Raw Diets and Assistance Dogs

Several comments to the last blog brought up the issue of Delta’s new policy of banning pets fed with “raw protein food” from being Delta Society Pet Partners. I’m guessing that although they were aware that an increasing number of people feed raw food to their pets, (Delta itself cites the “increasing use of raw protein diets” as a reason for their policy), they were not expecting the firestorm that blazed across the dog world once their policy was announced.

Delta, as you probably know, cites studies that animals fed raw diets have increased amounts of pathogenic bacteria compared to dogs fed cooked food. Indeed a study out in 2008 found that dogs fed raw diets had increased  levels of salmonella and E. Coli in their stool. However, as the excellent review of this issue published in Whole Dog Journal includes, raw fed dogs also shed higher levels of Clostridium difficile and MRSA, the antibtiotic resistant bacteria that is wrecking havoc in hospitals. It is true that the numbers don’t quite balance: 25% of the cooked-food dogs shed C. difficile, compared to only 12 % of the raw-fed ones, while 77% of the raw-fed dogs shed salmonella compared to 20% of the cooked food dogs.

However, as Whole Dog Journal points out, this one study is not enough for us to truly know the impact of bringing raw food dogs into nursing homes and hospitals. Exhibit one: Dogs in a 2009 study appeared to be picking up pathogens from the health care facilities that they were visiting: Dogs who visited these locations were 4.7 and 2.4 times more likely to have MRSA or C. difficile on their fur or paws. Exhibit 2: As is often the case, there is yet any evidence that being raw-fed was the cause of higher levels of certain types of pathogens in the raw-fed dog group.  There are many, many variables to consider here, and with small sample sizes and nothing but correlational data, we  need to be careful about turning correlations into causes.

As most of my readers know, I tend to look at most issues with as much balance as I can muster. In this case, in a very general sense, we know that 1) just the presence of pets increases the internal production of oxytocin, which boosts the immune system, decreases pain and feelings of isolation and loneliness (among other benefits.) We also know that 2) dogs are good carriers of pathogens like bacteria, on their fur, their tongues and their paws. Thus, there’s a balance here between putting people with compromised health at a higher risk of infection, or depriving them of the health benefits of pet visitations.

As much as I value balance (or perhaps, because of it), I have to say I am more than surprised and disappointed by Delta’s decision. I can’t see that banning raw-fed dogs does anything to decrease the likelihood of pathogens being brought into a facility. What about dogs who rolled outside right before they entered? What about what the people ate, did, or brought something in on their shoes? Delta even suggests that if you have one raw-fed dog at home, you shouldn’t bring in another dog who isn’t if they live in the same home. Really? What about people who eat sushi?  What about dogs who eat soy products? That’s “protein” after all… no tofu for Fido? What about feeding raw vegetables, which are common sources of pathogens?

Of course, dogs who enter health care facilities should have been recently bathed, with special attention paid to cleanliness. But then, so should the people who bring them. And so should the people who work there. But keeping the sick and the elderly in a sterile box, with no opportunity to interact with animals is not, in my mind, good health care. It seems there is a recent trend toward sterilizing the world and I think that is a tragedy. I just learned that all animals are banned from the schools in Madison, Wisconsin, except assistance animals. As a biologist, I find that heart breaking.

What about you? What do you think of Delta’s policy? If you feed raw, do you think about pathogens more than you did beforehand? I’m curious what you think . . .

MEANWHILE, back on the farm: The bees are out in full force this week, busy as . . . (okay, I won’t say it) gathering pollen and nectar to make enough honey to get through the winter. I adore bees, after participating both as a student and a Teaching Assistant in Jeff Baylis’s Field Ethology class in which we watched bees, who had tiny dots of paint on their thoraxes, dance in their hives and had to “translate” their dance and find the location of the food that they were telling their sisters about. As TA, it was my job to mark them, and getting to know bees as individuals changes your perspective when it comes to insects as individuals. I was truly saddened when green dot white dot never came back to the hive one day. As many of you know, bees all over the country are struggling, and it makes me so happy to see such a healthy population of many different species of them at the farm.

And here’s Willie, watching me take pictures of the flowers and bees, looking (to me) a tad bit concerned. Who know what he is thinking? “Are we ever going to play?” “Why are you pointing that single aggressive black eye at me again?” Fill in the blanks! (We did go work sheep right after that, so life wasn’t too hard . . .)

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve fed raw for a couple of years now. In my neighborhood, the “pet people” just don’t get it and ask if I am not worried about how sick my dogs will get. The “agility-people” I hang out with don’t even think twice. High end nutrition is a way of life! The only concession to raw-feeding I make is to clean the bowls thoroughly, clean the counter thoroughly, and wash my hands when all is finished. Back in the kibble days, I was probably a bit lazier about the clean-up.

  2. Karen says

    I am disgusted with the the Delta Society! I feed raw to my dogs. I am a responsible adult who knows how to handle raw food correctly to avoid contamination and the spread of bacteria. Neither I, my dogs, or anyone else who comes to my home has become ill. Therapy dogs are supposed to be bathed, have nails trimmed and have their teeth brushed before visits. They are cleaner than the average pet.

  3. Frances says

    It is my understanding that most of us carry MRSA etc on our skin – and that unwashed hands are the major source of infection in hospitals and nursing homes. I would take some convincing that the risk from a dog fed on raw meat, and kept well groomed and bathed, carries a higher risk than any other dog. There are obvious and easy precautions to take – a throw over the bed that can be moved with the dog and washed afterwards, antibacterial handwipes, etc, etc. I was hugely cheered to learn that my local hospice allow residents to have their pets with them in their last weeks and days. I can also only applaud the ICU nurse I know who, faced with a patient with Guillaume Barre syndrome who was close to giving up the battle, moved her patient to the bed nearest the window, and drew the curtains around the bed while the poor woman’s much loved dog was smuggled up the fire escape on a surreptitious visit. Sometimes good nursing means bending the rules (and yes, the patient began to recover soon after).

  4. says

    Elka, my 3 year old husky mix, passed her Delta therapy certification test about 2 weeks prior to Delta’s policy change warning. I ended up not sending in her paperwork (why spend the money?) to get her certification badge due to this change.

    Milton, my golden mix puppy, would be an excellent candidate for therapy work. He gets sick on anything *but* the raw diet. So that’s a no go.

    I was, and continue to be, seriously disappointed by this. I considered changing Elka to kibble so that we could do therapy work; but in the end, my priorities are my dogs. Raw is what I feel is best for them, so we can’t work with Delta.

    I’m considering finding out what TDI’s policies are, and seeing if we can find work through them. But having gone through this, being nervous as all heck, and still passing the test fairly easily – I’m pretty discouraged by the whole situation.

    I do know, though, that I won’t take my dogs off raw. They’re sweet, wonderful, patient dogs. Each would suit different types of patients, but we could do wonderful, gratifying things to help people. I’m very disappointed that Delta bought into the whole raw-panic hoopla.

  5. Laurie says

    I’ve been feeding raw for 7 years now and would never go back to kibble. I did think about salmonella in the beginning but I really don’t worry about it any more. My dogs are incredibly healthy and I’ve seen all the benefits.

    I could not believe Delta Society put out that statement. I can’t help but think the person on their board from one of the largest manufacturers of kibble had some influence on that decision.

    Thankfully there are enough people out there that have educated themselves on feeding raw and won’t let this stop them.

  6. Kat says

    I already posted essentially the same comment in the comments to the prior blog but it fits even better here so here it is again This is a link from the Delta Society

  7. em says

    I’ve been feeding Otis a raw diet for a little over a year now. Like many of the other posters (I’m pleasantly surprised to see how many fellow raw feeders are regular posters), I made the decision to switch because Otis struggled terribly with a diet of high-end kibble. On kibble his appetite was terrible, we couldn’t keep weight on him, he had chronic diarrhea (big piles of slop, five or more times a day)and was generally a wreck. Raw has worked wonders for him. I can’t even imagine going back. I remember when we made the switch, and he started producing one small, firm stool a day and my husband freaked out a little bit. “He doesn’t seem constipated, but I don’t understand…where is the food going?” I looked at him and said, “I think he’s….digesting it.” It really made me wonder about the argument often put forth by kibble proponents– that ordinary people couldn’t possibly put together a raw diet that matches the nutritional content and balance of premium kibble. If a dog can’t digest his food, how can you know how many of those nutrients he’s actually getting?

    I am careful to minimize exposure to bacteria-I wash his plate and disinfect his eating area after every meal. I practice standard raw-food handling protocols when preparing his meals (hand washing, kitchen surface disinfecting) but I don’t worry about it overmuch. He’s shorthaired and very clean, so I don’t worry too much about bacteria clinging to HIM. Nobody has ever gotten sick living in my household or after interacting with Otis, so I take the position that a person whose immune status was weak enough to worry about the additional salmonella that may be around him is probably compromised enough that they shouldn’t be around a dog, period.

    I thought really carefully about whether to try raw and honestly, the bacteria thing was on the bottom of my list of concerns. (I worried much more about bowel obstruction, choking, bone splinters, etc.) I contemplated the pros and cons and determined that careful-chewing Otis was a candidate for whom the benefits of raw feeding significantly outweighed the risks. The positive change in his health and well-being was dramatic. I only wish I’d done it sooner.

  8. says

    Doesn’t Delta have a Purina executive on it’s board of directors? I thought that was part of the controversy. I could be wrong. I don’t follow this too much because whenever I hear an organization make such a blanket silly policy, I immediately shut them out. I have a therapy dog. We do not do therapy through Delta. We don’t need Delta to do therapy dog service. I would suggest people who want to do therapy with their dogs and feed raw to look to a local trainer who isn’t affiliated with a national service and instead use a local organization which forges alliances with local hospitals and the like.

    I personally feed raw. If I was a member of a group that forbid it, it wouldn’t be a question in my mind to leave the group. My dog’s health is priority.It’s interesting because I never considered my dog picking up bacteria from the hospital yet we’re very concerned with our dog’s bringing it in.

