Ok, fine, I wouldn’t put any of my pets on a raw diet because there isn’t sufficient scientific evidence that raw diets are any healthier than commercial pet foods (and raw diets have a couple of risks that commercial pet food doesn’t).
I know a lot of people are REALLY SUPER FOR raw diets and again, all I think is that they’re neither awful nor revolutionary. If you have your pet on a raw diet, it’s probably going to do perfectly fine so long as you are careful and consistent.
The problem I have with raw diets is more the way they are talked up by their advocates. With flat-out lies that sound convincing but have no actual scientific basis. That’s what angers me.
The research into pets fed raw diets (and indeed, vegan diets) is limited, and what studies there are out there have small sample sizes, so it’s hard to give definitive answers one way or another. A lot of raw diet enthusiasts claim that this is because of an inherent bias in the way that the research is carried out, that commercial pet food companies are the ones funding it. It is certainly possible. (Though I think it’s more likely that the movement just isn’t big enough to garner sufficient interest.)
Either way, a lack of evidence saying something has negative effects doesn’t automatically mean it has positive effects.
Here are some claims I see commonly repeated on raw food websites:
Anatomy shows that cats and dogs are carnivores!
Gosh, these people love to go on about dentition and musculature and all that. That’s great. It doesn’t actually provide evidence as to whether a dog can digest plant-derived carbs or cooked food. Yes, carnivores usually have certain types of dentition. But anatomical observations don’t substitute for actual scientific studies.
Just look at the canines on this maned wolf skull! You’d almost never know that their diet in the wild can be up to 50% plant matter!
Do I think that cats are obligate carnivores? Yes. Do I think that a healthy diet for dogs includes a large proportion of meat? Yes. I’m simply pointing out that the anatomy argument is largely a distraction.
Dogs and cats can’t process dietary carbs!
Yes, dogs can. (In fact, genetic evidence suggests they evolved to eat a diet much richer in starch than their wolf ancestors.) Yes, cats can, though they don’t need to, and they certainly can’t survive without a diet rich in proteins derived from meat. Still, the claim that cats are more likely to be obese when fed a diet rich in carbs has no actual evidence to back it. Same for the claim that more carbs are more likely to lead to diabetes in cats.
Uncooked meat is what cats and dogs evolved to eat! Therefore, it’s natural, which means it’s better!
Yes, dogs and cats originally ate uncooked meat. So did we. There is a reason humans started cooking their food: a) it kills off dangerous bacteria and b) it makes food more digestible, increases potential energy obtained, and actually makes certain nutrients more available to use. The idea that because something is “natural” means that it is automatically better is inherently flawed. You know what happens a lot in nature? Animals die.
All modern veterinary diseases are caused by the consumption of cooked food!
I swear to god. Do I actually have to refute this? The fact that we know about more diseases in cats and dogs than we used to does not mean that these diseases never previously existed. And the fact is that dogs are actually living much longer now than they used to thanks to modern veterinary medicine.
There is no actual evidence that feeding your dog kibble is going increase the likelihood of cancer, diabetes, obesity, GI tract issues, etc., etc., etc. Or dental disease. (In fact, raw diets may raise the risk of getting a dental disease.)
The chances of bacterial contamination of raw meat and/or getting injuries from eating bones are negligibly low/nonexistent.
Not true. And there is a human health risk both from preparing raw meat and from pets that may shed bacteria.
And finally: Raw fed pets are much healthier than pets fed commercial pet food!
While there isn’t a whole lot of evidence either way, what does exist points to one thing: pets on properly balanced, carefully regulated raw diets show no measurable health benefits compared to pets fed raw diets. This is true for both cats and dogs.
These are the facts as I understand them. It may well be that eventually, some research comes out to prove that raw diets are indeed much better for your pet than commercial cooked food. In that case, I’d probably change my opinion on raw diets. However, as long as the proponents of these diets continue to tout fallacious claims about what these diets can do, I am going to treat them the way they deserve to be treated: as crock.
Please don’t send me anecdotes about how well your pets are doing on raw diets. Anecdotes are not and will never be any grounds to refute published studies.
For further reading: here’s the full text of a lit review of a collection of papers published about raw feeding.