Raw pet food: The trendy diet can put humans and animals in danger

The claim of raw pet food advocates is that eating raw meat is what dogs are supposed to do, since they descended from wolves. But according to Tufts University and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association there’s no science to back up this claim. On the Tufts’ Veterinary Medical Center blog, “Petfoodology,” its clinical nutrition team notes that while it’s true that wolves eat raw meat, the average lifespan of a wolf in the wild is only a few years. In turn, what works for a wolf doesn’t work for a dog that you hope has a long, healthy life.

That researchers also note that, in their own clinical practice, they’ve seen “a number of commercial raw meat diets whose nutrient profiles either don’t make sense, or don’t meet current nutritional requirements, despite labeling to the contrary.” Many raw meat diets are very high in fat compared to typical canned and dry diets, and they lack the vitamins and minerals dogs need for a balanced diet.

In the end, giving dogs a raw food diet is an attempt by owners to give dogs the best life they can. Traditional dog food is sometimes recalled for Salmonella too, and some dog food marketed as “grain free” has been linked to canine dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of cardiac muscle. Pet food trends also tend to mimic human health food trends — the raw pet food diet mirrors the Paleolithic diet, cans like Fancy Feast emerged after people got into gourmet food in the 1980s, and the desire for “grain free” came from our own rejection of gluten.

But good intentions don’t always equate to healthy choices. For now, scientists say raw pet food is something to be cautious about — both for our pet’s sakes, and our own.

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