Vets On Board With Delta Society In Misguided Raw Policy

heart murmur in dogs

At its spring 2011 meeting, the Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine (CPHRVM), drafted a new policy against raw feeding.

The resolution is as follows:

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. Cooking or pasteurization through the application of heat until the protein reaches an internal temperature adequate to destroy pathogenic organisms has been the traditional method used to eliminate pathogens in animal-source protein, although the AVMA recognizes that newer technologies and other methods such as irradiation are constantly being developed and implemented.

Once again, vets are completely off the mark.  Here is their solution:

To mitigate public health risks associated with feeding inadequately treated animalsource protein to cats and dogs, the AVMA recommends the following:

  • Never feed inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs
  • Restrict cats’ and dogs’ access to carrion and animal carcasses (eg, while hunting)
  • Provide fresh, clean, nutritionally balanced and complete commercially prepared or home-cooked food to cats and dogs, and dispose of uneaten food at least daily
  • Practice personal hygiene (eg handwashing) before and after feeding cats and dogs, providing treats, cleaning pet dishes, and disposing of uneaten food

In 2007 alone, thousands of pets were killed by the very food the AVMA touts as safe – and tens of thousands became ill from eating this food.

Don’t think 2007 was an isolated incident: pets regularly become ill from contaminated commercial foods and the current chicken jerky non-recall fiasco has killed and sickened hundreds, if not thousands, more companion animals.

How can the veterinary community advocate these foods as safe with a straight face?  How can they in good conscience warn us of the evils of raw diets yet most AVMA members sold and recommended foods that killed the dogs they claim they were protecting? In a staggering move, when all those dogs and cats were dying back in 2007 and their owners were looking for answers, the veterinary associations officially stated that it was unsafe to change to raw foods and the safest option was to keep feeding kibble. How many more dogs died because of that advice?

Vets must think we pet owners are idiots; it appears they don’t believe we have the mental capacity to handle raw meats.  Well, we’ve got news for the vets:  most of us, except strict vegans, handle raw meats every day, regardless of what we feed our pets.  Do you think we don’t know that meats contain bacteria?  Do you think we don’t know to wash our hands and counter tops after handling raw meats?  If kibble is so safe, then why do vets advocate washing hands before and after feeding pets, cleaning their dishes and disposing of uneaten food.

In fact, studies of pet dogs show that food borne pathogens are present in a surprisingly large proportion of dogs, not just raw fed dogs. Hackett and Lappin (2003) found infectious agents in the faeces of 26% of healthy Colorado dogs and Fukata et al (2002) found salmonella antibodies in 15% of apparently healthy dogs. A study conducted in Stockholm, Sweden by Dr. Kollath showed that young animals fed a cooked, processed diet initially appeared to be healthy, but once they reached maturity, they began to rapidly age and develop degenerative disease symptoms. The control group that was raised on a raw, uncooked diet did not age as fast and showed no degenerative disease symptoms but remained healthy.

It is inane to think that we can avoid bacteria – and short sighted to think it’s a good idea. If there is no exposure to bacteria, immune systems won’t build the antibodies they need to stay healthy. Humans and dogs have both good and bad bacteria in their bodies. When we are healthy, there is a balanced level of each. For instance, at any given time, we have traces of E.coli or Salmonella strains running through our systems, along with good bacteria. The body has an amazing health-regulating ability that combats a diverse amount of environmental factors. As bad bacteria are introduced, the immune system fights back with its own army of bacteria.

In dogs and cats, the colon is short and simple because meat can spoil quickly and produce toxins. The longer such food stays inside the body, the more toxins are produced. Therefore, the meat-eater’s intestine is designed to take out this waste as quickly as possible so risk is negligible under normal conditions.  The foods AVMA would have you feed contain grains and this means slower digestibility and the food remains in the digestive tract for a longer amount of time.  This slow digestion is just the opportunity harmful bacteria need to ferment, enter the body and create food borne illness.

As for avoiding bacteria, your dog or cat might not be the bacteria laden reservoir vets think them to be, relatively speaking.  Here are some interesting germophobic facts:

  • Each time that it’s flushed, your toilet propels invisible bacterial and viral aerosols into the air that can float for up to 2 hours contaminating everything from hand towels to toothbrushes.
  • Microbiologists at the University of Arizona Environmental Research Laboratory found 21% of shopping carts tested contained bodily fluids. The handles can harbor staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, E coli and other bacteria from meat and poultry.
  • The University of Arizona found that almost a third of the railings in public transportation-on buses or subways-were infected with the same bacteria that is found in feces and that 25% of the seats in movie theatres were infected with E.coli bacteria, which is bacteria from feces. Another study by U.S. Air Force doctors in Ohio found that money harbors bacteria which can make both immuno-suppressed and healthy people very sick.
  • Bacteria from food, the body or other sources can survive a wash cycle and spread via our hands to other surfaces. Among them are staphylococcus aureus and klebsiella pneumoniae and E coli.
  • 95 percent of people say they wash their hands after using a public bathroom, but only 67 percent actually wash their hands. Only 33 percent of those who do wash their hands use soap. And only 16 percent really wash their hands long enough.

Do vets recognize that the foods they advocate not only contain substandard ingredients, but many forms of toxins including: aflatoxins, heterocyclic amines, acrylamides, and most recently discovered in dry, cooked pet foods, PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) a chemical used as a flame retardant.  The above makes the following AVMA guideline pretty ironic:

It is unethical for veterinarians to promote, sell, prescribe, dispense, or use secret remedies or any other product for which they do not know the ingredients.

Surely, vets can’t know that kibbles are loaded with the above toxins and still advocate it (and it most cases, sell it in their lobbies)?

At this point, this is only a proposed amendment.  If there is enough outcry, then perhaps we can have this policy proposal turned down.  If you are a veterinary member of the AVMA, please weigh in on this.  If you are a pet owner, encourage your AVMA member vet to speak out against this policy.

In the end, we get to make a decision on what we feed our pets.  Or at least we get to choose today.  Tomorrow may bring bylaws and regulations that declare raw feeding a public health hazard and, like unpasteurized milk, our right to feed raw food to our animals will be stripped from us, just like other freedoms including our right to choose homeopathy and other alternative forms of health care. Pet ownership isn’t as simple as it used to be and it’s becoming more and more difficult to find vets who both understand and advocate what is best for our dogs.

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