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Raw food diet risky

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
For those of you feeding your cats raw meat, or contemplating it, here's an unsettling report:


© Bayer Animal Health
This is the result of a recently study published by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Raw food may cause a fatal Salmonella infection, killing two cats described in the study.

`While raw food diets are becoming increasingly popular among pet owners, there is a growing body of information showing that these diets pose a health risk not only for the pets that consume them but to their owners as well,` AAHA President Dr. Link Welborn says.

Leading the research are Shane L. Stiver, DVM, Kendall S. Frazier, DVM, Michael J. Mauel, Ph.D. and Eloise L. Styer, Ph.D., from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

The case study, published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, involved two cats that developed salmonellosis as a result of a raw meat-based diet.
The salmonellosis caused gastrointestinal upset, weight loss and anorexia, leading to both cats` deaths.
Salmonella in tissue cultures isolated from one cat was identical to cultures from the raw beef used in the cat`s home-prepared diet. The resulting infection was confirmed as cause of death in both cases.
The report is first to describe the occurrence of salmonellosis in cats as a result of feeding a raw meat-based diet.

Source: Raw food diets risky for pets, AAHA study shows. In: DVM Newsmagazine December 22, 2003.
post #2 of 17
Doing a search on Google brings up a couple of responses to that AAHA article. Here's a good one that we found:


The Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) published an article in its November-December 2003 issue on Salmonella in two cats fed a raw-meat diet. If you read the article closely, you'll see that both cats were unhealthy and, from my reading, were apparently not terribly well cared for. One was an unneutered 14 year-old male with matted hair, lymphoplasmacytic infiltrates within the lamina propria (the connective tissue located just under the epithelial cells), mild pneumonia, and an ulcerated tongue. This cat had a history of weight loss, soft stools, and anorexia. Another was a recently vaccinated kitten with severe pneumonia, a severe nasal discharge, and bilateral corneal opacity. The kitten's lungs were mottled. Finally, the article notes that both cats originated in the same multiple-cat household and the affected animals may have had an altered immune status or environmental stress. The older cat also had a Bordetella infection "incurring additional immunological and physiological stress with compromise to local pulmonary defense mechanisms."

What we don't know is: where the beef used to feed these cats came from; whether it was beef that was intended for human consumption (or one of those lower-quality, pre-packaged "BARF diets" that make me very nervous); how the caregiver prepared and served the beef; and whether the caregiver was careful about not letting the raw meat sit out for hours or even days on end. The article notes that the referring veterinarian told the client to discontinue feeding a raw beef-based diet to her cats. If I were the veterinarian, I'd certainly recommend the same thing. Something is clearly terribly wrong with the food being served in that household.

So, how concerned should we be about what this very interesting article says? If two healthy and otherwise well-cared for cats -- that we knew were served a properly and safely prepared balanced diet consisting of fresh meat from a reputable source intended for human consumption -- were stricken down by Salmonella and died, then indeed we should be extremely concerned. However, a careful reading of the article suggests that the cats were neither healthy nor well-cared for. Nor do we know whether the meat came from a reputable source. Consequently, because we don't have answers to such key questions, these unfortunate incidents do not constitute a blanket indictment of all raw diets. I'm disappointed to report that this article has already been badly misused and misrepresented for just that purpose--with one veterinary site even implying it was a broad based "study" of the issue of raw food and Salmonella in cats.

I urge a close reading of the AAHA article--and suggest that you don't rely on second- or third-hand interpretations of what it says. Don't run away from the issue of parasites and bacteria in cat food. Understand the issue, respect it, and make informed decisions.

That same article notes that healthy adult cats "appear to have high immunological resistance to the development of clinical salmonellosis." In one study, the article notes, "experimental infection of healthy cats required inoculation of infectious organisms in numbers far exceeding those likely encountered in natural infection." Translated into less scientific language, this means that it's very difficult for cats to succumb to Salmonella poisoning.

Finally, remember that the US Centers for Disease Control reports that in human cases of food-borne salmonellosis between 1973 and 1984, contaminated beef accounted for the majority of cases at 19 percent. Behind that was turkey (9 percent), pork (7 percent), and poultry (5 percent).

