Existen desacuerdos dentro de la profesión veterinaria sobre una dieta adecuada para gatos y perros. La alimentación basada en una dieta cruda de huesos carnosos (DCHC) está recibiendo una atención creciente a medida que la industria de alimentos crudos para mascotas continúa creciendo .
Existe una "brecha de diecisiete años" entre la investigación que se publica y su aplicación práctica de partida . Reducir esta brecha es una prioridad y, dada esta época de conocimiento de Internet, a veces es difícil para los profesionales mantenerse al día con su base de clientes . Freeman et al. revisó los riesgos y beneficios de alimentar a base de una dieta de huesos carnosos. La revisión notó que los dueños de mascotas que optan por alimentar a base de una dieta cruda de huesos carnosos no clasifican en la información nutricional proporcionada por los veterinarios . En esta era de acceso a la ciencia actual, nuestra base de clientes a menudo está por delante de todo esto en términos de conocimiento nutricional. Para muchos está la prioridad de mantenerse saludable y mantener saludables a sus familias al comer alimentos frescos y sin procesar, a menudo no están conformes en alimentar a sus mascotas con alimentos procesados. La RFVS trabaja con los propietarios que eligen alimentar a sus mascotas con una dieta cruda a base de huesos carnosos, elevando el perfil de nuestra profesión de la percepción negativa con la que actualmente se encuentra en esta generación en crecimiento de "expertos educados en Internet". La Sociedad Veterinaria de Alimentación Cruda (RFVS) reduce significativamente la brecha de conocimiento de estos diecisiete años accediendo a la investigación nutricional actual y aplicando los principios en la práctica diaria.
Al adoptar un enfoque de "Una Salud" para la nutrición, la profesión veterinaria comprende que la salud de nuestra especie está íntimamente relacionada con la de los animales y el medio ambiente . La RFVS tiene una asociación cercana con investigadores de nutrición de todas las disciplinas científicas: ciencias zoológicas, científicos de nutrición humana, ciencias biológicas, ecólogos y bacteriólogos enfocados en el microbioma.
La RFVS se esfuerza por ser una fuente de conocimiento nutricional actual relacionado con la alimentación cruda para mascotas, ya que la demanda de alimentos apropiados para cada especie continúa creciendo . La diversidad de nuestra base de investigación nutricional se refleja en el programa de la conferencia anual de la RFVS.
Al acceder a la investigación nutricional de las muchas y variadas disciplinas científicas, la RFVS reconoce que un alimento para mascotas debe satisfacer las necesidades nutricionales mínimas de una mascota como punto de partida. La comida debe ser segura para el animal que se alimenta y para el dueño de esta que maneja su alimento.
La forma y función de los alimentos que se presentan también es una prioridad para la RFVS. El enriquecimiento ambiental es una lección aprendida de las ciencias zoológicas. La forma física y funcional de los alimentos debe satisfacer las necesidades fisiológicas y psicológicas de nuestros animales de compañía. La RFVS considera que nuestras mascotas son "carnívoras cautivas" .
En esta era de la medicina basada en la evidencia, la ciencia actual y emergente apoya la alimentación de una dieta cruda basada en presas, apropiada para las especies como a los carnívoros domesticados (gatos y perros) para una salud y bienestar óptimos. No proporcionar a los gatos la oportunidad de comportamientos de tipo depredador puede provocar obesidad o aburrimiento y frustración que pueden expresarse como exceso de aseo, enfermedad asociada al estrés o comportamiento agresivo mal dirigido .
Es importante que, como profesión, definamos la dieta evolutiva estándar de oro de nuestros animales de compañía mediante la cual se compare a todos los alimentos crudos para mascotas, cocidos y procesados de fabricación comercial. La necesidad de una dieta estándar de oro fue discutida por primera vez en 2002 por el profesor Nick Cave, nutricionista veterinario certificado por la junta, y colegas  y no se ha vuelto a visitar ni a definir desde que confirmó la brecha de diecisiete años entre el conocimiento y la aplicación práctica.
