WSAVA is the World Governing Body for Vets. They lay Down the Rules and They Love Science. Here we Dissect Their Statement on Feeding Pets Species Appropriate Fresh Food…
WSAVA, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, the top brass, the head honcho, recently committed an entire three paragraphs of text to its statement regarding the fresh feeding of our pets, a whopping twenty lines. The reference section of this magnificent work is replete with ONE study and three statements made by other governing bodies (one of the AVMA statement we went through last week, if you missed that post suggest you tuck into it first). The statement reads (I have taken out the first paragraph as it does not relate specifically to raw meat-based diets (RMBD) but you can find the whole thing here):
RMBDs have a high risk for contamination with bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens. In addition to the risks of nutritional inadequacy and contamination with bacteria and parasites, other health concerns for an animal eating a RMBD include risks from ingestion of bones if they are included (e.g., constipation, diarrhea, dental fractures, gastrointestinal obstructions) and diet-induced hyperthyroidism from excessive ingestion of thyroid tissue.
There is currently no properly documented evidence of health benefits for RMBD, but there are well documented risks. As such, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition Committee recommends that RMBD not be fed to dogs and cats.
The statement, needless to say, was eagerly picked up by the entire veterinary community. It is held aloft repeatedly as clear evidence that high-carb dry is the way to go. Take, for example, Dr John Burns, owner and creator of Burns Pet Food (ranked bottom of nine similar pet foods we compared some weeks back, having the lowest meat and highest carbohydrate content of any similar product I have seen) who stated the following upon it’s release:
This raises some important ethical and legal questions for members of the profession who recommend raw meat-based diets to their clients. If an animal were to suffer an illness from a RMBD following a vet’s recommendation, would the vet be wide open to being sued or hauled before the RCVS Disciplinary Panel and accused of misconduct and failure to act in the best interests of the animal? I’m only asking.
So, I’m now going to break this entirely unreferenced statement by WSAVA (and for John) down line by line for you.
RMBDs have a high risk for contamination with bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens.
This is true. Studies show RMBD’s can contain baddies, most notably Salmonella and E.coli (Joffe and Schlesinger 2002, Weese et al. 2005, Finley et al. 2006, Strohmeyer et al. 2006). This should come as no surprise as RMBD’s are largely made on raw meat and bone from the human food chain (it’s actually a legal requirement in most countries but you still can’t be sure) and the human-meat sector is positively rife with pathogenic bacteria, a result of breeding animals in tighter and dirtier conditions, such as disgraceful “CAFO’s” (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) which have made their way over from the US into the UK and no doubt soon to Ireland. As regards “parasites” this is less common. The notion that raw meat contains “worms” is idiotic, in that it is extremely rare. However, meat can contain a variety of protozoan baddies that can put you on your ass. I’m not sure what they mean by “other pathogens” after this.
But, did you know that dry food too contains a whole host of baddies? Oh yes, dry food too suffers terribly from Salmonella. As last week’s analysis of the AVMA’s statement on raw feeding showed us, the recalls for Salmonella in dry pet food have been coming in thick and heavy over the last decade, involving millions of tonnes of product. In fact, in just the last ten years, 132 people have contracted Salmonella from dry pet food, half of these cases being toddlers under two years of age (Wright et al., 2000, Schottea et al., 2007, Behravesh et al. (2010). Contrast this to raw feeding where to this day there has only ever been ONE suspected case from a raw dog food product. With at least 10-20% of us today including some fresh meat in our dog and cats bowl, it seems we raw feeders are statistically far safer feeding raw dog food.
The problem is the pet food sector, in the US at least, is regulated by AAFCO and AAFCO is essentially a group of dry food producers regulating themselves. So you’d hope now to turn to veterinary departments of universities to come up with the studies to catch these guys out. Unfortunately, private investors are now buying out the veterinary sector. Worse still, our veterinary departments are now happily supping from the dry food teat. So, it seems nobody is watching what dry pet food companies are now doing or saying.
