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Is there any studies / evidence raw feeding can be dangerous?

#1
I have now had a substantial part of 2 of WC's 3 vet appointments, one with a potential new vet we saw today, taken up with "the lecture" on the dangers of raw feeding. Salmonella, E Coli, parasites, the concern both cats and humans might be at risk, and the potential for malnutrition because of a lack of essential micro-nutrients, and concerns the balance of calcium and phosphorous may be off.

I tried to explain I think I know what I am doing because there is a facebook group Cat CRAP which has this great calculator that will work out the 80/10/10 percentage of bone, organ and meat so the balance is right, (or in WC's case I feed 15% bone) , and a lot of people seem to be doing this with no problem, which got me an eye roll... And the vet was greatly relieved to hear both cats get fed at least some kibble and canned as well as raw. Which was the same direction the other vet wanted me to pursue. WC was entirely raw fed before he came to live with me...

I really want to find a vet I can work with as a team, but as I live in a remote area my options are really limited. I know I am not as generally knowledgeable as a vet, but my cats are my only patients, and with the internet I can usually access a lot of high quality current information on relevant health topics. I need a vet who will listen to me if I have seen some recent research that suggests a different approach than what they are thinking. Being labeled as some kind of misinformed irresponsible flake because I am raw feeding, or having my time wasted with the vets concerns about raw feeding, so other more serious health issues maybe are not addressed, really does not help.

As a compromise, the potential new vet said for now they are willing to agree to disagree, and they are following a study that is currently being done comparing raw fed to kibble fed cats, and is willing to suspend their concerns about the risks, until the results of the study are in. But if they also said if they are willing to respect to me, I need to respect them, and what the science shows. Which is reasonable if there is any actual science showing raw feeding is a significant risk...?

And I would hesitate to trust one study if it did not seem to have been set up in an unbiased way... or was funded by someone personally invested in a particular result... or if it seems to radically contradict what have seen just in my own experience and read of other peoples...

Why do so many vets seem so concerned about raw feeding? Is there any actual evidence or studies that have been done showing this is likely to be dangerous? Realistically, what are the risks?
 

Ninja-n-Bear

Site Supporter
#2
Why do so many vets seem so concerned about raw feeding? Is there any actual evidence or studies that have been done showing this is likely to be dangerous? Realistically, what are the risks?
Vets don’t want to lose the money they make on the food they recommend and sell. All of those foods barely contain anything a cat can actually digest and use. I see this almost daily at the pet shop where I work. Folks come in after seeing the local vet, who invariably wants them to put their cat on Royal Canin - where the first ingredient is corn. I’ve had two customers switch to raw for struvite crystals in neutered males, both were put on RC for it and had hair falling out. Post switch, both cats are doing great (different owners). I see it as the same thing as my medical provider not believing in the efficacy of acupuncture and herbal therapy because he was trained to be skeptical and trained to believe that I couldn’t possibly know what’s best for me.

You are paying them. You have the right to choose what to feed your animals.

I did a TON of research before switching to a mostly raw diet, the only risks I found had to do with making sure the proper nutritional ratios are followed, sourcing clean meat, and the safe handling of said meat. The same risks we take when we eat cook and eat meat!

I once forgot to take up a bedtime meal plate, and got up to Bear scarfing raw meat that had been out all night. I thought he’d get sick, for sure, but he didn’t. Cats metabolize food so quickly that bacteria doesn’t have time to grow and flourish.

Most vets also do not take more than a short course on cat health, unless they happen to specialize, or are one of those rare self-motivated learners with an open mind, or they have cats themselves. Maybe see if there’s a vet in your area who owns cats?

Just curious - why do you feed WC 15% bone?
 
#3
Thanks for your reply...I have also read a lot of information and anecdotal accounts of the benefits of a balanced raw diet. And what I read is almost entirely positive and promoting the benefits of this. But the main the argument that raw feeding has to be better, just because cats lived a certain way for thousands of years, doesn't mean this was the most likely to lead to their individual survival, as nature seems more inclined to challenge and then sacrifice a lot of weaker individuals, to preserve the general the health of the species.