El Consejo Nacional de Investigación de las Academias Nacionales vio la necesidad de agregar un capítulo sobre fisiología digestiva, que no se había incluido anteriormente, en su edición revisada de 2006 de Requisitos de Nutrientes para Perros y Gatos. El nuevo capítulo cubre los compartimentos y funciones digestivas, los aspectos hormonales de la digestión, la medición y los factores que afectan la digestión . Los dientes caninos e incisivos de los perros se utilizan para someter a la presa, cortar la piel y el músculo, agarrar y sostener la presa, mientras que el par de dientes carnasiales (cuarto premolar superior e inferior del primer molar) tienen dos bordes cortantes para atrapar y cortar la comida en un movimiento de autoafilado . Los perros son definidos como carnívoros carroñeros oportunistas. Los gatos se definen como carnívoros obligados o estrictos. La dieta natural de un gato consta principalmente mamíferos de presa pequeños, con una menor proporción de insectos, aves y pequeños reptiles, cuando están disponibles. Los perros se involucran en comportamientos de recolección de residuos, y tanto los gatos como los perros mastican el pasto ocasionalmente. El ecologista nutricional David Raubenheimer, con sede en la Universidad de Sídney, afirma que los gatos alimentados con alimentos comerciales para mascotas se mantendrán en un estado crónico de desequilibrio nutricional. Esto aumenta las preocupaciones sobre el bienestar, y también a largo plazo probablemente afectará el metabolismo y la salud del gato .
Basado en la evidencia de la literatura nutricional más amplia, la RFVS define la dieta estándar de oro para mascotas como:
La dieta estándar de oro es lo más cercana posible a la dieta evolutiva de perros y gatos, está hecha de huesos carnosos crudos congelados, carnes, órganos, frutas y verduras, mínimamente procesados, picados y congelados. La dieta no contiene suplementos sintéticos añadidos, aditivos o conservantes.
La Asociación Mundial de Veterinarios de Pequeños Animales (WSAVA, por sus siglas en inglés) emitió las Pautas de evaluación nutricional de WSAVA en 2011, que se han convertido en la norma nutricional práctica para muchos veterinarios de todo el mundo . Los "alimentos prácticos para mascotas", según la definición de la industria europea de alimentos para mascotas (FEDIAF), dominan la industria veterinaria . Los alimentos prácticos para mascotas figuran en las Pautas de evaluación nutricional de WSAVA. Los alimentos para mascotas prácticos se fabrican, por definición, a partir de cereales y diversos subproductos de origen animal. Luego se complementan con mezclas de vitaminas y minerales sintéticos para compensar las deficiencias debidas a la mala calidad de los ingredientes y al procesamiento. Su vida útil y apariencia se mantienen con aditivos y conservantes.
Los alimentos para mascotas prácticos pueden contener trigo, leche, soja, maíz y muchos otros ingredientes que no se consideran parte de la dieta evolutiva de gatos y perros. También pueden contener aditivos y conservantes tales como carragenina, goma guar, goma xantana, ácido propiónico y ácido sórbico.
La RFVS ofrece asistencia a veterinarios y enfermeras veterinarias (homologo a técnicos veterinarios en algunas partes de Latinoamérica) que optan por trabajar con el kit de herramientas nutricionales WSAVA, pero necesitan atender al creciente grupo de dueños de mascotas que eligen alimentar con dietas crudas, sin procesar, con alimentos reales en lugar de "alimentos prácticos para mascotas" cocinados comercialmente.
WSAVA emitió la siguiente declaración de posición en 2013 sobre los riesgos de las dietas basadas en carne cruda:
Las dietas crudas a base de huesos carnosos (DCHC o RMBD, por sus siglas en inglés) tienen un alto riesgo de contaminación con bacterias, parásitos y otros patógenos. Además de los riesgos de insuficiencia nutricional, otras preocupaciones de salud para un animal que come una DCHC incluyen los riesgos de ingestión de huesos en caso de que sean incorporados (por ejemplo, estreñimiento, diarrea, fracturas dentales, obstrucciones gastrointestinales) e hipertiroidismo por ingesta excesiva de tejido tiroideo. Actualmente no hay evidencia documentada de los beneficios de salud en una dieta cruda basada en huesos carnosos, pero existen riesgos bien documentados. Como tal, el Comité Mundial de Nutrición de la Asociación Mundial de Veterinarios de Pequeños Animales recomienda que no se alimente a perros y gatos con una dieta cruda basada en huesos carnosos .
