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Response to AVMA's article

    The American Vet Association is the "peak" body of vets in the US. They are sponsored by pet food companies and pharamaceutical companies, so it comes as no great surprise their opposition to raw foods.

    Click here to see an article written on 15th January, 2005.

    Again, we've taken the time to respond to their article on raw food. It's fair to say that we haven't seen a copy of the actual research itself, but seen the report published in the AVMA, in an article written by Kate O'Rourke. And quite frankly, we shouldn't need to tell the general public about the weaknesses and biases in this report which make it invalid - no - the AVMA should have a big sign at the top of this report which says, "this report has not been done in such a way as to have achieved statistical significance."

    In fact, in many areas of science, such reporting would not make it past "peer review" stage because of it's weaknesses.

    New: I've now included a poll at the end of the article. Please take the time to fill it out after you have read the article.

    Please read below Kate's article, and my response to her claims in the right hand column:

Kate O'Rourke reports.....

Jane Anderson responds......

In recent years, feeding dogs raw meat has become increasingly popular. The trend, however, has sparked health concerns, because of the risk of foodborne illnesses in pets as well as the public health risks of zoonotic infections. Now, a new study that identifies potentially harmful bacteria in 21 commercial raw meat diets bolsters these concerns.

In some parts of the world where responsible diets for dogs (ie: feeding an appropriate raw diet) has been replaced with artificial diets, many consumers are now realising the problems associated with such artificial diets and are now seeking amends for the damage such diets have done to their dogs. Many parts of the world have not had such a large advertising influence from pet food companies and have always fed raw diets.

It is somewhat strange the AVMA has not been as closely monitoring artificial diets (canned, dried, etc) in such the same way. We do however recognise that since a pet food company is one of their major sponsors, there may be some financial disincentives for limiting such investigation.

I am not sure by what you mean by "commercial raw diets", but envisage this is ground food - not something that is an appropriate diet for carnivores either.

I recommend and feed a carnivore appropriate diet. Click here for more detail on what I feed, and to see my dogs, click here, all of whom are in glowing health.

"This has some potential public health concerns for both the animals being fed these diets and their human owners," said Dr. Rachel Strohmeyer, a researcher at the Animal Population Health Institute, Colorado State University. She presented her findings at the annual meeting of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases held in Chicago in November.

I believe it's always wise to look at potential public health concerns, which is why it's surprising that you haven't noted the health concerns for the animals feeding an artificial diet. Perhaps in some additional article you've discussed why over 95% of dogs, by aged 3 when fed an artificial diet will suffer from periodontal disease. Periodontal disease results in the mouth being the entry point for numerous bacteria which then cause health problems in dogs.

It could be worth noting, that when dogs are fed correct raw diets, their owners report significantly less health problems, and that the incidence of periodontal disease is close to zero.

Proponents of raw meat diets say it improves dogs' performance, coat, body odor, teeth, and breath. While high-performance dogs, such as racing Greyhounds and sled dogs, have been fed raw meat diets for years, the trend to feed raw meat to companion dogs is new.

Yes, that's exactly what benefits are found from a correct raw diet, plus more benefits.

It's quite natural that "high-performance" dogs perform best on an appropriate raw diet. Their owners have invested considerable funds into their dogs and want the best performance from them.

While it comes as no surprise that while companion dog owners in some parts of the world (particularly the home of advertising - the US) may be new to raw diet concepts, it is completely natural that they would care as much for the health of their dogs as those owners do of their high performance dogs. As such, seeking better health for their dogs is a subsequent result of finding numerous health issues associated with the feeding of artificial diets.

Note again - feeding of appropriate raw diets to dogs is not new in many parts of the world. This is the way it has always been done.

Because of this trend, and because the safety of these raw diets has received limited attention, Dr. Strohmeyer tested 21 commercially available raw meat diets, two dry dog foods, and two commercial canned dog foods for non-type specific Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp, and Campylobacter spp. The researchers purchased diets of beef, lamb, chicken, and turkey in four months, trying to space the purchasing times far enough apart so that they came from different lots. Three samples from each product underwent bacteriologic culturing each time.

This part of the article shows clearly the first major weakness of the research. In order to achieve statistical significance, "N", or the number of samples, must exceed 100. Once N is greater than 100, the report achieves one of the requirements of validity. Without this, any research can only hope to achieve validity.

