This month, the Journal of Small Animal Practice has published 'Raw diets for dogs and cats: a review, with particular reference to microbiological hazards1', which weighs up the pros and cons of raw feeding cats and dogs.

The article looks at the practice, rationale and motivation for raw feeding before evaluating the existing evidence on both the benefits and risks of such diets.

The recent trend away from heat-treated, manufactured pet food for dogs and cats towards raw diets has been driven by suspicion of the former and perceived health benefits of the latter. 

However, feeding raw diets, even commercially-prepared ones, does have risks: a recent paper described 13 cats in the UK that appeared to have been infected by Mycobacterium bovis2 by feeding Natural Instinct Wild Venison, a commercial raw mince for cats.

The leader of the investigation, Professor Danièlle Gunn-Moore from the University of Edinburgh said: "Feeding raw food was the only conceivable route of infection in most cases; this outbreak of tuberculosis has now affected more than 90 individuals in over 30 different locations, with more than 50 of the cats developing clinical disease."

One of the authors of the review, Dr Andrew Wales, said: "Formal evidence does exist for claims by raw‐feeding proponents of an altered intestinal microbiome and (subjectively) improved stool quality. However, there is currently neither robust evidence nor identified plausible mechanisms for many of the wide range of other claimed benefits.

"There are documented risks associated with raw feeding, principally malnutrition (inexpert formulation and testing of diets) and infection affecting pets and/or household members. Salmonella has been consistently found and there is also a risk of introducing antimicrobial-resistant bacteria."

The full review article can be found in the June issue of the Journal of Small Animal Practice which is free for BSAVA members. It can also be read online here https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsap.13000

References

  1. Raw diets for dogs and cats: a review, with particular reference to microbiological hazards R.H. Davies, J.R. Lawes, A.D Wales.
  2. Tuberculosis due to Mycobacterium bovis in pet cats associated with feeding a commercial raw food diet. O'Halloran C, et al. 2019 May 13:1098612X19848455. doi: 10.1177/1098612X19848455. [Epub ahead of print]

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