La declaración de posición no se ha actualizado desde entonces, lo que dificulta a que los veterinarios y enfermeras veterinarias apoyen a su base de clientes que optan por una dieta cruda para sus mascotas.
La RFVS está revisando constantemente los estudios nutricionales actuales revisados por expertos de todas las disciplinas científicas y está en posición de promover los principios y aspectos prácticos de la nutrición apropiada para la especie. La educación de los veterinarios y profesionales veterinarios aliados y el público propietario de mascotas es una prioridad para la RFVS.
Como veterinarios practicantes, es importante que otorguemos a los dueños de mascotas estrategias de alimentación prácticas y claras que se puedan seguir en sus ocupadas vidas. En un mundo biológicamente ideal, todo carnívoro cazador sería alimentado de presas vivas. Este es el estándar de oro. Claramente, esto es socialmente inaceptable, moralmente cuestionable y poco práctico. Hay disponible una gama de alternativas menores que siempre será un intercambio entre conveniencia, creencia, costo y practicidad.
Este documento es un resumen de la investigación actual que apoya la alimentación segura basada en huesos carnosos a gatos y perros. Al abordar la declaración de posición de WSAVA publicada en 2013, es nuestro deber como miembros de RFVS abordar las inquietudes específicas que WSAVA ha destacado.
- La falta de evidencia documentada de los beneficios de salud de una dieta de huesos carnosos.
- El alto riesgo de contaminación.
- El riesgo de insuficiencia nutricional o exceso nutricional.
- El riesgo de ingerir huesos.
Veterinary professionals and owners alike who are experienced raw feeders will anecdotally and consistently report that feeding an RMBD to both cats and dogs will improve their energy, bring a sheen to their coat, clear scurf, lessen unwanted odours, improve stool quality, make weight loss easy and thrill fussy eaters. This is to be expected of a diet that is species-appropriate, easily digested and eaten enthusiastically. As raw feeding vets we observe clinical improvement in our caseload with a simple change to feeding an RMBD. It is not only that the diet is raw but by definition a species-appropriate raw diet changes the macronutrient profile of the food being fed. Practical pet foods are carbohydrate rich; raw pet foods are protein rich and low in carbohydrates. We observe our gastrointestinal cases improving on an RMBD. Given the established and emerging science of the ‘gut microbiome’ and its role in health and disease, we recognize the impact of a species-appropriate diet on propagating a healthy microbiome. A healthy microbiome is pivotal to a well-functioning immune system. As a result of feeding a species-appropriate RMBD we observe the resolution of an array of immune-mediated disorders. Atopy can be manageable without the long-term use of pharmaceutical drugs. In cats we observe that the alarming array of inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases clinically improve in response to an RMBD. Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) can be addressed long term with an RMBD in conjunction with short-term medical management. In both cats and dogs, diabetes can be reversed if caught early. Weight loss is easy. Anecdotally it appears that effective preventive strategies to reduce the epidemic of pet obesity are in our hands when we recommend an RMBD.
The following peer-reviewed literature supports the anecdotal observations.
Digestibility studies support the improvement seen in coat quality and energy levels, given that nutrient absorption is improved on an RMBD. Digestibility of crude protein and fat is improved in raw foods compared to dry practical pet foods [16–19].
In dogs suffering from gastrointestinal disease, one recent study has highlighted the difference in the make-up of the microbiome between a healthy and a sick animal . In dogs suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, bacterial groups within the phylum Fusobacteria have been reported to decrease in the gut . Studies have shown that feeding raw meat to dogs increases the same phylum in the gut, making an RMBD a positive influence to improve a dysfunctional microbiome [21–23].
