Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Look Out Dr. Cliff! One Reader Has Responded To Your Column Last Week, In Which You Argued Against Raw Diets

Dr. Cliff smiling, before he read this response.
I should seriously just step away from Dr. Redford's post on November 17th, having encountered so many others like it over the years and realizing that a lot of non-medical experience counts for nothing in the eyes of most vets, but ...  

Like most vets, there seems little education or insight on nutrition evident in Dr. Redford's 'article'.  My own vets have confirmed that, in all of their years of study, vet students receive only a few hours -- at most -- on the subject of nutrition ... AND this is most usually sponsored by the kibble companies.  So, yes, Dr. Redford, there are many others in whom I'd put my faith before just any vet when it comes to my dogs' nutritional needs.  Fortunately there are some vets who invest in their continuing education in the area of vaccines and the field of nutrition, which is NOT sponsored by the kibble companies.
I have fed a well-researched, highly-monitored raw diet for over 9 years and am grateful for the vets behind my dogs who are either raw-feeders themselves, or who see the optimum health in my dogs', acknowledge that I am doing right by them ... and who respect me for the diet I feed.  I'm so grateful that not all vets are wearing the same kibble-sponsored blinders as Dr. Redford here.
Several times over the years, I have had my dogs' diet -- which is quite a simple but balanced diet of meat, organs, and bones -- analyzed down to the finest detail, and it always meets the NRC standards (although I question these ever-changing "standards" as well, but that's another can of worms).  My last boy, adopted at 9 yrs of age, passed at the age of 16 1/2 after 7+ yrs on a raw diet.  One of my current dogs -- a wirehaired pointer -- will be 10 yrs old this winter. She was adopted at 7 mos of age with a raft of health issues which were only remedied with a raw diet; in fact, she was the reason I finally made the switch to raw after little success with vets and commercial kibbles.  Yes, as a supreme athlete she has early signs of arthritis ... but wait, at 10 yrs, is that truly "early"?  I guess we just think of it as "early" since everyone who sees her believes her to be 2 or 3 yrs.
I absolutely agree that a raw diet can be fed wrong ... there are a number of mistakes that beginners make, the least of which is jumping in before doing their research.  Unfortunately, what vets see in their clinics and ERs is dogs owned by people who have jumped in with little or no research, who aren't feeding raw the way it should be, not using safe practices, etc.  What these vets aren't seeing are all the properly raw-fed, supremely healthy dogs who never have to see a vet except for their wellness exams, because -- when fed a species-appropriate diet -- there are far less diseases, allergies, etc. for the owners to be spending their $s on.
Feeding raw properly results in dogs that are truly healthy inside and out, not just sustaining on what is the equivalent to a permanent diet of Kraft Dinner. 
I don't know, Dr. Redford, maybe you are and maybe you aren't in the pockets of kibble companies, but I'm pretty certain they sponsored that small segment of nutrition you received in vet school.  Seriously, would you consider it more healthy for a human being to eat the same, highly-processed, boxed food day in and day out?  Aren't fresh ingredients more appropriate to any animal's diet?  And especially species-appropriate foods?  No wait, don't answer that ... because maybe you do think that KD out of a box every day, chased with a few synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements to cover the bases is perfectly sufficient.
As for your claims above, Dr. Redford, honestly when I first scanned through this article I actually thought it was a parody of a vet slamming raw because surely no vet is still this far in the dark ages of canine nutrition?  Let me address your "summary of concerns" none of which appear to me to have been "well proven" by any scientists, nerds or otherwise ...
(1) "Dogs and cats that eat RAW meat carry nasty germs."  Seriously?  This is pure myth, with a dash of fear-mongering.  If the food is handled like you would handle your own meat, feeding areas are cleaned, as well as dogs beards, paws, etc., there are no less or more germs on them than any kibble fed dog ... or your bathroom faucets.  Please.  If you believe this to be true, where's the proof?  I'm happy to set up a testing situation if you'd like me to bring in my heavily bearded, raw-fed scruffies, Dr. Redford, along with a slew of other healthy raw-fed dogs.
(2) "RAW food is usually too high in protein."  Too high in protein?  Someone needs to break out the calculator and some food-value charts.  Most meats hover around the 19% protein mark.  That's no higher than a lot of processed/kibble diets.  Not to mention that the protein in a raw diet is species-appropriate protein, not protein derived from corn and other non-digestible grains that kibble companies use to get those protein numbers up on the label on account of so little meat actually being in the concoction.  And, if that protein value is too high due to specific health issues, supplementation with veggies and other fillers can be used to bring the over all value down.  That's the beauty of a raw diet: it can be manipulated to suit a dog with special needs.