    Nothing infuriates me more than a large or government organization telling me how to stay healthy and keep my family and dogs healthy. Based on my own experience with my own health care and our so-called “healthcare system” I’ve become my own best wellness advocate and feel the same about my dog’s wellness. I use a a balance of Western AND Holistic/Eastern medicine on both my dogs. (I also meant to tell you that I also use a Shen Calmer on my GSD mix, who is very much like Willie in his anxieties, confidence and behavior. ) My theory on wellness is to keep things simple. 100s of years ago, there were no pet food companies. People fed table scraps to their dogs. Marketing, profits and lifestyle (food-on-the-go) have changed the way we eat and our dogs/animals eat and in the long run, we all suffer for it.

    I love feeding raw and my dogs love eating raw. It’s like Christmas every night at dinner time. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my dog crunch up a raw meaty bone. one of my dogs won’t eat a raw meaty bone, but will eat plenty of ground meat and bone and will eat recreational raw bones. It still doesn’t prevent me from feeding raw and giving them both what they love. And a variety. If you had to eat the same food for 10-15 years, how happy would you be? How healthy would you be? I don’t care how “good” any kibble is (and there are some good ones), nothing compares to feeding a variety of foods in your dog’s diet.

    Though I personally feed raw, I would not force my theory on other pet owners as much as I do not want a theory on how to feed my dogs forced on me. Delta is in fact doing that which I find insulting. Feeding raw can be time consuming or expensive (or it can also be easy and cheap depending upon how you shop). So I understand why one wouldn’t feed raw. I would much rather have a dog rescued off the street and fed kibble in a loving home than a dog suffering from starvation. I wonder if Delta considered how this statement would affect their own bottom line? Would they rather have a large # of Delta certified therapy dogs who are fed either kibble or raw which in turn contributes to their bottom line or would they rather have fewer therapy dogs? Because raw is becoming a huge movement in the way to feed a dog. It surprises me that an organization would alienate such a growing market segment. Unless of course, there is another agenda. (again, is there a Purina executive on the board of directors for Delta?)

    No, I don’t think this is a liability case. “Liability” is a nice cover for a hidden agenda. Legal-ease can be so convenient when there is another agenda. I wonder how much Delta’s new certifications will be affected in the coming years?

  9. Alexandra says

    I have only recently started feeding raw. It was driven by a combination of Copper’s allergies and a desire to provide the best possible nutrition to my dogs. So far, so good. I have eaten rare meat, sushi and a variety of raw shellfish my entire life and never been sick or even that worried about it. I didn’t think twice about the pathogen issue with my dogs. My vet is not that supportive, but the agility people I hang out with who have been feeding raw for 15 or 20 years are very supportive and helpful. I simply practice good food-handling practices, keeping things in the fridge until just before serving, using separate cutting boards for raw meat and veggies, and washing surfaces and my hands before and after food prep.

  10. R.D.L. says

    I read that Purina is now a major sponsor of the Delta Society. Could that be one of the reasons they took this stand?

  11. trisha says

    I know that the Purina connection is considered by many to be a factor, but I’m doubtful (though just guessing.) I’m not sure what advantage there would be to Purina. People who feed raw aren’t going to start feeding Purina in order to stay Pet Partners, so I don’t see any real advantage to them. If anything it would just drive business toward other higher end producers, wouldn’t it? My guess is that the decision includes concerns about liability — it is an issue hard to ignore in this country. But surely we should also, even if we disagree, consider that their intentions are also as stated: that they are concerned about the health of the recipients of Pet Partner interactions. I don’t agree with their decision or how they announced and implemented it, but that’s not to say that their intentions aren’t well meaning. . .

  12. says

    This is a selfish question. I have a dog sanctuary currently with 19 dogs, mostly hounds. I have not fed raw as I cannot imagine being able to afford it, even though I have and had several dogs w/obvious allergies, to whom I was directed high end simple ingredient kibble. Nothing really helped or is helping. Most of my funds come from my own pocket – I work part time as an RN due to my own health issues. How would anyone recommend my fitting at least some raw into my dogs’ diets? Awesome discussion. I am sorry to see, yet again, one study rule when multiple repeat studies are needed in the coming years to validate or disprove this one.

  13. Melanie S says

    It’s always concerning when big business gets involved and seems to have an undue influence.

    I read another article on this issue, and here’s an excerpt from it regarding the Purina connection:

    “Is a Major Player in the Pet Food Industry Behind the Ban?
    I’ll let you decide.

  14. Alexandra says

    Roberta – Many grocery stores will often give you freezer burned or just-past-expiration date meat that is no longer sellable but not actually spoiled. It is worth asking the meat departments; you never know what you might be able to get for greatly reduced prices or even free that would otherwise be thrown away.

  15. says

    Oh yes – Purina is hoping for a possible HUGE advantage to them. By the way, both of my dogs are therapy dogs currently through Delta altho we started with them BEFORE this raw food diet policy was passed. Before I go further, neither of my dogs are fed a raw diet – not so much because I don’t want to but because I don’t have the time or the money – even tho I do work full time, living with my own multiple disabilities is expensive. What I don’t like is someone telling me what I can and cannot feed my own dogs. Purina has also persuaded Delta to put their (Purina’s) logo at least on their (Delta’s) I.D. badges that all members are required to wear – my youngest dog got her new I.D. badge earlier this year and yep, that Purina logo is right on it. I’m sorry Purina but in my opinion, there is none of your dog food worth consumption except by maybe a rat. (Incidentally, no that is not just my opinion – I’ve read a few reports which have helped me form that opinion.) In the most recent meeting of our local therapy dog group there was a discussion about a rumor some of the members had heard about the Purina logo being on Delta’s products such as the ID badge or the vest that Delta sells – not sure if the vest part is true but all I have to do is look at my dog’s ID badge to know that part is true. In other words, MY therapy dog is providing free advertisement for Purina. Oh and that local therapy dog group I belong to – so far we have had one member resign her position as secretary because she left Delta – she does feed raw (the group started many years ago and the evaluations we do follow Delta guidelines). The group has had discussions about becoming more of a blanket therapy dog group and not follow Delta so much. Oh and that member has since found another regional group to be evaluated by however we welcome her to maintain her membership with us. And this local group is not a Delta affiliate and rarely do any of our members ever get written up in their magazine altho many have tried.

    Wild Dingo brought up a good issue – Delta’s bottom line; I thought (evidently mistaken) it was to have a large organization of participating quality therapy dogs with their owners – not giving in to the pressures of big business. I am not sure how much longer we will be a part of Delta – at least now I know our local therapy dog group is open to therapy dogs who are certified/registered with other national and regional therapy dog associations.

  16. Janice says

    I am almost afraid to comment because to suggest that there may be some possible concerns with feeding a raw diet is often tantamount to putting a large red target on one’s back. There isn’t adequate scientific research into the topic and so everything is couched in beliefs and testimonials. And fundamentalists of any belief system rarely like that belief system questioned. And really, who would do the research? There is no NIH for dog health research and so most dog research is paid for by drug or pet food companies (who are the only ones willing to fund the research). So if a pet food company funded a research study about raw food diets and even if it was rigorously designed and conducted, would anyone believe the results (even, for that matter, if they agreed with some of the things you believe)? One thing I have never see is a research study that feeds dogs the exact same ingredients, just cooks the formula of ingredients that go to one set of animals while the others are fed the very same formula of ingredients, only uncooked (with vitamins adjusted accordingly). Until such a study is done (using good design, execution and good sample sizes), you really can’t tell if the results you see when you switch your dog to a raw, home made diet is as a result of better (or different) ingredients or the lack of cooking. It may be that the cooking is a small part of the effects seen and simply feeding the dogs a different set of ingredients than is generally put in kibble is having the major effect.

    I think that when you are a new mother, you are highly aware of potential threats to your child’s well-being (as well you should be, because this is how biology has fashioned mammalian mothers to care for and protect their young). When my children were young, there was an E coli outbreak in undercooked hamburger that killed or severely injured a number of young children in a city close to where I lived. Some of the children who died had never themselves eaten the undercooked hamburger, but went to a day care with children who did and through this contact, lost their lives. When you are a new mother with young children, you can emphasize a lot with those parents. And you remember that cooking food to 145 f is enough to kill e-coli. At that time I had goats and I had been drinking raw goat milk for a number of years, but I stopped immediately. I started heat-treating my milk to 145 f because that was a temperature that would kill e coli and salmonella, because even if my child never became ill, what if feeding him caused another child, to become ill? It just wasn’t something I could live with. And, even though my eldest is now entering college, I am still heat treating the goat milk that I and my dogs and cats drink. Because if I caused an immunosuppressed child to become ill, I would have a hard time living with myself. So, for myself the Delta Society restrictions might be an abundance of caution, but is okay by me. I have no evidence that dogs are harmed by having their raw food diets heat treated to 145 f but I do know that an immunosuppressed child with e coli is likely a dead child. And I have no doubt that anyone who believes in raw food diets is not going to agree with me.

  17. Pam says

    Interesting that the policy is not yet on the Canadian Delta Society home page but I’m sure it will be soon. To me it’s just more ‘anti-raw propaganda’. The pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar business. What if more and more people realized that these ‘scientifically balanced and complete’ kibbles are actually a major detrimental factor in their pets’ health issues. Two generations ago dogs didn’t need their teeth cleaned every 6 months because they were eating raw meat and bones that scrubbed the teeth not little nuggets of starches, sugar and glutens that start to rot the teeth before they’re even 2 years old.
    OK…..off the soapbox now….there’s a reason I usually only discuss my dog’s diet with my agility friends.

    Roberta….you might want to check out the raw feeding group on facebook and yahoo..and Tom Lonsdale’s ‘Raw Meaty Bones’ is an excellent source…I spend a whole lot less feeding my dogs raw than I did when feeding high priced kibble.