In a study, from Iowa State University , a group of pet dogs were used to model and test RMBDs intended for captive zoo carnivores. Owing to functional and anatomical similarities between the digestive systems of domestic dogs and their wild counterparts, dogs serve as an experimental model for nutrition studies for exotic captive canine species. This study turned on its head the veterinary notion that our pet dogs are no longer the ‘evolutionary equivalent’ of their canine ancestors and have somehow morphed into omnivores eating human food. Let’s be clear: our domestic pet dogs have the anatomy and physiology of a scavenging carnivore: an unhinged jaw for tearing and shearing prey with no capacity for a side-to-side movement for grinding food, low stomach pH and a short gastrointestinal tract. Although domestication has given dogs an increased ability to digest and utilise starch in their diet, at the RFVS we recognise that the ability to digest starch is very far removed from the ability to thrive on a predominantly starchy diet . The ability to digest starch varies both at the breed and at the individual level.
The Iowa study found that nutrients in RMBD were highly digested by domestic dogs. The diets did not result in clinical signs of gastrointestinal upset. The RMBD had a positive effect on the dogs’ general health status as measured by serum chemistry, electrolytes and a complete blood check. Histology of the gastrointestinal tract and associated tissues using chamber evaluation of intestinal integrity and barrier function indicated improvement in both intestinal integrity and barrier function on an RMBD. Given that atopic dermatitis and other skin diseases may be seen as a manifestation of a more systemic problem involving gut dysbiosis and increased intestinal permeability, it follows that these conditions will improve on an RMBD .
A recent study in the Veterinary Journal took a look at the effect of kibble and raw meat diets on peripheral blood mononuclear gene expression in dogs . The study found that diet influences canine immune cell gene expression. This suggests that diet is a critical factor in the maintenance of cellular defence systems, immunity, inflammation, redox regulation, metabolism, and DNA repair, which ensure optimal health and reduce disease risk. In humans, owing to recent innovations in gene expression technologies, the profiling of human blood to determine predictive markers associated with health status has become a feasible prospect. This exciting study gives us an opportunity to predict health status and the benefits conferred by diet in dogs.
In a working example of a One Health model, the KetoPet Sanctuary (ketopetsanctuary.com) was set up in 2014 to rescue shelter dogs diagnosed with cancer. Shelter dogs diagnosed with cancer arriving at the sanctuary are placed on a raw ketogenic diet (high fat, adequate protein, very low carbohydrate). A raw ketogenic diet mimics a dog’s ancestral diet and closely replicates how canines might eat in the wild. For most of canine history, dogs were naturally in a state of ketosis much or most of their lives. A raw ketogenic diet is found to be effective in improving outcomes for dogs with cancer. A ketogenic diet supplies energy in the form of fat and protein which ensures stable blood glucose, improves insulin sensitivity and reduces inflammation .
Dogs with idiopathic epilepsy may exhibit behaviours that resemble attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms seen in humans. A ketogenic diet may be able to improve some of these behaviours, and provide potentially anxiolytic effects .
In a randomised clinical trial in 2012, the positive effect of a raw diet was reported in relation to the formation of calcium oxalate uroliths . Lower calcium excretion was found in the urine of dogs eating a commercial RMBD, compared with excretion in dogs eating a commercial dry extruded diet. The RMBD contained half as much calcium, less than a third as much sodium and considerably more water than did the dry extruded diet. Feeding a diet with a nutrient profile closer to a species-appropriate gold standard diet, as well as feeding it raw, warrants further research.
Nutrition studies that are independent of funding from large pet food companies producing practical pet foods such as Hill’s, Royal Canin and Purina are rare. Undergraduate education, postgraduate education and continuing professional development of practising vets is funded by practical pet food companies.
The DogRisk Group is a group of Independent university-based researchers led by Professor Anna Hielm-Bjorkman based at the University of Helsinki. The primary aim of the DogRisk Group is to assess the impact of diet and other environmental factors on diseases in dogs .
The DogRisk Group utilises a validated questionnaire using a huge number of dogs (upwards of 8000) to assess the impact of diet and environment . Professor Hielm-Bjorkman is a regular and well-received speaker at the RFVS’s annual conference. Professor Hielm-Bjorkman takes a One Health approach and would like to use the dog as a nutritional model for human disease.
An initial analysis of the DogRisk data has revealed a decrease in the incidence of atopy and allergy in dogs that eat RMBDs . It appears that an RMBD fed at a young age has a positive influence on reducing the incidence of atopy in the population. Eating raw meat, raw bone and cartilage gave the strongest association of any the food items consumed in the study.
