This rebuttal is incredibly thorough and will take a long time to read. Please devote the necessary time to reading the following pages carefully, since there is a lot of information contained in them. Each section has been linked back to the original page at SecondChanceRanch.org so that you may read the original text in its original context, if you wish. Happy reading!
On this page: "Raw Meat: A Dangerous Fad" and "No Proven Benefits"
It has been proven to be dangerous? When? By whom? There are thousands of dogs safely eating this diet every day. And our dogs' ancestors also ate these diets until 70 years ago. Like everything else in life, feeding raw meat has risks associated with it, just as feeding kibbled food or cooked food has risks.
How is a diet substantiated by one million years of evolution a 'fad'? Kibbled and cooked food are the recent fads, as they have only been around for the past 70-100 years or so. 'Unresearched' and 'unsubstantiated': one million years of evolution means unresearched. How, then, are raw diets supposed to be researched and substantiated? Who is going to pay for such research and substantiation? Veterinarians and dog owners dismiss personal testimonials for substantiation, even though these personal testimonies (also known as 'anecdotal evidence') are accepted for condemning raw diets. Seems like an odd double standard to me.
As for veterinarians being 'qualified'...how are they qualified to be advising us on pet nutrition? Veterinarians receive hardly any nutritional training, and the nutritional training they do receive is given in part or wholly by commercial pet food companies. They are taught nothing but commercial foods, which then means they can receive a returning clientele with multiple health problems induced by the commercial foods. Also, they get to pocket up to 40% of the profits if they feed Hill's Science Diet (Parker-Pope, T. 1997. For You, My Pet. The Wall Street Journal. 3 November 1997). Additionally, veterinarians are the same people who tell pet owners that dogs need carbohydrates for proper development, even though the Waltham Book of Dog and Cat Nutrition (among others) state otherwise. For more information on whether or not vets are qualified, please read over the Vets and Nutrition myth page.
Any dog is at risk of obtaining parasites, bacteria, and viruses spread through feces regardless of what that particular dog or the dog that pooped was fed. Do not forget that dogs eat all sorts of disgusting things, including cat poop, goose poop, horse poop, dead rotting carcasses and the like, which means they can contract all sorts of bacteria and parasites (yet oddly enough, many dogs are unaffected by eating other species feces...). Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, all dogs are at risk of contracting anything remotely transmissible from other canines all the time. This is where the immune system comes in. A dog with a healthy immune system should be able to aptly handle parasites and bacteria and anything else thrown its way. If parasites or bacteria 'take hold' in the animal and start to thrive, then there is an underlying problem (much like yeast overgrowth in women; yeast are present anyway, yet immune-suppression lets the yeast take hold and thrive).
While we are on the topic of feces, need we discuss the foul malodorous masses of dog feces that pollute our parks, lawns, sidewalks, and urban spaces, feces that are a DEFINITE health hazard but are "overlooked" because they come from processed food-fed or cooked food-fed dogs rather than raw-fed dogs? A raw-fed dog's feces, by contrast, are small, perfectly formed, biodegradable, odorless poops that turn to crumbly powder after a day in the sun.
Vets do have grave concerns about raw meat and bones. They have been 'trained' to believe that anything other than kibbled foods will kill your dogs. Besides, dogs eating raw meaty bones like they are designed to means that these dogs do not need to come to the veterinarian's office very often, which means a substantial decrease in revenue. And I agree, history and current statistics do show that wild and domestic dogs who eat raw meat and bones do become ill for a variety of reasons, just like dogs that eat kibbled or cooked foods become ill for a variety of reasons. This is nothing new, since dogs throughout history became 'ill for a number of reasons.' These reasons are too numerous to mention, but some of these reasons could be: pre-existing medical or genetic condition, suppressed immune system, exposure to foreign pathological organisms, etc. It is not just diet that causes illnesses, although kibbled and cooked foods are very good at inducing a variety of illnesses in our pets. One only needs to look at the waiting rooms of veterinarians across the world to see substantiation of that.
