Raw feeding is a very polarising subject within the veterinary community; in fact it is a source of great debate at conferences, within discussion groups, and even between professional friends and colleagues. There are always strong opinions on both sides, each with a point to prove and rarely any middle ground. Those against raw feeding are quick to publicise the flaws and apparent risks – exposure to hazardous bacteria and parasites, malnutrition, public health impact, the potential choking or foreign body hazards, no firm scientific evidence supporting any of the supposed health benefits. Each of these issues can be examined and debated at length, but we’ll save that for another post. I would however, like to share my own personal thoughts as a pro-raw feeding veterinary surgeon.
As a vet, many people ask me what I feed my dogs; I am always honest – a raw food diet, from RaaW Pet Foods. My dogs have a commercially prepared, nutritionally complete, frozen meal made from human-grade ingredients and to keep things interesting we throw in some seasonal fresh vegetables, bits of offal, or complimentary chews like a turkey neck, beef trachea, or whole fish, all topped off with a spoonful of coconut oil.
I feed raw food because I see the benefits it has for my two dogs. I watch my dogs eagerly anticipate the feast I put down in front of them each day, and eat with an enthusiasm and then roll and rub along the floor afterwards with an expression that could be described as contentment. I take pride in the meals I prepare, knowing not only is it satisfying their hunger, but also nourishing their minds and bodies. My integrative holistic approach to veterinary medicine has taught me that nutrition is the foundation of preventative care. I feed a raw food diet because I believe that health, the state of being free from illness or injury, starts with what we put into our bodies. Two out of three human diseases can be prevented, improved or cured by diet. From experience, I think the same could be said for many of the diseases that affect our four-legged companions. And lastly, I feed a raw diet because I am conscious about what I feed my own body, aiming for the freshest natural foods, locally sourced, with assured welfare standards – so why wouldn’t want the same for my dogs?
Raw feeding is not for everyone, and I can appreciate that. I believe this is one reason that a majority of the veterinary industry is often adamantly opposed to accepting the idea that dogs could thrive on a fresh, nutritious not-kibble diet. When raw or homemade fresh diets go wrong, the consequences are severe. In all fairness, for the vets against raw feeding it must be wholly frustrating to see these “preventable” situations from other raw pet food suppliers – the bone fragments blocking the intestines needing surgical removal, the fractured tooth from an inappropriately sized bone, the thin dog not getting the proper ratio of proteins, offal, bone and veg. In their eyes, these cases wouldn’t happen if they were on a complete and balanced dry kibble diet. But these same clinical situations are equally as frustrating to me and other vets that promote raw feeding as an educated conscious choice, dedicated to meticulously planning each meal with the well being of our pets in mind. I choose RaaW Pet Foods because I know that every ingredient that goes into making the food is totally natural and that once combined in production that every batch is then sent for testing and quarantined at a -18 freezing temperature to ensure any bad bacteria or parasites are long gone before the product is released as safe for consumption. I know that the product is minced into small, edible chunks suitable for dogs of all sizes and that my dogs are getting all of the nutrients and protein that they need in each recipe with the balance of meat, offal, bone, veg and supplements such as salmon oil for the added health benefits.
Opinions against raw feeding as a whole certainly won’t change over night, and one of things I struggle with is how we as a profession can so quick to dismiss anything that may be outside the conventional medicine learned in veterinary school. The current shift to natural feeding is an unstoppable force. It is something we as a profession cannot reject without seeking to understand the importance of real nutrition beyond the scope of commercial prescription kibble diets. Perhaps some day modern medicine will involve a holistic approach to health centred on a balanced natural diet and preventative care, until then we will persevere, feed fresh, and help our pets live longer and healthier lives.