  18. John Sturgess says

    MONEY MAKES the WORLD go ROUND. Just follow the paper trail, Corporate America buying off Non Profits, yet they want us to donate time , energy and money to their causes. For a non profit to accept a huge donation and then climb up on a high horse and shout out to the world that RAW is not SAFE while the CORPORATION has on its own site its not safe. Its bad enough that Corporations have been feeding garbage for decades to consumers for their dogs but to have a non profits governing board loaded with bias pretty much spells it all out. If it smells like fish it must be a fish.

  19. Annie R says

    It’s reassuring to hear those of you who are feeding raw diets to your pets describing good hygiene practices; as an advanced practice nurse working in the field of medical research, the studies showing increases in bacterial shedding does concern me, especially in regard to medically compromised clients of the therapy dogs. Sepsis (bloodstream-borne infection) kills more people than heart attacks in the U.S. today, and we certainly don’t need our dogs spreading the antibiotic-resistant germs across any more territory than they already inhabit, inside AND outside the medical care environment. It is quite surprising how many people who have no logical history of exposure to these organisms are carriers, such as elderly care-home residents with MRSA in their urine.

    Hopefully there will be some refinement of the research study methods, and new studies to increase our knowledge of what the implications of the stool counts are on environmental spread of these organisms. Meanwhile it is basic common sense to use hand sanitizer on ourselves and “bath substitute” cleaning wipes on the dogs’ heads, shoulders, and anywhere else patients have touched, in between clients during visits to multi-therapy-session settings. And a leg-&-paw wipedown at the end of the visit, outside, before getting in the car, may be good form of self-protection.

    As to the changes in stool constitution and volume upon changing dogs’ diets, there’s a two-pronged explanation for those effects; one is the decrease in fiber and bulk when you take away the grain (only a problem if the stools become small and hard to pass, in which case increasing the vegies, including some cooked pumpkin and/or sweet potato may help); the other is the decrease in inflammation of the intestines (if the old diet contained allergens the individual dog was sensitive to). Calming inflammation has a beneficial effect on many systems, so if a dog’s stools were cow-pies before, and that resolves, the new diet is a positive change and will likely increase longevity and well-being for that dog, possibly reflecting calming of inflammation throughout the circulatory system, skin, etc. Humans have similar improvements with anti-inflammatory diets; for me, the shift away from processed food, wheat flour and sugar has been the answer to my IBS symptoms.

    I personally don’t believe that many dogs really have such severe sensitivities, but it would be great to see some studies on that too! Hopefully the current cohort of brilliant young vets will do some good ones to increase the information we dog-parents have for making these day-to-day lifestyle decisions. I do want to throw in a defense of those of us who feed high-end kibble and feel it’s the best food our dogs have had access to in the course of our lifetimes, and that most of our dogs will live long healthy lives eating it. Compared to the feedlot-waste-based canned foods my childhood dogs ate, our pets now live in a completely new universe. One of my favorite sayings is “There are a lot of right ways to do things”. It’s great to have so many good choices! Thank you Trisha for a well-thought out and brilliantly written commentary on this topic.

  20. says

    My decision to feed raw (it has been 1 year now) revolved mostly over the best nutrition for my dogs and cats.

    Commercial pet food is a recent invention of big business. It is not natural to feed carnivores grains and the whole disgusting gamut of ingredients that make up the majority of pet foods available in today’s society.

    After doing intensive research and talking to lots of different folks who have fed raw for many years and my vet (who isn’t really comfortable with my decision, but we are partners in approaching my animals’ healthcare)

    the evidence is that both dogs and cats are carnivores–actually cats are obligate carnivores and based on wild canines and felines who have been thriving in the world for thousands of years that what both dogs and cats need to be eating–raw meat, raw bone and raw organ meat.

    I also use a combination of Western and Eastern therapies. They both have their strengths and weaknesses.

    I loved Wild Dingo’s comments on how her dogs view raw. It is the same in my house and it delights me that my animals revel in their meals. That’s how it should be.

    Finally I have to add my “me too” comments on bees. 90% of my garden and landscape is planted with our wildlife in mind. I can’t bear to pick any of my flowers because they are there for the bees, birds, butterflies and my ultimate favorite–hummingbirds. I leave my lavender flower stalks standing until spring so that the bees have access to nectar until winter arrives.

    Thanks again for providing this lovely communication forum.

  21. Frances says

    Roberta – I’m in the UK, so the situation may be very different, but I know most butchers here throw away a great deal of “scrap” meat. Some of it is fat, but much of it is trimmings from joints, etc, plus a lot of bone. As a sanctuary, you may be able to persuade one or more local butchers to save enough for you to feed those dogs that need it most, supplemented with some offal, etc. I have actually found raw/home cooked cheaper by far than premium kibble, even buying all the meat at UK prices – which tend to be higher than those in the US.

  22. Michele says

    I have been feeding raw for 6 or 7 years now and I am disappointed to hear about this policy. I take care to clean up, of course, but do not spend any time fretting over bacteria (and my BS is in Microbiology). If I had a therapy dog, I would not change his diet in order to comply. It is sad to think that the elderly will lose the company of many highly qualified dogs because of this.

    This country is trending towards anti-bacterial everything, and it’ll make us sicker in the end. Kids who are allowed to play and get dirty and who eat their peck of dirt from time to time are rarely sick. It is the clean (almost sterile) child whose mommy is chasing him down with Purel and an antibacterial wipe that gets every cold that comes his way.

  23. Beckmann says

    Sorry maybe this is too general… but…
    I have a concern regarding the world movement for

  24. says

    Since switching my dogs to raw I simply can’t imagine ever going back to kibble. I don’t have an assistance or therapy dogs now, but I have worked with both. I have to say I would choose the health of my dogs (by feeding raw) over using him as a therapy dog if that was the choice I was faced with. That, as far as I am concerned is a terribly sad choice to have to make.

  25. Emily says

    I Think that if this is about pressure from Purina, they’re seriously missing the point. People who feed raw are generally people who would NEVER feed Purina, on pain of death, so if they’re trying to pressure people into switching, it’s not going to work. I wouldn’t feed it to Mick, and I don’t even feed raw (high end, grain-free kibble. He does great on it!).

    I’ve always wondered what animals really think about cameras. I do some animal portraiture in my spare time, and Mick who has grown up with my honking big DSLR (big fancy camera, for the non-photographers in the crowd) loves cameras, any camera. He’ll actually stop what he’s doing and mug the camera if he sees it out. Most dogs pay no heed, though some do need to be shown that this big black thing with a huge, aggressive eye really isn’t scary. Toddlers are the same way, too! Some of them love it right away and want to get their hands on all of my gear, others hide behind their parents’ legs.

  26. mungobrick says

    I don’t feed my dog raw and have no intention of doing so, but I have to say that Delta’s policy is confusing to me. As you say, Trisha, there are so many ways that infections can be brought into hospitals by any dog, whatever it’s fed, or by any person walking through those doors from outside. I’m sure you’re right that it’s a liability issue, and it’s an easy way for them to show they’re concerned about infection – ban something that “sounds” dangerous (raw meat!!!) and then you don’t have to deal with the truly dangerous but invisible things… I do agree that they’re probably well-intentioned (I suspect someone with no idea about what raw diet is raised a red flag and they all jumped to attention), but you know what they say about good intentions.

  27. Meghan and Kyra says

    Roberta — I look for loss-leader sales at grocery stores and stock up when things are ridiculously cheap. I get chicken for 39c a lb regularly at Harris Teeter. This turns out cheaper than buying good kibble for my dogs. If you can find a few chest freezers on Craigslist or freecycle, then play the sales at the grocery stores, you might end up spending LESS money than you are now. I know I did!

  28. Alexandra says

    Another word about why I decided to feed raw: I don’t think we need to be afraid to feed our dogs real food. Kibble has only been around for a short time relative to how long dogs have been with us. There are constantly studies coming out about this or that nutrient or superfood and how good it is for people; what I take from that is that there is a lot more to food nutritionally than we currently understand, and that the best way to cover all the bases for me and my dogs is to feed a variety of whole, unprocessed foods and not rely simply on the short list of vitamins and minerals that have been intensely studied. In theory, a few bowls of Total cereal and a multivitamin should be all I need to survive, but I doubt I’d feel very good on that diet. I kind of feel the same way about kibble. Premium brands are really not bad, but maybe they are not optimum. I certainly don’t buy into Purina’s propaganda page about how real food is somehow harmful. Can you imagine a cereal manufacturer trying the same stunt with people?

  29. Beth says

    My experience, personally, is that even questioning the safety of raw diets to its advocates results in a level of hostility usually reserved for politics and religion.

    The science does show increased shedding of bacteria. I think Delta Society is just erring on the side of caution, and who can blame them for that? No one needs to be a member of Delta, and if you disagree with the policy just don’t join.

    The research on the benefits of raw diet is pretty much non-existent at this point (not saying it’s good or bad food, just little research to back up its benefit). I hear a lot of people make a lot of statements about raw and grain-free that really have no science behind them.

  30. Steve says

    Reminds me of the time the wolves on Isle Royale got their population decimated by parvo. They are an isolated population so the biologists at first had a hard time finding out why the wolves were dying off in droves. Autopsy revealed parvo to be the culprit. Apparently brought in on the biologists shoes and the isolated wolves had no immunity. As the holistic medical practitioners say, “It’s the terrain (body/immune system) not the bug.”

  31. Beth says

    By the way, the number of people here who are already convinced that this must be some consipiracy with Purina absolutely stuns me. Can’t we use the logical side of our brain?

    Delta is a good organization that does good work. Check out their page, they give lengthy explanations. Common sense tells you that if a hairy dog is eating raw chicken, then microscopic bits of raw chicken will be on its face, even if you bathe it fairly carefully.

    These dogs are going into homes with feeble, feeble people. If there is even a slightly increased risk, why take it?