I'll say it again: If you're going to feed a raw, home-prepared diet, you MUST do it correctly. No cheating and using cheap sources of meat unfit for human consumption. Don't even think about using the raw meat that is routinely fed at greyhound race tracks (which is taken from rendering plants and thus has already been deemed unfit for human consumption). No leaving raw food out for hours or days at a time.

And never forget that there is risk with anything you feed. Respect that risk and minimize it.
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Since JC refuses to eat raw meat (including filet), this isn't an issue for me. He wants everything well-done. However, I think it's important that people know that cats can get salmonella - too many times I've seen posts on other forums where people claim that it's impossible. I participate in a German forum that has many dedicated BARFers. One hot topic is where the meat should be bought. Fresh meat is far more common here than pre-packaged frozen meat, and many people worry because the fresh beef is displayed right beside the fresh pork or poultry. Whether beef is any safer for cats than raw pork, with the prevalence of BSE in Europe, is questionable. One "way out" is to buy beef from a Moslem or Jewish butcher, but there again you have the problem of many people considering the "ritual slaughter" cruelty to animals. I have noticed that most of the proponents of BARF are not veterinarians or animal nutritionists, so I take anything they say with a grain of salt.
post #4 of 17
Originally posted by jcat
Since JC refuses to eat raw meat (including filet), this isn't an issue for me. He wants everything well-done. However, I think it's important that people know that cats can get salmonella - too many times I've seen posts on other forums where people claim that it's impossible. I participate in a German forum that has many dedicated BARFers. One hot topic is where the meat should be bought. Fresh meat is far more common here than pre-packaged frozen meat, and many people worry because the fresh beef is displayed right beside the fresh pork or poultry. Whether beef is any safer for cats than raw pork, with the prevalence of BSE in Europe, is questionable. One "way out" is to buy beef from a Moslem or Jewish butcher, but there again you have the problem of many people considering the "ritual slaughter" cruelty to animals. I have noticed that most of the proponents of BARF are not veterinarians or animal nutritionists, so I take anything they say with a grain of salt.
Regarding salmonella, we can agree it's a stretch to say that it's impossible for pets to get salmonella. But if somebody insists on making homemade raw food for their pets (which we don't advocate), the chances of salmonella poisoning are significantly reduced with sensible precautions. Perhaps our vet said it best:

"We have hundreds of clients using the raw diet with no salmonella problems. When handling raw food, wash hands well and disinfect the work area with vinegar. Add acidophilus and digestive enzymes, and if you're worried about bacteria, add grapefruit-seed extract.''
- PAUL McCUTCHEON, Holistic vet, East York Animal Clinic (

We can't speak for others, but our two cats -- Ari and Sully -- have had only good experiences with PREPARED raw food from reputable companies like Amore and Pets4Life (both Canadian). We certainly wouldn't make homemade raw food; we've neither the time, nor the expertise. And if we were hesitant about even prepared raw food, we'd then have to seriously consider cooking it first, or preparing and cooking fresh food for the cats from scratch, as done by people like investigative author Ann N. Martin (writer of "Food Pets Die For").

But so far, the prepared raw foods has been fine for them and convenient for us. No, actually it's been better than fine. Sully's skin allergies have virtually disappeared, both cats' fur feel more plush and soft, and their stool has lessened and become almost odourless. We couldn't believe the marked changes we were seeing so quickly; it was like night and day.

In the end, it really comes down to a lifestyle choice. As humans, the majority of us eat fresh, wholesome foods, whether raw (raw veggies, fruit, sushi, tartar steak, etc) or cooked. It's likely some people can live well on canned food or dry packaged food. But for the rest of us, the nutritional benefits would be severely lacking.

Cats, dogs, and other pets are very similar to humans, even down to the DNA-level. Based on current nutritional and holistic information, we try to treat our cats as part of our human family, with the same preference towards fresh wholesome food as we would for ourselves.

- Donna and George
post #5 of 17
If one want's to make homemade cat food but is afraid of salmonella one can always choose to cook the food.

And no matter if one chooses to serve the food raw or cooked it's extremely important that the meat and the veggies are high quality products (meaning, produced for humans).

