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Recently, both the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have taken a public stand against feeding raw diets to pets, warning that they are risky to pets and humans. However, many pet owners (like myself) are passionate in their belief that raw feeding is both safe and healthy for their dogs.
As someone who has been feeding my pets a raw diet for many years, I have witnessed first-hand the improvements in health, vitality and behavior they experienced simply by switching their diet to raw.
I was at my wits end with Nelson. When I adopted him from the SPCA he came with a horrible case of diarrhea. His vet diagnosed him with IBD and prescribed special diets and medication. Nothing helped. After months of getting nowhere with his treatment, a friend suggested I try feeding him a raw diet and explained how she’d had success with her cat who had the same problem.
The decision to go raw was not easy for me. I was, simply put, terrified. I’d heard the warnings about salmonella, worms, choking on bones, et al. My veterinarian, whose lobby is stocked to the ceiling with Science Diet, was not on board. I spent countless hours researching, joining forums, talking to people who had success with raw diet before I finally took the plunge.
I purchased a bag of Nature’s Variety frozen raw food from my local pet store, thinking, “They’ve already done the work for me. It’s a balanced meal. It can’t hurt to try it.”
Nelson gobbled it up as if it was the meal he’d been waiting his entire life for. Within 24 hours, much to my surprise and probably his, Nelson took the first solid poop he’d had in months. Yes, the results were that fast and I was converted.
In addition to Nelson’s obvious health improvement, within days I started noticing he was more active – with energy that I’d not ever seen in him. His skin and coat were looking healthier, he played harder and slept better at night. Within weeks, his physical appearance had changed. He was more muscular and sleek. Even my vet couldn’t discount the improvement in Nelson and he finally said, “keep doing what you’re doing!”
By this time, I was converting all of my dogs and cats to the raw diet and was seeing similar improvements in all of them. Some, like Nelson, were very easy to switch to raw. Others were a little more difficult to make the switch. You see, raw food doesn’t have an odor. It isn’t sprayed with animal fat to make it enticing to eat. It isn’t loaded with addicting carbs. Many of my critters would give me a confused look when I put a plate of raw food down in front of them. They didn’t realize it was food! My girl, Mandy, was especially reluctant to give up her kibble. I can look back and laugh now, because today she is my very best raw eater. Mandy will chew through whole raw bones now!
I look back on the days when I was stressing out about switching to a raw diet and think how silly I was. Ironically, I never once stressed over feeding my pets kibble – and how many pets have died since the 2007 recalls from kibble? Thousands. Yet we fear feeding them a raw diet. Why?
For one, we are concerned with bacteria contamination & Salmonella. Do you realize, all the 2012 Diamond Pet Food recalls that affected some 14 premium brands of dry and canned pet food were due to Salmonella? This is not a raw diet problem. What’s more, animal experts remind us that the canine intestinal tract is adapted to handle meats that have been contaminated with bacteria. Dogs have a shorter intestinal tract and a shorter digestive time and higher acid in the stomach. When combined with proper handling and washing hands, the risk is very low.
Some warn that parasites may exist in raw food. However, pre-freezing meats will eliminate some parasites. In the 5 years I’ve been feeding raw diet, I have not had any incidence of parasites in my pets.
It’s an incomplete diet. This was my biggest fear when switching to raw. It’s the reason I bought commercially made raw food – because the manufacturers did the work to balance it for me. I wanted to be sure my pets were getting the proper vitamins, minerals and nutrients they needed. And, after a year of buying commercial raw food, when I was much more comfortable with the concept, I started making it myself to save money. Since then, I’ve had complete blood and urine analysis done on all of my pets and they all pass with flying colors!
My raw fed pets have fresh breath, clean white teeth, small and odorless poop, muscular bodies, and increased energy. They make less trips to the veterinarian because they have few (if any) health problems. And they are fed for less cost than premium canned food. How many of us can honestly say this about our pets?
I’m not writing this to convince pet parents to stop feeding commercial dog food. In fact, I believe there are some great commercial foods available. What we feed is our choice. If you’re considering it, know that choosing to feed raw will put you in conflict with many vets and pet owners. When I saw the benefits in my own home and understood they far outweighed any risks, I became a raw diet feeder for life.