Many pet owners are searching for more natural pet food choices. Everyone wants to feed their pet a wholesome and appealing diet. Feeding every day the same pelleted food is often seen as boring for the pet. A popular trend is to feed raw, meat-based diets. It is important to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages.
1. Most people argue that raw diets are more natural. However, wolves and dogs differ in 36 regions of genomes, 10 of these genome regions play a role in digestion and metabolism. This, therefore, indicates nutritional differences between the dogs and their wild counterparts.
2. Most raw diets do not provide proper and complete nutrition for the long life of our domestic pets. Pets require certain vitamins and minerals which cannot always be sufficiently obtained from raw diets. Most raw diets have deficiencies of the vitamins A, B's, D and E, minerals such as copper, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, selenium, and zinc. These deficiencies can result in various health problems.
3. While the meat originates from intensively kept livestock, these raw or under-cooked meats contain high number of pathogens. These can include Salmonella spp, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter spp, Clostridium spp, Escherichia coli and enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus. These pathogens can cause severe diseases in both pets and the owners.
4. Various pets were diagnosed with severe food poisoning, abscesses, gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, nutritional osteodystrophy (bone disease), nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism or neurological disease after eating raw or under-cooked meat. There are recorded cases of pets dying after getting sick from being fed a raw diet.
5. The owners handling the raw or uncooked run also the risk of getting sick, especially pregnant women, young children and elderly people are at higher risk.
6. Based on the various studies it is recommended to always ensure that animal-based protein is pathogen-free before being fed to your pet. This can occur by cooking, pasteurization or even irradiation.
7. Always discuss with your veterinarian before feeding your pet a raw diet.
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Written by Dr Tessa Brouwer, BVSc, MSc, BSc