Saturday, August 1, 2009

Veterinarians' Warnings About RMB

Feeding carnivorous pets the raw meaty bones (rmb) they evolved to eat may not seem difficult, and it is not hard in practice, but there are barriers to adopting rmb. The most difficult obstacle most pet owners face is their veterinarian's warning that feeding raw meaty bones is dangerous for their pets.

Vets are trusted professionals that owners need to inoculate, treat injuries, and prescribe medications for their pets. If owners ask about, or confess they feed, raw-meaty-bones, many vets launch into a diatribe about (1) pets' need for a "100% complete and balanced" processed food and (2) the dangers of feeding pets raw meats and meaty bones. The disadvantages of processed food diets are dealt with in other blogs. Here I focus on vets' warnings about rmb.

Veterinarians' warnings come in five categories: Bacteria, Bone Splinters, Broken Teeth, Choking, and No Research to Prove RMB is Superior to Processed Foods. For more thorough treatment of Myths about Raw Feeding, go to www.rawfed.com/myths.

Bacteria

Let's assume the raw meaty bones you feed your pets are purchased at the grocery store or butcher that supplies the meats you eat and feed your family. Raw meats and poultry intended for human use often carry some bacteria, in small enough qualtities to pass USDA inspection but enough to colonize and multiply if given the right conditions. Bacteria are especially common on commercially raised chickens and in ground meats.

Humans generally cook meats before eating, which destroys most bacteria. Government warnings tell you to store meats at cool temperature, to handle raw meats with care, and to cook meats throughly to prevent bacterial illnesses. These cautions apply especially to commercially raised poultry and ground meats.

Human digestive tracts are long and convoluted, allowing time for bacteria to multiply and potentially cause digestive problems, or worse. People with healthy immune systems are unlikely to get ill from food-borne bacteria unless the bacterial load is enormous. People with compromised immune systems must be more cafeful about how they prepare foods.

Dogs, by contrast to humans, have shorter digestive tracts and greater acid concentrations in their gastric system, both of which allow healthy animals to consume safely even raw meats with large bacterial loads. Think of how many bacteria would be found on a 3-day old meaty bone, carefully buried and reclaimed by your beloved dog. I don't advise feeding rotting meat, but dogs often choose to scavenge ripe meats, just as their wolf brothers do. Dogs' stomachs have a high concentration of acids that allows them to digest bones. Most bacteria do not survive these acid concentrations.

Wolves/dogs digest foods and pass through excrement in a few hours. This rapid digestive system does not allow bacteria time to colonize and multiply. As long as dogs have healthy immune systems, they can process raw meats in any form they find them. Dogs with compromised immune systems should be protected from bacterial contamination. The human-grade meats and poultry you purchase at the grocery store are unlikely to challenge dogs' digestive systems.

Cats eat fresh meats only. They are usually quite picky about the condition of their food. Cats that eat rmb are very unlikely to get sick from bacteria. Their short digestive tracts, highly acid stomachs, and picky eating all protect them from bacterial problems.

Bottom line: Bacterial loads that could be a problem for pet owners are unlikely to pose a threat to dogs and cats. Owners should store meats properly, wash their hands after handling raw meats, and clean meat cutting surfaces with anti-bacterial solutions (10% bleach is a good one) to protect their own health, not their pets'.

Bone Splinters

Pets consume bones as part of the rmb diet. Bones provide the minerals dogs and cat need for strong bones and healthy organ systems. Consumable bones, such as chickens, rabbits, and small prey, are chewed up and digested. Harder bones from larger prey (sheep, goats, pigs, cattle) are gnawed and scaped, and some bones partially consumed (such as ribs). Most bones from large animals are not eaten, but the meat is gnawed off, thereby cleaning predators' teeth.

RAW BONES DO NOT SPLINTER. COOKED BONES SPLINTER. Most vets who claim to have extracted bone fragments from pets do not know that the bones consumed were cooked. Prohibitions against feeding chicken bones come entirely from cooked chicken bones. Cooked chicken bones, thrown carelessly to family pets after dinner, can indeed result in bone fragments caught in pets' throats and intestines. Raw chicken bones are crunched up and digested without problem.

Most extractions that vets perform come from pets' ingestion of inedibles, such as balls, sticks, and toy parts. Yet, they warn constantly against giving pets raw meaty bones, which pose little to no hazard to pets and provide the enormous benefit of cleaning their teeth and keeping their mouths disease-free.

Broken Teeth

Weight-bearing bones of large prey can be a hazard to pets' teeth. So-called recreational bones, with little or no meat attached, should not be given to vigorous chewers, because they can chomp so hard they crack or break teeth. Large bones with a lot of meat attached do not pose that risk, because the animal focuses on gnawing meat off the bone, not on chomping down on the bone. Hard bones should be removed promptly after the meat is gone.

Bones in chickens, rabbits, fish, and small game pose no risk to teeth. These bones are chewed, swallowed, and digested. Ribs and smaller bones from large animals are not a threat, because they are not so hard as femurs and are partially edible. Most rmb is fed with edible or partially edible bones that do not break pets' teeth. With so much edible bone available, there is little reason to provide hard, inedible bones to pets.