A poster presented at the Waltham Nutritional Symposium (2013) analysed the data collected from the DogRisk Questionnaire in relation to canine hip dysplasia (CHD) in German shepherd dogs. The results of the analysis indicated that raw food, fed at a young age, could protect German shepherd dogs from CHD . To test these results, further clinical studies are needed. Professor Hielm-Bjorkman spends the majority of her time trying to secure funding. Her main areas of interest are why chronic diseases in dogs and humans occur, how these diseases progress and the role that nutrition plays in these processes. Professor Hielm-Bjorkman works as a senior researcher and teacher at the Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Helsinki. Many posters have been presented at congresses globally but, owing to a lack of funding, the DogRisk Group has difficulty publishing its work.
The RFVS is always looking for ways to help raise much-needed funds for independent nutrition research relating to the feeding of RMBDs.
Within the veterinary profession there is a very vocal lobby opposing the feeding of an RMBD. The anti-raw-food lobby is keen to point out that RMBDs are laden with bacteria and pose a risk for both the pet and the owner. In the words of one corporate director: ‘How many more innocent children will have to be harmed before the veterinary profession will unite to condemn the practice of feeding raw food to pets?’ . This same corporate chain retails raw pet foods from a number of their veterinary clinics. This highlights the current chaotic approach of the profession to feeding pets a raw food diet.
‘Reducing the risk of zoonotic infection’, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) in 2015 , makes a number of key points about reducing the risk of pet-associated zoonotic infection. The paper states that in a controlled health care environment, and with responsible human behaviour, the potential benefits of sharing our lives with companion animals far outweigh the apparently insignificant risks.
Pets are a potential source of zoonotic infection, no matter what they are fed. People may acquire zoonotic infections through bites, scratches, contact with animal saliva, urine and other bodily fluids or secretions, ingestion of animal faecal material, inhalation of infectious aerosols and through the bites of arthropods and other invertebrate vectors. Companion animals are a source for more than seventy human diseases. However, patient surveys and epidemiological studies suggest that the occurrence of pet-associated disease is low.
The CMAJ paper identifies a vulnerable group of people – patients who are immune-compromised, pregnant women, young children and older adults – who are at greater risk of zoonotic infection. Given a One Health approach, physicians and other healthcare providers, with the guidance of existing resources, can counsel patients on safe pet ownership and safe pet contact to reduce pet-associated disease.
When a disease is transmitted from animal to human involving any type of pet food, the cause is likely to be poor hygiene resulting from failing to appreciate just how dangerous pet foods can be. Illness among infants is significantly associated with feeding practical pet foods to pets in the kitchen . This study in the journal Pediatrics concludes that dry dog foods were linked to human cases of salmonella over a three-year period. Toddlers are frequently infected by handling dry kibble left out in the kitchen. This paper highlights the importance of the proper handling and storage of dry pet foods in the home to prevent illness, especially among young children.
In 2017, Public Health England investigated an outbreak of Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC). The investigation highlighted the necessity of a One Health approach to the control of STEC, owing to the complex interplay of pathogens between animals, the environment and humans . The study identified the growing popularity of feeding pets on RMBDs and concluded that further work is needed to assess the risk and to improve infection control. The number of raw pet food manufacturers has increased from five in 2013 to ninety in 2018. In response to this growth, the Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs (ACAF) published a discussion paper, ‘Raw Pet Food’ , noting that the size of the UK raw pet food market has grown significantly over recent years, and is estimated to be worth in excess of £100 million annually. The discussion paper from ACAF concludes that improving awareness of risk is a priority, noting that in one case, in the STEC investigation carried out by Public Health England, an owner had close contact with a raw fed dog, including sharing their own toothbrush to brush the dog’s teeth.
The Veterinary Public Health Association (VPHA) website has posted the conclusion of the Incident Management Team from Public Health England in their zoonoses newsletter . The Incident Management Team concluded that the best approach to reducing the risk of infection from raw pet foods is to improve the awareness of risk, and to promote good hygiene practices when handling raw pet food.
