AVMA passes raw protein policy

A proposal advising pet owners against feeding animals raw protein diets was passed by an overwhelming majority at the August American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Convention.

The resolution was passed at the House of Delegates (HOD) meeting with 90.9 percent in favor of the policy.

Two amendments were proposed to the policy following discussion by a reference committee – the second amendment passed, while the first did not.

The first amendment added a paragraph acknowledging that there are some pet owners who prefer to feed raw diets, and states that veterinarians should ensure that owners are aware of the risks and measures to mitigate the health risks.

Those opposing the first amendment said they felt that it weakened the policy and that the policy is based on sound evidence that there is risk in feeding a raw protein diet to pets. Those supporting the amendment felt it was necessary to allow veterinarians to serve clients without facing conflict with AVMA policy.

The HOD voted against passing the first amendment with a majority vote of 66.6 percent against the amendment.

The second amendment changed "never feed" in the language of the policy to "avoid feeding." The amendment was passed with a majority vote of 91.9 percent in favor.

Following discussion, the HOD voted on the amended proposed policy. A majority vote was required in order for the resolution to pass. The final outcome of the vote was 90.9 percent in favor of the amended resolution.

On the AVMA blog, Kimberly May, an assistant director in the AVMA’s communications division and director of professional and public affairs at AVMA, reminded readers that AVMA policy is not a binding regulation on veterinarians or pet owners.

"Please keep in mind that this policy is NOT a ban on raw foods for pets and it is not a regulation that requires veterinarians (regardless of whether they’re AVMA members or not) to comply, or even agree with it," May wrote. "It’s not a debate on the healthiness of or risks associated with raw foods versus other commercial pet foods. Nor is it an attempt to force a ban or restrict pet owners’ rights to feed their pets how and what they want."

Read the full text of the final AVMA policy on raw or undercooked animal-source protein in cat and dog diets below:

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 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.

Animal-source proteins of concern include beef, pork, poultry, fish, and other meat from domesticated or wild animals as well as milk* and eggs. Several studies 1–6 reported in peer-reviewed scientific journals have demonstrated that raw or undercooked animal-source protein may be contaminated with a variety of pathogenic organisms, including Salmonella spp, Campylobacter spp, Clostridium spp, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus. Cats and dogs may develop foodborne illness after being fed animal-source protein contaminated with these organisms if adequate steps are not taken to eliminate pathogens; secondary transmission of these pathogens to humans (eg, pet owners) has also been reported.1,4 Cats and dogs can develop subclinical infections with these organisms but still pose a risk to livestock, other nonhuman animals, and humans, especially children, older persons, and immunocompromised individuals.

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 (eg, while hunting)

· 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 (eg, handwashing) before and after feeding cats and dogs, providing treats, cleaning pet dishes, and disposing of uneaten food

* The recommendation not to feed unpasteurized milk to animals does not preclude the feeding of unpasteurized same-species milk to unweaned juvenile animals.