And it "makes them aggressive"?  Seriously, Dr. Redford ... how heavy is that stone you're still living under?  This is the #1 greatest myth about raw feeding.  Having been on numerous raw forums over the years, speaking to raw-feeding vets, and hundreds upon hundreds of other raw-feeding dog lovers, NO one has reported increased aggression in their dogs after switching to raw nor do their dogs suddenly become blood-thirsty beasts attempting to kill any small animal.  My own pointer is a hunting dog, and many years ago, the very morning after her first dinner of whole rabbit, while out on a hike, she retrieved me the remains of a freshly killed rabbit by hunters ... of her own accord, her own nature, she retrieved it out of the forest with no guidance from me.  In spite of having eaten the same protein the night before she didn't become some savage beast, eating everything in her path.  She remained, and still does to this day, a hunting dog who doesn't help herself on the trails, and who doesn't kill wantonly.
Is there the very slim chance that some dogs become a little more protective over their food when switched to raw?  Sure, very occasionally ... if the dog was already prone to resource guarding, sometimes raw can increase this (very marginally and only temporarily) because they're finally getting high-value food!! 
But to make such a ridiculous and unproven statement that raw-feeding makes dogs aggressive ... well, besides making me initially think that this was some kind of parody article ... this is the most common myth, and the #1 fear-mongering tactic used by vets who haven't done their research or seen the results of feeding a species-appropriate diet properly.  Do you have any cases to site here on increased aggression in raw-fed animals, Dr. Redford?  And I'm not talking resource-guarding since any formerly resource-guarding dog can display this behavior when given any kind of high-value food.
(3) "RAW food is usually too high in phosphorus and/or the phosphorus to calcium ratio is out of whack. All the supplementation in the world wont help, you need commercially prepared and feeding trial tested foods."  I'll agree that, especially when feeding puppies, the calcium/phosphorus ratio has to be considered carefully for those growing bones, especially in large breed pups.  But if researched and fed properly, as I and many other raw feeders have proven, a raw fed diet MORE than answers any NRC standards.  And it's the kind of food a dog's system is meant to digest ... NOT boiled down carcasses of questionable quality, mixed up with gallons of grains into a gelatinous goo which is then baked into fun-shaped, bite-sized pieces to appeal to owners, sprayed with god-knows-how many otherwise toxic preservatives to guarantee a year-long shelf-life, and finally sprinkled with all kinds of synthetic supplements because everything has been rendered useless in the extreme heat of processing.
(4)  "Dont tell me it is more natural and is what wolves eat. The average wolf lives 3 years...because it eats garbage food. It dies of disease and hunger and malnutrition and we never get to see what the long term consequences of these foods are. I am planning for my 3 dogs to live 15+ years, how about you?"  Seriously, Dr. Redford?  Do you do any research before making these types of claims?  In 2004 the death of wolf "B2M" was recorded; he was a captured wolf from Alberta and relocated to Idaho, a wild wolf.  His recorded age was approximately 14 yrs.  Others have been recorded around that age, and up to 16 yrs.  But in captivity wolves are recorded to 20 years or more.
Now, when I prepare and feed my dogs their raw diet, I'm not feeding them using the model of a starving wolf struggling in the wild (as your example suggests we raw-feeders must be doing), without the benefit of annual health exams, blood work, or supplementation for any health issues the dog might encounter via genetics or outside disease ... if I did that, yes, my dog might not live as long as some captive wolves.  However, I (and any raw-feeder I've met) feed my dogs in the model of the captive wolf, the top wolf in the pack who gets all the best stuff, all the essential stuff, and, as a result, enjoys optimum health ... not a dog with just the appearance of optimum health who then succumbs to all of the dog diseases we have seen such an incredible rise in since the advent of kibble in the 60s.
(5) "Overall it is nutritionally unbalanced!" This is essentially covered under my response to (3) ... it IS balanced if one researches and makes it balanced ... and, honestly, that's not too difficult with just the right balance of meat, bones and organs ... and with supplementation for any health issues that come on with age, like arthritis for example.

And for all those reading Dr. Redford's tripe in his November 17th post (mmm ... tripe is good for dogs, but then we're talking real tripe/real food, not this kind of tripe), PLEASE don't blindly take any vet's word as gospel.  This kind of blind faith has led to more than one animal's death in my own world and many others I know of.  Don't let it be yours.  Put in the effort to find a vet who isn't still wearing the blinders they hand out in vet school.  There are SO many higher-educated vets out there who know the truth, who support and endorse good nutrition for dogs, who have actually done some research, and who practice the good they preach.
You are your pet's advocate, their guardian, their voice ... it's up to you to do what is best for them, including seeing through the fear-mongering tactics of the uneducated and unenlightened.
Illona Haus - head scruffy
Editor's note : Dr. Cliff's original article can be found here, and later today I'll be publishing his second "Ask The Vet" column. If you have any feedback for Dr. Cliff, send it