Going by what cats evolved to eat, what makes the most sense to me is a mix of predominately raw, some cooked and some kibble, as cats have lived along side us for thousands of years as rodent control, but for just as long they have also had access to offered or scrounged cooked / dried out table scraps. The only missing piece, in my mind, is the fiber that would naturally be supplied by fur and feathers... I have read somewhere that this acts in cats the same as fiber acts in humans and is important to maintaining a healthy microbial environment in the gut. And I was recently listening to a podcast of Winn Feline Symposium lectures about the causes of diarrhea in kittens that is finding it isn't so much the presence of bad bacteria like E Coli that kills kittens, but the absence of healthy bacteria that keeps this in check.

But with the exception of actual research on good bacteria preventing over growth of E Coli in kittens, the suitability of raw is just my opinion, and my opinion, or peoples anecdotal stories I read online, isn't something I can use in a conversation with my vet, if I want to be respected. And having a track record with a vet of being worthy of being respected and listened to can be a life and death matter. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot more cats have died because vets missed the real problem by being hair on fire distracted by their personal beliefs about the dangers of raw feeding... than the actual raw feeding itself. But just in itself, that is a very real danger associated with raw feeding..

IMO, it doesn't make a lot of sense to worry that handling raw meat to feed cats is more risky than handling raw meat to cook for ourselves. And it also doesn't make much sense for my vet to be against raw feeding with no evidence, or just because they see the one in 100 worst case scenarios. Which would be like an emergency room doctor saying kids shouldn't be allowed in playgrounds. And the lack of any real evidence seems to be suggested by the fact they said they are waiting on results of a study that is currently in progress.

I am just wondering if there is any actual facts or studies on raw compared to other forms of feeding, pro or con, so I can have a fact based discussion with my vet.

As for WC... And this may be an example of why vets are often opposed to raw feeding. As I understand it, WC was fed pretty much exclusively a raw ready made mix of whole ground chicken and liver. Whole ground chicken is about 30% bone. But the breeder assumed this was balanced if they added some of their own vitamin supplements, as in nature cats would be eating the whole bird. One of the components of the supplements was calcium. The breeder had good intentions, just like many people they got their information from personal stories people tell, from not analyzing the implications of the raw mix manufacturers fine print, and their own belief that this was good because it was natural. ( and a lot of raw ready made mixes don't seem to have the recommended 80/10/10 balance) I had some concerns as every time I tried to wean WC off the raw mix I got from the breeder, he would get runny poop, and as soon as I began feeding this as 1/2 the mix again, things would go back to normal. And I did not feel comfortable continuing to feed this as I had doubts it was balanced. So I contacted the manufacturer and learned it was at least 25% bone. Which added to the calcium in the supplements was way way off. I have no idea if this was harmful as no one seems to be sure. But WC's second trip to the vet was to talk about his intermittent diarrhea as I was getting worried it might be TF. The vet had never heard of the 80/10/10 ratio, I got the eye roll when I tried to explain it. He thought too much bone and calcium would be harmless, but had a lot to say against raw feeding, and the dangers of human illness through cross contamination and his concern this would likely provide insufficient nutrition. So on my own I figured out to try pro- biotics, to just feed a chicken mix with a 15% bone content, and closer to the bone % he was used to, and very very to slowly add other unfamiliar proteins and we seem to have solved the problem. But he still is mostly eating 15% bone. though this is slowly getting decreased.

(edited to add - and another problem is opinions seem to vary on what exactly is a balanced raw diet - this site has good information on what is considered muscle meat and what is considered organ, but only recommends 6% bone, and I have also seen 15% bone recommended for cats)
https://perfectlyrawsome.com/cats/prey-model-raw-pmr-for-cats/
 
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#4
I have been looking around online and this link below probably has the best compilation of research explaining why my vets do not support raw feeding...

https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/raw-meat-based-diets-for-pets

It sounds like there is a chance cross contamination from raw feeding could make the pet owner sick, possibly make the pet sick, and a strong concern that if that ever happened, the vet could be sued if they endorsed this...

“The CVMA advises that veterinarians who choose to recommend or sell RMBDs for pets under their care are aware of potential liability should a pet or human become ill due to pathogens originating from RMBDs

But in the bigger picture, in most situations, it sounds like it is probably a very small chance... Especially if no one / no raw pet food company ever has been sued for this...?
 

Ninja-n-Bear

Site Supporter
#5
But in the bigger picture, in most situations, it sounds like it is probably a very small chance... Especially if no one / no raw pet food company ever has been sued for this...?
I’d think that any issues would be due to user error. As far as I know there have been no lawsuits against raw food companies, but there have been product recalls.

