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Truth About Raw Meat-Based Diets for Pets


Raw meat based diets (RMBDs) may have all sorts of problems associated with them, despite what passionate and loving pet caretakers may think – scientists think otherwise, including those at the Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine.

J. Scott Weese, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM, Ontario Veterinary College, Ontario, Canada is one of the most respected names in veterinary medicine, and he recently authored a piece in Clinician’s Brief – a publication for veterinarians – writing about a myriad of risks of feeding RMBD’s. He he offers recommendations for what veterinary professionals might warn clients about.

As a matter of definition, RMBDs can be homemade (eg, biologically appropriate raw food diet) or available commercially.  some are available as fresh, refrigerated products or freeze died or frozen and others can look like regular dry food (eg, diets with a raw meat coating); there is also a variety of raw-dried or freeze-dried treats. When a pet care-taker mentions feeding a RMBD’s, Weese essentially says “here’s a red flag.”

Are There Benefits to RMBD’s?

There’s never been a single published peer-reviewed journal study to indicate that there are overall real benefits to RMBD’s. There are many published studies to suggest against RMBDs, including a two-year study from the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, spanning October, 2010 through July 2012. In fact,  just over a year ago the FDA stopped hinting about their concerns regarding RMBDs, but actually came out with a paper about avoiding dangers of raw pet foods. 

Despite the science, millions of pet owners are consumers of RMBDs.

A part of the assertion is that our dogs are like wolves, and therefore benefit by diets which wolves might digest. In fact, dogs  – while they are a relative of the wolf – evolved with humans for around 40,000 years. The result is that their nutritional needs are arguably more like ours than wolves.

With cats, more of an argument may be made regarding benefits as cats nutritional needs have not – a least yet – changed from their requirements as obligate carnivores. Still the risks of RMBDs without proven benefits remain valid.

Again, I don’t doubt that individual animals appear to benefit with RMBDs. However, in at least some of those cases the pets may have improved with any diet change. Not every diet is for every pet. And while some pets may indeed benefit – knowing those risks is important. Most pet caretakers who feed RMBDs are “married” to that notion, often based on misinformation. And in a desperate attempt to substantiate their claims, they suggest scientists must be “in bed” with pet food companies or have some other devious motivation.

Yes, pet food companies do support some studies (and thank goodness they have as that is where much of our knowledge of what pets nutritional nitty gritty needs is really from).  Yes, pet food companies do have some influence (though not nearly as much as some might think or wrongly suggest) at veterinary schools, but today’s students in particular, are well-informed and independent thinkers.

RMBDs Companies: A Closer Look

Also, many of the companies which produce RMBDs are small or mid-sized. They may have begun out of passion, but meanwhile don’t have a full time boarded nutritionist or veterinary nutritionist on staff, which is definitely a red flag. Also, the truth is they only know the quantities and necessities of most nutrients, vitamins and amino acids required because of studies done by those they publicly target as “bad guys,” the major pet food manufacturers.

Via savvy marketers these RMBDs companies often charge more money for their products (maybe it cost more to produce), mostly to suggest if you pay more for the “super premium” product it must be a better product – that price is equivalent to quality, which it is not. Also, they assert correctly that major manufacturers want to make money, but so do they, In fact, arguably they are even under more pressure to demonstrate profit.

As the end of the day, I suppose if the raw diet is working for your pet, it’s working – but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t valid concerns, even risks to consider.  You have a choice. You can close your mind or you can open your mind to the truth.










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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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