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Response to Graham Peck's article

    Mr Peck is a vet from the UK. He is still coming to grips with the raw diet, and certainly, as yet, does not understand the difference between the diets of carnivores and omnivores. He doesn't understand the difference between a "barf" diet, and an appropriate raw diet (and yes, there is a big difference!).

    Mr Peck has set up a website where he discusses what he thinks are some of the problems with raw diets. Initially he posted his site, taking bits from my site, without giving reference to the source. He has now corrected this, after emails with me.

    In May 2004, we asked Mr Peck if he was prepared to stand up to scrutiny of his claim on the Raw Feeding Web Review email list, where vets are called to account for outrageous and incorrect claims about the raw diet.

    Mr Peck has chosen at this point to not be involved in such discussion. He has however conceded that he does have clients who feed a raw diet to their pets, "whose pets enjoy and thrive on the diet".

    See below where in November 2003, I found Mr Peck's website and started challenging his claims....

    (Note of warning: most vets are pretty poor learners, and hate pushing the learning boundaries. They usually hate it when you dare challenge them!)

Graham Peck says.....

Jane Anderson responds......
BARF - a potentially dangerous dietary fad or nutritional revolution for your dog? As always we attempt to strip away the froth of hype and reveal the "bare bones" of fact to allow you to make an informed choice


Glad you've taken the opportunity to discover for yourself. After all, Graham Peck has been a vet for nearly 20 years, and it's taken him this long to investigate appropriate animal diet. One would first ask, "why has it taken so long?"

However, I'm not sure a way that dogs have evolved to eat over millions of years is best described as a "fad".

A peculiar acronym, BARF initially meant "Born Again Raw Feeders" - used sarcastically to describe dog owners who fed their pet's raw meat. Ironically these very people annexed the term and as the BARF movement has become more mainstream the meaning has gradually moved up market to "Bones And Raw Food" through to its final incarnation as "Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods". Actually most people who began a raw diet, simply know it as "raw diet". "Barf" was a term most people undestood to mean "bones and raw food". Unfortunately the term was hijacked and came to be associated with the myth that dogs are omnivores. Dogs are carnivores. Additionally, since the term was trademarked and commercialised, most people now refer to a raw diet, simply as "raw diet".
The origins of BARF appear to follow the 1993 publication of "Give your dog a bone" by Dr Ian Billinghurst, an Australian vet who privately published it as a guide to feeding dogs naturally. Aimed primarily at his own clients its influence spread rapidly to North America where passionate advocates of this system of feeding have widely published it on the Internet.

Actually, the origins of a raw diet began with evolution. Our dogs and cats, have evolved to eat a carnivorious diet. A raw diet is neither a fad nor a myth. It appears some like to hope it's a "fad" because they mistakely believe it will then "go away".
What is BARF? BARF feeders objective is to avoid feeding cooked and processed food. Instead raw whole foods that mimic those eaten by the dogs' wild ancestors are advocated. These diets tend to be based on feeding raw chicken wings, necks or carcasses with bones, but also other raw meats or even fish. In addition pulped vegetables and fruits are also added to mimic the stomach contents of prey animals that would have been eaten in the past. BARF purists will exclude any commercial diets as they contain cereals and additives; believing these products are directly responsible for innumerable health problems in pet dogs. Raw feeding advocates feed their animals according to the prey model, with which animals have evolved over millions of years to eat this way.

The diet is based on feeding dogs as close to the prey model as possible. Feeding whole carcasses such as rabbit, fish, goat, etc is an appropriate diet for a dog. Where it is not possible to feed carcasses, many opt for raw meaty bones of different varieties.

Since dogs are not omnivores, people who feed an appropriate raw diet to their dogs, do not feed pulped veggies or fruits.

Dogs tend not to eat the stomach contents of any animal because the contents are highly acidic and bitter.

They will, however, shake out the stomach contents, and eat the stomach itself - but not the content.

BARF Claimed Benefits

Advocates of this system of feeding claim numerous significant benefits: [1]

  • Improved dental condition
  • Decreased dog odour and better breath
  • Decreased stool production
  • Decreased or non-existent veterinary costs because the dogs are healthier!
  • Improved stomach and bowel function
  • Reduced allergy signs (itching and wheezing)
  • Improved immune system
  • Improved condition of jaw, neck and shoulder muscles
  • Better and more controlled development of puppies.
Actually, Mr Peck, since you have mis-quoted from my own writing, let me correct you on this, as you seem to have missed out some important benefits of a raw diet.