Has this been substantiated? I would say the evidence points to the contrary, that processed and cooked foods have led to a dramatic increase in illnesses like periodontal disease, diabetes, cancer, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and bloat. How do we know that there is a significant increase in a variety of illnesses due to raw meat if no one has been keeping tabs on the regular occurrences of those diseases? In other words, are veterinarians keeping careful record of how many kibble-fed and raw-fed dogs come in with an illness, as well as how many kibble-fed and raw-fed dogs are in their surrounding area (so that they can statistically analyze what percentage of each population is treated for particular problems)? Or is it only the raw-fed dogs that stand out in veterinarians' minds because these cases provide 'proof' that raw food is bad for our pets, and that those cases are in keeping with the status quo veterinarians try so hard to maintain (sometimes inadvertently)?
Once again, I must ask for substantiation. Yes, pancreatic, kidney, heart, and brain illnesses can happen (brain illnesses? Can we be more specific, please?) to ANY dog regardless of what it is fed. If so many dogs being fed raw diets are suffering from these various problems because of their diet, then I put forward this possibility: dogs that have been fed kibble prior to switching to raw may have experienced damage to vital organs as a result of the artificial, chemical-laden food (and also as a result of excessive vaccination). This damage shows up when the animal is switched to a raw diet as the body transitions to the different (yet more appropriate) food. High fat may trigger a bout of pancreatitis, but the fact remains that this is only a symptom of an already sick pancreas that was perhaps masked by the commercial food.
It is difficult to conclusively say that any illness was due to the raw diet an animal was fed. Why? Because the organ systems of the body can be affected by multiple things, and these things include poor nutrition derived from kibble or cooked foods, artificial preservatives and colorings and ingredients in kibbled foods, toxins injected into the body in the form of vaccines, pesticides introduced orally into the body (like Heartworm pills), pesticides and other toxins applied directly to the animal's skin (like Frontline), toxins and bacteria and collagenases introduced into the circulatory system via a mouth suffering from periodontal disease. One can see that there is a large variety of factors to be considered when determining what caused 'pancreatic, kidney, heart, and brain illnesses'. It is foolish, narrow-minded, and a testimony to the tunnel-vision utilized by many veterinarians that a raw diet is immediately blamed for all a dog's problems while the underlying causes are never discovered.
I personally would like to know how many dogs die from a raw meat/bone diet. I know of thousands that are thriving and living well on a raw meat and bone diet. Most dogs that die from bloat (20,000 of them, to be precise [Burrows, C.F. and L.A. Ignaszewski. 1990. Canine gastric dilatation-volvulus. Journal of Small Animal Practice. 35:295-298. In Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. pg 117]) also show no signs of illness until the few hours before they die; such is the nature of bloat. Dogs that choke to death on kibble die immediately. And let us not forget the hundreds of dogs that have died over the years as a result of aflatoxin poisoning in commercial pet foods like Diamond and Pedigree. True, a dog with an intestinal perforation will not show signs of illness until a few days or hours before it kills them. The fact that it kills them means that somehow, somewhere along the line the signs that the dog is in pain and discomfort were missed.
The point I wish to make is that this is true of just about any life-threatening illness except cancer (although occasionally the onset is quite sudden) and periodontal disease. For example, by the time kidney damage 'shows up' in the form of symptoms, the kidneys are usually already 70% damaged, and are often beyond the point of saving. The symptoms start only a few days before the illness kills the animal. This is not only true of raw-fed dogs, but of most dogs, regardless of what they are fed. Part of this probably has to do with the fact that dogs are masters at covering up injury and illness—after all, showing illness or weakness would result in exhile from the pack in the wild. This gives us all the more reason to be closely in-tune with our pets.
Home-made, cooked diets are the same diets that veterinarians complain about being nutritionally deficient. When dogs show up with a nutritional deficiency or imbalance in a clinic, it is generally because of a home-cooked diet that is severely lacking in one or several nutrients, or one that has been over-supplemented. For advocates of raw meaty bones, a home-made cooked diet is not a sensible solution. Why? Because cooked food still lacks all the beneficial effects of raw food (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. Chapter 4.). Cooked food is deficient in enzymes, minerals, and vitamins, because the very act of cooking destroys or alters most or all of them. This decreases the bioavailability of these valuable chemicals. The structure of proteins is altered to the point where they are less digestible, more abrasive on the intestines, and may even create an allergy in the animals that eat them. Cooked fats are altered to the point where they can become toxic. Cooking changes the correct balance of short and long chain fatty acids that are essential to an animal's good health.
