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Off the back of reading about the AMVA proposed policy on raw pet food diets I found myself on the website of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) http://wsava.org/

Lo and behold, 3 items in I find “Association Develops Global Nutrition Guidelines“, this should be interesting I think to myself, and it is …

The first sentence had all my alarm bells ringing: “In response to the growing need to help place the role of recommending small animal nutrition back into the hands of the experts –the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has developed global nutrition guidelines.”

Who do they think that they need to remove the role of recommending small animal nutrition back from?  I can only think that other than vets (and we’ll come on to them in a second) it would be pet food manufacturers or me and my kind, out there on the internet spreading the word about feeding as nature intended.  A bit more digging and I decide it can’t be the pet food companies because “The GNC  (WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee) met for the 4th time in Birmingham and, where it was endorsed by four leading international pet nutrition companies. In addition to new committee members, Rachel Lumbis, veterinary nurse from the United Kingdom and Dr Minna Rinkinen, private practitioner from Finland; Drs Iveta Becvarova (Hill’s Pet Nutrition), Deb Greco (Nestlẻ Purina PetCare), Elise Malandain (Royal Canin), and Waltraud Off (P&G Pet Care) joined in portions of the meetings.” (http://www.wsava.org/V5.htm)

So it’s likely us vocal raw feeding advocates they’re trying to remove giving nutritional advice from then.  Or maybe I’m just paranoid?  And you know, if vets got proper, independent nutritional training I’d be happy to stick to posting nice photos on my blog to celebrate pets enjoying their natural food and I’d stop typing.  But they don’t, so here I am.

You can read the guidelines here -> 2011 WSAVA Global Nutrition Guidelines. If this was designed to shut me up then frankly it just makes me want to shout louder! I’ve picked out the bits that jarred with me:

“The specific goals of this document are to provide awareness of the importance of nutritional assessment in dogs and cats.”  Hang on a minute, are vets not aware of this already?  Is this new information to them, that nutrition is important?  This scares the living bejesus out of me, if they don’t know this already they shouldn’t be vets!

“Appropriate feeding throughout all life stages can help prevent diet-associated diseases, as well as to assist in the management of other diseases. For example, foods formulated for dogs and cats with chronic kidney disease have been shown to provide significant benefits.”

Am I the only one sitting here wondering why, if you feed appropriately, would your pet develop kidney disease? But it is a genius piece of marketing, buying something dressed up to make you think it is good for your pet when in fact it will make it ill and you can then buy another product to help with that.

And if you don’t believe that food can cause kidney (or for that matter other) problems as well as reading some of the guest blogs then I’d like to draw your attention to the studies that the above paragraph references (note I haven’t gone through the studies in detail):

1. International Renal Interest Society Guidelines. http://www.iris-kidney.com/guidelines/en/treatment_recommendations.shtml  Accessed September 21, 2010.
2. Elliott J, Rawlings J, Markwell PJ, et al. Survival of cats with naturally occurring chronic renal failure: Effect of dietary management. J Small Anim Pract 2000; 41: 235-242.
3. Ross RJ, Osborne CA, Kirk, et al. Clinical evaluation of dietary modification for treatment of spontaneous chronic kidney disease in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006; 229: 949-957. 

So are they saying that kidney disease is either naturally occuring (whatever that means, perhaps a congenital problem?) or spontaneous (I can only assume that means cause unknown) and that they have not considered in formulating this statement that diet could be a cause? At this point I’d quite like to set fire to the paper but I’ll push on!

“Animal-specific factors – Animal-specific factors include the age, physiological status and activity of the pet. Problems related to animal factors are referred to as nutrient sensitive disorders (e.g., intolerances, allergies, and organ specific diseases). Diet choice for these patients should be restricted to those formulated to meet the disease-associated nutritional limitations of the specific patient.”

So, if you have a dog with an intolerance, or an allergy (I’ve ground my ax about how little they appear to have thought about organ specific diseases above with my kidney rant) then they are recommending something “formulated”.  Surely for a dog with an allergy / intolerance the best thing you can do is an elimination diet, and to do that you need to know EXACTLY what you are putting into your dog, and you CANNOT do this with pet food (which is what they must mean by formulated) as you are too far removed from the ingredients.  I know of countless dogs who’s allergies have been totally managed by a raw diet and yet this is not even a possible option in this paper.

What makes me even more angry is that what further implications might result if allergies and intolerances are left unaddressed (and by this I do not mean pumping the dog full of steroids), the body show distress at foods that do not agree with it for a reason.

I’ll now give them some credit, there is some sensible stuff in there about Body Condition Score (BCS) and a note that many owners will see the ideal, healthy condition as being too thin, education is definitely needed here.  This is something I definitely recognise as an issue, more to come on that in a future post.

In the screening evaluation stage that it is recommended is carried out, one of the Nutritional Screening risk factors is “Unconventional diet (e.g., raw, homemade, vegetarian, unfamiliar)”.  First up I am incensed that raw gets lumped in with the abuse that is a vegetarian diet for a carnivore, second I am sad that raw is seen as unconventional when it is the most natural way to feed a pet.  I do, however recognise that if feeding raw you do need to know a little about what you need to feed (e.g. the rough amounts of organ meat) so I can see that if someone feeds raw it would be useful for the make sure they are feeding the right foods over time.

