Why I will never recommend processed pet food
As a veterinarian who has been promoting raw diet for more than 15 years, I am used to seeing processed pet food companies try to discredit it. However, despite all their efforts, the natural and raw pet food movement is on the rise and it is no coincidence.
Early in my career, I didn’t question processed pet food companies teaching vets that only their processed food was safe. However, as time progressed, I started to see a rising number of my patients suffering from allergies, obesity, diabetes, pancreatitis, kidney and liver disease and cancer. At first, I didn’t see the connection with processed food and as if blindfolded, I continued to frequently prescribe special diets.
Then in the mid 90’s I started seeing a few of my clients switching their dogs and cats to raw or cooked natural food. At first, I didn’t know what to think, but then I started to see some dramatic recoveries and a general improvement of health in almost all my raw fed patients. Skin problems started to disappear, the sleepless nights of clients who had dogs with chronic diarrhea became few and far between and cats with kidney disease improved on natural foods.
It was then when I started to question the motives of processed pet food companies. To remedy my initial confusion about what was going on, I started to pay more attention to the ingredients in food and I started to see that something was seriously wrong with the so called “scientifically formulated” diets.
Note: Originally, I included the names of prescription pet food formulas on this list. However, my legal council advised me against this and I agreed. My plan is to provide with information and not to participate in legal battles. If you want to check common processed food formulas, just go to the websites of major pet food companies to see what ingredients they use.
Here are a few examples:
LIVER DISEASE DIET Brewers Rice, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Dried Egg Product, Soybean Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Flaxseed, Pork Protein Isolate, Chicken Liver Flavor,
CARDIAC DIET Water, Chicken, Whole Grain Corn, Rice, Pork Liver, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Sucrose, Chicken Liver Flavor
WEIGHT CONTROL DIET Corn, corn gluten meal, chicken meal, barley, rice hulls, powdered cellulose, natural flavors, wheat gluten, chicken fat, dried beet pulp, fish oil, sodium silico aluminate,
KIDNEY DIET FOR CATS Brewers rice, whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, soybean meal.
FOOD ALLERGY DIET Brewers Rice, Hydrolyzed Chicken Liver, Hydrolyzed Chicken, Soybean Oil (preserved with BHA, propyl gallate and citric acid),
In summary, it didn’t take me long to realize that pet food companies’ claims that processed was better was a multibillion dollar marketing plot. One does not see cats and dogs graze in a corn field and suggesting that grain is better for carnivores is like saying that meat is the best food for horses or rabbits.
Many well informed dog and cat lovers know that pet food companies use low-quality, species-inappropriate ingredients to make hefty profits. They are also profiting by developing special diets for diseases caused by poor quality processed food. They knew how valuable the connection with veterinarians could be and that is why these diets are offered exclusively to vets (who they also educate).
One rarely sees a veterinary conference that is not be sponsored by either a drug or processed pet food company. Here are a few examples: World Veterinary Dermatology Conference 2012, World Small Animal Veterinary Association, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and finally American Veterinary Medical Association.
As an insider, I know that it is very scary for many colleagues to branch out and start recommending raw pet food. The most common reasons are lack of available education and persistent anti-raw food propaganda led by the processed food giants.
Most people are aware that there are strong ties between the veterinary and pet food industry. As an insider, I know that it is very scary for many colleagues to branch out and start recommending raw pet food. The most common reasons are lack of available education and persistent anti-raw food propaganda led by the processed food giants. Many veterinary clinics make as much as 1/3 of their income from pet food and when you consider the 70 – 85% overhead of an average veterinary practice you can understand that the processed food sales may be essential to a veterinary practice’s survival.
However, it is pretty obvious that strange symbiosis is no longer working for the well informed pet guardian. It is not the 80′s – the hey days of processed pet food. With Facebook and internet, people share their experiences with natural and raw foods and this may be the main reason why processed pet food sales in North America are falling.
In my opinion, this is the main reason why the American Veterinary Medical Association has announced a proposed POLICY AGAINST RAW OR UNDERCOOKED ANIMAL-SOURCE PROTEIN IN CATS AND DOGS. In it they say that raw or undercooked animal-source protein may be contaminated with a variety of pathogenic organisms. While it is true that raw food contains bacteria, the studies ignore the fact that dogs and cats have evolved to eat raw meat and internal organs. In 15 years of recommending a raw diet, I have not seen one single client with reported salmonellosis. Dogs and cats are naturally resistant to intestinal pathogens and can’t be compared to humans. Cats often eat mice that are frequent carriers of salmonella and other bacteriae without any ill effects. Let's be real, dogs sniff and eat worse things than a piece of raw meat.
In 15 years of recommending a raw diet, I have not seen one single client report salmonellosis. Dogs and cats are naturally resistant to intestinal pathogens and can’t be compared to humans. Cats often eat mice that are frequent carriers of salmonella and other bacteriae without any ill effects. Let's be real, dogs sniff and eat worse things than a piece of raw meat.
Pet food companies have tried to take advantage of people’s fear of bacteria and use it as their weapon to boost their declining sales. This is their only choice because most people know that wholesome meat and vegetables are better than Brewers Rice, Pork Fat, Dried Egg Product, Soybean Meal, and Powdered Cellulose. There are numerous testimonials to be found on the internet from people whose dogs have been saved by raw food and from what I have seen in the practice, natural food and whole food based supplements can easily add two to five years of life on average.
No food is perfect and even raw pet food feeding requires a degree of knowledge to do it right. To learn about feeding and preparing a raw or cooked diet for your dog sign up here for a free course.
The main reason pet food companies choose to use bacteria scare tactics instead of 'nutritional benefits of their food' is not many people would see their food nutritionally more valuable than wholesome fresh food. It is also undeniable that over the past several years, there have been numerous commercial pet food recalls. The greatest paradox is that processed pet food carries statistically higher health risks than raw food. Here is an example from JAVMA describing one of these incidents. Thousands of pets died in 2007 and 2008 from the melamine-tainted pet food scandal.
We must not be silent
I have never been into politics and most of the time I try to stay away from it. However, In the case of processed food, I can’t be quiet because when I look in the eyes of my dog Skai, the idea of losing him prematurely because of processed food makes me realize the extent of the grief that others experience unnecessarily. We veterinarians, including the AVMA, have to decide if we'll continue to side with the transparent marketing tactics of pet food companies or stay on the side of our patients and clients as we promised when we graduated.
When it comes to the proposed policy against raw food, I urge all veterinarian to learn more about the benefits of raw and natural food before dismissing it. I've no doubt that every colleague who examines a group of raw fed and a group of processed food fed senior dogs will clearly see the benefits of pet food as nature intended. It is not any different than in human nutrition.
I hope that the video below will make you laugh because it never hurts to bring a little bit of humor to solve a serious situation.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM