Growing up, feeding our pets was as simple as ripping open the cheapest bag of pet food and pouring it into a bowl for my cat. But many people today believe pets deserve better than that. Where I live, there are big freezers full of raw meat, bones, and other uncooked goodies for our furry friends in most health food stores.


We personally don’t have any pets right now, but two things have stood out to me. One is the price of feeding your pets raw food. It is expensive. Secondly, I’ve realized that this raw meat and vegetable diet is so much closer to the natural diet of animals. Our family cat growing up, Willy, was fed the typical cat food diet. But, living on two acres, he decided that wasn’t adequate. In good weather he hunted all day, bringing down birds, hunting mice, gophers and even small rabbits. He was pretty good at what he did and he certainly ate it raw too. He occasionally brought us offerings of his killings. (For which we were not grateful! Ick!)


But is a natural diet of wild food always good? In our cat's case, he was much more likely to get worms from the birds he caught and ate. Other parasites could also be transferred to him. Those who are against feeding pets raw food also point out that pets can get ill from raw food (including those sold in a health food store), just like humans can — E. coli being one of the biggest concerns.


No pet owner wants a sick pet, yet that is exactly why many pet owners give their dogs or cats raw food. A growing number of pet owners and veterinaries are promoting raw pet food because it goes back to the natural diet of pets. Many believe that the typical bag of pet food is bad for pets because it includes a lot of undesirable ingredients such as fillers, chicken by-products and other animal by-products not considered fit to be consumed by humans. Rancid oils and fats, also not considered edible for humans, are used in some pet foods. Some pet foods are made by extrusion, which further processes the food.


Just as alternative health care providers say that the type of diet we eat effects our health and could be an important factor to rising rates of diabetes, cancer, weight issues, and other problems, the diet our pets eat could affect their health too. A raw meat and vegetable diet is supposed to be easier for animals to break down easily. Raw food contains the naturally occurring enzymes and vitamins, and it logically makes sense to me that pets were not made to eat cooked food and that their digestive tract could break down raw food better than cooked.


Plus, over the years many recalls have occurred involving dry and wet pet food products for a wide variety of issues. Everything from metal tags in food to the 2007 recall after thousands of pets died due to poisoning from high levels of melamine. I can see why pet owners are concerned.


Next month, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) will hold a meeting to decide its stance and policy on raw pet foods. There is a petition asking for protection for pet owners to feed to their pets raw food. Many feel that the AVMA is making moves to try to curb pet owner freedoms. The AVMA responds here to some of the concerns.


Without a pet to feed myself, I look at this issue as an outsider. However, it seems to me that it is much more likely that bad food, processed into little crunchy, gross-smelling bits is much more likely to make animals sick than unprocessed raw food that was made with high-quality ingredients. I don’t think that there is ever a 100 percent way to guarantee that no animal ever gets sick from what it eats. But, I have a feeling that when we finally get a pet (something I hope to do some day), we will look into raw food.


It better be a small pet, though, because raw pet food is expensive!


What about you? Do you feed your pet raw food? Why or why not?


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