Vitamins and minerals can be added back into cooked food, but finding the appropriate balance is incredibly difficult. Synthetic vitamins and minerals do not always exhibit the same chirality (three dimensional structure) that the natural forms had, which means their efficiency and use to the body are substantially decreased. This is compensated by oversupplementation, which then results in the inhibited uptake of other necessary vitamins and minerals. For example, excess inorganic calcium reduces the availability of iron, copper, iodine, and zinc (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. pg 88). If you are feeding a cooked, home-made diet, can you be sure that your pet's needs are being sufficiently met if the very act of cooking destroys most of what is beneficial to your pet?
Raw food, however, has the perfect balance of vitamins and minerals if fed as a part of a prey-model diet (i.e. a whole rabbit) (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. Chapter 4.). Raw food also has unaltered proteins and nutrients, and the bioavailability of these nutrients is very high. And raw food—particularly whole carcasses and raw meaty bones—provide the NECESSARY teeth-cleaning effects that are lacking in any cooked diet. Periodontal disease-causing bacteria are scraped away at each feeding, whereas a cooked food-fed dog has that bacteria remaining, which are then coated over by a sticky plaque resulting from the cooked grains, vegetables, and meat proteins.
Initial results are often the result of an 'absence' of kibble ingredients. The same can be said for cooked, home-made diets. Dogs initially do better because they are off the inferior nutrition provided by kibble. Cooked home-made diets are definitely better than kibble, but the argument is that they are not as good as raw for the reasons listed above. Talk to some of the raw feeders on the Yahoo! Raw feeding list; some of them have changed their dogs from home-cooked meals to raw meals and have seen fantastic changes in their animals: greater energy, healthier coats, cleaner teeth and breath, greater overall health. The fact that these changes occurred indicates that it may very well be the 'presence' of raw meat. It may also be because of the increased bioavailability of all the necessary nutrients and the better quality proteins and fats that result in this change combined with the lack of grains and vegetables and the presence of a 'natural toothbrush'. Fruits, grains, and vegetables are three things dogs do not need. The nutrition obtained from these three items is little, as dogs are unable to efficiently digest cellulose and starch and fiber, and thus the nutrients contained in plants and fruits and grains remain bound up and unavailable to the dog; the plant matter may also interfere with the proper absorption of nutrients from animal matter, as well.
I get the feeling that a proper prey-model diet was excluded from this research. In a prey-model diet, dogs are fed as close to a whole carcass as possible. Whole carcasses are given whenever possible. This means turkey necks and chicken backs would not be fed alone unless they were attached to the rest of the bird. The diets advocated by Billinghurst, Schultze, and others tend to be too high in bone content. I personally know of no prey animal that is any more than 25% bone; neither do wildlife biologists and zoologists (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. pg 126.).
Can intestinal perforations occur with raw bones? Yes, it is possible. Can intestinal parasites occur? Yes, but these are generally very rare, very treatable, and should not cause a dog death. Intestinal parasites are also considered by some to be a perfectly normal and necessary occurrence that is perfectly healthy for the animal as long as the parasite population is kept under control (which naturally occurs in an animal with a healthy immune system). Research into this area has occurred in humans as well.
The last statement of female dogs dying while giving birth to a litter needs to be rechecked and substantiated. And again, one cannot blame something like that solely on diet. People seem to forget the myriad of surrounding circumstances and other variables: age of the bitch, overall health of the bitch, breed of the bitch, whether or not she was having a difficult pregnancy, whether or not she had a narrow birth canal, whether or not some of the puppies were breeched or stuck, etc. "More commonly dying" should never be uttered without the hard facts to back that up. My own discussions with raw-feeding breeders have revealed the opposite—the bitches are easy whelpers, remain in excellent condition before, during, and after the pregnancy, and have plenty of milk for their puppies throughout the entire nursing stage.
