Although raw food stirs controversy in the dog world, many experts stand behind it.
The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t recommend it. Many university-affiliated veterinary nutritionists advise against it. Some animal hospitals won’t allow it on the premises. It’s not always nutritionally complete, and just like the raw chicken on your cutting board, it’s likely to contain pathogens. Plus, there are no documented scientific studies that show it has any benefit.
So why on earth would anybody feed their dogs a raw food diet?
And yet, people do – with dedication, even fervor. They argue that the proof is in the proverbial pudding and vibrantly healthy dogs with shiny fur, clean teeth, and small compact poops are all the evidence necessary.
More and more people are becoming convinced that the raw diet naysayers are alarmists and that the benefits outweigh the risks. Although sales of commercial raw diets are still well under 1 percent of the total pet food market, according to David Lummis, senior pet-market analyst at Packaged Facts, a market research company in New Orleans, La., growth is explosive. “The annual percentage growth rate of raw foods is in the 20-percent range, by all reports I’ve received, compared with the current 3- to 4-percent rate for pet food overall,” Lummis says.
That’s just the commercially prepared raw diets, not the kind people make at home. Many pet stores have installed freezers to store raw food for sale (often aided by raw food manufacturers who help them with freezer programs), and raw food is practically de rigueur in many performance and canine athlete circles. If raw diets really are so dangerous for dogs, what’s fueling the trend?
For Pat Newman and her husband, John, the idea of a raw meat diet sounded strange when it was suggested to them by their veterinarian, Robin Karlin, D.V.M., co-owner of Family Veterinary Center in Haydenville, Mass. However, after their Golden Retriever died of cancer, they changed their minds.
“We wanted to give Sonny the best possible chance,” says Newman of their mixed-breed dog. “Sonny loves his diet. His coat is so clean, he has no doggie smell, no greasy feeling, and he’s so healthy and energetic and beautiful.”
Preparing a homemade raw diet seemed extreme, but Newman was willing to try a commercially prepared raw diet that comes in pre-formed patties, which she defrosts each night for Sonny’s meals the next day. “He just loves the food. He gobbles it right up,” she says. “It’s definitely more expensive than dry food, but I think it’s worth it, especially if this diet prevents a lot of expensive veterinary bills.”
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