Raw Pet Foods And The AVMA – Part 1

2 tables comparing raw fed vs kibble fed dogs

The AVMA (American Veterinary Medicine Association) describes itself on its website (www.avma.org) as “representing more than 86,500 veterinarians working in private and corporate practice, government, industry, academia, and uniformed services,” and acts as a collective voice for its membership and for the profession. Many people are aware that vets in the USA in general do not approve of raw pet food, but few have actually researched the reasons behind this stance.

The AVMA’s latest policy was approved in 2012, and states that: “The AVMA discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans.”

Many questions were apparently received by the AVMA after the publication of this policy, and the answers given are worth studying carefully. What I have discovered from a careful reading of these responses will shock and disturb many raw feeders:

Q:  How did the AVMA policy come about?  

A: The Delta Society (now Pet Partners) contacted the Animal Welfare Division of the AVMA and inquired as to whether or not the AVMA had a policy addressing raw feeding, primarily due to concerns about therapy animals being fed raw diets. At the time, they did not have a policy on the subject. The Animal Welfare Division staff contacted the AVMA Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine (CPHRVM) and notified them of the inquiry. The CPHRVM discussed the matter and felt that the AVMA should have a science-based policy addressing the public health risks of raw food.  

So, who are Pet Partners (PP)?

They are the USA’s leading therapy dog organization. They do great work, and I am a firm believer in the enormous benefits of the human-animal bond. However, it should be noted that in 2010, the Delta Society banned raw fed pets from their therapy programs. When one digs a little further, one discovers that PP works in partnership with Purina – one of the leading manufacturers of processed, dried pet foods.  Furthermore, in 2010, Purina’s Marketing Director sat on the Board of Directors of PP, one of Purina’s advisory vets was a member of the PP’s advisory group, and Purina gave a grant of $400,000 to the organization.  Coincidence?  Let’s investigate further…

Q: What influence did the pet food industry have on the AVMA’s policy? 

A:  None. Neither commercial nor raw diet manufacturers were contacted during development of this policy because it was based on public health risk, and not on nutritional comparisons, health benefits, or economic factors. None of the pet food companies were aware that a policy was being developed. 

Sounds fair enough, right?  Perhaps, unless one was already aware that the request for a policy came about via PP and its clear connection to Purina. PP carried out its own study in 2008 involving 40 raw fed and 156 dry fed therapy dogs, and published the results of stool samples collected as follows:

Bacteria Counts
Raw Fed Dogs (40)
Bacteria Counts
Dry Food Fed Dogs (156)
0 for Vanomycin resistant enterococci1 for Vanomycin resistant enterococci
1 for MRSA8 for MRSA
5 for Clostridium difficile40 for Clostridium difficile
19 for Salmonella12 for Salmonella
31 for E. Coli32 for E. Coli

So, even by PP’s own admission, dry fed dogs carry higher amounts of three of the five bacteria listed, and yet they still only banned raw fed dogs from their therapy programs.  It is, in my belief, inconceivable that this study was not considered by the AVMA when formulating its own policy (especially as the request for a policy came via PP), and that PP’s decision (as flawed as it appears) carried considerable weight. MRSA and C.diff, despite being far more prevalent in the stools of dry fed dogs, do not appear to have concerned PP when making their decision – despite both bacteria being of significant health concern, frequently transmitted in hospitals and care facilities, and growing in frequency, severity and resistance to treatment.

Bacteria under microscope

So it’s OK for a dry fed dog, potentially carrying 3 dangerous pathogens, to be a therapy dog – but not a raw fed dog, carrying less pathogens?

It is therefore my opinion that there must have been influence from Purina (even indirectly) upon PP’s policy to ban raw fed dogs from therapy. A consideration of the evidence above supports no other conclusion.

The AVMA statement continues:


“Commercially processed canned or kibble foods are formulated to meet dogs’ and cats’ nutritional needs for proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. They are convenient, cost less than raw or homemade diets, and are readily available in most grocery stores, pet stores and “big box” stores. These pet foods comprise the majority of the pet food market. Commercial foods are nutritionally balanced and they undergo a process of quality control/ inspection that is meant to catch any contaminants or pathogens before they affect pets or people.”

This mistakenly ignores the increasing prevalence of raw pet foods and the fact that most are also designed to meet the animal’s full nutritional needs, as set out in the AAFCO Guidelines which govern the ingredients in commercial foods, and under go testing for pathogens before being released on to the market. In fact it has been suggested that many raw dog foods contain less bugs than grocery store bought meats, as more care is usually taken with their production given the high level of scrutiny to which the raw food industry is generally subjected.  Most pet food companies will test every batch of their product before it is sold.  The same cannot be said for store bought chickens, kibbles or canned foods.

Breaking Down The Dollar

Commercially prepared raw foods can be equally convenient, and can cost less, than many premium kibbles. The fact that processed, canned, or kibble diets are readily available and cheap should ring alarm bells for pet owners but unfortunately most appear to be deaf…  As is commonly said on the internet, we should not be asking why real food is so expensive but why processed food is so cheap.

(Slightly off topic but of interest nevertheless: if a 25lb bag of kibble is sold for $30, the shop selling it expects around $10.  The distributor who provides it also gets $10, leaving the manufacturer with $10.  Of that $10, $5 goes on packing, marketing and profit, leaving $5 for the cost of the ingredients. That’s $0.20 per pound to spend on ingredients. What could you buy to feed your best friend for 20 cents per pound?)

Can’t afford raw? Here’s how to do it on a budget. Click Here!

So in conclusion, it is my opinion that the AVMA does appear to have been influenced in the formulation of their policy, contrary to their assertion otherwise, and have chosen to ignore the stringent rules that apply to commercial raw diets which make them potentially healthier than widely available canned or kibble food.

What I also found disturbing was how exactly the policy was developed and arrived at – See Part 2 for more!

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