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Top Ten Myths about Raw Meat Diets
1. "Their benefits are proven"
No scientific studies have shown benefits of raw food diets. Their appeal is based on word of mouth, testimonials, and perceived benefits. For example, raw food diets may result in a shiny coat and small stools because they are generally high in fat and digestibility. However, these same properties can be achieved with commercial cooked diets without risks of raw meat diets.
2. "This is what animals eat in the wild"
Wolves in the wild do eat raw meat (in addition to berries, plants, etc). However, the average lifespan for a wolf in the wild is only a few years. Therefore, what is nutritionally "optimal" for a wolf is not optimal for our pets who we hope will live long and healthy lives.
3. "Dogs and cats have short gastrointestinal tracts so won't get Salmonella infections"
Dogs' and cats' gastrointestinal tracts are not shorter compared to people when viewed in proportion to their smaller body size. Dogs and cats can become infected with Salmonella and other bacteria found in raw meat diets, just as people can (especially young, old, or immunosuppressed individuals)
4. "Raw food diet ingredients are human grade"
Even meats purchased at the best of stores for people can be infected with bacteria so purchasing "human grade" meat does not protect against the health risks of uncooked meats (would you eat raw hamburger?). Also, be aware that the term "human grade" has no legal definition for pet food.
5. "Freezing raw diets kills bacteria"
Most of the bacteria found in raw meat diets can easily survive freezing.
6. "As long as bones are raw, they're safe"
Bones, whether raw or cooked, can fracture dogs' and cats' teeth. Bone also can block or tear the esophagus, stomach, or intestine.
7. "Cooking destroys enzymes needed for digestion"
All the enzymes that dogs and cats (and people) need for digestion are already in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, additional enzymes from food are not required for digestion. In fact, enzymes are proteins so any enzymes that are eaten get broken down by the body and have no benefit in the digestion process.
8. "Grains are added to pet foods as fillers"
Corn, oats, rice, barley, and other grains are healthy ingredients that contain protein, vitamins, and minerals; they are not added as fillers. There is no benefit of potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, or oatmeal compared to other carbohydrate sources, unless the animal has certain specific health problems.
9. "Most commercial pet foods contain harmful ingredients"
By-products are the animal parts that Americans don't typically eat, such as livers, kidneys, or lungs. By-products have specific legal definitions for what they can and cannot include. For example, by-products must be the clean parts of slaughtered animals and cannot include feathers, hair, horns, teeth, and hooves. Basically, by-products are the organs. Note that some pet foods actually list these ingredients (eg, duck liver, beef lung) but these are really just "by-products."
10. "If bones or chicken necks are added to raw meat diets, they're nutritionally balanced"
Most homemade (and even some commercial) raw meat diets are extremely deficient in calcium and a variety of other nutrients, even if chicken necks, bones, or egg shells are added. This can be disastrous in any animal but especially in young, growing pets.
If you have any additional questions, please contact us at the office or, if you prefer, you may visit the website of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.