Raw food diets, also termed the BARF diet (biologically appropriate raw food or bone and raw food) have been hailed as the cure for many health problems ailing our cat and dog friends. Unfortunately, these claims are largely based in theory and opinion, and have little scientific proof to back them up. The actual scientific studies do show however, that there are several concerns to consider if you plan to feed a raw diet.
A study comparing home made diets to the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards found 86% deficient in at least 1 nutrient, 55% deficient in protein, and 77% deficient in taurine – an essential amino acid for cats.
Contaminated Raw Food
One study reported Salmonella in 45% – 66% of tested raw meat samples. A larger Canadian study found Salmonella in 22% of commercial frozen diets.
A study following dogs that ingested Salmonella contaminated meat found that these dogs shed Salmonella in their feces for up to 11 days after ingestion. This contaminated feces can infect other pets or people that come into contact with it. Infected food bowls and cutting boards etc. can also transmit Salmonella to other pets and people.
Most at risk are children, elderly, and immunocompromised individuals. However, people and pets can become infected and become very ill from raw food pathogens like Salmonella. In some cases, infection can even be fatal.
So if you choose to feed raw, make sure you know the risks, and always practice strict hygiene with the raw food by:
- Washing hands after handling raw meat
- Storing raw meat so it does not come in contact with other food items
- Disinfecting all items that contact the raw food
- Having designated cutting boards just for the raw meat
- Not thawing raw meat at room temperature or allowing it to sit in food bowls – it should be eaten right away
- Cleaning and disinfecting food and water bowls right after feeding
- High risk individuals should not handle the food or food bowls
- Promptly cleaning up feces and washing hands afterwards
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Burns, Kara, M. “Alternative and raw food diets: caution advised.” Canadian Vet, Volume 8, Number 1. January/February 2013.