Vet Times 11 October 2004
The following article has been copied from The Veterinary Times Vol 34. No 39 Dated 11 October 2004.
VETERINARIANS ‘UNAWARE’ OF DANGERS OF PROCESSED DIETS TO CARNIVORES Report by Dan Kirk.
ANY vet promoting processed food is contributing to the eventual ill-health of their patients, according to UK Raw Meaty Bones (UKRMB), an action group lobbying practitioners to encourage dog, cat and ferret owners to feed their animals natural diets.
UKRMB is supported by veterinarian Tom Lonsdale, the author of Raw Meaty Bones, and more and more veterinary surgeons (sic) are seeking advice about changing their pets to a raw diet, according to the group.
Chairman for the group, Jackie Marriott, insists that many veterinarians are unaware of the dangers of feeding a processed diet to carnivores which, she believes, has no benefit for the consumer.
“Understandably, vets believe what they were taught at college and they believe what the pet food reps tell them.” she said. “But they make a declaration when they register to practice about ‘ensuring the welfare of animals committed to my care’. “Currently, the greater number of vets in this country are in breach of the oath they took, albeit in the main through ignorance.”
She explained: “That processed pet foods have any health benefits is a marketing myth - they have none. Processed food covers the teeth in sludge, which within days leads to plaque build-up and gum disease. The ingredients are cooked and the food is grain-based, which causes problems with digestion.
“Whether you ask a primary school child, or a professor of human nutrition, about diets for human omnivores you will hear that the less processed food consumed the better. The same principle applies to carnivores like dogs, cats and ferrets.”
UKRMB claims that changing an animal onto a natural diet has enormous health benefits: teeth become cleaner, breath fresher, skin irritations often disappear, immune systems get stronger, they become brighter with more natural energy and the animal passes less waste as the food is more digestible.
“Carnivores have the teeth to rip and tear at whole lumps of meat on the bone and they have the external and internal anatomy to chew and digest raw meat on the bone.
“You just have to look at the evidence. For about a million years carnivores have been thriving on raw meat on the bone - that is pretty conclusive.” added Mrs Marriott.
Vets have a crucial role in making the change to raw meaty bones possible for many pets, she said. In particular, vets need to be able to sort out pre-existing dental problems and help their clients make the transition to raw feeding. “Dogs are pretty easy to change but cats and ferrets may prove more difficult, and these owners need support during the changeover” said Mrs Marriott.
“When speaking to vets and veterinary nurses concerning information for our website, several have commented that they are hearing more about raw-fed pets. Unfortunately, it is our experience that these same members of the veterinary profession, if given the opportunity, will then try to talk these raw-feeding pet owners back into feeding processed foods.
“Money is likely to enter the equation somewhere. There is not much profit to be made from healthy dogs and cats.” she remarked.
In terms of expense for pet owners, Mrs Marriott said she feeds three Bernese mountain dogs for, on average, £30 a week. She felt a medium-sized dog could be fed on raw meat on the bone for £5 to £8 a week and cats for even less: about £4.
“There are many very active people encouraging and promoting the raw meat and bones way of feeding, particularly in Australia and the States. In the USA aggrieved pet owners are planning legal action against pet food companies and vets who knowingly promote harmful products. It is not just a UK problem, it is a world-wide scandal.” said Mrs Marriott.
The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA), in a statement, said that commercially prepared pet foods offer a nutritionally complete and balanced diet that meet an animal’s specific nutritional needs.
“Dogs are omnivores and they can eat vegetation as well as animal-derived materials, whereas cats are strictly carnivores. Historical records show that dogs have been domesticated for at least 2,000 years and, like humans, have survived on cooked meat, feeding from scraps from the table. With the introduction of commercially prepared pet food that combines the science of nutrition with convenience of feeding, it is widely recognised by veterinarians that dogs are living longer, healthier lives.
“Raw meat can contain dangerous bacteria and parasites. Just as we would not wish to eat raw meat or undercook meat for ourselves due to the risk of illness, dogs are vulnerable to the same risks.
“In addition, the BSAVA advises against feeding raw (or cooked) bones to dogs as splinters from bones can cause extensive internal injuries by lodging in the mouth, throat or chest, in addition to damaging stomach lining and puncturing intestines. These problems can be life threatening.”
Although the PFMA accepts dogs and cats evolved eating raw meat and bones in the wild, it said that through years of domestication, pet dogs do not have the immunity wild dogs have built up against bacteria.
“It is important to note, with regard to the risk of infection, that the probability of a wild carcase being infected with a food-bourne pathogen is small, whereas the risk of cross-contamination of conventional un-cooked meat is higher.” said the statement.
According to the PFMA, commercial foods are subject to extensive study to ensure that they are complete diets which provide the correct amount of nutrients in the right balance. Raw meat and bone diets run a high risk of nutritional imbalance as eating only meat or the meat and bone of a carcase does not represent a balanced diet.
Responding to the claims by Mrs Marriott’s group that commercial pet foods have no health benefits for the animals, the PFMA suggested there are a lot of common myths associated with the feeding of raw meat and bones: “Feeding raw meat and bones does not necessarily lead to healthier teeth and gums because feeding bones can result in chipped or broken teeth, therefore preventing the dog from adequately chewing its food to aid digestion. Studies have shown that dogs fed natural diets have the same incidence of periodontal problems as pets fed commercial diets.”
Raw meat does not provide a gloss on the coat: commercial diets contain essential fatty acids, for example linolenic acid and omega 3, and are rich in vitamin B and zinc which are essential for optimum coat condition, said the PFMA. In addition, there are no studies that confirm claims that veterinary bills decrease significantly in animals fed natural diets, nor is there evidence that raw meat and bones eliminate allergies or provide the animals with their daily calcium requirements, said the association.
In conclusion, the PFMA added: “There is no scientific data to support the claims or benefits attributed to feeding a raw food diet.
“The majority of veterinary surgeons and veterinary associations would recommend feeding a commercially prepared, balanced diet.”
END OF ARTICLE.
UKRMB rebuttal of remarks by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association in the Veterinary Times Article 11 October 2004. (PDF File).
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