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Go raw or not — the debate rages on

By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer

Susan Jenkins, owner of Papps Dog Services, feeds her dog Micah raw chicken backs. Jenkins has been feeding her dogs a raw chicken diet for years. (Paul Tople/Akron Beacon Journal)

Dogs and cats have consumed living, raw meats for thousands of years. Cats eat mice and we don’t rush them to the vet, nor do we get excited when it happens and call the poison control center.

So why are many veterinarians so dead set against feeding pets a raw diet?

Commercial pet food entered the market only about 100 years ago, so processed dog and cat food is a relatively new phenomenon, said licensed veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker of Chicago.

“However, your pet’s GI tract has not evolved in those hundred years to make good use of an entirely kibble-based diet — and it never will,” Becker said.

As a proactive integrative wellness veterinarian with Mercola Healthy Pets, Becker believes in finding ways to avoid health problems rather than treating them after they develop. She said first on the list is providing pets with proper nutrition.

Vet schools don’t include the study of pet foods in their curriculum, Becker said. The multibillion dollar pet food industry has survived only because dogs and cats are adaptable. They can eat “fast food” commercial kibble and survive but they won’t thrive on it any more than a human will on a steady diet of fast food, she said.

Feeding pets a raw diet is gaining momentum with pet owners. Proponents of BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diets, many of whom have been feeding their animals bones and raw food for years, claim their animals are in much better health than those given a constant diet of commercial-grade kibble.

A raw dog food diet typically consists of muscle meat, bones — either whole or ground, organ meats such as livers and kidneys, raw eggs, vegetables like broccoli, spinach and celery, fruit and dairy, such as yogurt.

A raw diet for cats typically consists of raw muscle and organ meat (from the same animal source); grated above-ground vegetables, carrots and herbs for flavor and antioxidants; ground raw bones (non-splintering type such as chicken neck bones); and vitamin C and fatty acid.

As more and more pet owners adopt the BARF method, a growing number of commercial pet food manufacturers are providing high-protein, low-carbohydrate raw foods in easy-to-use packages.

Pet owners who made the switch to raw foods say previously sluggish animals have gained energy; don’t exhibit allergic reactions such as itching and stomach issues; and no longer have arthritis or it is significantly reduced. Owners also say their raw food-fed animal’s body weight is easier to control and the animal has less body, breath and feces odor; fewer skin problems; lives longer; and has better-managed pregnancies.

Pet Place reader Sherry Gedeon of Kent is among those who testify to the advantages of raw feeding. She has fed her Bernese mountain dogs a raw food diet for more than 12 years.

“[I] have very healthy dogs now and they don’t get GI upsets and can eat just about anything, even kibble when I forget to defrost meat,” Gedeon said.

But not everyone is in accordance with her thinking, especially many veterinarians.

Last year, the American Veterinary Medical Association came out against feeding pets a raw diet.

For one thing, the vets were concerned about possible bacteria contamination such as salmonella and E. coli in raw foods. The harmful pathogens could cause illness in pets and humans if the food is not cooked to kill bacteria.

Other risks cited by the vets include possible intestinal obstructions or perforations from ingesting bones, teeth fractures and the lack of adequate nutrition.

The AVAMA insists pet owners’ claims that their pets are healthier on raw meat is anecdotal and unsubstantiated because no long-term studies have been done.

For looks at both sides of the issue, listen to Becker discuss myths and truths about raw diets at and read the AVAMA FAQ sheet on its policy at

The debate continues. There are tons of information for people considering the move to raw feeding. One source is Becker’s book, Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats: Simple Homemade Food available online at,267,100.htm.

Other pets in the news:

World Oceans Day — The Akron Zoo is joining accredited zoos and aquariums to celebrate World Oceans Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today with displays and activities focusing on water and animals. Visitors can participate in a turtle migration game, activities surrounding the reef and aquatic themed crafts. The zoo is at 500 Edgewood Ave. 330-375-2550.

Adopt a Shelter Cat Month — The Humane Society of Greater Akron, 7996 Darrow Road, Twinsburg, and the Portage County Animal Protective League, 8122 Infirmary Road, Ravenna, are offering special adoption rates for cats and kittens through June. Adoption fees for cats 6 months and under are $30 and $20 for adults. The Humane Society will offer cats over 6 years old for $10. Contact the Akron humane society at 330-487-0333 and Portage County APL at 330-296-4022.

Hardesty Park Pet Expo — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at Hardesty Park, 1615 W. Market St., Akron. More than 600 shelters and rescues will be at the event with animals and information. The event is sponsored by local radio stations WAKR (1590-AM), WONE (97.5-FM) and WQMX (94.9-FM).

Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Akron Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to


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