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What the f&$# did I read this week?
An article written by a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia has lit the raw community on fire, and we've all be participating in a collective eye roll all week. What does psychology have to do with raw feeding? I don't have a clue.
The professor submitted a freshman level essay about raw feeding to the world. My professor would have given me an F grade and taken me aside to advise me to rethink my major. Why? Because the professor wrote a one-sided, poorly researched article in a subject that isn't his wheelhouse.
I'm going to break down his article by the points he makes in his effort to prove that Dog Owners Are Wrong About the Health Benefits of Raw Diets.
- Feeding raw is dangerous to the humans (especially children) in the home.
- There is no scientific evidence proving that raw feeding is beneficial for dogs.
- Veterinarians universally agree that raw feeding is unsafe.
- Through testing by the FDA, 16% of raw dog food tested positive for bacteria.
- Dog owners feed a raw diet due to a concern about the safety of commercial dog food (kibble/canned).
- Dog owners take their pets to the veterinarian less often; this is due to distrust of their vet.
- As a scientist, the professor is disturbed by what he learned about raw feeding.
So let's get real here, people.
1 – Feeding Raw is Dangerous to People
Feeding raw dog food is just as dangerous as making a turkey or chicken dinner. I have been feeding raw for nearly four years, and today, I mix up raw meals (yep, I'm elbow deep in raw meat) twice a month. No one in my house has gotten sick because we are obsessed with keeping our house clean. I don't handle 15 pounds of raw venison, then wipe my nose, suck my thumb, and rub my eyes. Instead, I wash my hands multiple times during the process before touching other things – refrigerator door, pantry door, bathroom door (gotta take a break), etc. I clean all the equipment and supplies, wash our counter tops, and mop the kitchen floor when I'm finished.
I wash our dogs' stainless steel (stays cleaner than plastic) dishes by hand daily, and I run them through the dishwasher once a week.
This is why we haven't gotten sick. Had the “scientist” who wrote the Psychology Today piece taken the time to interview a few raw feeders and ask them about their cleaning habits, he would have heard similar routines.
2 – Where's the Proof that Raw Feeding is Better?
One of the many lies the anti-raw populace spreads is that there isn't any proof that raw feeding is better. Anecdotal evidence, possibly the foundation of many scientific breakthroughs, isn't enough for the anti-raw crowd. What they want is a scientific study that proves the benefits of raw feeding for vets, but who's going to pay for this? Who is going to collect funding, select a group of raw fed dogs, and study them over ten years? Can you imagine Banfield Veterinarian Hospitals and Mars Petcare funding such a study? I can't either. Why? Because a study about the benefits of raw feeding wouldn't benefit the big pet food brands, who have all the money and influence at the moment.
But there have been studies that have explored feeding fresh food to dogs and while these don't tell us definitively that raw is best for dogs, it's a start. And had the professor taken the time to truly research this article beyond a few Google searches, he would have learned this too.
- 2003 study conducted by Lippert and Sapy studied 500 dogs over a 5 year period
- 2005 study conducted at Purdue University on Scottish Terriers
- 2016 New Zealand dog diet study a wake-up call for dog nutrition
- 2017 Dog Risk (Helsinki) Study: Raw Meat-Based Diets in Dogs and Cats
- 2018 Dog Risk (Helsinki) Study: The relationships between environment, diet, transcriptome and atopic dermatitis in dogs
- On-Going: Long Living Pets Projects
Plus, what about the many veterinarians – also scientists – who support raw feeding?
And I wish veterinarians, scientists, and the rest would stop knocking anecdotal evidence. One of the most popular raw feeding groups on Facebook is RawFeeding Rebels with over 16,700 members. According to a 2012 AVMA survey, households had 1.6 dogs. Since it's now 2017, let's round that up to 2 dogs per household.
- 16,700 members (let's pretend they all have dogs) x 2 dogs per home – 33,400 dogs being fed a raw diet. And that's just one group of people who are happy to share “anecdotal” evidence of what raw feeding has done for their dog.
- Keep the Tail Wagging receives over 4,000 visits per day. PER DAY! That's 4,000 x 2 dogs = 8,000 dogs (down by 50% after a 2018 Google update that negatively impacted websites that discussed holistic health) that are either being raw fed or will soon be raw feed. These are people who are more than happy to talk about the benefits of raw feeding or why they want to feed a raw food diet.
We're not a bunch of nutty people who are hoarding dogs and feeding them rotting meat from a broken freezer. You will not find me dressed in camouflage and hunting wabbits in the woods that surround our home. Raw feeding is an organized system in a huge community of passionate dog owners.
Did you get a call from the professor asking why you feed raw? Yeah, me neither.
3 – Veterinarians Say that Raw Feeding is Unsafe
This point brings to mind the Banfield veterinarian who, with a straight face, told me that my dogs' diet wasn't balanced because I wasn't adding cornmeal. Traditional veterinarians, educated in schools funded partially by Purina and Mars Petcare, do not support raw feeding because it's not part of their curriculum. I have spoken to many veterinarians, and while I may not have convinced them to jump ship and join the raw community, they do have a better understanding of raw dog food and more respect for those of us who spend hours researching dog nutrition and sourcing quality, human-grade ingredients to make dog food.
