What Some Vets Are Saying: Dispelling Controversy
Dr. Jodie isn’t afraid raw food will harm your pet. In fact, she knows differently. She has been promoting and prescribing raw meat-based diets in her practice for over 15 years. Her business is booming because of the results she attains using “species appropriate diets” as the foundation for healing animals. She accompanies this with other holistic modalities such as acupuncture, eastern and western herbals, essential oils, nutraceuticals and over 20 years of experience practicing conventional medicine and surgery, whenever it best suits the patient.
The following is Dr. Jodie’s rebuttal to Megan Tremelling DVM’s article Raw vs. Cooked Dog Food Diet article in Fetch Magazine, a free quarterly pet resource publication in Southeast Wisconsin.
A Raw Rebuttal
It is not difficult to refute erroneous statements made by Dr. Tremelling in the fall Fetch article entitled Raw vs. Cooked. Her bias began in the third paragraph when she said her “heart sank” when she heard the pet owner in her story was feeding raw. The doctor assumed her patient’s illness was caused by the raw diet, not very scientific.
Tremelling points out those proponents of raw feeding” hold opinions with a vehemence reserved for religious beliefs”. Why would this be? Perhaps those experienced with this method of feeding know something which others who are inexperienced do not. Balanced raw diet feeding can produce miraculous results! When you become enlightened about a program that is so beneficial in preventing and treating chronic and debilitating disorders, which are occurring in our beloved pet companions who rely on us to care for them, how can you not become vehement in asserting defense and support for that program?
I agree with Dr. Tremelling that when choosing a diet for your pet, you need the facts! Many facts have been hidden from consumers for years due to deceptive labeling on pet food packaging and due to misinformation by pet food reps and poorly educated veterinarians. I also agree that every type of diet has its downfalls.
Veterinarians commonly preach that dry kibble is good for your pet’s teeth. How ridiculous. That’s like saying,” crunch on a box of sugar cubes; it will clean your teeth”. In order to manufacture extruded kibble, starch must be included. Starch is sugar. This comes from grains. Thus, beware of corn, wheat, soy, and even rice. Don’t be fooled by “grain-free” labels. These dry kibble diets still include starch in the form of potato or tapioca. Nibble on starch everyday and plan on frequent anesthetic episodes to have professional ultrasonic scaling performed.
Veterinarians don’t relay the facts about diets to pet guardians because we were taught biochemistry, large animal nutrition and how to prescribe prescription diets for the diagnosed disease based on Hills, Eukanuba and Purina education. Veterinarians need to seek out resources never presented to them in school in order to learn about such things as quality food ingredients, carcinogenic artificial preservatives, toxicity and poor absorption of synthetic vitamins, dangers of GMO foods, disorders caused by cooking and processing such as taurine deficiency, lack of fatty acids and enzymes and probiotics. Prescribing glucosamine for arthritis, enzymes and probiotics for digestive disorders and fatty acids for inflammatory conditions has become mainstream. Why are these disorders so prevalent and why are these supplements so necessary?
Humans and our pets are consuming increasing amounts of highly processed foods which are devoid of these nutrients. These nutrients are present in raw foods and are destroyed by high temperature processing or excluded due to poor industry standards. So, yes, Dr. Tremelling, processed kibble, canned and cooked diets do have their downfalls. Let’s not even get into high carbohydrate diets and how they’ve contributed to the obesity and diabetes epidemic in our dogs and cats. We can all attest to many fat pets that are faithfully eating their ineffective, high-fiber, weight reduction kibble.
Carnivores who consume their biologically appropriate diet do not suffer from these chronic debilitating disorders. Their lives may be shortened due to traumas such as being hit by a car, being hunted or attacked or pushed from their natural habitat. So, yes, Dr. Tremelling, you live longer in the house or on a leash.
Doctors, be sure to ask your ER patients if they broke a tooth on a RAW bone or a smoked bone. Broken teeth are uncommon when gnawing a species appropriate RAW bone. Boiled or smoked bones are dangerous. The molecular structure of bone changes with heating, making it brittle. You must feed the right size bone to the right size dog. Ingested bone causes firm stool. Remove excess rich marrow; it can cause loose stool. Cartilaginous neck bones are a natural source of glucosamine. I’ve seen more foreign body obstructions due to edible Greenies than I have due to raw bones. I feed bones along with blended fibrous vegetation (ex. pumpkin).