Thankfully there are a few independent groups out there doing great work in this department. Susan Thixton of Truth About Pet Food did a very clever study where she sent 12 of the top-selling dry and canned pet foods including products by Hill’s and Royal Canin, straight from an online retailer to a laboratory for testing. She tested for hazardous microbiology, mycotoxins (a poison fungus known to be one of the most cancerous on earth. It exists on bad grain and hence it’s very common in dry dog food, a fungus that has killed hundreds of dogs multiple times. How many humans have been affected by handling this product is unknown). ALL products failed in many respects. Here are the results:
This is all before we consider storage mites. Studies show that bag of dry pet food is crawling after a few weeks open in your cupboard, potentially causing your dog a myriad of health issues.
No mention, concern or warnings regarding any of there issues from WSAVA.
In addition to the risks of nutritional inadequacy and contamination with bacteria and parasites…
Nutritional inadequacy casually thrown in there and yes, again, this is true. While undoubtedly studies will soon emerge highlighting the dietary inadequacies of various pre-made raw dog foods (Stockman et al. 2013 found that of 200 homemade recipes from texts, books and web articles (64% written by vets), only 5 recipes met AAFCO or NRC minimum requirements). But, why are we ignoring the fact that repeated studies of “complete” dry pet foods show they too rarely adhere to AAFCO’s minimum nutritional profiles.
In fact, and again unlike raw dog food, dry food companies use various chemicals to top their ultra-processed, nutrient-defunct mixes and to this day it seems it remains a bit of a dark art for them. So not only are their nutritional contents off but their use of too much of X and too little Y not only results in colossal recalls but is actually killing pets, as the most recent recall from Hill’s has shown us. They’re not alone though. Pets are always dying from the incorrect chemical inclusions in pet food. Here are just eight years of pet food recalls for incorrect vitamin deficiency / excess in processed pet food, (for more details see www.fda.gov “Animal and Veterinary Recalls Archive”).
- 2017 J.M. Smucker Company (twice). Possible low levels of thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- 2016 Addiction Petfoods, elevated levels of Vitamin A
- 2016 Fromm Family Foods, elevated levels of vitamin D
- 2016 Nestlé Purina, “may not contain the recommended level of vitamins and minerals”
- 2015 Ainsworth Pet Nutrition voluntarily recalled their cat food for “potentially elevated vitamin D levels”.
- 2014 Natura Pet recalled cat food due to vitamin insufficiency.
- 2013 Premium Edge, Diamond Naturals and 4health dry cat food formulas voluntarily recalled due to possibility of low levels of thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- 2012 Nestlé Purina voluntarily recalls their therapeutic canned cat food due to a low level of thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- 2011 Wellpet LLC voluntarily recalls canned cat food less than adequate levels of thiamine (vitamin B1). WellPet decided to recall “out of an abundance of caution”.
- 2010 Blue Buffalo Company recalls their dry dog food because of a possible excess of vitamin D. Blue Buffalo learned of this potential condition in its products when it received reports of 36 dogs diagnosed with high Vitamin D levels after feeding on these products.
- 2010 P&G recalls canned cat foods due to low levels of thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- 2009 Diamond Petfoods announces recall of Premium Edge Adult Cat and Premium Edge Hairball Cat Food for the potential to produce thiamine deficiency.
So, both products suffer nutritional imbalances but one product does not kill pets as a result but the other does, repeatedly, yet still WSAVA and the AVMA are adamant we should choose the latter.
other health concerns for an animal eating a RMBD include risks from ingestion of bones if they are included (e.g., constipation, diarrhea, dental fractures, gastrointestinal obstructions) and diet-induced hyperthyroidism from excessive ingestion of thyroid tissue.
Dogs can get constipation if fed RMBD’s too high in bone content. This is as much a fact as it is a concern and raw feeders need to be vigilant. Don’t feed too much bone to your dog and don’t use premade raws that make your dog poo bullets. Constipation is a problem is some raw fed dogs and some vets have reported raw-fed dogs coming in with bone-related issues. More about constipation in dogs and what to do here.