Public Health England has developed a number of infographics for pet owners with the introductory graphic ‘Handling Pet Foods Can Make People Unwell’ . That’s all pet foods, not just raw pet foods, and these infographics have been welcomed and utilised by the RFVS.
The RFVS also acknowledges that those veterinary professionals with widespread experience of feeding raw food diets to pets know that resultant disease is very rare if owners are educated in the potential risks. Owners are experts at adhering to the proper handling and storage of these foods. The RFVS also acknowledges that salmonella, campylobacter and listeriosis are being carried by clinically healthy animals, raw fed or not, making the understanding of the canine and feline intestinal microbiota a very hot topic. Pathogenic species of bacteria including E. coli, Clostridium perfringens and Salmonella are regularly identified in healthy dog’s intestines .
All dogs lick their anal/genital area, lick other dogs’ orifices, eat faeces, eat dead animals, and drink from contaminated puddles and waterways. Equally all cats will lick their anal/genital area and many cats will hunt prey. Basic hygiene precautions ensure that we humans can all safely coexist with our pets.
Antibiotic resistance and RMBD are often linked in discussions about multi-drug-resistant bacteria (MDRB). Current research by the Royal Veterinary College in a three-year joint initiative with the UK Medical Research Council is investigating the critical control points at which interventions could substantially affect the spread of resistance . The often close contact between pets and humans provides opportunities for the transmission of MDRB and resistance genes in either direction. The dog’s nose being a frequent carriage site for MDRB. We currently do not know the critical control points at which we need to intervene to reduce the spread of MDRB.
If the same concern for public health and the recommendation for banning raw food were applied to the zoo world, this would be a wholly impractical position. Several thousand keepers (including pregnant women) are feeding an RMBD every day to their captive carnivores (big and small cats, hyenas, bears, birds and reptiles) including raw meat and carcasses. If the feeding of RMBD were as dangerous as implied in some veterinary circles, we would have to close all of our zoos.
In 2017, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) Raw Pet Food Group developed in conjunction with Defra, the APHA, Public Health England and the Food Standards Agency published the Guidelines for the Manufacture of Raw Pet Food in the UK. An excellent example of the workings of a One Health approach. The guidelines will ensure the safety, hygiene and nutritional adequacy of raw pet food manufactured in the UK .
By default – it is often thought that feeding a Practical Pet Food must be safe. An increasingly global and complex pet food supply chain complicates the already substantial challenge of assuring pet food safety and nutritional adequacy . Common sourcing of ingredients from a global supply chain and increased size of production lots leads to escalating problems. Pet owners who choose to raw feed are often suspicious of large pet food companies. Freeman et al in their 2013 review of the Risks and Benefits of raw meat based diets state that recalls of commercial pet foods for bacterial contamination, mycotoxicosis, thiamine deficiency, and Vitamin D toxicosis are evidence that feeding commercial dry extruded and moist pet foods is not completely without risk .
A recently published study from the University of Nottingham highlights the non-compliance of a range of popular cooked pet foods sold in the UK under FEDIAF Guidelines - 94% of wet foods and 61% of dry foods were non-compliant with EU guidelines . The study concludes that if fed exclusively and over an extended period of time a number of these pet foods could impact negatively on the health of companion animals.
In July 2018, the FDA warned about a possible relationship between dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs and the consumption of dog food formulated with potatoes and pulse ingredients. The Journal of Animal Science recently published a review article stating that adequate supply of taurine and/or precursors for taurine synthesis play an important role in preventing DCM . The review states that bioavailability and digestibility are important considerations when formulating pet foods. The review concludes that dog food formulators should have a deep knowledge of processing methodologies and nutrient interactions, beyond meeting AAFCO nutrient profiles and should not carelessly follow unsubstantiated market trends.
The recent Hills Pet Food recall for excessive levels of Vitamin D in a range of their foods, highlights the challenge of assuring pet food quality in a global food environment. Given the recent Hills recall, the Nottingham University study and the concern over novel ingredients relating to DCM in dogs, it is time as a profession to acknowledge the limitations of our current pet food model. Increasingly, research has emphasized that the prior treatment of food before consumption may have a marked effect on the bioavailability of nutrients. Host related factors are also recognized as important. The efficiency of luminal and mucosal digestion influences nutrient bioavailability and is impacted by prior processing of food . It is time to define a ‘gold standard’ species appropriate diet by which all manufactured pet foods can be compared.