    The logical explanation: that they are doing if for the reasons they give, makes perfect sense and yet a quick group would rather believe they are in cahoots with Purina.

    If so, why do they list links to home-made COOKED diets on their website, if they are trying to direct you to Purina?

    Like I said, the passion is like that usually reserved for politics or religion. Anyone in authority who questions raw MUST be in cahoots with the pet food companies, right? All one big consipiracy?

    Sheesh.

  32. says

    I appreciate all the direction and feedback to help me get at least some raw into my dogs’ diets. I am a practicing RN and am concerned with not only the sterilization of the world (or at least the USA) but the need for everything to be safe. Were we all safe, there would be no exploration nor experimentation; by being so sterile w/antibacterial everything, we are indeed setting ourselves up for increasing numbers of “superbugs.” I am also concerned about any therapy dog walking in, around and out of a hospital or nursing home. Each paw should be washed after leaving – hospitals have more germs than anyone…which is why we are so vigilant in the hospital but do not need to be at home; at home we are in our own milieu with our own bacteria. I have lived with multiple animals: horses, cats and now dogs, for years. The only time I was restricted from contact w/my horses and cats, at the time, was when I had a pin in my jaw and then years later, a trach for 2.5 months. Otherwise, I get no more colds or illnesses of the regular variety than anyone else. I will be doing some research for my dogs. Thank you all again very much – the discussion has been allowed to flow for all opinions. Hats off, Trish :).

  33. Beth says

    Question for the raw-food folks: Humans, too, evolved eating raw foods, including most likely raw organs, lots of bugs and grubs and roots and the like. Cooking is relatively recent in our evolutionary family tree.

    If raw is so much healthier, how many of you eat raw animal protein yourself?

    The reason I ask is that there is a concurrent movement in human diets to eat the “caveman” diet. Remember, the reason we started cooking foods is to kill pathogens. It is true that wild animals eat raw foods all the time. But check out the average life expectancy of a wild canid compared to a domestic dog. An animal is an evolutionary success if its rate of reproduction exceeds its rate of die-off. Many wild animals live to produce a tiny handful of offspring and then die at a very young age (by our standards). Wild animals eat raw. They also live with heavy parasite loads (internal and external), frequently succumb to mange or starvation or infection, lose large numbers of offspring to disease, and all sorts of other things most caring pet owners would never dream of exposing their pets to, even though all the things listed above have a significant impact on the animals in question.

    What I am curious about is why some natural things are considered so wonderful, while others are not?

    My other curiosity is why no wealthy dog owners (and there are many) have financed some feeding studies? I can go online and find lots of studies for horses comparing different mixes of hay and pasture, and their impacts. Horses are a lot more expensive to buy, feed, keep, house, and live much longer than dogs, yet someone (not feed companies) finances longitudinal feed studies on horses.

    Why not dogs?

  34. Raw Food Doggie says

    I am bewildered over the process that went into this decision, absent any information of credible scientific validity, regarding transmission of Salmonella from dogs to humans. Yes, I have read the papers that Delta says support this decision. As a scientist retired from a career in microbiology and epidemiology, I find the data lacking in substance, quality, and relevance to transmission of Salmonella by pet therapy dogs. The data clearly show that other pathogens, equally problematic (MRSA, E.coli) , are detected in fecal samples from non-raw fed dogs with greater frequency than in raw fed dogs. The interpretation of these data is scientifically dubious, leading one to wonder whether the decision was made by qualified individuals or whether Delta has just been sold a “bill of goods” based on the biases of the so called experts on the Medical Advisory Board. Specifically, Scott Weese, DVM, among others, is on the Medical Advisory Board, as well as being an author on 3/4 publications that are used as a basis for the directive. Dr. Weese is a clear opponent to all raw feeding (http://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/2010/05/articles/animals/dogs/raw-diets-banned-by-delta-society/). The Delta Society ban is extended to Pet Partners who visit libraries, reading programs for elementary school grades, homeless shelters, and even prisons. It is unimaginable that all of the individuals within those venues are immunocompromised and more susceptible to Salmonella infections than the general population. Troubling also is the presence as a voting member on your Board of Directors of the Marketing Director for Purina. Since there was “unanimous approval” of the directive by the board, with no reported abstentions, the Purina Marketing director vote was made with conflict of interest and breach of ethics.
    There were so many other ways the raw feeding concern could have been addressed by the Board of Directors. To name a few- 1) Delta could have withdrawn their insurance from raw feeders and asked them to self-insure 2) Delta could have left the decision as to whether to admit raw fed dogs to the facility or to the Delta Society local affiliate (or both), with appropriate waivers 3) Restrict only the visits to acutely compromised patients to those who do not feed raw 4) given adequate and visible notice to Pet Partners of the impending directive, along with requests for input from those affected (Yes, there was a notice on March 17 in your magazine, buried in the back pages. That is not highly visible.) 5) included a written question on the recertification application regarding diet. (At no time, during any of the 3 recertifications that we have done, were we either asked or requested to indicate in writing anything about the nature of Ozzie’s diet.)
    The auto-responses to inquiries about raw feeding policy are unprofessional and disrespectful to Delta Society Pet Partner teams. The FAQ page addresses only carefully selected issues chosen by the Delta Society.
    Some of the responses to FAQs are downright laughable. Specifically, for pathogens other than Salmonella, it’s OK for the handler to just wash their hands and use normal precautions. Wow…Salmonella is resistant to hand-washing. Now that’s news!
    Fortunately there are ample opportunities to certify with other therapy groups to continue the worthwhile work that was begun by groups such as Delta. My gripe is not so much with the “directive” but by the ignorance that is being used to justify it.

  35. Beth says

    I realize I may have sounded a bit harsh in my earlier post. I do get frustrated, though, because a reputable and highly respected organization has listed specific reasons why they don’t want raw-fed dogs visiting sick people, the reasons make sense on their face, and yet some people are so quick to second-guess their motivations.

    As someone who takes immune-suppressing medications, I can assure you that I would not want my dog chewing on raw chicken and then coming over and kissing me. What might give someone else a day or two in the bathroom feeling ill could kill me. Even if I saw rigorous research that showed that a raw diet was somewhat superior to a conventional diet, I would not feed my dogs raw because of the risk of them having bacteria on the fur, and I can certainly understand why hospitals and nursing homes don’t want dogs who just that morning were licking raw chicken coming into their facilities.

    And the response that it is a “natural” diet is, first off, only partially true (canids in nature are quite the scavengers and eat many things not included a raw diet, and they also lick blood and bodily fluids that are not included in a home-given raw diet, unless you are feeding just-killed whole animals).

    Second of all, being natural is not in and of itself equated with being better. Imagine someone giving any one of these statements as an explanation for care choices, and how the typical caring pet owner would react:

    “I let my dogs carry worms because dogs evolved to have worms.” (Keep in mind, some human studies are pointing to the possibility that intestinal worms may help prevent auto-immune disease by “teaching” the immune system to behave properly, before dismissing this one)

    “Fleas and ticks are natural to wild animals, so I don’t treat my dogs.”

    “Being outside 24/7 is how a dog evolved so we don’t bring our dogs in the house.” (Until recently, this was the norm, and some working dogs still live outside).

    “Having puppies every year is natural to a dog, so that’s what we do with Buffy.”

    Really, the list can go on and on. Dogs don’t cook food because they can’t. They lack the brains, the thumbs, and the ability to control fire. Evolution does not, in any way, say that what animals do of their own devices is the best thing for them. It simply says that they are able to succeed by doing what they do. Wild whitetail deer in the northern half of the country survive the winter by eating bark and twigs, primarily. That does not mean bark is an ideal diet for a deer, simply that they are able to survive by eating it.

    Trisha, you are correct that the research is thin on raw feeding and bacteria transmission. However, there IS research that sketchily indicates there may be some increased possibility for problems. While awaiting more research, is it so unreasonable for Delta to err on the side of caution?

    Or to put it another way, how many of us would want our chemo-taking loved ones to be kissed by a dog who just ate salmonella-infected raw chicken? It is true that other foods can be infected with food-borne illness, but that is the exception. With raw meat, contamination is expected and while we may wash well after handling it, our dogs’ muzzles and any body parts they licked would be contaminated as well.

    It does not seem to me to be an unreasonable precaution. I am saddened by the accusations of Delta being influenced by Purina, and again that cause would seem to be contradicted by the fact that they link to sources for making homemade cooked diets.

  36. Wendy says

    Hmmm…what about all the salmonella contaminated kibble outbreaks lately? and the contaminated treats too…

    Seems there isn’t a food clean enough for a dog to be considered “safe” for the therapy environment. And what about at home? If you have young or elderly family members…there is no safe dog for them either.

    I say let Delta flounder without us. Do your therapy under TDI or local organizations. Present a recently cleaned and well trained pet. Use good hygiene – bed coverings, hand washing, and therapy patients should not have contact with the dogs stools. That’s not that hard.

  37. says

    My Sophia is a Delta Certified Pet Partner AND she get’s feed Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Raw Food. THK had a very detailed exchange with Delta discussing this new policy but it looks like, for now, Delta isn’t back down. It’s a shame to think that a research oriented organization like Delta, isn’t open to understanding how all of the new data we have about quality nutrition and health in our dogs, isn’t open minded to the raw diet option. I think they are going over board on the safety and concern side with regards to the humans we visit with lowered immune systems. To date though, there is no hard data that supports a dog fed on raw food is more likely to pass on any kind of diseases to patients. The irony here too is that Delta truly has no way of monitoring what their Pet Partners actually eat. Sophia and I haven’t visited any patients in awhile (we used to be regulars at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in NYC) but more recently we are doing community out reach and education. Either way though, Delta has no way of policing this new policy!

  38. Janis says

    Nursing homes are veritable petri dishes of MRSA, pneumonia, influenza, common cold, and probably stuff the
    CDC hasn’t even heard of yet. I’m a paramedic and unfortunately a good bit of my shifts are spent in these facilities. A dog on a raw diet is the least of their worries.

