What happens when researchers take a group of dogs, feed them only raw food, and then test the results?
Great things. Yep, I’m talking about scientific research on species-appropriate diets.
And it’s being done (Finally!!).
As raw feeders, we know that a balanced raw diet is so much better – we’ve all seen the results firsthand. But that’s not technically considered research (and I completely get that).
Luckily, the scientific research is being done.
There’s a new study called Raw Proof, and it’s exactly what the raw feeding community needs.
I wanted to know more about the study, so I spoke with Vicky Marshall. She’s part of the team that commissioned and conducted the research. And she was more than willing to share all the details!
What Is This Study About?
In the simplest of terms, Raw Proof is a study about species-appropriate (raw) diets for dogs.
We did it in 2 parts.
The first part looked at whether a raw food diet could meet the highest possible nutritional guidelines for dogs. For this we used the guidelines established by the European Pet Food Industry (FEDIAF).
The second part tested whether such a diet would prove to be nutritionally adequate. To do so, the diet was fed to a meaningful sample of dogs over 26 weeks. We did this according to the trial standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
We made sure we had a supervisory team that could oversee the research. We wanted to make sure it was as accurate and effective as possible. This included:
- Head of Research: Katie McCaul RVN BSc (Animal Behaviour/Physiology) Dip Naturopathy
- Chief Veterinary Surgeon: Tom Farrington MVB MRCVS VetMFHom
- Clinical Veterinary Surgeon for Trial: Dorien F. Nel DVM MRCVS
You can read the complete study here: Raw Proof: The results of a 24-month research investigation into a species-appropriate diet for dogs.
What Were The Results?
I’ve been manufacturing raw food in a small commercial kitchen for 9 years. I now send food to over 3500 pet parents per month. I have seen, first hand, how much healthier dogs are on a species-appropriate diet. So it was no surprise to me when the results matched this experience.
Did the food meet the highest possible food guidelines? Results showed that yes, it’s possible to create complete, balanced species-appropriate dog foods. These foods meet the FEDIAF nutritional guidelines without need for additional, synthetic supplementation.
For the second test, at the end of the 26-week trial period, each dog was examined. We looked for any clinical and pathological signs of nutritional deficiency or excess. We found none.
Once we were finished the study, we wanted to get the opinion of independent vets. We sent our study and the results to several experts around the world. We wanted their advice and thoughts on the study. Here are some of the veterinary surgeons who reviewed and support the research:
- Richard Allport BVetMed VetMFHom MRCVS
- Ian Billinghurst BVSc (Hons),Bsc Agr, Dip Ed
- Tim Couzens BVetMed MRCVS VetMFHom CertVetAc
- David Hopper BVM&S MRCVS
- Geoff Johnson VetMB MA MRCVS VetMFHom RSHom PCH
- Clare Middle BVMS CVAc CV Hom
- Lyn J. Thomson BVSc MRCVS
- Nick Thompson BSc(Vet Sci)Hons BVM&S VetMFHom MRCVS
We also sent it to canine nutritionist Dr Richard S. Patton. He reviewed it and gave it his stamp of approval as well.
Why Is It Hard For People To Find Research Like This?
This type of research requires significant funding. Most raw food manufactures are small to medium businesses and simply don’t have the resources to fund research into raw food. Some may also suggest that the simple fact that dogs have been on this planet for many thousands of years prior to the existence of processed pet food is proof enough that it is an appropriate food source!
Most studies are done by processed food manufacturers (kibble). These companies are huge multi-national businesses and have the means to create research in order to promote their food. They can also commission research in order to try to discredit certain foods too!
We’ve been making raw food and feeding dogs for 9 years and we feed over 3500 dogs per month. Many of our canine customers come to us with awful health problems from skin issues, digestive problems, epilepsy and food allergies. Many are either obese or can’t keep weight on. These dogs switch to a balanced raw diet and they get better!
However many many practicing vets won’t accept this and call it hearsay. They won’t even accept that a raw diet is an appropriate food for dogs. So we set out to try and speak the language of vets. We took a scientific approach rather than relaying our experience or using simple logic to prove our food was complete and dogs thrived on it! We chose the most relevant and highly considered guidelines and protocols and set about letting the science prove our point for us.
It’s so important to give people accurate information that benefits their dogs. It has never been about lining our pockets.
What Criticisms/Challenges Have You Faced So Far? How Are You Facing These Challenges?
Lab setting. Most studies like this are done in a laboratory setting. And while we can appreciate this, we’re, at our core, dog people. We didn’t see the benefit of moving dogs from environments they’re comfortable with to a lab environment for 6 months.
Timeline. The required standard for this type of study was 26 weeks. So we did 26 weeks. However, once we published our reports our critics said that wasn’t long enough.
For now, for us, we’re very proud of the 26 week study and the results that came out of it. In the future, we would like to work on a much longer-term study, so that should help deal with that challenge.
Bias. We anticipated this. After all, there is criticism of pet food manufacturers for conducting their own studies. Of course, we have a raw food business, so that can be perceived as a conflict of interest.
But we’ve maintained complete transparency throughout the entire study. We followed the guidelines to make sure that it adhered to them. We consulted with vets and specialists from around the world. We’ve shared all of our results. The goal was never to promote our own food. It was always to illustrate what we’ve always believed: you can create a nutritionally balanced species-appropriate diet.
What Do You See As The Next Steps?
We’d eventually like to so some seasonal testing. We’d like to look at how the food differs in the winter compared to the summer, and if that has an impact.
We’d also like to continue the study for a longer period of time. As I mentioned, even though we followed the standard of 26 weeks, that wasn’t long enough for some of our critics. And that’s fair. In a way I agree, you can’t see all the benefits of raw feeding in only 26 weeks!
This study tested the feeding of a variety of different diets. And so we’d also like to test a single food to see if the results are the same. On that note, we know that in many cases a single food isn’t true to real life scenarios. And we want our research to be helpful – not just useful for research purposes.
What Is Your Advice To Those Who Are Nervous About Switching To A Species-appropriate Diet?
First and foremost, although we believe the best diet is a species appropriate raw diet, as a dog owner you have to be comfortable with your choice and not stressed.
- Take time to read about raw feeding
- Ask questions of your chosen raw food supplier. For example, where do they source their ingredients, what quantities do they suggest you feed your dog?
- Buy the best quality ingredients you can afford
- Not all foods are safe for pets. Check the list of foods that should never be fed eg: avocado, onion, chocolate, grapes
- Start with a recipe that includes minced bone when you switch. Once your dog is settled onto a raw diet start to explore raw meaty bones raw marrow bones to chew and clean teeth, chicken wings
- Never leave your dog alone while it eats raw meaty bones
- Finally, always ensure you wash hands, surfaces and your dog’s bowls after preparing and feeding your dog
Enjoy taking ownership of your pet’s nutrition and truly knowing exactly what you’re putting into your dog!
Thanks so much Vicky for chatting with me and telling me more about this important scientific work!
**Vicky Marshall is the owner of Honey’s Real Dog Food. She lives in the UK with her husband, three children and two adorable dogs Rudi Doodle and Fletcher.