Dr. Jennifer
Should I feed my pet raw food or the BARF diet?

This question was posted on the Rainbow Pet Diabetes Email List.

Hello List....

Since I was asked...I will give you my opinions.  There is a lot of controversy over veterinary nutrition and especially the RAW or BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diets. I do have mixed feelings about feeding a raw diet.  ANY home-prepared diet must first and foremost be balanced with protein, carbohydrates and fat as well as supplementing vitamins and minerals.  You can not feed an animal just meat and expect them to thrive.  And I know some of you are laughing at this statment, but believe me, people believe since cats are carnivores that they can eat just meat.   NO WAY!!  And on the flip side, because they are carnivores, they can NOT eat a vegetarian diet.  A dog, however, can eat a vegetarian based diet because they are not obligate carnivores.

In favor of feeding RAW....animals out in the wild don't have the benefit of having a stove to cook it first and these animals survive.  Are they thriving?  I don't know that because they have a lot of other issues that our domestic animals don't have to face.  Are these wild animals living to be 20 years old?  Feeding raw does mean that the animal will get the most enzymes out of that food since they are not destroyed by cooking and ideally the most benefits.  The source of food in ANY home-prepared diet is crucial.  If you are not feeding organic food, then who knows what that chicken or cow was fed or what medication (antibiotics, steroids,etc.) it was given before slaughter.  I know people are always concerned with Salmonella and other bacteria in raw meat causing illness.  I don't know how much of that is an issue because personally, I do not have any clients that feed RAW.  However, when I did an internship in Australia, I had a cat present with vomiting and diarrhea and when inquired about diet, the owners said kibble in addition to RAW chicken wings.  AH HA, I thought, I have a diagnosis....Salmonella.  WRONG!  This cat did not have Salmonella or any other bacteria from eating RAW chicken, but it did have the cleanest teeth I ever saw.  I questioned the doctors at the University and they said it is a common practice to give RAW chicken wings for dental health and they never see any problems with it and they didn't feel that their meat processing standards were any different than the US.   But then again, I wouldn't eat raw meat from any country.

In certain cases of anemia, I have suggested that the owners give their pet RAW liver in small portions 2-3 times a week.  One warning, however, since the liver is an organ of detoxification you can really overdo it if you feed too much.  Personally, I would rather see a client feed cooked meat.  I gave my cats a RAW chicken wing a few weeks ago and they looked at me like I was nuts!  I do know they have commercially prepared RAW diets out there, but I do not have any experience with any of them so I can't really comment on quality or benefits, etc.

Against feeding RAW....how 'bout I just refer you to this website... 
 http://secondchanceranch.org/rawmeat.html   ... Then you tell me!!

Ideally the best diet you can feed your pet, healthy or with a disease condition, is a home-cooked  (veggies are okay raw) ALL NATURAL (organic) diet that is supplemented with the proper vitamins and minerals.    There are many veterinarian-approved recipes out there and a good place to start is with  "Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats" by Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, PhD.  If you do not have time to cook, then feeding a diet that is all-natural, dye and preservative free is best (refer to 
 www.altvetmed.com for a list of these foods as well as other Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine topics).  The higher quality diet your pet eats, the better hair coat s/she will have, the less illness s/he will face, changes in behavior may be noted for the positive and really your pet will be healthier.  And your pet will eat less and have less stool volume.  Now granted it may be necessary to feed a prescription diet due to illness, but there is no reason you can't supplement a little of your own home-cooking.  Feeding Generic Brand X food is just not acceptable.  And you should think if you only pay $10 for a 50 pound bag of dog food, just where are they getting those "cheap" ingredients??? Most likely a rendering plant which uses animals that were euthanized or died from disease.  So, now you are giving your pet a daily dose of PENTOBARBITAL in addition to God only knows what else and slowly killing your pet.  You are what you eat!!! 

Dr. Jennifer

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