  39. Giselle says

    Unfortunately, Delta Society has gone the way of many, allowing the $$ to bend and distort their mission. There are many on their Board and Advisory who are on the pet food company payrolls or who owe their education/research $ to those same companies. Purina is a prominent sponsor of TDS – follow the money!

    Experienced raw feeding critter owners (not just dog owners, cats and ferrets also) tend to be better (self) educated about species appropriate nutrition and health in general, I believe, and more aware of how to deal with possible problems.
    http://www.rawlearning.com/rawfaq.html
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/RawChat/
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/rawfeeding/
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/rawcat/
    http://rawfedcats.org/
    http://holisticferret.proboards.com/index.cgi

    There are many more groups such as this – and a great many local or regional buying groups or co-ops of raw feeding owners who band together to get quality meats and a variety of meat/bone/organs &/or whole prey for their critters. I am SURE that the mega $$ pet food (now people food) corps are well aware of the groundswell of raw feeders like us.

    How many k*bble feeding owners are concerned if the meat animals that are used in their pet’s feed are fed a species appropriate diet? I know many raw feeding dog owners who are.

    I’ve fed multiple dogs (my own and fosters) whole prey model raw for over 15 yrs – while raising my son, with my elderly mother living with us, during the period my husband was immune compromised, with no ill effects. My husband contracted C diff while IN the hospital, not from my raw fed dogs.

  40. Frances says

    I agree with Beth – independently funded studies would be extremely helpful. I also believe that dogs can thrive on a wide range of diets. Vets are often accused of being in the pocket of the pet food manufacturers, and profiting from the foods they recommend, but at the same time there are far, far fewer malnourished dogs, or dogs suffering from nutritional deficiencies, around than there were when I was a child (obesity is now the greater problem). Kibble and complete canned foods may not be ideal, but they are an enormous improvement upon the very inadequate diet that many dogs used to be fed.

    I feed a mixture of raw and cooked, and the occasional meal or treat of kibble. This is not because I am particularly hooked on raw food – nor are my animals. The cats clearly feel they catch enough raw themselves, and prefer my contribution cooked. Pippin cat LOVES kibble, so has a small bowl occasionally as a treat. The dogs are toy breeds, with all the teeth problems that go with small size in dogs – and raw meaty bones and biggish pieces of meat that need tearing are one of the tools for helping to keep them clean. They won’t eat raw pet minces, though, and are not keen on raw offal (other than tripe), so these are cooked first. Once I started to research home-made diets, I became confident I could provide a better quality of nutrition at a much lower cost by doing it myself. In our family, cooking has always been an important part of nurturing, and I enjoy making lovely meals for my family, friends and animals. So there is a double reward – a significant financial saving, and that warm, loving feeling – plus the animals really, really enjoy it.

    And would I stop raw feeding if I, or anyone in my family, were immuno-compromised? Probably yes. Would I go back to feeding kibble only? Given the recalls due to salmonella contamination, probably no. As the Delta site suggests, I would simply cook everything myself.

  41. Beth says

    Here’s what concerns me most:

    I was on the Delta site, here, and a few other forums where this came up. I think that out of all the comments, I read ONE raw-food feeder who said “This research has made me consider where I will take my raw-fed dogs, out of concern for the people I am visiting.”

    Just one.

    That alarms me. Again, I have been on many forums where raw is discussed, and it is generally discussed by proponents with an almost religious-like fervor.

    It reminds me of when Atkins became popular for people. I could not sit down and eat rice or pasta without someone in the work lunch-room giving me a funny look, and nearly every day I walked in and heard how awful carbs were for people.

    Anyway, I would have thought that if people are concerned with science, at least one or two more would have said “Wow, I did not realize that raw-fed dogs shed salmonella in their saliva on a frequent basis. That gives me pause.”

    Anyone concerned about the well-being of the patients they visit? Any one feel like ‘Hey, it never occurred to me that my dog might make an already-sick person very sick indeed.”

    I am deeply troubled by the total lack of that sort of conversation. Dogs get what they eat on their faces. If they eat raw chicken, it’s on the face. If they eat raw bones, it’s on the face.

    Per consumer reports:

    “CR

  42. Kat says

    Blanket statements, you gotta love ‘em. People who feed raw are a bunch of zealots with no science to back up their claims, Feeding your dog kibble means you don’t care about their health, Raw fed dogs pose a significant health danger to all populations and on and on. It’s the blanket one size fits all statements and rulings that irritate me the most.

    The evidence I have observed in my own canine companion says *my* dog does better eating lots of raw than he does eating kibble. Your dog might be different. Many dogs I know appear to do just fine on cheap supermarket brands of kibble (since I don’t live with them I can’t speak to more than the appearance).

    Dogs shed pathogens some of which are hazardous to humans but the limited evidence of scientific studies that have been conducted show that not all dogs shed the same pathogens in the same amounts. With Ranger we take what I consider to be reasonable precautions because he does eat raw meat. Heartworm is not an issue where we live but he takes a monthly dose of Sentinel because there are other pathogens that it treats that are potentially hazardous to humans and if giving him a pill once a month means he is less likely to infect someone so much the better. He is bathed within 24 hours of visiting and brushed within a few hours of a visit (so far he hasn’t visited except under my own auspices but the precautions will be the same regardless of who we are visiting for) He isn’t much of a licker of faces and only occasionally licks hands. I carry hand sanitizer with me and encourage people to use it when they’re done loving on him. As I’ve already said, we won’t be visiting Chemo wards or other places where the people are severely immune compromised and those places where there’s some question about whether he could pose an additional risk we’ll talk to the Powers that Be and let them make the call.

    It’s the blanket nature of Delta’s prohibition that bothers me. I sincerely doubt that my clean, well groomed dog is going to infect children in my classroom when he visits them. Is he likely to pose a health hazard to my frail but otherwise healthy 97 year old grandmother? I doubt it, in fact she seems happier and more energetic when he’s around so I think his visits help. If Grandma winds up in the hospital again with pneumonia will we ask to visit her there? Certainly not without consulting her doctors and letting them decide. I can’t eliminate all risk but I can take reasonable precautions.

    I’m perfectly willing to concede that Delta made the decision it did from good motives but the one size fits all ruling seems to me to be taking a precaution that isn’t unreasonable for some populations and applying everywhere, even places where it isn’t needed. I belong to an outdoor organization that gets caught up in this sort of trap every so often. Recently it they fell into the trap with regard to avalanche training standards for winter travel leaders. The initial idea was to require leaders on the most hazardous trips and routes to be certified to a very high standard because the more the leader knows about avalanche awareness and safety the safer the group is likely to be. This made sense, these leaders were taking groups into the backcountry where avalanche danger was very high and monitoring groups were few and far between. Then the standard was expanded to apply to all winter travel trips including snowshoe play within sight of the ranger station where there was some potential danger of avalanche. After all if we require all leaders to be trained to the very highest standard that makes us all safer. The idea was that by improving safety this way it would reduce the club’s liability exposure, prevent injuries and make everything better. In fact the leaders all revolted and pointed out that the burden being placed on their shoulders (leaders are all volunteers and would need to pay for the training themselves) was unreasonable for the amount of gain. The existing standards are good standards and few injuries occur. The goal of the new standard was worthy, making people safer but the effect was to place an undue burden on leaders since certification at the highest level takes several weeks of training and costs over a thousand dollars. In the 105 year history of the group there have only been a few avalanche caused injuries and I don’t think any fatalities. The idea now is to encourage leaders of the most risky trips to pursue additional training and to find ways to minimize the financial impact on them.

    It seems to me Delta fell into the same sort of thinking, “if it makes sense here, it makes sense everywhere” and ended up with a policy that will prohibit a lot of qualified teams from visiting through their program when they could have taken a step back and applied the standard in a more balanced fashion.

  43. Chris says

    I have been feeding my dogs raw food for about six months now and, as far as the dogs are concerned, the results have been fantastic. That said (and I think this answers one of the questions in the original article), I am VERY concerned about the effect of the raw diet on my environment. I’ve been reading articles showing that raw-fed dogs shed pathogens at higher rates, and that salmonella is more prevalent on many surfaces in homes where animals are fed a raw diet, so consider me concerned. For those reasons, I actually consider Delta’s decision to be a no brainer. Can you imagine the liability if a patient got salmonella from kissing a shepherd who had breakfasted on raw chicken? That’s the kind of thing that keeps non profits up at night. I’m sure that their connections to Purina sped the decision up, but I think that it’s more likely that Delta never really gave the issue much thought until the growing prominence of raw dog diets and the increase in concern over food borne illnesses forced the issue upon them.

    But I digress…What I really wanted to talk about was “natural” diets for dogs. I appreciate Beth’s point that natural is not necessarily better, but it would seem that pretty straightforward that the natural dog diet should be a starting point for a modern dog diet. Which begs the question “what did dogs evolve to eat?” I’m not thinking about wolf diets here, but rather of domesticated dog diets. Wolf diets are pretty well documented, but domesticated dogs are 10,000+ years removed from their wolf ancestors. Since humans consume primarily cooked meat, it doesn’t seem unlikely that our dogs have evolved to consume primarily cooked meat as well. But then again, it doesn’t seem unlikely that our dogs would have subsisted on uncooked trimmings and bones either, because why would people waste time cooking for dogs?

    So what did dogs eat for the last 9950 years? I know it wasn’t kibble, but was it cooked?

