About a year ago, my visit to a veterinarian left me questioning my decision to feed my dogs a raw diet. Since then, I’ve learned why vets are so critical of raw and why it’s so critical to find one who isn’t.
How should you go about finding a veterinarian who supports raw feeding?
- Find a holistic vet in your area, preferably one who specializes in animal nutrition – you can do so at ahvma.org
- Utilize social sites like Facebook and Nextdoor for recommendations from local raw feeders
- Call and ask, “What are your thoughts on feeding raw?” – if they’re against it – simply move on
- If you don’t have any options in your area, stay away from veterinary franchises (like the VCA), and go to your first appointment ready to defend your decision to feed raw
Why should you find a veterinarian who supports raw feeding?
- The specifics of a raw diet can vary from pet-to-pet – and a certified veterinary nutritionist is qualified to make those calls
- Feeding your dog an unhealthy, unbalanced raw diet can be more detrimental to his/her health than dry kibble
- Modern medicine has a major role in the overall wellbeing of your pet – you want a vet who knows when let nature take its course and when to intervene
Why Should I Find a ‘Holistic’ Veterinarian?
The primary goal of a holistic veterinarian is to take into account all the factors affecting your dog’s health and execute the most minimally invasive treatment possible.
As opposed to Western medicine – which, typically takes the mechanic approach to care. Where does it hurt? How do I make it not hurt anymore? Here’s a pill to make it not hurt anymore…
I’m not implying Western medicine is a bad thing – modern advances in healthcare have saved and improved the quality of countless lives (for both humans and our pets) – in fact, modern care is so efficient at relieving our symptoms, the root causes of those symptoms can be completely missed.
A holistic vet, on the other hand, is more likely to investigate other factors affecting your dog – such as behavior, home life stressors, genetics, medical history, and of course diet & nutrition. Ideally, a holistic vet wants to identify the root causes (there’s most likely multiple) of your dog’s ailment and give him/her the tools to recover using their own immune system.
For reasons I’ll get into later in the article, holistic veterinarians are a lot more likely to embrace raw feeding, because a) it’s outside the mainstream of veterinary practice and b) in addition to their mainstream veterinary education, they’ve also received additional education in canine nutrition.
I Don’t Have a Holistic Veterinarian in My Area – What Now?
If you don’t have a holistic veterinarian in your area – don’t panic yet! There may be pro-raw vets in your area who don’t practice holistic medicine.
1 – Join the Nextdoor App and find local raw feeders – if they’ve been feeding raw for a long time then they’ve most likely found a supportive vet
2 – Search “raw feeding for dogs” in Facebook groups – most regions have a local group
*Pro-tip: The Nextdoor App is a great resource for finding neighbors with freezer burnt raw meat to spare. Also, local FB groups typically know the best butchers in town!
Even if a vet doesn’t practice holistic medicine, knowing they are onboard with raw-feeding is a huge advantage. You’ll have the piece of mind knowing a) your vet is familiar with balancing raw food diets and b) they won’t food-shame you and your dog.
Why Should I Stay Away From Veterinary Hospital Chains?
I’ll get straight to the point on this one – veterinary chains are either in or vulnerable to being in the pocket of the pet food industry.
Is it because they love animals?
No, it’s because they own 9 pet food brands – including Pedigree, IAMS, and Nutro – and they found another avenue to shove their toxic kibble down our throats.
“But, Andrew…” you say, “there are nearly 30-thousand veterinarian hospitals across the country – why avoid the EVERY franchise?”
Because this is not going to stop. Mars Inc is on a buying rampage and other pet food manufacturers will be soon to follow.
…And that’s about as conspiratorial as I like to get in this blog.
Why is it so Difficult to Find a Veterinarian Who Supports Raw Feeding?
Here are the most common reasons veterinarians object to the raw food diet for your dog:
- Raw foods diets aren’t balanced
- Raw food diets aren’t regulated
- Raw food diets expose both people and pets to dangerous bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. Coli
- Raw food diets can result in tragedy, such as pets choking on bones
- There is no scientific research proving that raw diets are more beneficial for your pet than kibble
I feel there is merit to each of these claims, so let’s examine each in more detail
1 – Raw foods diets aren’t balanced – it’s extremely important to do your homework before starting your dog on a raw diet. One reason vets are so critical of raw feeding is they see so many horror stories. Most commonly, when owners only feed their pet ground meat resulting in a very sick dog.
Your dog needs to eat muscle meat, organs, bone, and vegetables to thrive – make sure you know the how and what of raw feeding.
2 – Raw food diets aren’t regulated – this is true, and if you are purchasing your raw food from a commercial supplier you’ll want to make sure they have a great reputation. If you are prepping the raw diet yourself, then look for grade A, grass-fed meat when financially feasible.
3 – Raw food diets expose both people and pets to dangerous bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. Coli – also 100% true – in fact, in a study cited by the AMA, up to 80% of home raw meals may contain Salmonella. Dogs are carnivores – they have a digestion system designed to handle dangerous bacteria. Salmonella is their version of a probiotic.
Humans, on the other hand, cannot handle dangerous bacteria like Salmonella – and there have been statewide outbreaks originating from homemade raw food.
Do everyone a favor and follow these safety protocols when handling raw meat:
- Wash dog bowls with a separate sponge after every meal
- Feed your dog(s) on a hard surface you can disinfect (disinfect after every meal if you have kids!)
- Take your dog on regular walks so they can poop away from where you and your kids play
- Freeze all meat until you’re ready to feed it to your dog, and only leave it in your fridge for a maximum of seven days
I’ve been feeding my dogs raw for nearly two years now and have never had a problem. So, I believe in you.
4 – Raw food diets can result in tragedy, such as pets choking on bones. When feeding your dog bones, I recommend sticking with raw (uncooked) chicken bones. Never feed your dog cooked bones! Other than that, just serve ground bone and you’ll never have a problem.
Aside from that, YOU KNOW YOUR DOG BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE – if you have a small chihuahua, leaving it alone with relatively giant chicken bone isn’t a good idea. If you have a dog who gulps down food in a split second, whole bones are probably off the table.
5 – There is no scientific research proving that raw diets are more beneficial for your pet than kibble – this is also true, but that’s because more studies into raw feeding haven’t been funded. Instead, the studies your veterinarian will most likely quote have been funded by the pet food industry. And somehow those studies keep proving dry, tasteless kibble is the epitome of dog nutrition.
What If My Only Option is a Veterinarian Who Doesn’t Support Raw Feeding?
It’s a difficult situation; but, that’s why I provided the above list – so that you can do your homework before that first visit.
Your vet has the best intentions for the health of your dog – however, there are many forces dissuading him/her from accepting raw food as a viable diet for your pet.
Instead of attacking their thoughts, just come prepared to defend yours, and open to having a discussion with the vet. A decent vet may not like the diet, but they will do everything in their power to support you and the health of your dog.