There are however other issues of the butt that raw fed dogs suffer significantly less with their better-formed stools, one of them being anal glands issues. You will not find a raw-fed dog developing anal glands, it almost always begins in the dry-fed dog. Asides being dreadfully uncomfortable, sometimes requiring surgery, anal gland impaction can result in said owner having their pets glands painfully and expensively “expressed” monthly for the pets life. Anal glands result from too many soft poos, often the result of a wheat-based diet or the fact the dog cannot digest all the dreg ingredients (beet pulp, corn gluten pulp, wheat gluten pulp) which results in these giant, soft, stinky, joke shop-esque poos the worlds pet owners have taken as “normal” dog poo. It is far from it. More on anal glands in dogs here.
And talking about dental issues is a bit bloody rich considering the product they are endorsing! 8/10 dogs are dry-fed in the US. 8/10 suffer some form of gum disease by three years of age and 8/10 are not given raw meaty bones to chew on. Now, WSAVA may believe this is a colossal coincidence, that while poor human dentition is commonly associated with poor diet in humans, it is absolutely NOT a factor in the disgraceful amount of dental disease suffered by millions of pets each year. It’s all about hassle factor and kibble offers the pet no such abrasion. On the other hand, studies clearly show feeding your dogs raw meaty bones cleans their teeth AND it does safely. Brown and Park (1968), periodically replaced the moist kibble ration fed to 30 dogs that were displaying dental calculus and tooth loss, with oxtail. Two-thirds of the dog’s calculus was removed within 24hrs after the first oxtail feeding, this increased to 95% by the end of week 2. More recently, Marx et al. (2016) evaluated beef bones as chew items to reduce dental calculus in adult dogs. They found they were an effective method of removing dental calculus in dogs.
It’s not to say your dog is perfectly safe eating raw meaty bones. Of course they aren’t but with raw vegetables being one of the most commonly choked on items in the human food chain, it’s not a reason to avoid them. It’s a reason to take care. Incidents involving raw meaty bones are rare and I believe any that do occur would be easily avoided if you follow the bone-feeding advice in this article. Ideally, all our vets would be dispensing this vital information.
Diet-induced hyperthyroidism. Here, WSAVA are nodding to the fact that one or two shitty canned dog food producers (and at least one making pet treats, which must be why they included it in a piece on raw dog food?!) in the past used beef thyroid in their mixes. Beef thyroid contains lots of thyroxine and it will cause issues in your pet. Don’t do it, most raw feeders know at least that but it’s a waste product of cattle so expect this to happen again via ignorant and / or unscrupulous pet food manufacturers.
There is currently no properly documented evidence of health benefits for RMBD, but there are well documented risks
While there are risks to every food on the planet (fresh fruit and veg are the top 1 and 2 culprits for Salmonella, E.coli and Listeria in Americans!) and there most clearly is when feeding dry pet food, the statement that there is no evidence is false. There is some evidence that raw fed dogs are healthier than dry fed dogs.
What is more telling, however, is that the dry pet food sector in return LACKS A SINGLE HEAD TO HEAD STUDY THAT SUGGESTS A CEREAL-BASED DIET MIGHT ACTUALLY BE AS GOOD OR, DARE TO DREAM, BETTER THAN A FRESH, SPECIES APPROPRIATE DIET. Not one.
I’ll give you a second to digest that point.
Your vet, and anyone else that comes at you with this evidence-based discussion has never ever read a single study where dry fed dogs did better than dogs fed a normal diet. But theirs was the science approach?! They have effectively moved away from the control and accepted the hypothesis that a highly unnatural, ultra-processed, high carbohydrate, low protein, high salt, high chemical, inert bag of filth made a year ago on the dregs of the human food industry by a candy company with a terrible reputation for good health in the human sector, is better for a meat eater than say…meat.
If they ever come at you with this simply say, I tell you what, we’ll go study for study. Start with the DogRisk study above and then ask them to go.
As such, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition Committee recommends that RMBD not be fed to dogs and cats.
I can’t for the life of me fathom how they came to that conclusion…
[Credit WSAVA’s 2014 brochure for their 39th World Small Animal Veterinary Congress for the pic, though it is happily used by WSAVA in many, many other places too. In fact, Hill’s Pet Food is WSAVA’s longest running sponsor, apparently becoming a “gold” cash sponsor of WSAVA in 2019. Congratulations guys, keep up the good work!]