Fresh pet foods replacing dried and canned meals

Veterinarians question the trend

Don Ames
April 22, 2019 - 7:23 am

U.S. pet owners are increasingly feeding fresh food to their dogs and cats. 

Fido is not necessarily being fed dried dog food anymore. And those canned canine meals are falling out of favor as well.

These days the pets are getting diced chicken with sweet potatoes and spinach.

Some veterinarians question the trend. They say well established pet food companies are backed by decades of research, while the verdict is still out on fresh food.

"My biggest concern about it is, it's subject to all the issues we have with fresh food, too...salmonella and E. coli and all the contamination that you deal with in meats and spinaches and things of that nature," says veterinarian Siegfried Mayer, with the Metairie Small Animal Hospital. "And, that doesn't change as far as pet food is concerned."

"Any time you introduce a new trend, we expect to see new issues happen with it," says Mayer. But, he thinks his concerns are justified.

"Do I see more issues with fresh pet food than with the conventional types of food? The answer to that is, 'yes.' We see more GI issues with it, like vomiting, diarrhea or intolerance."

U.S. sales of fresh pet food are soaring in groceries and pet stores. Sales jumped 70 percent, to more than $546 million between 2015 and 2018, according to Nielsen. It's still just a fraction of the $25 billion U.S. pet food market, but is growing.

Proponents say fresh foods preserve nutrients better than canned or dried ones, mimic ancestral diets and improve pets' health.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says raw pet food has a high risk of bacterial contamination. The agency is also investigating a link between grain-free diets that contain peas, lentils and potatoes and elevated levels of heart disease in dogs.

Dr. Mayer suggests checking with a professional before you change your pets diet.

"You have to be real careful about what you feed your pet. I think most veterinarians are going to be familiar with most of the foods that are out there, and that would be a good place to start."

But, he favors the conventional pet foods. "What the food industry tries to do is, of course, promote complete and balanced diets. And I think that, historically, they've done a very good job of that."

And, as for the fresh products?

"What I feed my dog that? The answer is 'no.'"

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