  44. trisha says

    I’m about to go cook vegetables for the week for Willie (irony noted?) but I wanted to add a note of thank you for everyone writing thoughtful, balanced comments. I think the bottom line(s), at least to me, is simple: 1) Dogs are omnivores who as a species can thrive on many different kinds of diets (like humans) but dogs are also individuals who, also like people, do better on one type of food or another, depending on a multitude of factors. I personally don’t feed much raw food for a variety of reasons (time of preparation is one of them) but I am a big advocate of feeding a varied diet made up of good, healthy food and spend time and energy trying to provide my dogs with same. 2) Food-related safety is an important issue, and shouldn’t be discounted, especially for people whose health is compromised in some way. Thank you to many of you who reminded us how vulnerable some populations are. I do repeat my wish that there was more good research on this subject but I also appreciate the reminders how terribly vulnerable certain populations can be. 3) Although I still wish Delta had implemented this decision more thoughtfully, and I do again bring up the issue that visits from pets have so many advantages that the plusses need to be balanced with keeping out pathogens in health care facilities, I am saddened by the assumption by many that Delta’s motives are not, at least in part, related keeping people healthy. Just as many dog owners attribute the worst of all possible motivations to their dog’s misbehavior (“I know he’s peeing on the carpet just to get back at me”) we seem to live in a world in which decisions with which we don’t agree are always motivated by the worst of all possible reasons. Believe, I know that everyone out there isn’t on the side of the angels, but most people are just trying to make the best decisions that they can in a complicated world.

  45. D says

    A report published in the August 2010 journal Pediatrics linked some human salmonella infections that occurred between 2006 and 2008 with contaminated dry dog and cat food. In my mind, Delta’s view that only raw fed dogs might carry salmonella (as others have noted) is short-sighted, since there have been more salmonella recalls on dog food than people food in the past few months.

    Perhaps they think that the people in the nursing homes, hospitals or other institutions are never going to touch kibble? Most positively trained dogs these days work best for treats – and I myself have been known to give a handful of “cookies” to anyone who wants to make my certified therapy dog go through her repertoire of tricks. (I usually use cheese, by the way, but that’s beside the point. Not everyone does.)

    Trisha – this is slightly off-topic, but just to let you know, MY personal reason for allowing my dog’s therapy certification (with TDI) to lapse was not over raw food, it was over their policy about titers. My dog has had vaccine reactions, so instead of vaccines, I typically do titers. She IS current on rabies, as required by law in my state. But she has not had a distemper vaccine in years, and her titers show that she has more than adequate protection. Perhaps you could cover this in a future blog topic.

  46. Kat says

    I think everyone that participates in therapy visits with their dog got into it because they care about other people and want to make a positive impact on lives. Delta’s broad brush blanket prohibition makes us feel like by feeding our dog the diet that we believe is best for them we are endangering everyone around us. No wonder feelings run so high. It’s as if we’re being told that the only way we can do the good we envisioned is by sacrificing our dog’s health.

    I finally realized that the reason I keep coming back and probing the issue like a sore tooth is because this blanket broad brush approach puts me on the defensive. Maybe he does pose more of a risk to highly susceptible populations I’m not convinced that the science is exact enough to say that but I can understand the concerns and agree not to visit those populations. But to say that simply because of what he eats he poses a significant risk to everyone offends me. Ranger is adored by all the children in the neighborhood they all rush to pet him. Delta’s blanket prohibition on raw food implies that that by allowing them to do this we are putting them at a higher risk of infection than that posed by living with their own kibble fed dogs kept in poop infested back yards. I have a hard time believing that.

    I’m not a raw feeding zealot, I’m not thoughtless and willfully ignoring genuine concerns, I’m not convinced that Delta is a pawn of Purina. I’m simply someone who wants to do the best she can for my dog and for others. I don’t see that much good was done by making me feel like I should walk my dog while chanting “raw fed unclean, unclean” and ringing a bell to warn people we’re coming. But in all honesty that’s how Delta’s broad brush approach has made me feel.

  47. Beth says

    I like Chris’s question about what is a “natural” diet for a dog. I, personally, tend to believe the theory that dogs self-selected (in evolutionary terms) long before they were selectively bred. They appear to have self-selected to be scavengers, and the vast majority of dogs, when turned loose, behave as scavengers and not as predators (nose-to-the-ground, “hoovering” behavior, strongly attracted to dead things and the feces of other animals). My cat behaves as a predator, even though she is a well-fed housepet. She watches for movement, she stalks things, she flips things over and rabbit-kicks them. My dogs have some predatory behavior (the death-shake, for example), but also do things most predators do not, but most scavengers do. They cast back and forth over the ground when they travel. They immediately eat stuff they find on the ground. They quickly eat vegetables and grains, which my obligate carnivore cat dismisses as unpalatable. Give a dog and a cat a piece of lettuce, and watch what happens. Better yet, give a dog and a cat a sniff of an orange, and watch the look of utter disgust on the cat’s face, compared to the dog.

    After self-selecting to scavenge, dogs were intensively selectively bred. We recognize that a Yorkie does not look like, nor act like, a wolf, yet some assume its dietary requirements are identical. That puzzles me. I used to be heavily involved in the horse world. The Thoroughbred is only a few hundred years old as a breed, and yet requires a diet vastly different from, say, an island pony. A pony can thrive on pasture and hay and might colic and die when given grain. The Thoroughbreds, and the hotter warmbloods, have trouble maintaining condition on pasture and hay alone, even in light work. A Thoroughbred looks much more like a Moore pony than a Bernese Mountain Dog looks like a Dachshund, yet there are those who would have you believe that dogs all thrive on a similar diet, one close to that of the wolf. Again, that does not even make sense on its face.

    Dogs have been more intensely selectively bred than nearly any other domestic species, and they were bred in very different circumstances. My Corgis, bred for centuries by poor Welsh farmers, are very easy keepers and get obese on a diet that a smaller terrier would be hungry on. Those poor Welsh farmers probably had little good meat for themselves, let alone their dogs.

    On the other end of the spectrum are some of the hunting breeds, bred for generations by wealthy land-owners with large kennels. The dogs probably ate better than most people did.

    Am I to believe that after a thousand-odd years of breeding, the two types should have the same diet to thrive? Again, that goes against everything we know.

    I do know it’s a bit off the topic, but I just believe that dogs can do very well on a large variety of diets. I do understand people’s desire to feed a prey-based diet, and I can see where many dogs would love it. I have concerns about nutritional deficits over the long haul. Think of humans and how some deficits, like calcium, don’t have any negative effects on people for decades, and by the time you are aware there is a problem the damage has been done.

    I can understand therapy dog organizations taking different approaches to this. The research is so limited, and I’m baffled as to why with so many wealthy people being dog-lovers. So I can see, with the handful of studies out there, where one organization would take a different approach from another.

    But I would hope that every new piece of science that comes out would make people stop and reconsider the conclusions they have already arrived at. That is not to say people should change their minds, but as new information becomes available, we should each and every one of us take that new information, add it to our store of knowledge, and subtly shift our positions accordingly.

    I feed a brand of kibble that I am happy with and I trust. However, if studies showed that most dogs fed this kibble shed considerably more bacteria than those fed other diets, that would certainly make me relook at my choices and weigh the new sets of pros vs the new sets of cons. That is the best any of us can do. Food is not orthodoxy, science constantly gives us new information, and none of us should be so emotionally attached to our decisions that an organization’s position on a particular food makes us question the integrity of the entire organization.

  48. says

    As I noted in the previous blog post about therapy dogs, I resigned from Delta Society because of their blanket policy against raw food. Whether it is because of concern of liability, or because of their big sponsor, Purina, answer me this…. How would it ever be PROVEN that a therapy dog visit caused any patient illness?

    I loved the comments from Janis, the paramedic, above….. skilled nursing facilities and hospitals are petri dishes of all sorts of infections and diseases. A therapy dog is the least of their worries.

    BTW, I don’t even feed my dogs raw. I do, however, give them raw meaty bones every few weeks for dental health. That falls under the new Delta policy as a no-no. There are PLENTY of other therapy organizations. As another poster, Wendy, said…. let Delta flounder without us.

  49. Raw Food Doggie says

    Like Kat, I keep coming back to this issue like a sore tooth. We have certified with another therapy group and have no plans to continue with Delta Society. However the injust and silly (for want of a better word!) nature of the directive keeps drawing me back.

    Very telling is the fact that Delta has failed to endorse any other “safe” alternative to raw feeding (Stella and Chewy’s, Honest Kitchen). For the Honest Kitchen story of their dialogue with Delta, here is a link: http://www.thehonestkitchen.com/2010/09/16/delta-societys-new-pet-food-policy-and-how-it-pertains-to-non-typical-foods-like-the-honest-kitchen Delta has also turned down HK, as listed on their policy page. This failure to endorse products that extensively test for contaminants has to reflect either an influence of the Purina marketing director who sits on the board, the bias of the Medical Advisory group who are vocal opponents of raw feeding, or the reluctance of Delta Society to offend the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. I doubt that this directive has increased Purina’s market share, but Delta is unreasoning, for whatever reasons, regarding raw alternatives that are prepared safely.

    I honestly don’t know whether a raw food is the best for my dog. I agree that there is no scientific testing to support the claim of benefits of raw feeding. Actually there was a study done many years ago in cats that did demonstrate benefits of raw food (http://www.sojos.com/rawstudiesarticle.html) But my pup enjoys his meals, his teeth are clean and white, and his poops are small and firm. My switch to raw was influenced not so much by the anecdotal evidence of benefits, but by the clear lack of a safe alternative that was within my budget! I was just tired of kibble roulette and recall after recall! If there was clear evidence that raw fed dogs were vectors for transmitting diseases, then we would abandon our therapy work in an instant. Our goal is not to harm, as so many have stated. Cooked food as an alternative, yes indeed. I would do that in a nanosecond. But I would not relinquish the use of bones that have been proven time and again to have dental benefits for the dog. So we will continue to hope that enlightened therapy organizations will recognize the mindless nature of the Delta Society directive and chart their own courses based on reasoned assessment of the data and concern for those who look forward to pet therapy visits. There has to be a happy medium here.

    My last question has to do with the real impact on Delta Society. One reads that people are not certifying and groups are withdrawing. I can’t remember where I read the statement from the President of DS, to the effect that “we expect to lose a few members, but this will not have a major impact”. I wonder whether that position is still held and whether we will ever know what is really going on.

