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Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours at a picnic for our raw food co-op. I've never been around that many raw feeders in my life. With my local and online community of raw feeders, it's easy to forget that there are many people who still believe raw feeding is dangerous.
Two weeks ago Bravo announced a recall due to the possible presence of salmonella. They joined Stella & Chewy's, Vital Essentials and Nature's Variety on the recall list of raw brands. Reading some of the comments on the Facebook pages, I see that there is still a lot of misinformation about raw feeding, bacteria, and the recalls.
1. A dog's system is equipped to handle bacteria…
“It’s important to note that Salmonella can be found in up to 36 percent of all healthy dogs and 18 percent of healthy cats regardless of the food they consume. Many pets harbor these bacteria as a part of their normal GI flora and naturally shed salmonella organisms in feces and saliva regardless of what food they eat.” Source: Dr. Karen Becker
Regardless of what our dogs eat, bacteria is a part of their daily life. Earlier this summer, our dogs spent a week snacking on a dead rabbit before I realized it. I buried the rabbit, but the “damage” had been done – imagine the amount of bacteria growing on a carcass laying in the sun for days.
Our dogs never got sick.
When I read arguments about why raw feeding is dangerous, it always comes back to bacteria. Although dogs are far removed from their ancestor, the Grey Wolf, internally, they are still functioning the same. “The claim that dogs cannot handle a raw diet because they are so domesticated is only true in that we have been feeding them commercial diets for so long that a dog's system is not running up to par.” Source: RawFed.com
2. There's a risk of bacteria with dry food as well…
Remember a few years back when there were back to back dry food recalls due to salmonella? “Dry pet food, treats, and supplements can become contaminated with Salmonella.” Source: CDC.gov
Whether a recall is for dry food or raw food, pet owners can protect themselves and their family with a few simple steps:
- Wash Your Hands – I wash my hands after I handle our dogs' food, treats or training treats (I use dry dog food made by Open Farm). I keep lotion on the counter to keep my hands from becoming dry after so many washings.
- Clean the Kitchen – there have been times when our kitchen looks like a crime scene when I'm making food for the week. I can be quite messy when wielding a meat clever. I clean the kitchen from top to bottom and run all of the dishes through the dishwasher.
- Don't Eat Raw Meat – and the easiest stop for me is not to touch my face or mouth or rub my eyes when I'm making raw dog food. There's nothing that sucks more than getting a dog hair in my eyelash while I'm preparing food – I wash my hands before I go near my eyes.
- Store and That Raw Food Safely – I store the bulk of my raw dog food in the freezer. I thaw it in water and store it in the fridge for up to three days (only thawing what I need). And I never leave thawed raw dog food out on the counter for extended periods of time.
3. Humans are more at risk than dogs…
If you or someone in your home has a compromised immune system, then it will be more challenging to feed raw, but not impossible. If you're raising a dog with a compromised immune system, a raw food diet may pose challenges as well – speak with a holistic vet about your dog's diet.
I know people who feed raw and live with someone who has compromised immune system. I also know people who feed dogs diagnosed with cancer a raw food diet.
There are people who are unable to feed raw for a variety of reasons. It can be inconvenient, costly, and complicated if you haven't done the homework first. Despite these drawbacks, I've been able to afford to feed four big dogs a raw diet and they are healthy.
Although it may be challenging at first, raw feeding is possible if you are willing to take the time to learn.
Final thoughts about the raw food recalls…
After more than two years of feeding raw, I have never been sick and other than working through protein intolerances and finding appropriate places to source our meat, our dogs haven't been sick either.
I'm confident that if the FDA tested the food that I feed to our dogs, they'll find levels of bacteria. They'll also find levels of bacteria in the meat at the grocery store and the butcher. We can't escape bacteria. What we can do is protect ourselves from getting sick by making smart choices and handling raw meat properly.
According to an article by Dr. Karen Becker,” pet owners have been feeding raw diets to their dogs and cats for decades, yet to date, not one documented case of raw pet food causing illness in humans has been reported.” If this is the case (and I believe it is) then we have to ask “why is the FDA targeted raw food brands?”