Dr. Tremelling points out that a lot of human-grade meat sold to restaurants and grocery stores contains Salmonella. Later in the article she says the pet owner in her story was relieved that she would no longer be handling dangerous bacteria- laden meat. Does this mean the owner converted to vegetarianism? People who eat meat have no argument against the handling of raw pet diets because they handle raw meat in the same way for themselves. What is the difference if you take it out of the package and put it in the dog’s dish or put it into your frying pan? Dogs lick butts and eat poop. So, if you’re allowing your pet to kiss you, you’re at risk for bacterial contamination even if he eats kibble.
The Iams Company and the Hartz Company issued recalls of thousands of packages of treats, OTC dog and cat diets and a renal prescription diet during July through September this year due salmonella contamination. Despite consumption of these foods, no pets became ill, however Iams warned that pet owners could become ill from handling the product. The most recent CDC recall was of black and red pepper; Salmonella is ubiquitous. Make sure you cook your pepper.
Pet guardians who home-prepare raw usually use human-grade meat. Most commercial raw diets are human-grade meat or better. Many are USDA and/or Oregon Tilth certified organic or natural grass-fed or New Zealand produced. Those in the know can only hope they could purchase this high of quality for themselves. Unfortunately most people eat factory –farmed meat. Most kibble contains factory-farmed or rendered meat sources. Most commercial raw diets have been formulated or analyzed by an animal or veterinary nutritionist. Additionally, commercial raw diets are quick, deep frozen which destroys parasites. Home prepared raw diets should not be concocted from internet recipes, but rather reputable authors who have shown over generations of animals that their recipe is successful. This is as good, as or better than a less than twenty-six week survival feeding trial required by AAFCO for kibble to be “approved”.
An important point to make is the most common problem I see with raw diet feeding: pet owners who put pieces of meat (cooked or raw) with kibble. This is not balanced. This is not prey-concept feeding. Prey contains four components: flesh, organs, bone and blended vegetation to mimic the pre-digested state as found in the gut of the prey. There is only enough calcium in the kibble to balance the phosphorous that’s in the kibble, not enough to balance the high phosphorous that’s in the added meat. It would behoove caring veterinarians to educate themselves about appropriate raw diet feeding so they could counsel their clients as to how to implement the feeding correctly and so that clients would not be afraid to tell the doctor what they feed their pet.
Lastly, in the article, the fecal culture performed on the patient with diarrhea in Dr. Tremelling’s story grew Campylobacter. The CDC National Center for Infectious Disease states that healthy dogs and cats often carry and pass Campylobacter in their feces. According to a UW-Madison report, Campylobacter is present in up to 30% of clinically normal dogs and cats. A 2004 Danish study showed flies to be a Campylobacter vector. Eleven healthy dogs in the study all tested positive for Campylobacter. Therefore, cause and effect was not proven.
Dogs eating any kind of diet can develop bloody diarrhea for a variety of reasons. Poultry can be a source of this organism, but the organism can also be a normal gut inhabitant that proliferates due to stress or dietary indiscretion which stimulates an intestinal flora imbalance. So, yes, a pet can become ill from contaminated raw meat, but I believe the benefits far outweigh the risks. And as Dr. Tremelling mentioned, “we’re talking about a species that drinks out of toilet bowls and eats carrion”. So, although she contradicted herself, she did make my point that dogs are built to safely process pathogenic bacteria from fecal contamination and dead animal sources.
When is it not O.K. to feed raw? When your pet is immune-suppressed (i.e. steroid or chemotherapy, feline leukemia, etc). So, a COOKED, balanced meat-based diet would be safer. However, there are available high-pressure pasteurized, commercial, balanced prey-concept RAW diets which are tested pathogen-free.
One of the most prevalent and serious disorders in our pets is cancer. Research has shown in simple terms, cancer feeds on carbs. Quality canned food is meat-based but still processed and very expensive. Raw diet feeding is your least expensive way to feed a nearly carb –free diet. Cancer prevention, allergy, weight and diabetes management are a few of the best reasons to educate yourself with the true facts as to why you should decrease or eliminate starchy kibble.
Two other good reasons: Dr. Tremelling’s client told her there was much less stool produced when she fed raw. That’s because there is less waste and filler in raw. The food is better digested and absorbed. The other reason would come from Dr. Tremelling’s patient if he had been consulted. The Springer Spaniel misses his yummy meat diet and the variety of fresh, raw foods. He thinks it just doesn’t make sense to eat the same rice crispies day after day.
By Jodie Gruenstern DVM,CVA
Dr. Jodie is an integrated small animal practitioner. She graduated from UW Madison in 1987 and is a certified veterinary acupuncturist. She is experienced in western and Chinese herbal therapy and oriental food therapy. Dr. Jodie owns the Animal Doctor Holistic Veterinary Complex. She has fed raw diets to her own dogs and cats for more than 15 years.