  50. Susan Mann says

    I’m an RN, have spent most of my career (over 22 years) in Critical Care and Long Term Acute Care (think long term ventilator weaning, not nursing homes) and am now in the Emergency Department. I’ve snuck my own and others dogs up to visit, and done a little bit of therapy dog work. I can understand the concern, if dogs fed raw truly shed more pathogens, though I’m a bit skeptical considering most dogs I know eat goose poop, cat poop, horse poop, etc regardless of whether they are fed kibble or raw or some other combo. I don’t feed raw at the present (other than occasionally), but have in the past and plan to in the future. My dogs currently eat a wide variety of foods, mostly kibble (high end minimal or no grain) but also canned, dehydrated, freeze dried, scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, raw, and whatever else looks reasonable. I don’t bother with any kind of tapering schedule between kibbles, and they adjust beautifully. My focus on the dogs is to promote health, not to prevent disease, and this is where I think our society, including the medical community, often goes wrong. Flu season is upon us, and there will be signs up recommending flu shots and hand washing and yet there will be no discussion of how sleep and a good diet contribute to minimizing flu rates, not to mention it would help with all sorts of other diseases as well. Diet does get discussed, but sleep, practically never. Adequate sleep is helpful for weight loss, helps normalize cortisol levels, and aids the immune system, yet we are a sleep deprived nation, and generally proud of it.

  51. Chris says

    Those are really interesting examples…Why are horses so much more diet sensitive than dogs? It makes sense to me that modern dogs, which descend from scavengers, are much less diet sensitive than modern horses, which descend from picky eaters. After all, even the most carnivorous dog probably has some fruit eating genes deep down. But why does the corgi eat the same thing as a bloodhound, while a pony can’t tolerate the food that a thoroughbred absolutely requires? I have no clue, but I’m going to ask my large animal vet friend for some insight.

    Though….as I’m reading this again it looks like you’re saying “we should not expect all dogs to thrive on the same raw diet,” which I’ll grant you seems counterintuitive until you realize that all dogs can and do thrive perfectly well on a decent kibble. So it seems to me that as bizarre as it is that the corgi and the hound would eat the same food, we can see with our own eyes that they at least are ABLE to thrive on the same food, though whether or not they would choose to is not so clear.

  52. says

    Trish–

    I am concerned that you state that dogs are omnivores. I have read several sources that conclude that dogs are carnivores based on their anatomy and teeth.

    A very good explanation of the myth of omnivore versus carnivore can be found here at http://www.rawfed.com/myths/omnivores.html

    I realize that dogs *will eat* a wide variety of food including scavenging, fruits, vegetables and grains but they don’t *need* any other food stuffs besides meat, organs and bones to thrive.

    In the October 2010 issue of The Whole Dog Journal http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/
    there is an informative article titled “Questions about Carbs: Do dogs need them? How much is enough? How much is too much”

    In the article the author Lisa Rodier states: “As we mentioned before, dogs have no nutritional requirement for dietary carbohydrates. They can get everything they need from a diet that contains only protein and fat”.

    I would appreciate it if you could discuss why you feel that dogs omnivores rather than carnivores. I think that when people mistakenly say that dogs are omnivores, it just adds ammunition to the debate that kibble is the best diet for dogs.

    Thanks

  53. Frances says

    Susan – can we get together and start a society for the promotion of sufficient sleep? Going off topic, but once I retired I realised that I had spent much of my life with a sleep deficit, and suffered serious illness that was at least partly the result. Now I see any number of friends and relations in the same situation.

  54. trisha says

    Re wolves as omnivores or carnivores: Some biologists label wolves as omnivores and others as carnivores. (I was taught at University that although wolves prefer meat, they also eat worms, insects and fruits and berries, and are thus classified as omnivores, while cats are considered obligate carnivores.) Clearly, wolves prefer meat. And as clearly, dogs evolved with very different diets than wolves. What do dogs do best on? Is it possible it depends on the dog? After all, some people thrive on eating vegetarian, and have never felt better in their lives, while others simply can’t function without eating meat. Specifically, to Nancy’s concerns about referring to wolves as omnivores being used to argue that “kibble is the best diet for dogs…”, I hardly know what to say. I can not find the logical in that argument, so I personally wouldn’t worry about it myself. But, that’s just me. We’re all different, just like dogs.

  55. Kat says

    I wish I could remember where I read it but I really liked the description of wolves and other canines as neither carnivores nor omnivores but opportunistic eaters. They prefer animal protein but since wild canines are often unsuccessful at the hunt they eat berries, fruits, grains, herbivore poop and anything else that will fill their bellies. I picture them as being on a see food diet; if they see food they eat it. All the dogs I know tend to follow that same see food diet being willing and able to eat nearly anything they see that might be considered food.

    I don’t really know how much plant matter Ranger needs in his diet. The books I’ve read say 60/40 for dogs and 80/20 for cats. I include a varied amount and kind of plant matter in Ranger’s diet because he likes it. Some days he might get a lot of plant matter and a little raw meat other days it might be entirely raw meat still other days it might be the 60/40. Some days he just gets kibble. We’re not at all obsessive about it. He does well with lots of raw in his diet and hasn’t had gastroenteritis since we switched vs 4 times in two years when he was only fed kibble. I can’t say for sure there is a causal relationship but I’m not prepared to take the risk that there isn’t. I can’t afford $700+ every six months to get him back to health.

  56. Melissa says

    I’ve been keeping up with this blog for quite a while but have never commented. I try to help rescues and volunteer when I can. I have a question about a situation that recently came about with a dog left by a homeowner to die. The dog was without food/water/shelter and chained to a tree. The chain wrapped around the dogs’s hind leg and wore away the fur and skin until bone was exposed. Being half its normal weight, completely infested with fleas, ticks, & magnets, the dog was seized by animal control and then taken in by a rescue group who is now asking for donations to help with all the vet care. I must say the blog moved me to tears when reading it and I decided I wanted to help and began asking co-workers & friends for donations for the dog. I’m at surprised by the number of negative comments about how the dog should have been put down and not had the time and money wasted on it.
    My question, which I think brings about a good point for debate, is when is a dog still a candidate for rescue and when is it time to let go? While just hearing about the circumstances, I can see where some could argue the point that putting the dog down is the best, but after reading the detailed account of this particular situation, it seems the best decision was made to help the dog.
    Here is a link to the full blog detailing the circumstances and the progress the dog has made. I’m in no way affiliated with this rescue nor do I even know the people who run the rescue. It was just a story the touched my heart. What do you think?

    http://www.sweetheartsstory.blogspot.com

  57. Janice says

    The raw food issue is often presented as a dichotomy–either one feeds a raw food diet or one relies (as one person put it) on the Russian roulette of a commercial kibble diet. There is a middle approach: One doesn’t need to rely on a dog food company’s kibble diet. You can get your wholesome ingredients from prey animals and all the other things that you want your dog to eat, but you cook your home-made diet to eliminate most parasites and bacteria, if your dogs are going to be used as therapy dogs and working in that setting. Dogs have been eating cooked food–left-overs from human meals- for a lot of generations, like, for thousands of years. I don’t see how this simple precaution will hurt your dogs and it might make things safer for the sick people, who are already fighting an uphill battle with their health, you are supposedly trying to help by taking your dog to visit them. (After all, there have been plenty of comments about how much more strict attention to food safety, things like picking up the bowl and washing them right after feeding, needs to be done when feeding a raw food diet). So don’t rely on kibble, just cook your home made food for your dogs when you are using them as therapy dogs. This is a middle approach, risk to your dog’s health (if any) should be minimal and this should not be that hard to do.

    I, too, am deeply troubled by the same observation that Beth made when she asked: “Anyone concerned about the well-being of the patients they visit?

    I would suggest that, if feeding a raw food diet is more important than the potential safety of the patients you are going to apparently help, then you are doing canine therapy work for the wrong reasons. Perhaps this is the most important thing that Delta Society is determining with this policy.

  58. Alexandra says

    Personally, I think it’s just as unfair to accuse the folks on the raw side of the debate of being uncaring of the patients they visit as it is to accuse the Delta Society of being in some sort of anti-raw conspiracy with Purina. Maybe I am an idealist, but it seems to me that both sides think they have the best of intentions, and that nothing will be gained from those kinds of accusations.

    And finally, I think if there are patients out there who are too immunocompromised to receive a visit from a clean, bathed dog who might have dined on raw chicken the night before, then I have a hard time understanding how it would be safe for them to have a visit from any animal at all. Every dog I have met, regardless of diet, will happily snarf up whatever bacteria-laden bunny poop, discarded food, or roadkill parts they might pass on a walk. I’d be amazed to meet a dog owner who could 100% keep her dog away from that stuff.

  59. Kat says

    Janice:
    Speaking strictly for myself, when I first saw Delta’s policy I thought about the additional time involved to cook all his food and thought it might be doable and figured I could give it the two week trial I did before switching to mostly raw to see how he did on a cooked diet but as I read further I saw it prohibited any raw proteins including bones and that was the deal breaker. Chewing up a bone relaxes him, keeps his teeth clean and gives him a whole body work out. Not to mention keeping him occupied for quite awhile. Last night Ranger ate cooked chicken, cooked vegetables, cooked pasta and a raw pork neck bone. So, according to Delta’s policy he’s a health hazard to everyone.

    I’ve said it repeatedly I’m not convinced the science is sufficiently exact to say with certainty that a raw fed dog poses a greater risk but I can agree not to visit the most immune compromised populations. Isn’t that a reasonable balance? Saying he can’t do atherapy work unless I feed him according to their rules seems overkill to me.

  60. R.D.L. says

    The raw diet was my last hope for one of my dogs. He had sporadic colitis which the vets would only treat by giving us drugs like metronidazole. I must have tried 10 different kibbles. After coming home too many times to smelly diarrhea in the carpets I had to try something else. I think I spend between $90 and $140 a month to feed 3 dogs. One dog is 44 lb, another 49lb and the last is 58 lb. I don’t think that is excessively expensive. I buy cases and use a freezer. I use a dealer who specializes in raw food for pets.

