Some of you may have seen or heard about the University of Melbourne's U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital study that alleges that dogs eating raw chicken (particularly raw chicken necks) have an increased risk of contracting a rare type of immune-mediated canine paralysis called Acute PolyradiculoNeuritis (APN).
The media release announcing the research findings concludes with a recommendation that dog owners should choose regular dog food rather than raw chicken necks until more research is done.
Is this yet just another hit at the raw feeding community or is there some truth in their claims?
The study was carried out by vets, who in the main generally oppose raw food diets for cats and dogs and sell food in their clinics by the likes of Royal Canin and Hills.
In fact, one of the head vets at the U-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital, Dr Leonie Richards, publicly speaks out against feeding a raw food diet, recommending "premium" and dry pet foods.
The diet recommended by Dr Richards is one that is processed and contains poor quality pet grade meat, grains and vegies and is supplemented with synthetic vitamins and minerals in an attempt to replace what has been destroyed in the processing of the food.
This diet is so far removed from the evolutionary history of the canine and in no way does it provide your dog with optimum nutrition. It is a diet that places your dog at more risk of disease than a raw, species appropriate diet.
I always like to look at both sides of an argument, and in that vein, I have included below some of the articles rebutting the claim that raw chicken causes canine paralysis:
Some of the points made in rebuttal of the study include:
1. The Campylobacter bacteria (which is believed to trigger APN in dogs based on it being found in half of the dogs used in the study) is commonly found in 50% of raw and dry fed dogs.
2. There are believed to exist multiple causes of APN, including vaccinations.
3. A small, insufficient sample size and poor sampling methods were used.
4. Bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella are commonly found in kibble as well as eggs, milk, cheese, fish and pork and many common fruits and vegetables.
5. The scientists make unsubstantiated claims.
6. Dogs on raw tend to have a good immune system and very low pH in the gut so usually these types of bacteria don't bother them at all.
7. The food eaten by the dogs was not studied. In fact, the researchers say "Analysis of the raw chicken given to the APN dogs also would have been helpful, but such samples were not available from the owners."
8. The scientists claim that the Campylobacter bacteria is reason for the dysregulation of the dogs’ immunity and the symptoms of paralysis, but is it the case that the bacteria grew out of control because the dog's immune system was poor ie they were already in a state of poor health?
In terms of the last point, instead of excluding raw chicken from your dog's diet based on a potentially flawed study, is it a better approach to ensure your dog has a strong immune system by feeding him a species appropriate diet that provides optimum nutrition? Also, food safety authorities say that freezing chicken can reduce the level of Campylobacter by up to 90%.
I'm sure in time more rebuttals will be made and I will add those here. Watch this space.
In the meantime, learn more about what's wrong with pet food today - check out my free eGuide 'The 7 Secret Ingredients In Your Pet's Food'. It will help you to decide, or reassure you, what food NOT to feed your beloved furry friend.