Did you happen to ask them who funded their nutritional training? For the past two generations, veterinarians and 'nutrition experts' have been receiving nothing worthwhile on pet nutrition in regards to education. All their nutritional training focuses on commercial pet foods. Pet food company representatives will even 'teach' the course on pet nutrition (for an example of the strong ties between veterinary universities and pet food, click here). I have a degree in both Biology and Zoology, and if there is anything that I have learned in my education, it is that dogs and wolves are true carnivores that fare best on a diet of raw meaty bones, and that veterinary nutrition courses are essentially worthless. Vet students would be much better off if they took a mammal physiology or biochemistry course that focused on nutritional pathways and evolutionary taxonomic relationships (and some do take these courses during their undergraduate education). If they had payed better attention, then they would remember the drastic effects diets high in grains and processed starches and sugars have on the bodies of mammals. The carbohydrates are quickly turned into sugars, which rapidly increases the level of blood sugar, which causes the release of insulin, which forces the cells to take up as much sugar as possible and then lays the remaining sugar down in the form of fat. (Campbell, M.K. and S.O. Farrell. 2003. Biochemistry. 4th edition. pp 489-512). The fat-burning and muscle-building pathways are suppressed as insulin is released, and the immune system is also suppressed (Personal communication with S.O. Farrell, Spring 2003. Fort Collins, CO; also in Campbell, M.K. and S.O. Farrell. 2003. Biochemistry. 4th edition. pg 707). This is what happens EVERY DAY and EVERY TIME our pets eat their kibbled food or cooked food with its grains. The fact that these 'credited experts' seem to neglect that very important biochemical pathway makes me wonder just how 'credited' they are. This pathway, by the way, is what is affected in diabetes. Adult onset diabetes, which is the kind of diabetes found in pets as well, is very much diet related, which is why one of the first methods of treatment is to change the patient to a healthier diet.
Exactly what evidence are you looking for? If we go along these lines, we can also say that there is no evidence that kibble or cooked food actually benefits dogs. There is not one shred of evidence to prove that kibbled foods or cooked foods are GOOD and HEALTHY for our pets. It is all just hearsay. I guess the same goes for raw diets—except for the fact that one million years of evolution has repeatedly proven a prey-model diet is necessary and good for wolves and their domesticated counterparts. And yes, a beautiful coat often results from fat and cannot be the sole indicator of health. However, since skin and coat are replenished frequently, nutritional problems are often indicated first by a poor coat. As for raw meat being high in fat: people forget that raw foods are mostly water. If you break down raw meat into its ratios of water, protein, and fat, the protein and fat ratios are not that different from those of kibbled and cooked foods (for example, one rabbit is approximately 72% water, 20% protein, 5% fat [USDA Nutrient Database, "raw rabbit" entered as the keywords.). The only difference is that the fats and proteins are raw and unaltered, which means they are of superior quality and are more easily digested by the dog.
Olive oil is obviously plant-based, and cannot be as readily utilized by the dog for this reason.
Of course they are going to be opposed to raw meat and bone diets! They are performed by veterinarians and researchers who have been fed commercial pet food propaganda for two generations!
Who is funding these new studies? Pet food companies? What are the purposes of these studies? The only studies I've seen are ones that deal with bacteria and parasites in raw meat. And the conclusion of all these studies? "Dogs shed bacteria in their feces and pose a health hazard to humans, so don't feed raw meat." Outside of Pottenger's cat study (which proved raw food to be better than cooked foods; to read about the study please visit the Price-Pottenger Foundation and this link here) I have not seen or read about a single study that objectively looks at the benefits of raw diets compared to kibbled or cooked. Many of these new studies are poorly done, are conducted on a small sample size, look at only one variable (bacteria), compare raw food with AAFCO standards (which are based on the myth that dogs are omnivores and are unapplicable to RAW food, since AAFCO standards are based on cooked foods), or are biased to begin with by initially assuming raw-fed dogs pose a serious health risk.
