Letters for the week of December 13-19, 2006 

Readers comment on raw food for pets and whether it is natural.

"Purina? That's for Pussies!," Cityside, 11/15

The Great Kibble Backlash
Great article; you outlined most of the benefits of feeding raw food to dogs (and cats). I wish more newspapers would bring this information to their readers' attention, but most fear a backlash from the big kibble companies via a reduction in advertising.
Dave Masney, Bone Apetit Pet Boutique Ltd., Burlington, Ontario

Vegetables and Parasites
Cats and dogs do indeed need vegetables. In the wild they eat the contents of their prey's stomach. Also, I heard somewhere that raw meat often includes parasites. You have to be careful.
Jerri Wilmore, Walnut Creek

Please, no Purina
Loved your article on Frankenprey. My four cats have been on it for the last six years. Eating only whole (flesh, meat, bones, and organs) fowl, rabbit, and fish extended the life of hitherto kibble-eating, disease-ridden Connie by five years. Last year she finally died at the age of twenty years and five months. And Samantha-Joy will be six years old come January — a miracle when you consider that cardiologists up at UC Davis said she wouldn't live to see her second birthday. So, please! No Purina, or any other kind of dry or canned food, for any of my cats. Just look up what zoologists say about feline biology: cats are obligate carnivores — that means that they are obliged to eat whole, raw, prey animals, not grains or vegetables — if they are to live long, healthy lives.
Nancy Lion-Storm, Walnut Creek

A Vet Responds
I have never read such arrant nonsense about dog and cat nutrition. I fear that naïve readers will take such ignorant drivel as fact.

1. "You can see how much they love ... eating these foods." Fact: "Loving eating" something does not in any way relate to nutritional value. People love champagne and ice cream. Dogs love candy bars and garbage. Cats love tuna fish and oil. But none of these items are a complete diet.

2. "This is the natural way." Fact: Dogs and cats are not "natural." They are human-created species living in an unnatural (human-made) environment. To use the word "natural" in the context of feeding dogs and cats is just plain silly.

3. "Large quantities of vegetables and grains are downright unhealthy for dogs ... there is no food source more lacking in essential vitamins, minerals, and enzymes than kibble." Fact: There is nothing healthy or unhealthy about any protein source, whether it is meat, grain, meat by-products, fish, etc. The important thing is that the final protein mix in a food has a protein composition that meets the amino acid (protein) needs of the species being fed. More is known about the nutritional requirements of dogs and cats than about any other species except possibly humans, mice and rats, and chickens up to one year of age. The big, name-brand kibbles contain exactly what dogs and cats need nutritionally, right down the last amino acid (protein) and fatty acid (fat). Don't believe me? Well, just ask Purina, Friskies, Gaines, Science Diet, Iams, Royal Canin, etc. They will happily send you the exact and complete nutritional composition of their foods, and you can compare the kibble to the nutrient requirements established for dogs and cats by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.

4. "Domestic dogs are, by nature, carnivores." Fact: Domestic dogs are, by nature, facultative carnivores — i.e., carnivores under some conditions but not under others.

5. "Commercial dried dog food has been around about eighty years, and we can document that the health of domestic dogs has deteriorated in that time." Fact: There exists no study published in the peer-reviewed literature that demonstrates that the health of domestic dogs has deteriorated over the past eighty years (or sixty or a hundred years). And even if it could be shown that canine health has deteriorated in the last eighty years, what about cause and effect? Deteriorating health could be due to diet or air pollution or water pollution or excessive inbreeding or who knows what.

6. "Dogs have no requirement for carbohydrates." Fact: Not having a nutritional requirement for something does not ipso facto make that something unhealthy. For example, fiber is generally not considered essential for simple-stomached animals such as cats and dogs, but, brother, you'd better have some in their diets, or you may see serious gastrointestinal problems.

7. "Grains and vegetables are impossible for dogs to digest." Fact: Raw grains and raw vegetables are relatively indigestible for dogs and cats. Grains and vegetables in dog and cat kibble are cooked.

8. "A diet of raw animal parts produces nothing but benefits for dogs." Fact: Haven't these ding-dongs heard about the bacteria salmonella, E. coli, and campylobacter and how commonly they are found in raw meat and dairy products? These poor misguided people are playing Russian roulette with their animals' lives and their children's lives; the latter because of the feces-fingers-mouth cycle of disease transmission.

9. "The feces of raw-fed dogs are almost odorless." Fact: The primary source of fecal odor is the chemicals called indole and skatole. They are produced during the digestion of protein. Raw-food diets usually (always?) have a high percentage of animal protein; therefore, the feces cannot be almost odorless — except in the fantasy thinking of raw-food feeders.

10. "Harmful preservatives." Fact: Preservatives in dog and cat foods have been studied to a fare-thee-well. Nothing harmful about them has been uncovered yet. If something harmful is ultimately found, the major animal-food manufacturers would remove it in a New York minute. It is not in the manufacturers' bottom-line interest to use a harmful preservative in their foods once it has been identified. The loss of money in sales and in customer trust would be too financially devastating to continue use of a "harmful" preservative.

11. "The only expert we need to believe about feeding dogs is the dog himself." Fact: Dogs are well known to eat with gusto things that are bad for them, like garbage, roadkill, cat feces, etc. Has the person who made the above statement ever really owned a dog?

12. "Complicated blends [kibbles] ... are based largely on human diets." Fact: More abysmal ignorance. High-quality, commercial dog and cat foods are based exclusively on canine and feline nutritional needs. Human nutritional needs are irrelevant.

13. Not once in this article on dog and cat diet and nutrition does the reporter quote a veterinary nutritionist. I can ascribe this absence only to reportorial incompetence or irresponsibility. If the reporter should choose in the future to write about child nutrition, let's hope that he will include in the article at least one statement from a pediatric nutritionist.

14. "I really resent it when people choose to believe self-serving, profit-driven 'experts' who have a product to sell." Fact: I have no self-interest except for pride in my profession. I have no "product to sell." But I do deplore and detest people who speak for public consumption from "blind and naked ignorance" (Tennyson).
Bruce Max Feldmann, DVM, Berkeley

Say No to Cereal Balls
I just wanted to say thank you for the article that sheds a positive light on raw feeding! It's the rare journalist who's not afraid to piss off their advertisers (Purina, et al.), and I congratulate and thank you for helping shed some light on what should be obvious — dogs and cats are carnivores; carnivores eat meat. Not little cereal balls. It's amazing how we've all been hoodwinked by the kibble companies and the vets who push their products (they should know better, but they've been hoodwinked too!). It's time to let people know that it's okay to use common sense.
Nicole Rempfer, Custer, Kentucky

Ditch the Doggy Odor
This is such a great story! I'm so happy to see raw feeding getting some good publicity. My Akita has been on raw food for a while and we both love it! His coat is soft and shiny, his teeth are pearly white, and he has absolutely no doggy odor. I would recommend this to any dog owner.
Milda Bagley, Newport News, Virginia

The True Scoop
Thank you. I appreciate upbeat articles that don't end on cautionary notes as if to say the enthusiasm is misguided at best. While I understand why you felt the obligation to include comments from purveyors of prefab food, I am delighted that you did not write a "fair and balanced" (thank you, FOX News) final paragraph. Ginny gave you the true scoop and I hope your article encourages more people to research species-appropriate diets for their domestic carnivores.
Chris Ostrowski, Elk Grove

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