The RFVS definition of ‘the gold standard diet’ for pets is as close to the dog and cats evolutionary diet as is practically possible. Manufactured from fresh frozen raw meaty bones, meats, organ meats, fruits and vegetables, minimally processed by mincing and freezing. With no added synthetic supplements, additives or preservatives.
The majority of raw pet food companies in the UK are using high quality raw meaty bones, and organ meats, sourced from the human food chain, of known provenance. There are currently nine raw pet food companies listed on the PFMA website. These companies are following the Guidelines for the Manufacture of Raw Pet Food in the UK. As raw pet food has become more popular with dog and cat owners, so too has demand for hard evidence as to its nutritional adequacy and safety. Veterinary professionals, in particular, seek reassurance. Naturally, they do not wish to recommend anything that could have adverse health implications.
A raw food manufacturer in the UK has recently invested in a research project to demonstrate that it is possible to formulate a species-appropriate raw food diet for dogs, without the need for additional synthetic supplementation. The study, Raw Proof , enrolled twenty-six dogs over a two-year period and fed them a range of RMBDs. The diets fed met the FEDIAF’s nutritional guidelines for complete and balanced nutrition. The FEDIAF recognises that its guidelines were developed in order to assess the nutritional adequacy of highly processed, manufactured cooked food that incorporates artificial supplementation. The FEDIAF acknowledges that its guidelines are not applicable to a species-appropriate diet of raw meaty bones and as such FEDIAF states that ‘pet foods can be adequate and safe when nutrient levels are outside the recommendations in this guide based on the manufacturer’s substantiation of nutritional adequacy and safety’. In Raw Proof the raw pet food manufacturer gives detailed substantiation of the nutritional adequacy and safety . The study has been peer reviewed by a number of veterinary professionals and concludes that a properly formulated raw food diet will meet an adult dog’s nutritional requirements with no adverse health effects.
In the context of nutritional excess, companion animal obesity has been identified as a challenge for the veterinary profession. Obesity is seen as a multifactorial problem including excessive consumption of food, genetics, sex status, exercise and behaviour around food. Anecdotally, raw feeding vets can easily manage overweight pets. Given that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets enhance weight loss in dogs , further research is warranted to consider the macronutrient profile of a species-appropriate RMBD in successful weight management. The positive influence of an RMBD in meeting many of the natural feeding behaviours of cats and dogs requires further investigation in the context of preventing obesity . Cats are obligate carnivores with no requirement for carbohydrates . As obligate carnivores they are metabolically programmed to utilise amino acids and fat rather than starch to produce energy. Additional starch in a cat’s diet is stored as fat . We knew this in 2002 – sixteen years later we are facing an obesity epidemic. The current obesity issue has led to an awareness of the need for further understanding of the energy available from practical pet foods .
In terms of nutritional excess, the only reports for excessive nutrients from an RMBD is nutritional hyperthyroidism. Caused by the excessive feeding of thyroid gland to dogs in the form of necks from ruminant animals fed to dogs with the thyroid gland attached. This is easily resolved by only sourcing necks with the thyroid gland removed .
There are many perceived issues with nutritional excess and deficiency when feeding an RMBD. Home-prepared pet foods, raw or cooked, can be unbalanced. The RFVS believes that raw pet food manufacturers and the pet owning public need the knowledge and guidance of vets who endorse RMBDs.
The RFVS acknowledges that the feeding of inappropriately chosen raw meaty bones can be dangerous to dogs and cats. The RFVS is committed to educating owners about the safe feeding of raw meaty bones to improve dental health and mental health. The RFVS believes that the benefits of feeding appropriate sized raw meaty bones to dogs and cats outweighs the risks. The RFVS does not advocate the feeding of cooked bones.
