From SkeptVet TV- Raw Diets for Pets

Here is my latest video from SkeptVet TV, reviewing briefly the subject of raw diets for dogs and cats. You can find more information here on the blog, or in my book, Placebos for Pets? The Truth About Alternative Medicine for Animals.

This entry was posted in SkeptVet TV. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to From SkeptVet TV- Raw Diets for Pets

  1. Noble says:

    Finally, someone talking sense. I am tired of people shoving raw diets in my face every time I say I feed kibble. Lots of raw feeders are also anti-vaccination and anti-pest control. They think dogs shouldn’t have *any* shots, should never be wormed with what the vet gives you, and you should never put topical flea treatments on your dogs. Sorry, but I’d rather my dogs NOT be full of worms, fleas, and diseases. The only good thing I can say about raw is that it does keep their teeth clean. So, I do give my dogs raw chicken feet once I notice their teeth starting to look gross. My Italian Greyhound is 12 years old and he’s never needed a teeth cleaning, and usually Iggies have horrible teeth. Dental dog treat bones don’t seem to do the job and they are ten times more expensive. Oh, and no I do not ever put any kind of pesticide on my Iggies, I just use K9 Advantix on my huskies. (I wonder what the raw feeders think of the wolf experts at zoos that feed their wolves Purina…)

  2. Anja says:

    Thank you for your explanations. I am a certified counseler for pet nutrition, not an vet, but I had my whole education with vets who are specialised in nutrition, so I am familiar with all your arguments. But there is one thing I do not understand. We know from research that for humans nutrition which is as low processed as possible is healthier than canned and processed food supplemented by artificial vitamins and minerals taking as pills. Why is this principle not the same with dogs? Dogs are still much closer to nature than we are. And did all the studies you cite, really compare a well balanced home made food, raw or cooked but not BARF prepared without any knowledge of the nutritional needs of a dog, with an average kibble over a long time period?

  3. skeptvet says:

    I did briefly address this in the video. Essentially, there is a misconception that “processing” is the health and nutritional problem with convenience and snack foods made for humans, but that’s not really the issue. The problem is that such foods are designed for market appeal, not nutritional value, so they are often nutritional empty, high in salt and trans fats, and unhealthy in many ways. However, this is not intrinsic to any food that is cooked and commercially packaged; it’s a deliberate formulation decision made by the manufacturers.

    Pet foods are formulated and tested very differently, with the specific goal of making nutritionally complete and healthy diets for long-term use. Comparing these to potato chips and frozen dinners for humans is comparing apples and oranges. There is plenty of evidence that commercial diets do support long, healthy lives in many pets, so the idea that they can’t do so because they are “processed” is simply not true.

    Now the hypothesis that fresh-food cooked diets might be even better than current commercial diets is a reasonable one, it just hasn’t been tested yet. The evidence that properly formulated homemade cooked diets might have health benefits compared to current commercial diets will have to come from experimental evidence, not inappropriate analogies to processed foods in the human market. Raw-meat diets, however, clearly have significant dangers, so while there is not yet any evidence they have health benefits, it is clear that they have necessary risks. And, of course, they are not safe or health for humans either, so extrapolation from human nutrition doesn’t support them anyway.

    “Dogs are still much closer to nature than we are.” I don’t know how you measure “closeness to nature,” but this doesn’t make any sense. For one thing, there is nothing close to wild canids about a pug or Welsh corgi, and the fact is that dogs have been subject to thousands of years of intensive artificial selection by humans, so it is arguable that they are less “natural” (whatever that means) than we are. However, regardless of that, your implication that the “natural” state of a species includes the optimal diet is manifestly untrue. Captive wild carnivore live longer and healthier lives than their wild counterparts. There are many reasons for this, but one is the provision of sufficient safe and healthy food, which often includes commercial diets. Wild animals suffer from malnutrition, starvation, infectious diseases, parasitism, and injury associated with their “natural” diets, so there is nothing optimal about these.

  4. Nick says:

    Very strange that you would choose to compare human and canine digestion given that humans are at best opportunistic omnivores designed to primarily process vegetation and dogs are carnivores who have part adapted to be able to eat the diet of an omnivore. Plus, our stomach PH is entirely different which explains why we are unable to safely digest raw meat.

    You also seem to ignore the fact that many brands of kibble are 50%+ carbohydrate which dogs are simply not designed to effectively digest – evolution takes 10s of thousands of years so you can’t be suggesting dogs are now pure omnivores and can thrive on a predominantly carb based diet.

  5. skeptvet says:

    1. Dogs are phylogenetically carnivores, but they are functionally omnivores adapted to eating a variety of foods.
    2. They have been adapted by intensive artificial selection for over 10,000 years to scavenge or share human food, so yes, they have the capacity to eat diets very similar to ours.
    3. The statement that “many brands of kibble are 50%+ carbohydrates” isn’t meaningful. On what basis? Proportion of metabolizable energy? By weight? And so what? The idea that carbohydrates are unhealthy for dogs is a misconception. Here is a useful article on the subject.

  6. kitty says:

    “I am tired of people shoving raw diets in my face every time I say I feed kibble. ” – I simply tell them that ProPlan wet and Science Diet dry is the only thing my cats would eat and that’s it.
    In reality, my cats don’t even think of raw stuff as food. When I cook for myself one of them comes to the smell of cooked meat, but not the raw one. A couple of times they managed to find mice in my home, they didn’t bother eating them.