I've decided not to feed my cats raw food. Mostly because I don't like handling raw meat and I breed, meaning I have babies from time and since they're not born with a completely functional immunsystem I've choosen not to risk salmonella contamination.

And if it's salmonella people are afraid of, be sure that salmonella is found in many of the comersial cat food manufacturers factorys.
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Just out of curiosity, I did a Web search for prepared BARF food available in Germany, Austria, Luxembourg or Switzerland - apparently there's no such thing, though there were countless tips on where to buy the meat and/or supplements. I bought beef filet and tartar or lamb from an "organic butcher" at horrendous prices a couple of times for Jamie (there have been at least 100 cases of "feline spongiform encephalopathy" here in Europe, so "organic" is a must), and he absolutely refused to eat it until I cooked it for him (at least he really enjoyed it then). I was hoping that such a diet would stop his teeth from "tartaring up". He's apparently decided that garter snakes' tails are the only acceptable raw meat. Are the prepared foods nutritionally balanced, or do you have to give supplements? Are they fed alone, or together with dry food? I feed JC 1/2 dry food (no supermarket brands, and nothing containing soy or beet pulp, or more than a trace of corn), and 1/2 canned, whereby the canned, with the exception of Innova, consists of either 74% cooked meat or fish, 1% rice, and 25% pure spring water, or 80% cooked meat and 20% fish (tuna or shrimp) or chicken hearts. He has a constant supply of cat grass, and gets mushrooms, raw carrots and leaf spinach to munch on (grown organically in our garden). He gets a capsule of Omega fatty acids once a week because of a bout with granuloma last year. This diet plan has been worked out by trial and error, two vets and an animal nutritionist, and I have to say that it really appears to be the best for him.
There's probably a huge market for prepared raw diets like Amore or Pets4Life here. By "here", I mean Germany at the very least, though I think suppliers in other EU countries would be interested, too.
post #7 of 17
The prepared raw foods that we buy are nutritionally balanced. We initially mixed in some of the cats' old canned food to entice them to eat it, but about three weeks later, they were able to eat the raw food by itself. Supplements are only added if your holistic vet recommends it. Neither of our cats require supplements specifically for raw food.

Ari had already been taking a probiotic (acidophilus) and digestive multi-enzyme each day when she was eating conventional canned food. And Sully was already taking two different Bach flower-essence remedies (one for stress relief and the other for organ-cleasing), and a SEP EFA capsule (essential fatty acid) each day to rid of her skin allergy.

We know of five prepared raw food companies in Canada, but there are likely others:

And there are apparently lots more in the U.S., many of which were mentioned recently in Animal Wellness magazine ( Unfortunately, we know nothing about what's available in Europe.

If your cat is doing fine on the diet that you're feeding him, that's great. Martin Zucker in his book ("Veterinarians' Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats") mentioned that if you can add some natural food (meat, table scraps, veggies) to a high-quality human-grade canned/dry food, then your cat is likely doing well.

Our cats, particularly Sully, had sensitivities to many ingredients (e.g., beef, chicken liver, corn and some other grains) and the preservatives and other chemicals in commercial canned/dry food. Moving them both over to fresh food has not only helped with those issues, but has also had a nice side-effect on their appearance and stool.

Below is what's printed on one of our Amore Turkey and Veggie cat products. This info -- as is the info for their other packs -- is also available on their website (

Amore Turkey and Veggie cat food - 100g (3.8oz)

B.C. (province of British Columbia) free-range turkey raised without antibiotics or growth hormones (muscle meat, bones, liver and heart), carrots, parsnips, squash, yams, kale, parsley, free-range eggs, salmon oil, and Flack's Ultrakelp.

Defrost 6-8 hours or overnight in refrigerator and serve. Add supplements after defrosting if recommended by your animal health care provider.

protein (%) - 39.2
fat (%) - 33.7
calcium (mg/100g) - 1946
phosphorous (mg/100g) - 1098
magnesium (mg/100g) - 102.1
calories (kcals/100g) - 548
iron (mg/100g) - 82
zinc (mg/100g) - 4.3
potassium (mg/100g) - 718.8
sodium (mg/100g) - 418.4
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the links. I think I'll post them on one or two big German-language forums where there are many dedicated BARFers, as I'm sure many of the members will be interested and will contact the companies in question about expanding to Europe. That would not only be in the interests of global trade, but might help many cats that are being given raw-food diets that aren't necessarily optimum.
post #9 of 17
Just my two cents...

