Raw diets are bad news for pets and owners alike

Gonzalo Erdozain writes:

Yes, dogs can get salmonellosis, but I won’t go there because Dr. Weese in Guelph already did. But on Thurs., the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) passed a proposed policy to recommend pet owners avoiding feeding their pets raw or undercooked diets.

There will be hate mail.

“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.”

I like this statement for many reasons. It is not forcing anybody to stop feeding raw diets, it discourages people from doing so. The reason? It’s a “risk for pets and humans.” As a veterinarian-to-be, I’m well aware that we are the first line of defense when it comes to zoonotic disease transmission. Forget all the stories about how your dog does much better on raw than dry, or how fido went from being blind and bald to seeing and hairy when you switched to raw (ok, made that one up, but just go to the AVMA’s web site and you’ll see the types of responses we’ll have to deal with.

My major concern is to keep my family, dog, patients and patients’ owners healthy.

Just as with human food, raw is rarely a good idea. You can get your pets yourself, and your family sick (via direct feeding or cross-contamination). So, even if you are totally against the evil man, and don’t want to feed your dog specially formulated dry food, you may want to cook it. The same food safety guidelines apply for humans and pets.

Report offers tips to protect pets from salmonella—raw food, bulk-bin treats discouraged

Food safety Frank was walking around the vet college with me yesterday and we ran into my research pal, Dr. Kate Stenske KuKanich.

It took about 10 seconds and they were into a full discussion of pet food safety, the role of pets as carriers of salmonella, and how infections cycle throughout the home.

Wal-Mart is asking more of its pet food suppliers; that’s good.

Dr. Kate wrote a report for the June 1, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), laying out recommendations for pet owners on how to avoid Salmonella infection in pets; that’s good too.

From the AVMA press release that went out last night:

The report, written by Kate S. KuKanich, DVM, Ph.D., DACVIM, details the circumstances under which Salmonella organisms are most often ingested and includes a history of Salmonella outbreaks associated with pet food and treats. In addition, it offers recommendations on how pet owners can minimize the risk of Salmonella infection for both their pets and families.

Recommendations include:
Avoiding raw food diets for pets.
Purchasing individually packaged pig ears, rather than buying them from bulk bins.
Checking the packaging of pet food products to ensure that they are in good condition prior to purchase; returning products to the store if they appear tainted, discolored, or malodorous.
Storing pet foods, treats, and nutritional products in accordance with label instructions, preferably in a cool, dry environment.
Saving the original pet food packaging material, including the date code and product code of all food products, for product identification in case of food contamination.
Discouraging children, the elderly, and immunosuppressed people from handling pet food and treats.
Washing hands with soap and water before and after handling pet food, treats, and nutritional products.
Using a clean scoop to dispense pet food into bowls.
Washing water and food bowls used by pets, as well as feeding scoops, routinely with hot soapy water in a sink other than in the kitchen or bathroom.
Avoiding feeding pets in the kitchen.

I like working with smart people.

AVMA’s new veal welfare policy

The American Veterinary Medical Association announced last week that they had passed a groundbreaking policy on veal calf housing that promotes both animal health and welfare. The resolution passed by a landslide 88.7 percent vote.

The new policy states "that the AVMA supports a change in veal husbandry practices that severely restrict movement, to housing systems that allow for greater freedom of movement without compromising health or welfare."

The former policy consisted of only a few points on living conditions, including that the area the calves are kept in permits them to stretch, stand, and lie down comfortably.

"This is encouraging on two levels," explains Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA chief executive officer. "First, we are proactively seeking to improve the welfare of veal calves, and second, the resolution still affords the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee the opportunity to do a comprehensive analysis of the science and to consider all relevant perspectives of veal calf production."

The confinement of veal calves and other farm animals is one of many issues that animal activists are passionate about.  Currently the Human Society of the United States is leading a campaign in California to pass legislation know as Proposition 2.  Prop 2 is aimed mostly towards egg-laying hens, pregnant sows, and calves raised for veal in order to improve their living conditions.  Perhaps the steps taken by the AVMA with new veal calf policies will help to continue their campaign.