The AVMA’s Statement on Raw Dog Food Dissected…

On the “Dangers” of Raw Food, Check out how Hillariously Erroneous the AVMA’s Statment is on Fresh Feeding…

You would think the top vet governing bodies in the US (where we take all our canine nutritional queues for some reason), would be on top of things science-wise, wouldn’t you? We at least hope that’s the case. I mean, at least until recently, veterinary medicine was an actual science. Part of the scientific process is making evidence-based assessments but this is where things get a little grey for modern medicine.

Today, using your own eyes, logic, reason and personal observations from hundreds of successful cases, now termed “anecdotal evidence”, is treated with absolute derision by the health industry (at least by those pulling the strings). Thou shalt not make thine own decisions. Today, we must use actual studies and a general weighing-of-the-evidence when making a statement of “fact”. OK, I’m an academic and can see the value of that in many instances, so I’m more than happy to debate in this manner also.

Recently, the top two vet governing bodies that oversee the pet-world, the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and WSAVA  (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) ruminated on the pros and cons of feeding pets fresh species-appropriate fresh food not made by the candy companies that cash sponsor them both, Hill’s Pet Food and then released their findings to the public. It’s fair to say that neither of these organisations are in favour of the practice. At all.

At this point, when we think of these science heavy-weights debating the subject. I’m picturing a bunch of pipe-smoking, bespectacled and greying, independent academics debating and arguing the subject into the wee hours. In the very least, we expect WSAVA and the AVAMA piled up all the pro and con studies for raw and all the pro and con studies for dry in a big pile and then sit around discussing the merits of both.

If that’s what you hoped, I’m here to tell you that you are very, very wrong. Instead, what we get appears to have been written by somebody’s teenage son who on the way to school suddenly realised he had forgotten to do his assignment and dedicated the next 10 minutes of his life to putting down a quick summary of all the “facts” harvested from the front page of his favourite dry food company.

It Appears the AVMA’s Statement Was Written in the Hope Nobody Would Question Them, Something They have Grown Accustomed to From our Veterinary University…

Here’s is the AVMA’s statement on raw dog food.

In 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), possibly the most influential veterinary group on the planet (proudly cash-sponsored by Hills Pet Food) came out with their “Resolution #5 Policy on Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in cat and dog Diets” for vets. It recommended vets avoid raw dog food and is yet to be revised. Now referenced by numerous sources including WSAVA as a evidence of the dangers of raw, they come right out of the blocks with the usual opening line

…several studies reported in peer-reviewed scientific journals have demonstrated that raw or undercooked animal-source protein may be contaminated with a variety of pathogenic organisms

This we know is true. Raw food products have had their share of recalls for Salmonella and E.coli over the last decade. However, we also know the reverse is true. In fact, here are the pet food recalls for microbiological nasties in dry food over just FIVE years

  • 2015 Bravo recalls select chicken and turkey petfoods because of possible Salmonella after issues were detected separetly by the New York and Colorado State Departments of Agriculture.
  • 2014 Hill’s Pet Nutrition voluntarily recalls Science Diet Adult Small & Toy Breed due to possible Salmonella contamination. “All 17 affected customers have been contacted by Hill’s and there have been no reported illnesses related to this product to date”.
  • 2014 Pro-Pet LLC recalls dry dog and cat foods because of possible Salmonella
  • 2014 PMI Nutrition Recalls cat food due to possible Salmonella. The issue was detected affter routine testing by the FDA Detroit District Office identified possible Salmonella contamination, upon which the company recalled their product “out of an abundance of caution”.
  • 2014 Bravo issues nationwide recall of 8 different petfood for dogs and cats due to possible Listeria. The issue was detected when “an independent lab detected the bacteria in a sample during a recent review”.
  • 2013 Nestlé Purina voluntarily recalls Purina White Meat Chicken and Whole Barley Recipe adult dry dog food bags due to possible Salmonella health risk
  • 2013 P&G voluntarily recalls 11 types of Eukanuba and 18 types of cat and dog food due to possible Salmonella health risk
  • 2013 Natura Pet issues voluntary recall of Specialised Inova and Evo dry petfoods after FDA identidied possible Salmonella health risk
  • 2012 Breeder’s Choice Petfood recalls AvoDerm Natural Lamb Meal & Brown Rice adult formula because of possible Salmonella health risk
  • 2012 Solid Gold Health Products for oets recalled for possible Salmonella health risk
  • 2012 Apex Petfoods initiates voluntary recall of dry petfood due to the potential for Salmonella
  • 2012 Natural Balance Petfoods initiates voluntary recall of dry petfoods due to the potential for Salmonella contamination
  • 2012 Diamond Petfoods recall dry dog food, chicken soup for pets and Diamond Puppy Formula due to possible Salmonella contamination • 2011 Nestlé Purina Purina One Vibrant Maturity 7+ Dry cat food due to a potential Salmonella
  • 2010 P&G voluntarily recalls dry cat food due to potential Salmonella exposure
  • 2010 P&G voluntarily recalls Iams and Eukanuba Specialised dry petfoods due to potential Salmonella health risk
  • 2010 P&G voluntarily recalls Prescription Renal Diet cat food due to a possible Salmonella health risk, detected by the FDA.
  • 2010 Natural Balance Petfoods Inc. voluntarily recalls Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Chicken dry dog food due to a possible Salmonella health risk, detected by the FDA
  • 2010 Feline’s Pride issues nationwide recall of its Natural Chicken Formula cat food due to Salmonella contamination

