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I don’t understand the kerfuffle over the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) newly adopted policy about the feeding of raw or undercooked animal-sourced protein to dogs and cats. Sure, I expected some push-back from the advocates of raw feeding, but the majority of people commenting on the policy seem to have missed the point entirely. Allegations that the AVMA is "in the pocket" of the commercial pet food industry are taking center stage, and they’re entirely off base.

Take a look at the first paragraph of the policy:

The AVMA discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans. Cooking [emphasis mine] or pasteurization through the application of heat until the protein reaches an internal temperature adequate to destroy pathogenic organisms has been the traditional method used to eliminate pathogens in animal-source protein, although the AVMA recognizes that newer technologies and other methods such as irradiation are constantly being developed and implemented.

Ok, so this is not the most elegantly worded statement, but essentially it just says to cook your dog or cat’s meat before you feed it to them.

Further down in the policy statement you’ll find the following:

To mitigate public health risks associated with feeding inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs, the AVMA recommends the following:

  • Avoid feeding inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs
  • Restrict cats’ and dogs’ access to carrion and animal carcasses (e.g., while hunting)
  • Provide fresh, clean, nutritionally balanced and complete commercially prepared or home-cooked food [again, emphasis mine] to cats and dogs, and dispose of uneaten food at least daily
  • Practice personal hygiene (e.g., handwashing) before and after feeding cats and dogs, providing treats, cleaning pet dishes, and disposing of uneaten food

So here it expressly says that nutritionally balanced and complete home-cooked foods are fine. How is this being "a puppet of the pet food industry," as some have claimed?

If you are proponent of feeding raw animal-sourced proteins to your pet, I’m happy to debate the issue with you. I believe the benefits that are often alluded to with regards to this type of diet can also be derived by cooking the meat and combining it with raw (but well-washed) fruits and vegetables and other ingredients necessary to balance out the diet while greatly reducing the risk to canine, feline, and human health.

Don’t agree with me? Fine. The new AVMA policy in no way stops owners from feeding their pets what they want or individual veterinarians from recommending whatever diet they feel is best for their patients. So what’s the big deal?

The AVMA has done a poor job of explaining exactly what is and is not covered by their new policy and why it was adopted in the first place. To remedy the situation, the organization has posted a new FAQ entitled Raw Pet Foods and the AVMA's Policy on its website. Take a look at it. It does a much better job than the policy statement itself of explaining the state-of-affairs surrounding the feeding of raw animal-sourced protein to dogs and cats.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: The Bone Collector by green kozi / via Flickr

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