BARF diets and similar raw diets are very flawed. They do claim to bring a dog back to a more natural style of living, but that is patently false. A more natural style of living for a dog is a prey-model diet that is based on whole prey. The entire animal is all that is necessary for proper nutrition (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. pg 124). As for wolves taken into captivity and being malnutritioned: it is not because the raw food they eat is deficient in nutrients or is harmful. It is because they do not get enough of that food to meet their needs. In other words, the wolves are starving or cannot ingest enough food to balance their metabolic output. It is erroneous to imply that captured wolves are malnutritioned because of the food they eat, the food that they have evolved to eat over millions of years. This statement neglects to mention all the obvious factors that contribute to malnutrition, the primary being that the wolves cannot get enough of the life-giving food to sustain them. Let us not forget that the act of capturing a wild-born wolf is very stressful to the animal, which means their immune system becomes suppressed and parasites can then create more of a problem, sucking valuable resources from their host and contributing to the malnutrition problem. Here are some of the other factors that contribute to malnutrition:
Wild wolves face the brunt of nature and must deal with the bitter elements every single day—heat, cold, rain, storms, blizzards, ice storms, etc. They also must deal with the high energetic costs associated with bringing down huge herbivores like elk, deer, and moose. They also encounter intraspecific competition for food among other wolves in addition to interspecific competition with bears, cougars, and humans. They face predation, habitat loss, and prey loss by humans as well as a decreasing environmental quality in habitat and food. They also must deal with parasites (every wild animal has them and usually coexists quite peacefully with them), with foreign toxic pollutants, with wolf-wolf altercations, with wolf-prey altercations, with wolf-other carnivore or scavenger altercations, and with increasing encroachment and habitat destruction by humans. They face a sporadic prey supply and starvation routinely and may go several weeks without food. Any wildlife biologist or zoologist worth their salt knows that the food an animal eats is generally not the reason the animal is malnutritioned.
As for bad dentalia: a wolf's teeth are its most powerful piece of equipment. Hanging on to the nose of a one-ton herbivore by your teeth is likely to cause some problems in the long run. The wear and tear on a wolf's teeth reflect the hard life it leads in the wild, which includes periodontal disease taking hold when the animal starves or is unable to find the necessary teeth-scrubbing food. Periodontal disease results in a bacteria-laden, stinky mouth that provides an entry point for bacteria and bacterial toxins to enter the bloodstream and affect every single organ system in the wolf's body (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. Chapter 14.). This is exactly what happens to our dogs and cats; the only difference is that the dogs and cats are well-fed and are not starving, but are suffering the devastating effects of periodontal disease over their lifetime (remember, more than 85% of dogs have periodontal disease by the age of 3 [Penman, S. and P. Emily. 1991. Scaling, Polishing, and Dental Home Care. Waltham International Focus. 1:3 2-8.] Quite a statement since the majority of dogs are fed cooked and kibbled foods.). Since our animals do not have to take down huge herbivores in order to get their next meal, their teeth are spared this highly taxing activity.
Actually, carcinogenic compounds are found in cooked meats and the fats that get cooked along with it (The American Society for Nutritional Sciences. April 2004. Meat Consumption Patterns and Preparation, Genetic Variants of Metabolic Enzymes, and Their Association with Rectal Cancer in Men and Women. Journal of Nutrition. 134:776-784.), and have been linked to increases in cancer. For humans raw meat may not be a biologically correct food (although some argue that it is), but that is because we are designed for a different diet. We have wide flat teeth and a proportionally larger foregut and hindgut—indicative of a true omnivore. Wolves and dogs, by contrast, have sharp teeth designed to grab, hold, tear, rip, and shear meat, and have the proportionally shorter foregut and hindgut consistent with carnivores.
Yes, there are a variety of raw meat menus and diets. I would like to note that these same experienced veterinarians and nutritionists also think that home-made, cooked diets are also extremely unbalanced and healthy for your dog unless it has been approved by them first. I personally feel that the only correct raw diet is one that models what is found in nature: whole prey. The whole prey animal has EVERYTHING our dogs need. The top veterinary universities and true nutritional experts are only trained according to one philosophy, and that is to feed commercial foods. How can the top veterinary universities and the true nutritional experts believe that processed, artificial foods are better and healthier for pets than fresh, whole, raw foods (especially when all the top human nutritional experts and universities are telling us that processed, artificial foods are extremely harmful to our health and that fresh, whole foods are better)?