Yet zero space was given by the AVMA to this crucial point. In fact, one of the references the AVMA cites in support of their statement, Strohmeyer et al. 2006, analysed 20 raw dog foods as well as two dry and concluded both product types contained Salmonella. Sadly it was missed.

The AVMA go on to say

secondary transmission of these pathogens to humans (eg, pet owners) has also been reported

Now, this IS interesting, in that as of 2017, when I first read this statement, I was aware of no such study or report of any kind. The very first suspected case materialised in 2018.

To support this most crucial statement the AVMA uses four studies:

The first study (Joffe and Schlesinger 2002) didn’t note any transfer of pathogens to humans. They found Salmonella in raw-fed dog stool and stated “dogs fed raw chicken may therefore be a source of environmental contamination”.

The second study, entitled “Human health implications of Salmonella-contaminated natural pet treats and raw petfood” (Finley et al. 2006), states on the fourth line of their summary “no confirmed cases of human salmonellosis have been associated with these diets”. Hmmm, so no joy there either.

The third supportive study (Stiver et al. 2003) was of two cats with unknown health histories who contracted salmonellosis, the authors concluding “this report provides evidence that the practice of feeding raw meat-based diets to domestic cats may result in clinical salmonellosis”. No mention of sick humans there either.

The fourth and last study (LeJeune and Hancock 2001) mentions that there is a study that shows there is a risk humans can become infected with Salmonella after handling contaminated meat products intended for dogs, such as pet shop bones and pigs’ ears dog treats. So, not raw dog food then.

Thus, of the four studies the AVMA used to support their widely lauded statement that “secondary transmission of these pathogens to humans (eg, pet owners) has also been reported”, none make any such conclusion whatsoever, largely as, at their time of publication, there was no such study in existence, only multiple cases of dry dog food causing Salmonellosis, which was again, somehow, missed.

Dry dog food poisons 132 people with Salmonella in the last decade, half of them toddlers. Poorly handled raw dog food? Possibly infected one.

On this sort of evidence, the AVMA rules out fresh ingredients as a whole for all dogs and cats, recommending that vets worldwide “never feed inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs”.

This is clearly science of the poorest kind. I wonder what would happen if I showed the AVMA the recent 2015 Centre for Disease Control report on food poisoning in people (Zablotsky Kufel et al. 2015) which highlights that 48 million Americans suffer from a foodborne illness each year. 3,000 are killed by it. And the top food culprit? Vegetables. Seedy vegetables such as tomatoes or zucchini and fruit accounted for 18 and 12% of Salmonella cases, respectively (eggs and chicken account for 12% and 10%, respectively, with beef accounting for 9% and pork 8%). Leafy vegetables accounted equally for more than a third of all E.coli cases. Fruit accounted for half of all Listeria illnesses. And yet, with the obvious dangers of fruit and vegetables so clearly established, nobody is calling for a blanket ban on fresh vegetables, leafy greens and antioxidant-rich fruit in favour of something processed, pulverised, preserved and packaged by a candy company?

Instead, the AVMA pushes their vets towards a product that is so riddled with issues and indeed risk, far more so than raw dog food, that I hope their credibility as scientists will never be restored.

Dr. Conor Brady

After a doctorate studying the effects of nutrition on the behaviour and gut morphology of animals, five years with Guide Dogs as a trainer and supervisor, some success on Dragons Den with the finest raw dog food company and the last few years both writing and speaking on canine nutrition and health, I can say with some confidence that the pet food and drug industry cares not a jot for the health of your pet.
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