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New JSAP review offers food for thought on raw diets

12 June 2019, at 9:00am

The Journal of Small Animal Practice (JSAP) weighs the pros and cons of raw food diets.

The trend to feed raw diets to dogs and cats continues to generate debate amongst the veterinary profession, pet owners and commercial providers of these diets. JSAP weighs up the pros and cons in this month’s issue.

The recent shift from heat-treated, manufactured pet food for dogs and cats has been driven by perceived health benefits of raw diets and suspicion of processed pet food. The diets of wild‐living related species have been used as a rationale for raw feeding, but differences in biology and lifestyle impose limitations on such comparisons.

Raw diets for dogs and cats: a review, with particular reference to microbiological hazards is a review that looks at the practice, rationale and motivation for raw feeding before evaluating existing evidence on both benefits and risks of such diets.

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

He continued: “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.”

Following a recent paper describing 13 cats in the UK that appeared to have been infected by Mycobacterium bovis by feeding Natural Instinct Wild Venison, a commercial raw mince for cats, the leader of the investigation, Professor Danièlle Gunn-Moore, of 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.”

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.