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Yet Another Study Shows the Real Dangers of Raw Diets for Dogs
Posted on February 2, 2018 by skeptvet
I have covered the raw diet issues since the very start of this blog, which is about nine years now. My articles on the subject are collected here. Very little has changed in my assessment of the evidence over this time. The bottom line is clear:
There is evidence of risk in feeding raw, including infectious disease, parasites, and injury from raw bones. There is no scientific evidence, only anecdote and dubious theories, to demonstrate any benefits from feeding raw.
A new study has recently been published which adds to the already considerable evidence of risk from infectious disease.
Martinez-Anton, L., Marenda, M., Firestone, S.M., Bushell, R.N., Child, G., Hamilton, A.I., Long, S.N. and Le Chevoir, M.A.R. (2018), Investigation of the Role of Campylobacter Infection in Suspected Acute Polyradiculoneuritis in Dogs. J Vet Intern Med, 32: 352–360.
This was a case control study conducted in Australia and designed to look for associations between the occurrence of a serious neurologic disease, Acute Polyradiculoneuritis (APN) and infection with the bacterium Campylobacter sp. This bacterium has been identified as a common trigger for the analogous disease in humans, Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Because exposure to raw chicken is a common source of Campylobacter infection in humans, the feeding of raw chicken, and other raw meats, was one of the variables evaluated in this study.
The results were quite clear. Dogs with APN were far more likely to be have Campylobacter than healthy dogs, and dogs with APN were also much more likely to have been fed raw chicken and other raw foods.
This type of study only shows an association, not a definitive cause-effect relationship. A prospective randomized controlled trial would be needed to prove feeding raw chicken can cause Campylobacter infection which can then cause APN. However, such studies are not always necessary or appropriate to guide us in reducing our risk of disease. Case-control studies are the main source of evidence showing smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, and certainly a randomized trial in which some people are made to smoke for years and others are not to definitively prove this relationship would be unnecessary and unethical.
We are more often willing to inflict harm on animals in order to investigate the causes of disease, so it is possible someone will do such a study in dogs even though we would not do it in humans. However, it is clear that this study, in the context of the existing evidence in veterinary and human medicine, supports the clear health risks eating raw meat.
Proponents of raw diets will certainly argue that the risk is small compared to the benefits. Unfortunately, no scientific evidence yet exists to show any benefits, and personal anecdotes or theories about the natural history of dogs are not sufficient reason to ignore the robust scientific evidence of the harm that raw diets can cause. Unless some reliable research evidence emerges to show meaningful health benefits from raw feeding, there is no good reason for pet owners to participate in this dangerous fad.
From the above article “My articles on the subject are collected here”:
Fad?!! I think not. Major dry dog food companies have begun to incorporate better nutritional ingredients into their kibble meals and eliminate harmful ingredients based on the benefits of real meat and “complete” meal and whole prey diets. The “fad” has now become a healthier food trend in response to the demand of knowledgeable consumers. Case in point, please review the listed ingredients for Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula (chicken) at https://www.chewy.com/blue-buffalo-life-protection-formula. Besides the chemical processing, the only difference in a “complete” raw meal diet (with veggies and fruit) and Blue Buffalo’s kibble are the following ingredients that a dog doesn’t require for a healthy diet anyway:
Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Flavor, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Potato Stach, DL-Methionine, Caramel Color, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Garlic, Choline Chloride, Turmeric, Copper Sulfate (an naturally occurring pesticide that can be found in plants, soil, food, and water), Copper Amino Acid Chelate (chelated copper solution is a blend of two compounds. One is the copper sulfate granule, and the other is an ingredient that allows the copper granules to break down and stay in a liquid state). Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, and Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract (stomach bacterium and fungi used as a probiotic in pet foods.), Oil of Rosemary.
What an interesting post. Thanks for sharing it!
The problem I have with this study is that it was done on dogs that already had underlying health issues with regards to some paralysis. It doesn’t seem to be done on a group of healthy dogs with no prior health concerns. I think that plays a big role into diet, whether raw or conventional. And why the big hit on chicken necks? Do turkey necks not have the same response then? Or raw chicken breast? In regards to campylobacter, I once discussed this with 4 vets in my town. None support raw feeding, but as a retailer I sell raw food and it is extremely popular in my town. None had a positive test result for campylobacter on a raw fed dog (that the owner had disclosed was raw fed). I am not against raw feeding, but also feed kibble, just for background
I’m not sure what you trying to say. The dogs were diagnosed as having Acute Polyradiculoneuritis (APN) the canine equivalent of Guillain – Barre. Guillain Barre has been associated with Campylobacter. The purpose od the study was to look at dog’s diagnosed with APN and see if they have a higher incidence of Campylobacter than healthy dogs not diagnosed with APN, and they did.
To understand relevance of what you reported regarding asking 4 vets if they ever had a positive culture for Campylobacter in a raw fed dog I need more information. How many tests in total were run by each vet? What were the diet histories? What were the results and were the findings statistically relevant?
When evaluated in this manner raw fed dogs had higher incidents of pathogens.
excerpt below, click on link for full article and comments
Actually, Raw Chicken Likely Can Lead to Paralysis in Dogs.
Posted on February 11, 2018 by skeptvet
“Dr. Brady can call me a dupe or lackey of Big Pet Food if he wants (and I suspect he will). The truth is, I am open to the idea that fresh food, even raw food, might have health benefits. However, the evidence is clear that raw has risks, and it is up to the proponents of raw diets to prove there are benefits that make these risks worth taking. Not with anecdotes, faulty logic about what is “natural,” rhetorical assaults on the pet food industry, or mere passion. They should prove it with data, with reliable evidence derived from appropriate scientific research. Until they do so, there is no reason for pet owners to take the risks they deny exist for ourselves, our pets, or our families”.
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