AVMA considers stance on raw food diets

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is considering adding its voice to the controversial debate over raw pet food.

At the August AVMA convention in San Diego, the AVMA House of Delegates (HOD) will debate and vote on a proposal that would discourage pet owners from feeding raw or undercooked animal-source protein in cat and dog diets.

In the proposal, the AVMA said that it "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."

In a July 18, 2012 post on its website, the AVMA said its policies are based on a thorough review of scientific literature and are drafted by veterinarians with expertise in relevant fields.

"Our policies are intended to present the scientific facts," the AVMA said in its post. "In this case they are: 1) Scientific studies have shown that raw and undercooked protein can be sources of infection with Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus. These infections can sicken pets and pet owners alike, and can be life-threatening; 2) unless a raw protein product has been subjected to a process that eliminates pathogens that can make pets and people ill, it poses a significant public health risk to both pets and pet owners."

The AVMA clarified that the proposed policy would be only an AVMA policy if approved – it would not be state or federal law.

"The AVMA cannot, and will not, regulate what pet owners choose to feed their pets," the AVMA wrote. "If you already feed raw food to your pet, that’s your choice. This proposed policy is about mitigating public health risks, not about restricting or banning any products."

The AVMA’s proposed policy has already generated a flurry of online comments and discussion from consumers attacking the organization for its stance on the controversial topic. Many consumers have questioned the prudence of feeding commercial kibble in light of recalled dog foods that have sickened animals and humans alike.

On the website Thetruthaboutpetfood.com, author Susan Thixton retorted against the proposed policy, saying that raw pet food isn’t any more dangerous than a visit to the meat department of the local grocery store.

"…All meat is dangerous. We, pet owners – and you, the voting delegates of AVMA – take a risk each time you pick up a package of ground beef or chicken legs at the grocery. Raw pet food is NO more dangerous than any trip to the meat department of any grocery across the country," Thixton wrote. "However, there is one significant difference…most all pet owners that feed a raw meat pet food are fully aware of the risk. They are educated pet food consumers and they understand the need to handle the food properly. Perhaps this is reason why there has never been an incident of human illness linked to a raw meat pet food."

The AVMA House of Delegates will vote on the proposal Aug. 3, 2012.

The AVMA recommends the following when feeding cats and dogs:

· Never feed inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs

· Restrict cats’ and dogs’ access to carrion and animal carcasses

· Provide fresh, clean, nutritionally balanced and complete commercially prepared or home-cooked food to cats and dogs, and dispose of uneaten food at least daily

· Practice personal hygiene (i.e. handwashing) before and after feeding cats and dogs, providing treats, cleaning pet dishes, and disposing of uneaten food

Check back with AAHA’s NEWStat for the results of the HOD vote on Aug. 3, 2012.