A properly prepared raw food diet can be just as good as a commercially processed diet, sometimes much better.

There is a lot more work in a raw food diet though.

Basically it is the owners job to work with their vet to make sure that the diet is proper for the animal. Which should include blood analysis to verify that the diet is not deficient or overkill.

My experience is based much more with exotic felids, who are more commonly fed a raw meat diet, and it is amazing to see how different each animal's needs are.

A great website for supplements to a straight raw meat diet is:

post #10 of 17
Agreed, a properly prepared homemade meal for a cat is likely to be better than something frozen from a store (our fault for not stating this in our previous posting). The main reason: freshness. Nutrients are there to be eaten almost immediately, not lost over time while frozen. As well, you see for yourself what and how much you're putting into the food, not what a company says on the ingredient list.

But unfortunately, for busy urbanites like us (and likely many other people), we have little time and expertise to cook for ourselves, let alone cook properly for our cats. So frozen raw food is the best we can do for now. (Hmm, somebody should start a fresh cat food delivery business.)

In addition to a blood analysis for nutritional value, it would be wise to look at food sensitivities using Computerized Electro-Dermal Screening (CEDS). Our holistic vet suggested having Sully tested with CEDS and the results surprised us; we never thought she'd be intolerant to ingredients like chicken liver.
post #11 of 17
What's a shame is that cooking destroys a large quantity of the nutrients in many foods.

Raw diets are definately not the simplest to do, and unless done correctly have minimal benefit.

In regards to the chicken liver testing...seeing as the liver is one of the main filters in the body, I would actually question if the cat was allergic to the liver itself, or rather a residual component in the liver based on the chicken's diet.

post #12 of 17
When we said "cook" at home for the cats in the earlier post, what we really meant to say was making raw food at home for the cats. (But of course, actually heating the raw food afterwards would result in using more more time, and result in the loss of some nutrients.)

Regarding the CEDS testing, Sully was tested on CEDS for over 40 different food items and non-food items (like cat litter, which tested fine for her). Although she tested intolerant for chicken liver, she did test tolerant for chicken meat. In this case, our vet told us that even if there is chicken liver in the food, in tiny amounts it's ok for her.

Sully also tested intolerant for about ten other items including beef, beef liver, brewers yeast, milk, and various grains (corn, oat, wheat, millet, rice). In addition, she was also tested intolerant for virtually all the super-premium canned and dry foods we fed her before.

CEDS can't nail down exactly what component in a multi-component item -- like canned food, or leftover toxins in liver -- is causing the problem, but it does accurately help determine whether she simply has a sensitivity to the item in question. (It's actually similar to a lie detector test, as it measures the change in skin response from applying a low-level electrical stimulus to acupuncture points.)
post #13 of 17
Sorry Im in a bit of a rush and cant read all the posts.
Can someone summarize and tell me if its ok to give liver to cats when its been cooked pretty well? Is it still ok to do that?
post #14 of 17
Yes, you can give your cat liver. But only for a snack. Liver contains high levels of vitamine A and to much vitamine A can harm the cat. And of course, the liver is a filter so it may contain other not very healthy stuff. But generally, liver is (at least in Sweden) considered to be OK from time to time, but only as a snack.
post #15 of 17
Is it safe to give 'human' quality raw fish to cats? You know those raw fish, like salmon serve in Japanese Sushi shops? Good quality raw salmon / Sashimi, you know those that cost at least $8-10 for few slices.
post #16 of 17
Yeah, if it's high quality fish meant for people there shouldn't be a problem.

That's the most important thing when feeding cats a home made diet. High quality products! If you wouldn't eat it, dont't give it to the cat.
post #17 of 17
Sure, fish is fine. Salmon from the Pacific Northwest (I think), however, may carry flukes, which cats can get from eating that fish raw. I can't remember the details, since it's not a concern for me, but I'd do a search on it to make sure you don't give fish with flukes. Other than that, raw fish is great.
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