I’ve been to naturopathic vets, and they’ve all recommended raw. Go to the allopathy-trained, and they will mostly tell you different, because they were taught different.

Sustained intake of too much calcium can for sure affect any animal adversely. Too much anything for anybody is no good, lol. As I understood, it takes years to see the effects of too much or too little, and one should have bloodwork done regularly to check that balanced nutrition is happening.

As far as fiber goes, I offer mine fresh wheat or oat grass daily. Servals eat grass, I read somewhere that they are observed doing it more than any other kind of cat.

I go kind of cross-eyed when I read your posts, lol, this is just the stuff that jumped out. :)
 
#6
Lol... sorry about making you go cross eyed.... Believe it or not, I try to be clear and concise, but get the feeling I often fail.

I think you are probably right that the damage of an out of balance diet could take years to show up. And I will try growing some wheat and oat grass for the kitties.

When it comes to humans, I don’t have a great opinion about naturopathic medicine. I live in an area where there is a lot of people who believe in a whole bunch of different types of this, and often there is too many assumptions and leaps of faith involved for me to be comfortable with it. So I would prefer not to stray too far off the scientificly proven path in how I choose to care for my cats. But of course there is problems with that, as it is sometimes groups with an investment in a particular result that fund the research, or don’t fund it. And at least some whole prey or raw for my cats seems natural as me needing to eat raw fruit and salad. And I could get bacteria from that too... So I am kind of on the fence.

After reading some of the concerns, if I continue feeding raw, I think I would at least like to make a preparation area and feeding area out on the porch, with wash up facilities separate from my kitchen. I do strive to prevent cross contamination but have been noticing small ways it is likely to be happening. I appear to have a good immune system but vistors might not.
 
#7
one should have bloodwork done regularly to check that balanced nutrition is happening.
I was curious about this and using google this is the first thing that came up, and it explains in detail why blood tests won’t work to show most types of nutritional deficiencies...
https://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedail...-for-testing-nutritional-status-in-pets-31029
Quote
“the routine blood screening that veterinarians use to evaluate their patients says little about the diet. With the exception of very distinct changes in red blood cell size with iron or vitamin B-12 deficiency, your veterinarian cannot evaluate your pet’s diet based on routine blood work.”

And another link I found with a very detailed explanation of vets concerns.

https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/pdf/10.2460/javma.243.11.1549

I mainly want to be able to discuss this with my vet in a way that is informed and respects any legitimate concerns.
 

WitchyWoman

Admin
Staff member
#8
I personally think it's tricky to feed a frankenprey diet where one tries to achieve balanced nutrition by mixing various meats/organs/bones. I suspect one of the problems leading to the nutritional deficiencies noted in the study is due to the difficulty of achieving precision and consistency when making raw meaty or raw ground meals. For example, people feed organs from large animals, such as pig/beef kidney and heart, with chicken and those organs contain a different amount of potassium, phosphorus than chicken meat. To be sure one is feeding appropriate ratios, you have to know the content of each of those organs and the meat. I'm too darn lazy for all that.

I feed a whole prey diet of quail, chicken, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits with boneless meats such as bison, pork, venison added in occasionally for variety. Whole prey contains a perfect balance of bone/muscle/organ ratio along with amino acids and other essentials. All of my SVs have been raised on whole prey. Two are 11 yrs old, one is 9 yrs, and the other 5 yrs and they are in perfect health.

If you want to learn a ton of info about commercial vs raw, read Lisa Pierson's site https://catinfo.org/ and contact her with questions.

The issue for me is whether I want to take a chance on trusting commercial food manufacturers owned by giant conglomerates whose #1 goal is making money, or do I want to do the research and work required to feed the healthiest food I can to my cats. Some pet food manufacturers still use carcasses from veterinarians' office and ill farm animals in their food. At least when one makes pets' meals from scratch, one has control over the quality of the ingredients.
 
#9
I like the suggestion of using whole prey for raw... having the meat all safely packaged in the original skin seems a lot more sanitary and balanced. And as I would prefer to feed a mix of kibble, canned or home cooked, and raw, it would be affordable to have a component that is whole prey. I have found a supplier but it tends to be too expensive for me to feed as the whole diet. A single frozen adult mouse is about $2. But day old frozen chicks are well under a buck a piece. As this is a rural area the vets seem to accept cats catching and eating rodents, so it is hard to see why they would disapprove of me buying something like that for them. Ha... I may be destined to start a organic rat farm.