Raw diets for dogs and cats: a review, with particular reference to microbiological hazards.
CITATION: Davies RH, Lawes JR, Wales AD. Raw diets for dogs and cats: a review, with particular reference to microbiological hazards. J Small Anim Pract. 2019;60(6):329‐339.
There is a recent trend to feed pet dogs and cats in Britain and other developed countries on raw meat and animal by‐products using either commercial preparations or home recipes. This shift from heat‐treated processed food has been driven by perceived health benefits to pets and a suspicion of industrially produced pet food. The diets of wild‐living related species have been used as a rationale for raw feeding, but differences in biology and lifestyle impose limitations on such comparisons. Formal evidence does exist for claims by raw‐feeding proponents of an altered intestinal microbiome and (subjectively) improved stool quality. However, there is currently neither robust evidence nor identified plausible mechanisms for many of the wide range of other claimed benefits. There are documented risks associated with raw feeding, principally malnutrition (inexpert formulation and testing of diets) and infection affecting pets and/or household members. Surveys in Europe and North America have consistently found Salmonella species in a proportion of samples, typically of fresh‐frozen commercial diets. Another emerging issue concerns the risk of introducing antimicrobial‐resistant bacteria. Raw pet food commonly exceeds hygiene thresholds for counts of Enterobacteriaceae. These bacteria often encode resistance to critically important antibiotics such as extended‐spectrum cephalosporins, and raw‐fed pets create an elevated risk of shedding such resistant bacteria. Other infectious organisms that may be of concern include Listeria, shiga toxigenic Escherichiacoli, parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii and exotic agents such as the zoonotic livestock pathogen Brucella suis, recently identified in European Union and UK raw pet meat imported from Argentina.