    After feeding raw for over a year I gave the kennel some kibble for one of my dogs as it was an extreme emergency with a family member on life support in another state, reserving the raw for dog with colitis. When I returned one of the kibble fed dogs had a massive anal gland infection a few days later. Not good .

    I might have cooked for the dogs if I wasn’t already volunteering nearly every day at a Humane Society and have no time. I have lupus and therefore my doctors would have fits about the dog diet, but in over two years I have to say that my diet gave me more trouble than my dogs’ food did. I was diagnosed with celiac disease 6 months ago and have eliminated gluten for me and my dogs. I feel perfectly healthy now in spite of handling raw meat all the time. I think the people who pointed out that specific dogs need specific diets are correct. Just as specific people have specific needs. And that changes over time.

    I would absolutely NEVER feed a Purina product to one of my dogs. Joe Public might see the Purina logo on a Delta Society dog or literature and think Delta endorses Purina as a good product and think he should feed it to Fido. It is a substandard product and rather than improving their product to be more competitive Purina relies on marketing to sell it.

  61. em says

    Interesting point about different dogs needing different diets. As a great dane, I think it’s safe to say that Otis is firmly in the ‘hunting dog from a noble household’ category and that his ancestors probably enjoyed a fairly meat-heavy diet. It may certainly be a coincidence, but true to form, King Otis spurns almost all vegetables not soaked in meat juices, won’t even look at fruit (especially citrus..Otis would be much more offended by an orange than my cats would)and disdains bread unless liberally spread with butter.

    Speaking only for him, I can also say that he CAN’T tolerate a diet of kibble. We did a bit of experimenting and found that he has a major intolerance for whole grains (he can eat simple carbs without much problem, but even a whiff of bran and it’s a cycle of diarrhea, listlessness, food refusal, and weight loss that was making me crazy.) Really cheap kibble might not have whole grain, but I couldn’t bring myself to go that route.

    That left me with three choices: grain-free kibble, home-cooked, and raw. I researched and considered them all and decided on raw principally because a) grain-free kibble costs the moon and b) cooked would mean that he couldn’t eat bones. He’ll gnaw a big meaty bone for a while, but he doesn’t end up eating much of it. Raw meant that he could consume chicken bones, complete with all of the nutrients they contain, and I felt that bone matter was too valuable as a potential source of minerals to pass up. Raw just seemed like the easiest way to ensure a balanced diet since kibble was not an option.

    Otis doesn’t do therapy work, and he doesn’t interact with immuno-compromised people. If I did want to begin doing therapy, I would do everything I could to minimize risk of bacterial contamination and I would scrupulously avoid populations at heightened risk. If circumstances were to come to pass that he HAD to interact with an at-risk person, I would probably switch to a home-cooked diet and supplement with a multi-vitamin/mineral, though I would be reluctant to do so because I feel (probably irrationally) that it is better for both dogs and people to absorb nutrients through a whole and balanced diet than to make up for deficits with supplements.

  62. em says

    Another thought-sorry Beth-both my carnivore cats actually do eat vegetables. They love wheat grass, and one of them is a fool for coconut and whole coffee beans…but I don’t think that anyone would suggest that any of those things should make up a significant portion of their diets.

  63. Beth says

    As an interesting note, the National Zoo feeds its wolves kibble. It’s a special kibble for wild canines and I’m not saying it’s Beneful, but still:

    http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/NorthAmerica/Facts/fact-graywolf.cfm

    “Life Span: In the wild, gray wolves live about six to eight years, and sometimes up to 13 years. In zoos, they may live up to 17 years.”

    Interestingly enough, the lions get beef. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GreatCats/lionfacts.cfm

    The seals get fish:

    http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/NorthAmerica/Facts/fact-greyseal.cfm

    Brookfield Zoo in Chicago also feeds wolves kibble:

    http://www.czs.org/czs/Brookfield/Exhibit-and-Animal-Guide/Regenstein-Wolf-Woods/Mexican-Gray-Wolf.aspx

    Sooo…… if the zoo is feeding its cats and seals their natural diet (all meat) and the wolves are getting kibble, why would that be? Generally zoos try to do a lot of research into what their animals need to thrive, not just survive.

    Just some food for thought.

  64. lytha says

    Here in Germany, things are not so sterile. The entire antibacterial movement skipped this land as far as I can tell.

    Dogs are allowed in restaurants and shopping malls, and smoking is still allowed in restaurants and office buildings (in my state).

    I was surprised that although my doctor washes her hands before examining me, she uses a regular bathtowel to dry them. No paper towels in doctors’ offices?

    Even the animals are not sterilized – it is considered unhealthy to castrate dogs. I’ve yet to meet a neutered male dog here!

  65. prairiequeen says

    I heard a lecture once from a vet at NIH. His comments regarding protecting patients were simple-
    HANDWASHING, HANDWASHING, HANDWASHING.

    While there are some suspicions that there are people on the board from Nestle and Purina, I think it is unlikely that this influenced the decision. I am guessing that it is an insurance issue and panic from someone who gave an opinion based on incomplete information.

  66. JJ says

    Em’s comments about her Great Dane are interesting – especially in light of the comments about dogs needing (or wanting?) different diets. My Great Dane drools for watermelon, sugar snap peas, green beans, bell peppers of any color, bananas, tomatoes, and many more fruits and vegetables. While not at drool level, Duke has eaten (what was offered or dropped on the floor) spinach and swiss chard. I’ve given Duke bites of whole grain human products like bread and crackers with no noticeable problems. Duke seems to do great on what most discerning consumers would probably consider mid-range (but what I thought was high-range when I started) quality kibble. (It was Innova – which he will no longer get now that P&G is producing it).

    I love that Duke likes his fruits and veggies. It makes training easy, healthful and guilt-free for me and is one reason I am considering a mostly vegetarian diet for him (with plenty of protein and other required vitamins, minerals, etc. of course).

  67. says

    My Izzee developed IBD, and for a short while could tolerate absolutely NOTHING but baked white potatoes without throwing up. Even sweet potatoes or any kind of rice made her very ill.

    I feed kibble, supplemented by various kinds of left-overs and other “real-food” treats, like plain yogurt.

  68. Mihaela says

    Trisha, thank you for bringing this topic up for discussion. I was so saddened to learn about this policy this past summer, when I was ready to start training one of my dogs as a therapy dog. I feed my dogs a combination of cooked and raw, because, after much reading about it, I decided that this is what would give them the best quality of life, short term and long term. So when it came to deciding if to compromise their health in order to bring happiness to other human beings, I voted for their well-being and forgot about the humans! Of course, I could have also chosen to lie to Delta about it, but that didn’t feel right…

    I think that part of their decision to do this could be blamed on the pet food companies that sponsor them. But that it not likely the whole story. Judging by the reaction that our vet had when I disclosed to her our dogs’ raw food diet, I bet that Delta’s veterinary advisory board is bent in the same direction! Of course, you could link that back indirectly to the pet food companies that instill the fear of anything-but-kibble in the conventionally-trained vets everywhere.

    Like you, I am a firm believer in strong scientific evidence (not entirely available here). And really, those kibble-fed dogs, would probably have to go through whole-body sterilization, then be transported to the hospital (all the way into the patient rooms) in sterile transporters and muzzled, so they can’t touch anything, to really be no threat to immunocompromised patients! Oh, and also all of their orifices would need to be air-tight plugged, too! Or just replace them with some autoclaved stuffed toys and forget about it!

  69. Mark in Virginia says

    I read the WDJ story by CJ Puotinen after reading the story here and comments.

    If there is clear cut evidence that, on balance, raw fed dogs pose a significantly greater health risk than other dogs, I missed it.

    This seems like a pretty clear case of poor corporate judgment. But yeah, on the positive side, a lot of good info brought to light that will benefit raw feeders, canine pals and patients.

    Enjoyed this recent story on home made pet food: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/19/dining/19pets.html. Yum!

  70. says

    Prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are responsible enough to have a pet. This will take longer than a day, a week, or a month… so be prepared to work hard.. . end of line

  71. DE Sullivan says

    My dogs and I were Delta members and routinely visited hospital and nursing homes – until the ban on raw food. We no longer volunteer and have let our Delta membership lapse. It’s unfortunate, because the residents really enjoyed their visits. This is not only a definitely foolish corporate decision, but one that cannot be ‘policed’ or enforced. Dogs will continue to be dogs and eat feces, dead creatures, bugs, etc. – but that seems to be OK with Delta! Go figure! My dogs compete in agility, obedience, rally and tracking and are kept in good shape and clean. I will look elsewhere for their volunteer efforts. I haven’t checked yet, but maybe Therapy Dogs International has better leadership. In the meantime, we’ll just have fun times with our dogs! :)

  72. Me says

    While my dog wasn’t doing her therapy work with the Delta Society, I take care to feed her cooked food for both her own health and anyone’s health that she might be coming into contact with. She no longer does therapy but is my service dog. I believe it would be a potential public health risk to feed her raw meat products and I’m not one for potentially putting others at risk for my own convenience. While there needs to be more research done on this subject, understanding of how parasites and bacteria work leads me to feel that raw feeding would be an unnecessary risk. Parasites and bacteria are some of the most prolific live forms on our planet. Certain ones have co-evolved with the domestic dogs and are adapted to surviving their digestive tracts. If they hadn’t, they would surely have perished and ceased to be in existence. Just because a dog has a shorter digestive tract than a human isn’t saying much. And science has proven that dogs don’t have significantly more acidic digestive fluids than humans, despite what many people groundlessly claim. Dogs aren’t magically impervious to food borne pathogens and even if they’re just asymptomatically carriers, these pathogens can still spread to others who will become sick due to them.

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