Evidence of raw food causing bovine TB
A while ago now we wrote an article about why we don't give raw food to our cats. In that article we explained that it was suspected that raw food had been linked to TB cases in cats, among other things.
Some fans of raw feeding suggested that there was not yet enough evidence to draw that conclusion. Some people suggested that until there was firm evidence that cats and people had been infected with TB as a result of eating raw food, people should continue to feed their cats raw, and no one should mention the issue of raw food causing TB.
We believe that it is important that people have the facts so that they can make an informed decision for their own families - especially when a choice could potentially leave their pets, themselves or their children with TB. It was clear from the evidence, even at that stage, that this was a real and serious issue.
Needless to say, the evidence has now conclusively shown that raw feeding has infected more than 100 cats with TB.
Read the original article: raw feeding and why we don't do it
TB in raw food
Suspicions were raised when the number of feline TB cases soared. Thankfully we have a fantastic network of experts in the UK who started to investigate what was happening. They quickly discovered that all of the cats involved were indoor only cats. On further investigation, it emerged that they had all been fed a raw food diet. At this stage raw food wasn't proven to have caused the TB infections, but clearly all of the evidence was pointing in that direction since it was the only common factor in all of the cases. As it was investigated, the conclusive evidence emerged. Raw cat food has been found to have caused cats to become infected with bovine TB in around 120 cases so far.
Below is a photograph of the 'grossly abnormal intestines and lymph nodes' of a one year old neutered male. He had been weaned onto raw food and remained on it as his only food. He was so severely ill that he had to be euthanased.
A well respected brand
The particular brand of food investigated was a previously well respected brand: Nature's Instinct Venison variety of raw food. It was found that venison infected with TB had made its way into the food. If you have ever given your cat this food, please contact your vet immediately.
Bovine TB in humans
Bovine TB can be caught by humans. Those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk: children, pregnant women, the elderly and anyone undergoing immune-suppressing medical treatment. TB is a serious illness. It can be difficult to treat in cats and can remain latent with few or no symptoms, but still be infectious to other animals and your family.
Offal in raw food
It is suggested that, if you do continue to feed your pet raw food, you do not feed any raw offal to your pet. This reduces the risk of TB infection. The problem is that without the offal, a raw food diet is not a balanced diet, so you would need to look into other ways of balancing your pet's nutritional needs. Commercial raw foods rely heavily on offal being contained in the food to provide the necessary nutrients. Offal from human grade meat may be more acceptable, as it should have been inspected for signs of TB (although the raw food in question also should have been inspected).
Offal is a crucial source of taurine in a raw food diet - read more about taurine.
A commercial industry
Please remember: a huge industry has sprung up around raw feeding. There are large companies selling raw food, independent retailers whose livelihoods depend on raw food sales, and breeders suggesting that their kittens are better for being fed raw. A whole industry has sprung up around this and a lot of money is being made from it. The raw food movement disrupted the pet food industry and there are so many people invested in it, that it can be hard to find objective information.
An emotive topic
In addition to that, people feel very strongly about what they feed their pets: we all want to do what is best for our animals and sometimes that prevents us from acknowledging and processing the latest information and evidence.
What you feed your pet is entirely your decision: just be open minded to the facts. There is a huge amount of almost cult-like behaviour around various approaches to pet food. This is not an enlightened approach - the best way to decide what is best for your pet and your family is take an open minded, investigative stance. Do your research, weigh up the pros and cons, the risks and benefits, and then decide what fits your family best.
If you are willing to adopt your own raw feeding regime, creating your own food from scratch, adding the right nutrients and vitamins, using only human grade meat, and are willing to accept the risks of e-coli, salmonella, toxoplasmosis, campylobacter etc...then raw feeding may still be an option for you. There are anecdotal reports of a raw diet helping animals with serious, chronic health conditions, so in these scenarios a pet owner may feel that it is worth feeding raw. The decision is yours - but be aware of all of the facts and take all of the precautions you can to reduce the risks to your family. Also remember that the pet food market has lots of good, high protein, low carb commercial foods available now. The days where a cheap grain based kibble is the only option are long gone!
Our view on raw food
All of our cats thrive on a high protein, low carb commercial cat food diet. We do not feed raw. We decided a long time ago that we felt raw feeding was simply not worth the risks involved, and predicted that it was only a matter of time until it caused a serious health crisis. Unfortunately we were right. We will remain open-minded and will continue to review the evidence available to update our opinion.
Our thoughts are with all of the families affected by this terrible situation. We would also like to say a huge thank you to all of the pet owners who reported these cases and to the veterinary and medical experts who helped to investigate the issue and alert the general public.
Have a look at our wet cat food reviews and dry cat food reviews for the latest information. A note to our Bombadillo kitten parents: these may not be completely up to date as we are always exploring new options so please follow the guidelines we have given you for your kitten.
Read an update on raw food: the rise of raw food superbugs
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