In addition, it is surprising that the researchers did not investigate equal numbers of artificial foods as they did raw foods. This is an indication of research bias which brings further distortion to the research.

By the information contained in this paragraph opposite, statistically significant sampling has not been undertaken at any point.

In addition, there is no indication of "blind samples", nor a null hypothesis.

The researchers did not find Campylobacter spp in any of the foods, but non-type-specific E coli was isolated from all raw meat products. Ten of the raw products contained S enterica. "It is really important to note that 99 percent of raw meat samples were contaminated with aerobic bacteria, and 79 percent had gram-negative, probably enterica, contamination," Dr. Strohmeyer said.

There are concerns with this paragraph:

  • why weren't the samples from artificial foods noted
  • "probably enterica" is a hypothesis, not a finding, and as such offers no validity

    why wasn't this investigated further?

The scientists also found non-type-specific E coli in a few of the samples taken from the dry food, and believe post-processing contamination is to blame for these results.

In how many of the samples was this found?

Why have you gone to such lengths to report the exact percentages found in raw food, yet have not reported to the same standard for artificial foods?

Again, this signifies that the writers of the report were tending towards bias against raw foods. Such bias adds towards invalidity of any findings.

"There is a greater apparent risk to animals and humans from feeding a raw meat diet," Dr. Strohmeyer commented. "I really do not think that there is any advice we, as veterinarians, can give to improve safety. You can give basic food safety guidelines like hand washing, cleaning surfaces, and bowls, etc., not letting the food sit out for extended periods of time. I just think that it would be a disservice for a veterinarian to give any recommendation for the safety of dogs and their owners (except to not feed raw meat to pets). Bacteria are not the only health concern, there are also parasites and protozoal organisms that can be transmitted in raw meat, even meat labeled fit for human consumption."

Based on what can only be seen as invalid findings, Ms Stronhmeyer has now jumped to conclusions that her study has not been even set up to provide. ie: she has now jumped to conclusion that because bacteria has been found in raw foods this now must increase the risk to animals and humans.

If this was such the case, why aren't dogs currently being fed a raw diet dying in their thousands? Why aren't humans who feed a raw diet to their dogs dying?

In addition, the finding of bacteria on the artificial food samples has been since ignored in Stronhmeyer's report, and for some reason, the presence of bacteria there seems to be far less important than the finding of bacteria on raw food. Why is this?

Bacteria is everywhere. It is an essential part of our environment and plays a very necessary role in the break down of food and waste products.

Rather than producing a report which has resulted in findings of interest, it has produced nothing of statistical significance, nothing of validity, and appears to be simple and irresponsible scaremongering.

An additional concern is the information Ms Stronhmeyer has reported about parasites and protozoal organizisms - neither of which were investigated in her study, yet she feels compelled to mention such. Such statements add nothing to the weight of Stronhmeyer's argument, but merely shows further the biases possessed by the researchers going into the study.

Other veterinarians, including Dr. Jeffrey LeJeune, a food safety molecular epidemiologist and microbiologist at The Ohio State University, agree that pets should not be fed raw meat. This may be a hard sell, however, to some clients.

Mr LeJeune's opinion adds nothing to the weight of the argument. Reporting of his opinion does not add validity to Ms Stronhmeyer's findings. It is a meaningless sentence.

"From my own clinical experience, owners that feed raw (meat) pretty much have their minds set that they are going to feed raw," Dr. Strohmeyer said. She thinks clients who are thinking about feeding raw (meat), however, can be swayed fairly easily, just by basic education.

This is where Ms Stronhmeyer openly shows her bias. Unfortunately there are fundamental errors in the study that Stronhmeyer has conducted that it is difficult, at best, to attribute any validity to her findings, and it adds no value to the discussion on raw diet.

However, it does indicate a continuing issue in the education of vets on two fronts. Firstly they know little about canine nutrition, and secondly, their research methodology lacks fundamental competence, as not to adequately meet basic research requirements. If this methodology is commonly used within the vet profession, it then calls into serious question other research outcomes Stronhmeyer et al may have done.

It is then we ask - "have these inappropriate research findings been used to the detriment of pets elsewhere?"

We really need the AVMA to start educating their own people as to appropriate research techniques.

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