As such, let me quote directly from my website at: Raw Feeding FAQ:

People who have switched their dogs to a raw diet from commercial dog foods have found the following:

  • dogs who were previously un-energetic, and sluggish become completely new dogs once the raw diet feeding begins
  • allergies their dogs previously had on commercial foods, disappear once they start with the raw diet
  • arthritis has significantly reduced or disappeared in some dogs switched to raw
  • better weight control
  • no more doggy odour!
  • their dogs are living longer on a raw diet than what their other dogs previously had survived on commercial dog foods
  • that their bitches managed their pregnancies better
  • better weight and survival figures in puppies

It is not usual that Mr Peck would not have seen this in his own practice, since he encourages the feeding of commercial dog foods.

The above are merely anecdotal claims and at present remain unsupported by any credible scientific research. Isn't it interesting how Mr Peck needs to have "credible scientific evidence" yet promotes feeding commercial dog food which is yet to scientifically prove it comes anywhere close to be as good as an appropriate raw diet?

If Mr Peck would care to check the research done by the pet food companies, but hidden from the average consumer, he would find an incredible amount of research showing the damage caused by commercial pet foods.

Indeed Mr Peck, although you seem to know of Dr Lonsdale, it seems you haven't read his book, then you would see more information about the damage of pet foods than you ever thought existed. Even more relevant, is this research has been done by the pet food companies themselves. eg: 95% of dogs fed a commercial diet will show signs of periodontal disease by the time they are 4 years old.

Periodontal disease has a very low incidence in dogs fed an appropriate raw diet.

BARF Concerns

A number of health issues have been raised about animals fed a BARF diet:

1. Stomach and bowel problems due to bones:

* Choking - bones stuck in the throat
* Obstruction - bones stuck in the gullet or small intestine
* Perforation - sharp bone fragments that pierce the gut
* Impaction - bony faecal material which accumulates in the large bowel
The first three of these problems are life threatening and require urgent veterinary help to cure.

Indeed Mr Peck, all 4 of these problems are life threatening and require urgent attention.

However, rather than scaremongering (and I notice you haven't noted any of the problems associated with feeding commercial dog food), you fail to include the facts. Namely that the incidence of these issues on an appropriate prey model raw diet is almost non-existent. However, feeding an inappropriate diet, whether it be on kibble (which has a considerable number of deaths each day caused by choking which you fail to mention), and or an inappropriate raw diet, will see incidents such as these. Additionally sticks, tennis balls, and rocks are main culprits for choking, obstruction, and perforations.

Cooked bones can also lead to these problems.

2. Infection problems

Potentially pathogenic bacteria commonly associated with raw meat such as Salmonella or E. coli can cause serious infections. Even if a case is made that dogs can tolerate bacteria-rich food there are equally important concerns for the owners and their family. Unless scrupulous hygiene measures are maintained for the storage and preparation of these raw meats there are real risks of infection.

The reason why there is such focus made on bacteria, is because it helps the dog food companies sell their product by scaring off consumers.

In my vast experience with feeding a raw diet, and those of the many tens of thousands of contacts who are also feeding a raw diet, we are yet to see a case of e-coli or salmonella poisoining on an appropriate raw diet.

However, if you have a dog who has a compromised immune system due to being fed a commercial diet for years, then your dog may have problems with rotten meat.

However, advocates of an appropriate raw diet, recommend you feed your dog good quality carcasses/raw meaty bones.

"Scrupulous hygiene measures" is another scare tactic, often used by those trying to sell anti-bacterial products, which are now being associated with the creation of "super-bacteria".

While hygiene is important, the fanatical position of Mr Peck is purely trollop.

The only cases I have heard of, of dogs suffering from salmonella and e-coli poisoning, have been in dogs on commercial diets.

3. Dietary Imbalance

Owners who formulate their own BARF diet may fail to provide a balanced diet for their dog giving rise to significant health problems. Despite the fact the purists would argue a properly prepared BARF diet will be balanced, many BARF feeders do supplement the diet with either dog food or add a mineral and vitamin supplement.

The "balanced diet" position is another myth promoted by dog food companies and their puppet vets who use it to try and scare consumers that they couldn't possibly be smart enough to feed their dogs appropriately.

Now consumers are becoming increasingly aware that feeding dogs is easy, and when based on the prey model is far simplier than vet puppets and pet food companies would like to have us believe.

It's a shame that vets like Mr Peck seem to prefer their clients feed their dogs the poison that comes from commercial pet foods, than spend 20 minutes teaching clients appropriate ways to feed their dogs.