Choking

Pets need to chew their food, both to keep teeth clean and to get digestive juices mobilized for digestion. When pieces of rmb are too small, pets may try to swallow them whole, which can cause choking.

Obviously, the right size for hunks of meat and meaty bones depends on the size of the pet and how voracious an eater he is. Toy dogs and cats can be safely fed small pieces, such as chicken necks, wings, and drumsticks. Larger pets need larger pieces, such as chicken quarters, halves, and whole chickens. The principle is to feed rmb in hunks or whole prey large enough that the pet must chew it before swallowing.

Adult dogs, who have gulped down kibble, may try to gulp down rmb. It is important to give them hunks of rmb they have to chew and cannot swallow whole. Once they experience the joy of gnawing meat off bones and chewing up large hunks of meat, most will cease gulping their food. Puppies raised on rmb seldom have a problem with choking, because they are experienced chewers.

Most choking problems that vets see involve inedibles the pet has tried to consume, such as tennis balls, shoes, and sticks.

No Research to Prove RMB is Superior to Processed Foods

Veterinarians have been taught that there is no scientific research to prove that raw-meaty-bones is a better diet than processed pet foods. Some of them probably believe it. Indeed, studies that compare raw meaty bones diets to processed pet foods are rare and old. One might think that such a important issue would garner a lot of research support, and answers would be forthcoming. Unfortunately, that is not a reality in the conspiratorial world of veterinary research.

Pet food companies sponsor or hire most veterinary research. Their commercial interests would not be served by sponsoring research that compares their cooked starchy kibbles with species appropriate raw feeding. Pet food companies already know that raw-meaty-bones is a superior diet to any they can cook up.

So, they sponsor research on minute biochemical assays and physiological responses that are as distant from dietary comparisons as possible. Faculty researchers get the publications they need for advancement, and pet food company get the thanks -- a transaction that continues to protect commercial pet foods from the searing criticisms they deserve.

Veterinary investigators know that a study of comparative diets would benefit pets and their owners, but if they conducted a scientifically credible study, they would lose support from pet food companies that are significant benefactors of vet schools, vet students, vet conferences, research seminars, and professional meetings. It is difficult to communicate how corrupt the veterinary establishment is, until you have looked into their world.

It is true that there are no well-designed and executed studies that compare raw-meaty-bones to processed pet food diets. But one does not have to look far to find plenty of evidence to support rmb. First, contemporary genetics tells us that dogs are a suspecies of gray wolves and share the same digestive system. Wolves eat whole prey -- meat, organs, and meaty bones. That diet has sustained them through thousands of years of evolution. Similarly, cats are close relatives of desert wild cats who subsist entirely on whole prey.

Second, tens of thousands of pet owners testify online and in print about the amazing improvements they observe in pets' health when they switched from commercial pet foods to rmb. Although a few testimonials do not constitute scientific evidence, findings from many thousands of pet owners and a few renegade veterinarians do constitute strong presumptive proof of the value of rmb.

Third, the damage done by commercial pet foods to dental health is incontrovertable. The American Veterinary Dental Association reports that by 3 years of age, 85% of dogs and 75% of cats have gum disease serious enough to require professional treatment. Untreated periodontal disease sends bacteria into the blood stream, carrying disease to all the major organs. Pets' immune systems are overwhelmed by chronically infected mouths. Veterinarians see and smell pets' foul mouths every day in their practices; they know how serious the problem is. No one denies this epidemic of infected gums and later chronic diseases results from feeding pets starchy, commercial pet foods.

Vets see pets fed rmb with universally clean teeth, healthy gums, and strong immune systems. They don't see rmb-fed pets often, because they don't get sick often. When vets do see healthy older pets with perfect teeth, they still express concern about the hazards of feeding pets rmb. What could be more hazardous to pets' health than chronic infections and diseases from kibbles and cans?

Finally, good common sense tell us that a species appropriate diet has to be better than a commercially processed one. Physicians tell their patients to eat fresh foods, not to eat McDonald's burgers and fries at every meal. For human omnivores, fresh meats, fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains constitute a healthy diet. For carnivores, whole prey -- meats, organs, and meaty bones -- constitute a healthy diet. Wolves and wild cats do not eat starches or cooked foods. They eat raw-meaty-bones.

We really do know how to feed ourselves and our pets appropriate, healthy diets, even if we do not always follow these principles. Veterinarians and pet food companies also know what constitutes a healthy diet for pets. Eventually, veterinarians will be called to task for promoting and selling commercial pet foods that destroy pets' health.

1 comment:

  1. When it comes to pets, many owners often neglect a critical aspect of pet ownership, which is emergency preparedness. Animals are very spontaneous and curious creatures that are quick to get themselves in trouble by consuming something hazards or by engaging in something dangerous. Knowing how to respond in a situation where an animal's life is in danger is important. Also, many animals are victims to illness and accidents just like humans are, so being financially prepared can lessen any burden associated with emergency care.

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