So, having flagged Ted as at nutritional risk as I feed him raw what happens in the second stage, the extended evaluation?

“Evaluate homemade foods.  Ask client about the specific recipe, preparation, storage, recipe rotation or substitution.  Consider sources and amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals; digestibility; bioavailability. Consider specific needs of cats (e.g., amino acids, arachidonic acid, etc.).  Contact a board certified veterinary nutritionist or equivalent to evaluate or formulate a homemade diet (Table 2).”

As I’ve said evaluating a home made diet is sensible, not everyone knows you need to feed some organ meat and that about 5% of the diet over time should be liver for example.  But consult a board certified veterinary nutritionist?  Seriously, are vets incapable of reading, understanding and applying Tom Lonsdale’s “Work Wonders” book or an equivalent publication? I thought they were reasonably intelligent? And frankly, as a raw feeder if my vet wanted me to pay for this service because I feel a natural diet I would laugh my way out of his office and go and find a vet who supports and understands raw feeding.

“Evaluate any unconventional diet, whether commercial or homemade for nutritional imbalances. Evaluate additional risks of raw meat foods (e.g., fresh, frozen, freeze-dried, raw-coated, or other forms). Pathogenic organisms may cause gastroenteritis and other health problems and can be shed in the feces for a prolonged period after ingestion of contaminated raw meat, even if not showing clinical signs. If a patient that has been fed a raw meat diet is hospitalized, evaluate the risk to hospital staff and other hospitalized animals. In addition, raw foods containing bones can be associated with dental damage and esophageal/gastrointestinal obstruction or perforation.”

Again there are 3 references, all are to studies on Salmonella *sigh*, ok here we go, a healthy carnivore’s digestive system is perfectly capable of dealing with salmonella, that’s the throughput, provided you practice appropriate hygiene on input (which you surely do with your own food) and output (who in their right mind doesn’t practice hygiene when dealing with pooh) then it’s really no issue.  And it’s been said before but I’ll say it again, kibble fed pets can shed salmonella but I see no sign of that being flagged.

As for the risk to hospital staff and animals, well surely a lot of the animals that have found themselves in hospital are ill and therefore surely there should be protocols for keeping all the animals safe from possible diseases regardless of diet. I would be furious if a vet took more risks exposing an ill Ted to a kibble fed dog on the assumption it was “safe”.

The age old argument of dental damage and bones, yes it’s possible that weight bearing bones in particular can cause dental damage but where is the warning about the guaranteed dental damage, in the from of tartar and plaque and the diseases that flow from periodontal disease from feeding kibble?

“Additionally, provision of food in dispensing toys may improve the welfare of indoor-housed pets, so changes in feeding containers also may be more important than is generally perceived.”  Raw meaty bones are their own food dispensing toys if you want to enrich a pet’s eating experience, why don’t they mention this?

Now onto interpretation, analysis and action:

“Diet Factors
1. Determine if current amount and type of food is appropriate, based on life stage, lifestyle/activity, disease, body condition, concurrent medications and/or medical procedures.
2. If diet factors are determined to be inadequate, prepare a plan for food and treats that provides appropriate calories and nutrient content for the patient.
3. Consider other food sources in total intake recommendations if necessary.
4. Recommend a specific feeding plan that incorporates pet food, treats, table food, feeding method, frequency, and location.”

Ok, so now I want to punch someone, in step 4 you must incorporate pet food, so vets are being told that every and all dietary problems must have a pet food solution.  Tell that to the guest blog dogs who’s lives have been transformed by avoiding pet food like the plague.

I haven’t been through all the references and I haven’t looked at all the links.  I’ve just commented on what has jumped out at me.  I have looked at one of the links under useful websites, number 12 the downloadable booklets.  I won’t analyse them in detail, but looking at the dog’s one (http://dels-old.nas.edu/banr/briefs/dog_nutrition_final_fix.pdf).  Any information on feeding a dog which refers to them as an omnivore should be instantly discarded as it shows a complete lack of knowledge.  They are scientifically classed as carnivores, yes they are facultative carnivores rather than obligate carnivores but they are carnivores non the less. Get that right and I might listen to you a bit more.  To then go on to say that they are descended from omnivores, so the wolf is now classified as an omnivore, is a joke surely?

Needless to say there is no information on how to feed a natural raw diet and there are telling statements like “Scientific research has shown that an adult dog’s daily diet can contain up to 50% carbohydrates by weight, including 2.5–4.5% from fiber.”  CAN, not needs to, can, well my evening meal CAN contain up to 100% wine but that does not mean it’s good for me, DON’T try and pull the wool over my eyes by using “clever” wording.

I’m a qualified accountant by trade, I was taught that for something to be independent it needs to look and feel independent and this does not pass that test.  For one, the pet food companies are involved, and secondly natural diets do not get a look in as a viable way of feeding.  For this to come from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association who should be protecting our companion animals disgusts me. But it goes to show how far the conspiracy to sell junk food to our pets goes.

And on that somewhat depressing note I’ll cheer you up with a photo of Ted, the carnivore, getting a physical and mental workout (thus improving his welfare) whilst eating food which he is not allergic to, and which keeps his teeth sparklingly clean.