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At Raw Essentials we chose to raw feed because we believe that feeding a highly-processed, high carbohydrate diet to our domestic carnivores carries risks. Some cats and dogs have a well-balanced microbiome, and a robust immune system - these are the ones that appear to do well (at least initially) on processed diets. But there are many cats and dogs who are not robust, and they will struggle with continuous health issues. Raw feeding won't fix every issue for every pet, but many of these pets do so much better when they are fed high quality, species-appropriate diets.
There are some risks associated with raw feeding,
Choking is a risk with all foods that are small enough to lodge in the airway or oesophagus. We recommend the following to reduce the risk of choking:
If a cat or dog is lucky enough to have really good gut health (balanced microbes, good intestinal integrity, and strong gastric acidity), they may get away with eating all sorts of things. But the rise in chronic disease reflects a drop in good gut health: currently, the trend is for fewer and fewer dogs and cats to have really good gut health. Diet is going to become an increasingly important first line of defence! We are concerned about this growing demographic, and we tailor our advice to make raw feeding as safe and efficacious as possible for them. You will hear us repeatedly advise against mixed-feeding.
Our concern is that the high carbohydrate content of processed foods may interfere with the production of strong gastric acidity - raising the possibility that the bone is not digested and passed efficiently, and obstruction could occur. So while we acknowledge that some people will choose to feed a mixed diet, and in some cases this will not be problematic - we believe that avoiding mixed feeding is the best and safest advice.
Dental fractures are very unlikely to happen on a well-planned, species-appropriate diet for two reasons:
The weight-bearing bones of large herbivores - such as the cannon bones that are routinely sold at supermarkets, and sometimes recommended by vets - are NOT appropriate. These bones are large and hard - just perfect for cracking a tooth.
Appropriate ones are smaller, softer, and always meaty. Small prey species (chicken, possum, wallaby, rabbit, hare etc) are suitable choices. Veal brisket is also nice and soft.
Nutrient imbalances are a risk in all diets - processed (including AAFCO-approved and veterinary diets), or raw. Common errors when raw-feeding include feeding an all/mostly meat diet, or feeding from a single protein source.
An appropriate ratio of dietary calcium to phosphorus is vital to good growth for puppies and kittens.
There have been some tragic cases in which puppies and kittens were raised on all-meat, or mostly-meat diets. This provides plenty of phosphorus, with little calcium. The body keeps a steady amount of calcium in the blood at all times - if the calcium is not present in the diet, calcium will leach from the puppy or kitten's bones to maintain the level required in the blood. This will lead to bone weakness and deformities.
Read more about Balanced Raw Diets.
Contamination with pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria/microbes is a common concern with regards to raw-feeding. This is not a raw-food issue: it is a food issue. there are numerous recalls for contamination of processed pet foods; and as raw feeding grows in popularity again, we can probably expect to see recalls for raw food too (at least in the US).
We are lucky in New Zealand - we have access to really high quality raw pet food, and our short food chains allow us to maintain stringent traceability programmes, so we do not expect contamination issues to present a significant problem here. Nevertheless, we must still take care to keep our raw-fed pets, and their owners, safe.
To reduce the risk of illness due to contamination, we advocate:
You can read more about Salmonella and raw feeding here.
This can be a risk if the diet is poorly planned. Read more here.
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