Got Questions on the AVMA’s Raw Pet Food Policy?

The AVMA’s newly adopted policy on raw or undercooked animal-source protein in dog and cat diets sparked quite a discussion. It’s a controversial topic, no doubt about that. And we realize that there are questions. You may have questions as a practicing veterinarian, and your clients may have questions of their own. 

So what is the policy, what was the motivation behind it and why is the topic so important in the first place? You’ll find answers to these questions and more in our newly created FAQ, “Raw Pet Foods and the AVMA’s Policy,” which is designed to help both practitioners and the public understand more about the policy and to add some context to the debate about the potential benefits and risks associated with a raw diet. 

The policy, which was approved by the AVMA House of Delegates last month, isn’t a comparison of pet foods. Nor is it a condemnation of raw foods. It is a caution against feeding raw foods that aren’t adequately treated to prevent pathogens. And it was developed in response to a recognized risk associated with raw foods and the scientific support that pets fed raw diets are at risk of becoming Salmonella carriers and could potentially infect people, particularly the very young, very old and those who are immunocompromised. 

The policy is not a ban on raw foods for pets and it is not a regulation that requires veterinarians (regardless of whether they’re AVMA members or not) to comply, or even agree with it. It’s all about pet and people health, and trying to inform the public that there are risks associated with raw diets.

9 thoughts on “Got Questions on the AVMA’s Raw Pet Food Policy?

  1. Hi AVMA,

    I think that this is a very heated debate and it’s understandable.

    There’s no question that high carb pet foods cause disease. Pet foods with tons of fillers are bad for a pet’s health. Furthermore, dry pet foods cause constant dehydration.

    So, what is left is wet foods that are high in protein and low in carbs.

    So, the real question is what kind of wet food is best for a cat or dog? Is it “raw” or is it cooked but low in carbs?

    The benefit of raw is that none of the good stuff is cooked off. The drawback of raw is that it has a higher chance of containing dangerous bacteria.

    So, what to do?

    At least canned and cooked solves most of the bacteria concerns. But is raw really an unnecessary risk?

    I really don’t know.

    For now, I’ve been feeding my cats canned and cooked three times a day. I leave a little dry food out during the day and overnight but not too much of it.

    AVMA has given the green light for canned and cooked, so that gives me more confidence in my current choice. At least it’s a good middle ground though some of the good stuff gets cooked off. I hope they don’t cook the canned wet food in too high a temperature or for too long. It would be ideal if it was just high and long enough to kill off the dangerous bacteria.

    But to be honest, I’ve been toying with the idea of feeding my cats raw food for a while and will probably give it a try in the near future. It’s what they eat in the wild and it makes sense.

    I would think a cat would have quite a bit of resistance to the bacteria in meat but I’m a little wary of it anyhow. Additionally, their intestines are short and straight so nothing stays in there for very long.

    I’m really glad that a lot of vets weighed in on this article. The more, the merrier. Thank you for this article and thanx to the vets that have commented. That was very helpful.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

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  3. from the FAQ page
    Q: Have cases of human illness been associated with raw food diets?
    A: To date, there have been no reports of human illness associated with raw food diets.
    Q: Have cases of human illness been associated with commercially processed kibble diets?
    A: Yes, there have been cases of human salmonellosis associated with commercially prepared diets.
    these answers fly in direct opposition to this new policy!

    the credibility of the AVMA among educated pet owners has been going downhill for a while, this just lost the shred of respect that was left

    • You nailed it, Michelle, but I’ll put add few more taps…

      The FAQ claims, “However, proof for these purported benefits is currently restricted to testimonials, and no published peer-reviewed studies exist to support claims made by raw diet advocates.”

      The truth? There are multiple studies by different agencies that clearly support benefits to feeding raw. Like this one that illustrates, among other things, longer life expectancies: Or this report discussing the oral health benefits of ripping, tearing and scissoring through meat, bones and tendons:

      And this doesn’t even touch upon the studies showing high protein, low carb, high moisture diets as beneficial to carnivorous health on many levels, or all the studies linking commercial foods – especially kibble – with every single disease on VPI Pet Insurance and Banfield Pet Clinic 2011 Top Ten Disease lists.