The masticatory apparatus of carnivores has evolved to chew raw meaty bones . Raw meaty bones are a natural component of the diet of our pet carnivores, and pets show a strong desire to chew on raw meaty bones when offered them. Long periods spent feeding and exercising the jaw, neck and shoulder muscles lead to psychological contentment . Consumption of whole prey or raw meaty bones provides a relatively high intake of raw animal-derived fermentative substances such as minerals, cartilage and tendons which enhance gut health, stimulate microbial commensals and optimise immune function, as discussed in the DogRisk Studies [31, 32]. The RFVS does not advocate the chewing of large limb bones, owing to the development of massive shearing forces and the possibility of slab fractures.
Freeman et al. in their 2013 review, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association , of the risks and benefits of raw food diets states that further research is needed to better understand the frequency of obstruction or perforation with raw versus cooked bones. The most common canine oesophageal foreign bodies are bones, various dental chews, rawhides, rubber balls and bottle caps . There are no references to whether these bone foreign bodies are raw or cooked. Based on clinical experience, the RFVS believes that appropriately sized raw meaty bones rarely cause a problem.
In a retrospective case series of thirty-one dogs presenting for obstruction with a dental chew, the study states that the dental chews were difficult to remove orally via endoscopy, resulted in severe oesophageal damage, were associated with stricture formation and were associated with a high mortality rate . Dental chews continue to be highly recommended by veterinarians in practice. Dental treats and chews also differ greatly in their effectiveness on the reduction of plaque, gingivitis, calculus and halitosis, making recommendation by a vet very difficult. Chewing raw bovine bones, however, was found to be an effective method of removing dental calculus in dogs . In cats, a study comparing the dental calculus scores of domestic cats eating canned and dry foods with feral cats eating small mammals, birds, reptiles and insects found that dental calculus scores were significantly higher in domestic cats than in feral cats . The current systematic scrutiny of our knowledge in relation to periodontal disease undertaken by RCVS Knowledge clearly highlights a gap in the evidence , and is a strong justification for further research into a species-appropriate RMBD.
We, the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society (RFVS), refute the four major WSAVA criticisms. We challenge the supposed lack of evidence of the health benefits of raw food feeding, the apparent risk of infection posed by feeding cats and dogs a raw meaty bone diet, the lack of evidence of the nutritional adequacy of feeding cats and dogs a complete and balanced raw diet and the suggestion of the relative risk of feeding raw bony material to pets.
As practising veterinary professionals, the RFVS insists it is important we give pet owners clear, practical feeding strategies that can be easily followed. In a biologically ideal world every captive carnivore would be fed on live prey. Clearly, this is socially unacceptable, morally questionable and impractical. It is, however, the gold standard diet to which all manufactured pet food must be compared.
As owners continue to seek RMBDs for their pets, it is critical that the veterinary profession engages with the current research and science to support these owners in their choice of diet. The RFVS recognises that feeding an RMBD is a positive proactive choice made by highly motivated and intelligent pet owners.
The RFVS will continue to promote the extensive nutritional science available in relation to the documented health benefits of RMBDs.
The RFVS believes that ensuring pet owners are fully aware of the potential for zoonotic infection from their dogs and cats to their families and the extended community that these pets come into contact with will greatly reduce its risk. Also, we believe that zoonotic infection is a wider veterinary issue and not just a raw pet food issue.
The RFVS supports the PFMA’s Guidelines for the Manufacture of Raw Pet Food in the UK . These guidelines ensure that pet food manufacturers are preparing high-quality raw pet foods with appropriate microbiological controls in place. These manufacturers understand the importance of a complete and balanced nutrient profile.
The safe feeding of RMBDs is a priority for the RFVS and we will continue to advise on the safe feeding of raw meaty bones to dogs and cats to provide improved dental and mental health.
The clinical experience of veterinary professionals and hundreds of thousands of pet owners around the world, together with current scientific literature, demonstrates that a carefully planned RMBD significantly and measurably improves pet health.
The RFVS will continue to support vets, vet nurses, allied professionals, academics, pet food manufacturers and pet owners to positively and safely feed as close to a gold standard species-appropriate RMBD as possible. The RFVS is committed to promoting current and future evidence-based research worldwide.
The RFVS is deeply committed to the health and welfare of pets, pet owners and the veterinary profession.
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