Yes, to deny that there is a risk is fooling oneself. Unfortunately, this is precisely what people feeding kibbled or cooked foods do. They deny that there is a risk of any sort, and pet food companies do their best to keep it this way. Cooked and processed = safe, fresh and raw = not safe. There is a risk to everything. For kibble and cooked foods, there is periodontal disease which affects the animal systemically and can cause heart, liver, kidney, and pancreas problems. Kibbled foods also contain the risks of death via mycotoxins (fungal toxins from moldy grains), bloat, cancer, and diabetes. There is also the risk of obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney failure, pancreatitis, and other problems. For cooked foods there are also the problems of nutritional imbalances and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. pg 85).
Actually, there is Pottenger's cat study, as well as the studies performed by Juliette Bairacli Levy in the 1930s during a distemper outbreak (this study was a combination of fasting, a natural diet, and herbal remedies). However, there are no studies showing any benefit for which cooked food and kibbled food are directly responsible. All these nutritional studies (particularly those following AAFCO protocol) that everyone talks about have only showed that 8 dogs can be kept alive for 6 months at a time on a particular food (Association of American Feed Control Officials Inc., pp 286-287). That is it. Some studies may compare certain processed foods to other processed foods, or may engage in acts of animal cruelty to prove that a proclaimed 'kidney formula' actually works the way it is supposed to. Why do we need studies to 'prove' to ourselves how to properly feed our dogs when all we have to do is look to nature for the answer? Besides, who is going to fund these studies? How do you quantify the benefits seen in raw fed dogs? 'Mark the degree of coat shininess: 1 2 3 4 5'. 'Smell the breath. Rate the degree of freshness or rancidity.' 'On a scale of 1 to 10, mark the degree of overall health, with 10 being the healthiest.' Almost all of the benefits seen in raw diets are considered subjective by those in the scientific community. HOWEVER, almost all of the "benefits" seen for kibbled and cooked foods are also subjective unless they make blood chemistry values their goal (but the baseline for blood chemistry values is set by data collected from commercial food-fed dogs being treated by veterinarians for whatever reason; additionally, each dog is an individual, and therefore a fluctuation or change in a certain value may be a normal baseline for that particular dog). There is no perfect point from which to gather a proper frame of reference. Commercial foods have never been compared to raw foods in feeding trials, not even when pet food companies were developing their kibbles. No one knows what to look for other than the 'anecdotal evidence' presented in the form of a vibrant, healthy animal. For more information about the difficulties of researching raw diets, please visit the Research page.
*Grin*. No comment.
Again, what type of evidence are we looking for? That raw diets are good and healthy for your pet? Just look at the decreased vet bills and the number of and reasons for vet visits in kibble fed vs. raw fed dogs. There is no evidence that kibbled and cooked foods are good for our pets either, and people are risking the long-term health of their dog every single day by feeding such foods. Risk is not only restricted to raw fed pets.
The 'frequent cases' claim warrants more investigation. Like I said earlier, veterinarians have a very narrow-minded perspective of raw diets. If an animal comes in with a problem and is being fed a raw diet, many vets will immediately blame the problem on the animal's diet and then proceed to look no further. This is a shirking of duty, plain and simple, plus a distinct prejudice and discrimination against raw feeding pet owners (and veterinarians have been successfully sued for malpractice by raw feeding dog owners). Yes, pancreatitis, ulcers, malnutrition, injuries, etc. can happen with raw diets, particularly those that are part of the commercial 'fad' BARF diets and are fed incorrectly. But let us not forget the millions of kibble-fed dogs treated in veterinarian offices each day for diseases and chronic problems that may be easily avoided by feeding an appropriate diet: cancer, bloat, diabetes, kidney failure, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, anal sac problems, telescoping bowel, unilateral hip dysplasia resulting from sporadic growth caused by commercial foods. Systemic bacterial poisonings are incredibly rare and usually require underlying factors, such as distemper vaccinations gone awry or a severely weakened immune system (such as those seen in dogs that are over-vaccinated). Pancreatitis, ulcers, malnutrition, systemic bacterial poisonings, and 'other conditions' are not exclusive to a raw diet (but ARE rarely, if ever, seen in animals fed an appropriate, prey-model diet), but are also found in kibble and cooked food-fed dogs.