I'm not surprised when I hear that a traditional veterinarian doesn't support raw. It's because they follow the AVMA guidelines. But did the professor speak with any holistic vets in the AHVMA or did their opinion not count because it wouldn't support the myths he's perpetuating?
4 – The FDA Found that 16% of Raw Food Contains Bacteria
Now, this is just insulting. I'm guessing that the professor is referring to the witch hunt the FDA launched last year when they sent agents into pet stores to tear open products to be tested. By the way, where these pet stores reimbursed for the wasted inventory?
I'm disappointed that the “scientist” didn't expand his research to include the digestive system of a dog. So I'll drop some knowledge here…
Dogs are equipped with antibacterial soldiers in their saliva. For the bacteria that makes it to the gut, never fear, the dog has a secret weapon: A Short Digestive Tract! A dog's digestive tract is shorter than that of humans. So while eating something high in bacteria will make humans sick, it's processed quickly in a dog's system, which doesn't allow time for bacteria to set up camp and do harm. On top of that, a dog's gut is highly acidic, making it an unpleasant place for bacteria to live. And, FYI, kibble contains salmonella – or did we forget about kibble recalls. Oh, Snap!
5 – Raw Feeders Are Apprehensive of Kibble
Ummm, duh huh.
Did this professor not read the pet food recalls due to a controlled drug used to kill pets? What about the “beef” recipe that was actually euthanized horses? Or the chicken jerky treats that killed thousands of pets back in 2007? Or the number of prescription diets that don't treat illness, but cost dog owners twice as much money?
How many people are raising a dog with cancer, kidney issues, liver issues, diabetes, and other illness due to a commercial diet of kibble and canned? Why do people look down on us for seeking to feed something that won't make our dogs sick? Why do these people deny the evidence of improved health after a dog is switched to a raw food diet?
I will admit that I have a healthy fear of having to return to a kibble or canned diet for my dogs. I want my dogs to thrive; not merely survive.
6 – Fewer Vet Visits Due to Distrust of Vets
To clarify the FACTS for the professor, dogs have fewer vet visits because they're healthier. My dogs only go to the vet for a weigh-in (if I had a scale at home, we'd cut that trip out of our schedule) and for annual wellness checks. And my dogs go to a holistic vet – two actually. One of our holistic vets takes care of wellness exams; the other vet manages chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture.
My dogs are healthy. Amazingly healthy. So healthy that I laugh at the vet who told me that Rodrigo would live a short life due to his arthritis issues. The same issues that you couldn't see today as he races across our property, jumping high to catch a ball or flyer.
I do have a distrust of traditional vets, but not because I don't respect their education and experience. My mistrust comes from my experiences with several veterinarians who…
- misdiagnosed two of my dogs.
- told me that rescue dogs are problem dogs and I should have gone to a breeder.
- were rude to me when my puppy was dying.
- were rude to my neighbor who brought in our dying dog (hit by a car).
- wormed my dogs without permission.
- mislead me about a vaccination, calling it a requirement when it was elective and unnecessary.
- refused to sit with me on a panel because they didn't want to be near a raw feeder.
- made fun of raw feeders in a public forum knowing that we (two raw feeders) could hear them.
So yeah, I do mistrust traditional veterinarians. However, I'm also willing to give everyone a chance and have had great discussions with anti-raw veterinarians, explaining why I feed raw and what I do to feed raw. I'm excited to share that in every one of those discussions, the veterinarian admitted that I was doing a good job. And few traditional vets who have seen our dogs over the past four years have admitted that they are healthy dogs.
7 – He's Disturbed by What He Learned About Raw Feeding
As a scientist, the professor states that he was disturbed by what he learned about raw feeding. If I had only considered one side of the issue, I would be disturbed too. Let's consider all the things the big pet food companies want us to believe about feeding fresh food to our dogs:
- If the bacteria in raw dog food doesn't kill us, it'll kill our dogs.
- Raw dog food is unbalanced and will lead to malnourishment in our dogs.
- Raw dog food will make our dogs aggressive.
- Dogs live longer because of commercial diets.
- Dogs have adapted to consume high carb and low protein diets.
- There is no proof that raw feeding is beneficial for dogs.
- Raw diets aren't digestible.
- Raw dog food has parasites.
And on and on. If I only listened to people who told me the above “facts” aka MYTHS about raw feeding, I would think people who fed raw were nuts too!
F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real
Some people in the pet food industry are spreading F.E.A.R. to keep dog parents dependent on their kibble. We see this in many industries, and we know that it's all about money. The fashion industry has made women paranoid about our weight; the beauty industry encourages us to spend too much money on a moisturizer; the fitness industry takes full advantage of our need to set resolutions each year. It's business, and that's what we as dog parents are learning.
The pet food industry is a business; A 60+ BILLION DOLLAR BUSINESS. We can no longer depend on others to put our pets' needs first; that's our job and that's why we're asking questions, doing our homework, and making our dog food.
And, by the way, Psychology Today ALSO believes that raw feeders have a form an eating disorder. Wow! Just Wow!