      The FAQ claims, “No studies have examined differences in animals fed raw animal products to those fed any other type of diet (kibble, canned, or home cooked) with the exception of looking at the effects on digestibility.”

      The truth? There *are* studies comparing raw and commercial diets on various nutritional profiles as well as simple digestibility, like this one:

      In addition, this is a thoroughly disingenuous statement, as nutrition is the very foundation of physical health and immune system strength, and digestibility has a profound impact upon the amount of nutrients absorbed from the foods, the workings of the entire digestive tract and the amount of stress placed upon the digestive tract. Too little absorption of nutrients equals mediocre or poor nutrition, improperly digested material inhibits motility through the digestive tract which can lead to chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea, and forcing the digestive tract to work harder than it was ever designed to with ingredients it was never meant to process can lead to inflammation and all the attendant ills associated with that, including cancer.

      Furthermore, there are many, many other routine sources of human pathogenic illnesses. Transference from reptiles, hedgehogs, chicks, ducklings and petting farms have all been documented – not to mention all the kibble contaminations!, yet there are no policies against any of these bacterial sources.

      In fact, there is *no* other AVMA policy so specifically targeted that it recommends that vets not use or recommend a certain product. Not one!

      No matter which way they twist or turns the “facts”, the only reason for creating a policy that addresses a scenario that has NEVER HAPPENED was to scratch the backs of their multimillion dollar sponsors in the pet food industry.

  4. The recent AVMA recommendation against raw food is a defensive position at best. It is a way to deal with the fundamentally unsafe meat produced in this Country. Under APHIS regulation and animal protein producer’s huge facilties, raw meat is very unsafe from the grocery. Raw food safety starts with the meat source and processing. I think the AVMA could have been more proactive about this blanket recommendation.

    • Dr. Gaskin, I agree with you about the poor quality of our meat/food today. Do you really think this policy has to do with the health & safety of our pets? I think not. The problem with the our food should be dealt with by our Government and they are not protecting us like they should. Why doesn’t our Government oversee the importing of tainted chicken & everything from China? China’s exports as a whole are killing us. So I believe some of our problems could be addressed if our Government limited or stopped the importing of tainted products from China AND our Government SHOULD inspect these few meat processing plants, there aren’t that many, the big ones are swallowing up the smaller ones. So rather than making a policy about raw feeding for our dogs – why don’t they start doing something about protecting HUMANS from the poor quality of food being processing and sold in the US????

  5. This is directed at the AVMA Leadership and Bruce Kaplan, DVM – Are you educated in canine nutrition? Most Vet’s are not. I would never take any direction from a Vet regarding canine nutrition, since the majority of Vets RAM one of the worst commercial dog foods down their patients throat for a kick back from Hills.
    That food WILL NOT flourish the health of any pet. My 11 year old Yellow Lab has to be euthanized because his Vet’s over vaccinated him annually, over prescribed dangerous medications (Rimadyl, prednisone, etc.) at the drop of a hat and recommended the worst kibble on earth, thanks to that he was a blind, cancer ridden dog full of tumors, arthritis, etc. etc. etc. Now I know better, I feed my dogs a RAW diet and they flourish. Now I have a 12 year old Corgi & a 14 year old Border Collie with NO diseases and very healthy! This new policy is all money related. We are all on to you and the FDA – Have a pleasant day.

    • I totally agree with Pinky Collins regarding vet’s nutritional expertise, and most certainly about the over vaccinating of our pets. In fact, I can relate the flare-ups of my cocker’s horrible yeast outbreak onsets immediately following her yearly vaccinations. These will cease, and will be replaced by blood titers to assess her immunity. Since recently graduating to raw diet, though the yeast outbreaks have not ceased, they most certainly are not as severe. It is easly to target salmonella when there are many sources!

  6. A wise, intelligent policy for AVMA!

    After serving in the U.S. Public Health Service as a CDC epidemiologist 1963-65, I entered private small animal practice. During my nearly 24 years of practicing veterinary medicine before retirement I routinely recommended to clients not to feed their pets raw meat, poultry or egg products…for the same reasons cited now in this new AVMA policy.