Unfortunately, the myth of needing to feed vitamins and supplements continues, but increasingly, pet food owners are realising that it is large pharmaceutical companies that benefit most from the feeding of vitamins to our dogs, and our dogs receive no benefit.

Indeed a schism seems to be developing over this issue with vet Dr Lonsdale recommending the avoidance of supplements as they "create imbalance". However Dr Billinghurst advocates a growing number of supplements for use with his BARF preparations that not only balance the diet but "cleanse the digestive tract". Also advising that, "Vitamins and minerals at optimum levels promote growth, health, stamina, reproductive ability, disease resistance, detoxification and longevity". There are indeed differences of opinion as to an appropriate raw diet. Dr Lonsdale's research comes from the position that correctly, dogs are carnivores. Mr Billinghurst's is based on the incorrect position that dogs are omnivores. This is the same position as the dog food companies, so it is natural to see such division.

Problems with Feeding BARF Diets

Costs will probably be the same as the better quality commercial diets, possibly more if you are buying the commercially available BARF diets rather than preparing it yourself.

BARF diet is inconvenient. It requires a significant amount of time to prepare the food. Each day handling large amounts of raw meat, pulverising vegetables and preparing meal sized portions.

As a matter of fact, almost everyone who feeds an appropriate raw diet, can do so at a considerably cheaper price than commercial dog foods. Additionally, because their dogs do not have the illnesses caused from feeding commercial dog foods, their owners are not wasting their money with unnecessary vet visits.

Well we're sorry you believe an appropriate raw diet is inconvenient. Personally, I'd much rather spend the 5 mins a day feeding my dozen dogs and cats, than I would spending the 20 mins a day cleaning up the enormous smelly stools of dogs fed a commercial diet. Of course, I don't have to spend the time washing the horrible "doggy smell" from my dogs, because unlike the commercially fed dogs, my dogs don't have this smell.

Additionally, there is not "large amounts" of raw meat to handle, and since dogs are carnivores, there is no need to pulverise vegetables (unless of course you use this as a calming mechanism after reading trollop written by vets).

There is little, if any, preparation required for an appropriate raw diet for dogs. Clearly it seems, Mr Peck, you would prefer to continue to promulgate myths in the hope of scaring people off.

Whether buying commercially prepared BARF or preparing your own you'll need to buy a dedicated freezer to store the food. Obviously then, the food requires defrosting prior to use. Why do you need a separate freezer? Many who feed just one or two pets easily store the food in their own freezer. Those who do have a separate freezer tend to do so because they have multiple pets and buy in bulk.

And yes, defrosting is hard isn't it! But again, Mr Peck, why are you making this seem vastly more difficult, when it simply isn't?

Let me state my position up front, I'm not an advocate of BARF diets. Yes I acknowledge that some commercial pet foods use poor quality ingredients, contain large amounts of fillers such as cereals and significant amounts of preservatives to extend shelf-life. But anybody who really believes that a manufacturer can provide 50kg of dog food for 10.00 and isn't cutting corners has led a very sheltered life. As with most things you get what you pay for. Well duh! As such, you are unable to write an objective report. Please tell me of one commercial pet food that doesn't use inappropriate ingredients! Name just one! You can't, because they all use inappropriate food for dogs.

Oh, and where I live, it costs just as much for good vet advice, as it does for poor vet advice.

And actually, most people who feed their dogs an appropriate raw diet, can get 50kg of great food for less than what you've mentioned for cheap and crappy commercial food.

At the end of the day most vets are happy to recommend the better quality diets to owners. Huge sums of money have gone into understanding the nutritional requirements of all ages and breeds of dogs. More importantly scientific research has also provided us with prescription diets specially formulated to help address various medical problems such as kidney failure. The contribution of these diets in managing many serious medical conditions cannot be overstated. Yes, well as long as vets receive commissions and kickbacks from pet food companies, and in addition, receive the financial benefits of having to treat unnecessarily ill animals, their practices, using their standard way of operating, rely on commercial pet food to survive. After all, if you spend all your time in treatment of sick animals, rather than educating owners about how to stop their dogs from getting sick, then it's unsurprising that vet profits will fall when dogs are fed an appropriate raw diet.

And yes, huge sums of money have gone into research for pet food companies. After all, they are taking poison and waste and trying to change it into something they can sell, while hiding the side effects.

