B-Naturals Newsletter - June 2010
Is A Raw Diet Dangerous?
By Lew Olson, PhD Natural Health
Last week, I wrote a letter to the Delta Society, a nonprofit group based in Washington that offers pet therapy certifications for dogs. Unfortunately, they recently banned dogs in their program that are fed a raw diet. They called ‘protein based’ diets unsafe, in that they may spread salmonella and other bacteria.
I am writing this month’s newsletter to dispel these and other myths about a fresh food diet for dogs. Part of my concern of the edict that the Delta Society proclaims, is that they are painting protein as a pathogen containing substance, waiting to infect humans. When I read over the two articles they posted to make these claims (see: http://www.deltasociety.org/Page.aspx?pid=638 ), which I analyzed and refuted in my letter to them, I found the tests they cited faulty (not enough dogs in the studies and unequal groups of raw fed dogs to commercial diet fed dogs) and found they ignored government studies on salmonella in dogs and the evidence of salmonella in commercial pet foods prompting numerous recalls. Salmonella is also found in the environment in numerous places, such as ponds, reptiles, dirt and feces. Please note that all the research I found showed that dogs *rarely* become ill from salmonella. From this research I wrote the following to the
To the Delta Society:
While checking http://www.google.com/ to investigate your claims of raw protein causing a significant shed of pathogens in the dog’s stool, I found the largest amount of information on an internet search shows that dry dog food is the biggest offender of carrying salmonella contamination:
One expert thinks contamination of pet food is likely to become more commonplace.
"There have been problems with pet foods before," said Dr. Pascal James Imperato, chairman of the department of preventive medicine and community health at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in New York City.
"If the food had any animal product in it, there could have been contamination, or if it was being processed in a plant where they were also processing animal product, then contamination can easily occur," he said. "There is greater industrialization of the production of food products, both for humans and animals, and these are complex processing systems. Therefore, there is greater opportunity for contamination," Imperato said. "We are likely to see many more of these problems."
Secondly, a large percentage of all dogs carry salmonella, regardless of diet. This has been known for some time:
Animal-to-Human-- Salmonella can be acquired directly from pets (e.g. cats and dogs), reptiles, and birds. The feces of pets, especially those with diarrhea, contain Salmonella and humans can become infected if they do not wash their hands after contact with pets or pet feces.15The pets may suffer Salmonellosis as a reverse zoonosis, with infection transmitted from human-to-pet and subsequently back to other humans. Salmonella can also be found in healthy dogs and cats at rates of up to 36 percent and 18 percent, respectively.52
“Here’s what the Merck Veterinary Manual says about Salmonella in pets:
“Many dogs and cats are asymptomatic carriers of Salmonellae. Clinical disease is uncommon, but when it is seen, it is often associated with hospitalization, another infection or debilitating condition in adults, or exposure to large numbers of the bacteria in puppies and kittens.” 2
To translate: Many dogs and cats carry Salmonella in their systems (as evidenced by the presence of Salmonella in their feces), but they rarely become ill. It is just a natural part of what lives in their GI systems. When illness does occur it is usually associated with an already ill animal who is already immune-compromised. Illness may also occur when young animals are exposed to very high numbers of the bacteria. This might happen if a puppy finds and licks the inside of an outdoor garbage can that has never been washed and is teeming with bacteria.
Research indicates that approximately 36 percent of healthy dogs and 17 percent of healthy cats carry Salmonellain their digestive tract.3 ..The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) agrees with these numbers.4 It is interesting to note that these numbers are based on kibble-fed dogs – which means that Salmonella is a natural part of life for our pets regardless of what they are eating.
The resistance to illness in dogs from Salmonella is apparent in a study of raw-fed dogs in Canada. In that study 16 dogs were deliberately fed commercial raw diets contaminated with Salmonella. None of those 16 dogs became ill. Additionally, only 7 of those 16 dogs shed Salmonella in their feces.5 While it was not further studied, one might speculate that the 9 dogs who ate Salmonella-contaminated food but did not shed it in their feces effectively neutralized the bacteria.
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