The Raw Versus Processed Dog Food Debate
(WCCO) There is a raging controversy about pet food, between people who want to feed their dogs "raw" meat and those who believe processed food is best.
Raw food would be similar to food dogs would get in the wild but others believe raw food is killing pets and they say there is proof.
Dog food is big business. Americans shell out $13 billion a year on dog and cat food, which is more than is spent on over-the-counter medications for humans.
Pet food companies are chomping at the bit for a piece of the pie, but a growing number of owners believe their pets should be powered by raw protein alone, not packaged or processed goods.
Kelli Johnson is a believer in raw food, saying pets should eat what they naturally get in the wild.
Johnson is the owner of Golden Acres Kennel in Elk River, Minn. She trains hundreds of dogs a year. Her own six dogs and three cats get fed 15 pounds of raw meat each day.
"The simple reality is from a scientific standpoint is when you cook a food you de-nature it from a nutritional standpoint," Johnson said. "You destroy all the fatty acids, you destroy most of the vitamins, you destroy most of the minerals, you destroy, you completely change the protein molecules."
Johnson said her dogs have more vitality, fewer allergies and cleaner teeth. They also haven't had any health issues in years.
"I haven't been to the vet with an issue with the dog in seven or eight years, I guess," Johnson said.
She said she believes one of her dogs was even cured of cancer after she switched the dog's diet from processed to raw.
Not everyone endorses raw. In fact, one prominent veterinarian is blunt.
Dr. Julie Churchill, a specialist in animal nutrition at the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine, said feeding raw meat to your dog can kill.
"I know it can harm my patients," Churchill said. "I've personally seen an entire kennel wiped out with salmonellosis, so again, the salmonella bacteria."
Churchill says she has seen an entire litter of puppies wiped out from bacterial meningitis.
"We were able to culture the same organism in the brain as the food," Churchill said. "The claims that it cures cancer, it cures bad breath, it promotes longer lives, are all based on myth, urban legend."
Both Churchill and Johnson are passionate about their pets, but there is some middle ground.
People can feed their dogs a "home diet" where the food is homemade but prepared and cooked at home in the kitchen.
One specialist recommends that if you do feed your dog raw, you should freeze food 72 hours in advance to cut down on bacteria and parasites.
The Food and Drug Administration regulates the quality of commercial pet food. Raw meat is not regulated, but the FDA does set some guidelines.
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