And as for your statement as to how they have "managed" health problems - unfortunately you and they receive no pat on the back for firstly causing those problems. In addition, there is an increasing amount of evidence that those so called "prescription" dog foods are not fixing the problem at all.

Heck, why not stop our dogs from getting obese, and getting kidney disease first! Let's remove the cause, otherwise, all we will do is continue to try and eleviate symptoms.

However, both you, Mr Peck, and I, as well as most consumers, recognise that both pet food companies and pharmacuetical companies make a lot of money out of making our pets sick firstly.

One would acknowledge that the presence of bones in the diet can help reduce dental problems. However there is nothing new here. Vets and dog food manufacturers have been long aware of this aspect of healthcare. For dogs that are prone to tartar build up and periodontal disease specially formulated foods to help minimise this are available. Vets have also been advocating dental hygiene measures with teeth brushing and the use of appropriate chews for years. When dogs are fed an appropriate raw diet, dental problems are a rarity. Unfortunately, as stated earlier, when 95% of dogs on a commercial diet will suffer from periodontal disease caused by their diet, it's of no surprise that the pet food companies have seen an additional niche, accidently created by them, to yet again sell more products.

Brushing dogs teeth is no replication for an appropriate raw diet, and can cause its own set of issues, and dog "chews" have never been found to reduce periodontal diseases in dogs.

Wouldn't it just be simplier to recommend an appropriate raw diet? Or would this mean you'd lose a heck of a lot of business?

Would one advocate a BARF diet? Well no on balance. However I believe in informed choice. If the idea appeals to you, your dog enjoys it and you are prepared to tolerate the inconvenience and potential health risks of handling and freezing large amounts of raw meat then go for it. Why would you recommend a raw diet when the outcomes of such would fundamentally change your practice and your approach, and more scarily, force you to admit you'd be recommending the very cause of many of your patients' health problems. Think of all those people who have trusted you for so long!

Think of all those people who have turned to the internet to educate themselves, and finally figured out the reason for their pets' ailments was through a medium recommended by the very person they thought they could trust!

Pet owners are now realising the scare tactics of vets like Mr Peck are to the detriment to their pets, and would rather the so called inconvenience of a raw diet, than having their pets be sick and die an early death on an inappropriate diet.

The dog owner who feels that feeding a BARF diet might provide health benefits beyond those currently achieved with quality commercial diets and modern day pet health care, will doubtless welcome the opportunity. Yes, dog, cat, rabbit, ferret, chicken, and every other type of pet owner, is now finding out that the commercial pet foods are nowhere near as good as what a natural diet is.

As with so many areas of pet and indeed human health care the various camps appear to be polarising into the naturalistic / holistic and evidence based feeding cliques. Unfortunately the large body of testimonials and anecdotal evidence is not compelling from a scientific point of view. The mish-mash of dietary recommendations, suggested supplementation and woolly, if not miraculous, health claims give little confidence in the hyperbole of the more strident advocates. Keep up your research Mr Peck, and one day, we look forward to you showing us the completely non-existant research detailing how commercial pet food comes within a bull's roar of being as good as an appropriate raw diet.
What the large body of testimonials may do is highlight areas worthy of further investigation using rigorous scientific trials. Until however significant scientific evidence is forthcoming from such trials then most veterinary surgeons will be unlikely to endorse the use of these diets. Isn't it strange that Mr Peck still hasn't been able to see research indicating that his beloved commercial foods are as good as an appropriate raw diet, yet still can't see beyond them?
For the open-minded owner who wants the best for their pet I can only recommend that you make an informed choice, though achieving that can be a challenge. Entering "BARF diet" into one of the search engines produced over 3,000 links, the majority of which can only be described as a mixture of BARF fundamentalism and rampant misinformation. I'm glad you are recommend people make their own choice, because as so clearly seen from your article, they are not going to get it from you.

And yes, there is lots of mis-information on the internet, some of which is indeed written by vets.

Most owners I suspect and hope will be happy to continue to use the convenient quality diets that along with improved healthcare have given our pet dogs a quality and length of life that would have been undreamed of 50 years ago. Actually, I'd suggest that if you told pet owners the side effects of feeding commercial pet foods, I'm sure they would not feed it. The healthcare has improved, however, it has been driven by the illnesses created by pet foods themselves. Frankly, I wish research money was spent in ways which led to overall improvement in dog health, rather than by artificially created disorders.

And research has actually shown us, that since the introduction of pet foods, illnesses have dramatically increased, and dog life span is somewhat shorter!

But heck, who wants the inconvience of healthy long living dogs!

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Jane's dogs

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