended so the risk for illness is monumentally higher.

The AVMA has cited the risk of illness in both animal and humans as their reasoning behind adopting this policy on raw diets. While we’ve already addressed the concerns over animals getting sick from contaminated foods, what about the risk to humans?

As the recent dry dog food recalls from Diamond, Solid Gold, Natural Balance, Wellness, and numerous other pet food manufacturers proves, cooked pet foods are not exempt from the risk of salmonella infection and other bacterial contaminants. Yet according to number of pet food recalls over the last few years, dry and canned pet foods are much more likely to cause cross contamination and illness in humans.


Because most pet owners believe that kibble and canned food diets are free of bacteria. These foods are supposedly “safe” to leave out all day for our dogs and cats to graze on. They’re “safe” enough to be kept in the pantry unrefrigerated for months on end without spoiling.

So unlike raw diets, which people know must be handled in the same manner that raw meat for humans is handled (washing hands, utensils, working surfaces, and feeding bowls with hot, soapy water), dry dog food diets are handled more casually – like a bowl of peanuts at the local dive bar. Yet we should really keep in mind that all pet food – both raw and cooked alike – should be handled with the same sanitary protocols to avoid illness.

Who is the AVMA?

The AVMA is a non-profit association that represents veterinarians working in private and corporate practice, government, industry, academia, and uniformed services. The AVMA “acts as a collective voice for its membership and profession.”

Their funding comes from their charity foundation, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF). For details on who their major donors are, see “Just The Facts” section below.

What is the proposed policy about?

The proposed policy that the AVMA is planning to vote in states:

“The AVMA discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans… To mitigate public health risks associated with feeding inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs, the AVMA recommends the following:

  • Never feed inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs.
  • Restrict cats’ and dogs’ access to carrion and animal carcasses (eg, while hunting).
  • Provide fresh, clean, nutritionally balanced and complete commercially prepared or home-cooked food to cats and dogs, and dispose of uneaten food at least daily.
  • Practice personal hygiene (eg. handwashing) before and after feeding cats and dogs, providing treats, cleaning pet dishes, and disposing of uneaten food.”

(Click Here to read the full document.)

According to the AVMA, their concern is that raw, uncooked animal protein diets may possibly pose risks of infection with Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus. They go on to say that these infections can sicken pets as well as people and recommend that foods be treated with high levels of heat or irradiated to destroy any pathogens.

How safe is raw meat for dogs?

The reality is, and as we’ve said many times, our pets are designed by nature to thrive on raw, uncooked foods. Their bodies can handle the normal levels of bacteria found in raw diets and rely on the live enzymes from raw foods for proper digestion and utilization of nutrients.

By feeding our pets heat-processed or irradiated pet foods, we put unnecessary stress on their digestive and immune systems. Over time, this stressful environment puts our dogs and cats in jeopardy of nutrient deficiencies and a compromised immune system, which can cause various health problems such as allergies, digestive problems, musculoskeletal issues and even cancer.

Pet owners that may be skeptical about the safety of raw pet food should take into consideration that all pet foods – whether raw or cooked – have the possibility of spreading infection. Take for example the recent salmonella outbreaks from May 2012 where 12 separate dry and canned pet food manufacturers had to recall thousands of pounds of pet food because of Salmonella contamination.

As you can see, raw pet food isn’t the only one that carries the risk of illness. Nevertheless, it always seems to be the scapegoat in these situations.

Safety First When Feeding Fido

Pet foods and treats (both raw and cooked) may contain bacteria that could cause illness if mishandled. Keep pet food items separate from other foods. To reduce risk of contamination, wash working surfaces, utensils and hands with hot soapy water after each feeding.
Why is this policy causing such uproar among raw diet advocates?
While the AVMA does not have any direct regulatory power, they are seen as an authority on veterinary care and therefore could have some clout with state and federal policymakers.

Just the Facts:
(Taken directly from the AVMF website)

The fear is that the AVMA’s actions are the beginning of a larger-scaled attack on raw pet food.

There are also some veterinarians that are worried that the passage of this policy will cause them to be ousted if they continue to recommend raw food diets to their clients.

How Can You Help?

1. Sign the petition and announce to the AVMA that you support a pet owner’s right to feed their pets what they feel is best for them.

2. Contact the AVMA directly and voice your concerns about their proposed policy on raw food:

Phone: 1-800-248-2862
Fax: 1-847-925-1329
Email: avmainfo@avma.org
American Veterinary Medical Association
1931 North Meacham Road, Suite 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173-4360

3. Spread the word to your fellow pro-raw friends and family!

Please forward this article and repost on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking outlets. It’s time for us to stand up and fight for our right to feed raw!

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