What Do Vets Say About Raw Dog Food? Let's Ask a Vet!
It’s one thing to take our word for it about the benefits of raw feeding, but it’s quite another to hear about it from a vet. We had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Alexandra Macaulay, a vet at All Bay Animal Hospital in Concord, CA who happens to be a We Feed Raw customer.
Read on to find out what she learned about raw feeding in vet school, why she switched her own dogs to We Feed Raw, what changes she noticed in her dogs after making the switch, and which dogs should or should not eat a raw diet.
Q. Thanks for agreeing to talk to us. Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
A. Hello! My name is Alexandra Macaulay, and I’m a small animal general practitioner in East Bay, California. I ended up here after completing my veterinary degree at the University of Scotland.
Q. There’s this idea in the raw feeding community that vets are only taught about kibble (and other commercial diets) in vet school and are discouraged from exploring other food options for the animals in their care. Was that your experience? What, if anything, did you learn about raw feeding in vet school?
A. I was not taught anything about raw feeding while in vet school. From what I gathered, it was very much considered taboo to raw feed your pets.
Q. If you didn’t learn about raw diets in vet school, where did you get your information about the benefits of raw? Did you have to dig deep to find good evidence of the benefits of a raw diet? Are there resources you can point pet parents to discussing raw dog food?
A. I first got interested in raw feeding when I started doing agility training with my two dogs. Almost every single owner in my group was raw feeding. And these are extremely athletic and high-energy dogs we’re talking about—they all looked so healthy and in such great condition. It really made me start to think and question the type of nutrition I was giving to my dogs.
Q. Are there any potential risks or downsides to raw feeding you want people to be aware of?
A. Potential risks include pets or humans contracting food-borne pathogens and raw diets not being nutritionally balanced. Not all raw foods are created equal, and it's best to find a raw option like We Feed Raw that uses a kill step (called HPP, high-pressure processing) to neutralize food-borne pathogens, that meets AAFCO nutrition standards, and that is adequate for the current stage of life.
Q. What did you feed your dogs before We Feed Raw? Have you tried other raw diets?
A. Both my dogs were previously fed a prescription kibble with hydrolyzed proteins. They both suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, so they were required to be on a hydrolyzed protein diet. For a short time, I tried making my own raw diet at home using a formulation provided by another raw dog food company, but I was finding it extremely time-consuming.
Q. How did you hear about We Feed Raw? What made you decide to give our food a try? How long have you been feeding your dogs We Feed Raw?
A. I heard about We Feed Raw through a simple Google search. I contrasted and compared several different raw food companies but ended up going with We Feed Raw based on their excellent nutrition standards and great reviews.
Q. Did you notice any changes in your dogs after switching them to We Feed Raw? Do you remember how long it took to start seeing those changes?
A. One of my dogs is extremely picky when it comes to food. It would take up to 24-36 hours for him to eat a kibble meal. The instant I started feeding him We Feed Raw, he hasn’t missed a meal! He is so excited about mealtime now and licks his bowl clean every single time.
Stools for both of my dogs have also become a lot more solid since starting on the raw diet. They would both have intermittent soft stools, but about a month after switching, they have been having consistently normal stools.
Lastly, one of my dogs also required monthly B12 injections due to his inflammatory bowel disease. About 3 months after starting the raw diet, I re-checked his B12 levels and they have completely normalized without having to administer his B12 injections!
Q. Over the years, we've noticed the tide changing when it comes to vets and raw feeding. While this used to be the kind of diet they'd never recommend, we now have many clients whose vets fully support their choice to feed raw. What do you think has caused this shift?
A. I think in this field we have been very limited in natural interventions that we can implement. It’s not always ideal to just put pets on another medication to help alleviate symptoms. I think vets are now seeing the great advantages that raw feeding can provide. Whether it be for intestinal diseases, skin allergies, joint issues, etc, I think raw feeding offers a plethora of health benefits.
Q. Is a raw diet something you recommend for all of your dog and cat patients, or do you only talk about it if the pet parent asks? Are there some dogs or cats who should NOT eat a raw diet?
A. If pets are doing well and there are no health issues, I typically do not recommend switching diets. I definitely like to bring it to the table for pets with skin allergies or intestinal issues as these are the ones I see benefiting most from a raw diet. I think pets from households with any immunocompromised individuals should avoid feeding raw diets.
Q. What are the most important things you want pet parents to know about feeding their pets a raw diet? Do you have tips as a pet parent who feeds raw? Important information from a vet’s perspective about feeding raw?
A. The most important thing about feeding a raw diet is to ensure it is a complete and balanced diet and that it meets the requirements for the current stage of life, ie: growth, maintenance, etc. And always check to ensure the diet meets AAFCO standards.
Q. Although the tides are starting to turn, some vets still recommend against raw feeding. What should people do or say if their vet is pushing hard against their decision to feed a raw diet?
A. I recommend doing some research on your own and finding what fits best for you and your pet’s needs. You can always try and get a second opinion from another vet that you trust.