    BTW – There is a YT video of African wildcat kittens in an endangered species breeding center in South Africa, and they are going wild over kibble.

  7. Ariane G Holzhauer says:

    Cats are not small dogs. These arguments about nutrition for pets should clearly separate dogs and cats. Cats are hypercarnivores.

    And to commenter “Kitty”: why do cats go wild over kibble? For the same reasons that people go wild over Cheetos. That doesn’t make Cheetos a healthy food or the mainstay of a nutritious diet.

  8. skeptvet says:

    Cats are not small dogs.
    AND
    “Natural” is not the same as “optimal” or “healthy”

    The assumptions about cats and raw diet are flawed because of this appeal to nature fallacy, and the evidence shows they are at risk from infectious disease and parasitism with raw diets with no evidence that they are healthier.

  9. Esther says:

    Interesting video, i have a few questions about the risk of raw that you mention:
    1. You say there are many studies done on the risks of raw – who funds these studies?
    2. You also mention that raw has been shown to cause death and disease in pets, but doesn’t kibble also cause the same? I have seen numerous recalls in the news about kibble brands causing death to pets and the ingredients being shown to be not as healthy as the marketing claims.
    3. You talk about bones causing broken teeth and that wild animals also have broken teeth, is this from chewing bones? If it is and there is proper evidence to show that that was the cause then isn’t it the different types of bones found in the body that can cause this not just all bones?

    It would be an interesting study to look at the history and the introduction of kibble to the pet food market and the correlation of the levels of disease and types of disease found in pets, either up or down. And also look at the correlation between the same with the popular rise of raw food now.
    It is a very interesting an contentious topic and its useful to know who benefits most from pushing either kibble or raw on to pet owners. Is it the owner, the manufacturer or perhaps vets?
    As the pet food market is worth billions each year isn’t it fair to say that the claims for or against each type of food would be driven by those with the most to lose in terms of profit?

  10. skeptvet says:

    1. You say there are many studies done on the risks of raw – who funds these studies?

    You can find many of them in articles here on the blog and in other places where I have written about raw diets. The short answer is that most are university studies not, as I suspect you are implying, funded by companies with a competitive interest in challenging raw diets. The vast research literature on the health risks of raw meat for humans and other animals is pretty hard to ignore as well. The idea that raw meat contains more potentially pathogenic bacteria, and more risk of infection, than cooked meta is not controversial or in any serious doubt.

    2. You also mention that raw has been shown to cause death and disease in pets, but doesn’t kibble also cause the same?

    There’re are two problems here. the first is the tu quote fallacy. This implies that if kibble causes harm than this is somehow reduces the significance of any harm raw diets cause. If this suggestion of equivalence were correct, it still wouldn’t mean that raw diets are not dangerous.

    That said, again the implied equivalence is false. Sure, there have been accidental and deliberate contaminates in commercial dog foods that have caused deaths. Given that commercial food is what is fed to the overwhelming majority of dogs around the world, many millions every day, the relative risk is probably a lot smaller than for raw, but nothing is ever absolutely safe. However, the risks of raw diets are not due only to accidental or deliberate contamination but to the inherent nature of the food, since raw food always has more potentially infectious bacteria than cooked food, so again the comparison is apples and oranges. Additionally, the purported health benefits of raw diets have never been demonstrated in any reliable, scientific way. If good research evidence showed raw diets significantly improved health, then the risk they present might be worth taking. However, it is up to advocates for these diets to show this, and they haven’t done so, only promoted anecdotes and personal belief as if it were reliable evidence. Overall, the risks of dry foods are not zero but are almost certainly lower than those of raw diets.

    3. You talk about bones causing broken teeth and that wild animals also have broken teeth, is this from chewing bones? If it is and there is proper evidence to show that that was the cause then isn’t it the different types of bones found in the body that can cause this not just all bones?

    I am not aware of any studies showing which bones cause dental damage in which species of animals. The evidence shows that bones can damage teeth, and so far again there is no evidence that they have health benefits, dental or otherwise, other than anecdote and the belief of raw food proponents. I am happy to look at any evidence that might support a benefit to bones that would outweigh the risks, but none that has been put forward so far is convincing.

    As the pet food market is worth billions each year isn’t it fair to say that the claims for or against each type of food would be driven by those with the most to lose in terms of profit?

    That’s quite cynical. Sure, companies will. look at things and spin evidence in favorable ways, whether selling cooked, raw, or other diets. But the vast majority of people on both sides of the debate have the best interests of pets at heart and believe they are advocating for the welfare of the animals. The issue of bias is why we need reliable scientific research, not merely anecdote and opinion, but it isn’t really fair or useful to simply ignore the evidence we do have or the arguments people make solely because they have a vested interest in the outcome. And frankly, financial bias is not the most troublesome. People promoting raw diets often have a passionate, almost religious commitment to alternative medicine and a deep suspicion of science, and this ideological bias blinds people them even more thoroughly than the bias that comes from. working for a pet food company. Yet somehow, we talk about bias as if it only applied to conventional medicine and the pet food industry.

    Yes, a large-scale, longitudinal study comparing disease incidence and diet would be wonderful. Pretty unlikely;ikely to happen. The Morris Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime study is the first such cohort study ever in vet med because these are so expensive and difficult to do. We have to make do with the evidence we have, unfortunately.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.