The types of food we feed our pets are like fashion, the trend comes and goes and returns. 20 years ago when commercial food is not popular, people basically feed their pets whatever they see fit – table scraps, home cook meals, some canned food etc. – which caused many nutritional problems early days. As pet owners become more aware of veterinary care, they start on commercial/formulated food, and as demand increases, manufacturers and vets have put in more resources in research to formulate a balance diet for average adult pets. As times go by, nutritionists and manufacturers start to make diets that are specific to types of animals, their age, or if they have any diseases, as we know them as prescription diet. However, recently, there is an increasing popularity of the idea of feeding a raw meat diet.
Initially, the idea of raw meat diet is to feed our pets closer to their natural habitat which is touted to be healthier. It also comes with other benefits such as the ability to control the materials in the diet in order to prevent known food allergies, and enables you to tailor the diet to your pets’ specific needs. Commercial raw diets are usually frozen and hence no preservatives needed in contrast to processed food. Raw meat diets also have other benefits such as shinier coat, better skin condition and cleaner teeth.
However, these benefits do not come without risks. One of the biggest downsides is bacterial contamination. While most commercial diets are regulated and monitored for contamination, raw diet components are not regulated and not frequently checked. There are many studies done that have proven this risk and one has found as high as 64% of raw diet has been contaminated with E.Coli and 20% with salmonella. Recently, associated diseases such as Alabama rot was reported in the UK.
The other major health hazards are the possibility of fracture teeth, or gastrointestinal obstruction or perforation by the bones. And obviously there is also the question of whether raw meat diet is a nutritionally balanced diet. While AAFCO has a recommended nutritional standard, most raw diets have not gone under any research and testing trials.
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of research on the nutrition and long term effect on feeding raw meat diet. In a veterinary view point, a suitable diet is one that provides adequate and correct nutrition, and one that is without contamination regardless these is in the form on bacteria or chemical or toxin contamination. If you are unsure whether what you are feeding your dogs, your cats, your birds, your rabbits, and any of your lovely furries, you should consult a vet and seek proper advice.
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