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An observational study of pet feeding practices and how these have changed between 2008 and 2018

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Abstract and Figures

Background Pet owners have many feeding options, some may be considered unconventional by veterinary practitioners. Provision of appropriate nutrition is a basic requirement, with adverse health outcomes possible when a pet diet is inadequate. Objective To capture dog and cat feeding practices, with a special focus on countries with large English-speaking populations, and to compare with data published over the previous 10 years. Methods An electronic questionnaire was provided for dog and cat owners online. Responses were analysed using descriptive statistics, and comparisons made with data from nine peer-reviewed articles published over the previous 10 years. Results Responses from 3673 English-speaking dog and cat owners in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA were included. In previous publications, conventional (commercial, heat-processed) products were the predominant method of feeding. In recent publications, feeding unconventional (raw, homemade, vegetarian) diets appeared more prevalent. In the present study, most (79 per cent dogs, 90 per cent cats) pets were offered conventional food. However a few (13 per cent dogs, 32 per cent cats) pets were fed conventional foods exclusively. Many pets were offered homemade (64 per cent dogs, 46 per cent cats) and/or raw (66 per cent dogs, 53 per cent cats) foods. Different feeding practices were associated with geographical location. Conclusion As an increased risk of nutrient insufficiency and associated conditions have been attributed to unconventional feeding practices, veterinarians must be aware of pet feeding trends and educate clients about the nutritional needs of companion animals.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Original research
An observational study of pet feeding
practices and how these have changed
between 2008 and2018
Sarah Dodd , Nick Cave, Sarah Abood, Anna- Kate Shoveller, Jennifer Adolphe, Adronie Verbrugghe
Background Pet owners have many feeding options, some may be considered unconventional by veterinary
practitioners. Provision of appropriate nutrition is a basic requirement, with adverse health outcomes possible
when a pet diet is inadequate.
Objective To capture dog and cat feeding practices, with a special focus on countries with large English-
speaking populations, and to compare with data published over the previous 10 years.
Methods An electronic questionnaire was provided for dog and cat owners online. Responses were analysed
using descriptive statistics, and comparisons made with data from nine peer- reviewed articles published over the
previous 10 years.
Results Responses from 3673 English- speaking dog and cat owners in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the
UK and the USA were included. In previous publications, conventional (commercial, heat- processed) products
were the predominant method of feeding. In recent publications, feeding unconventional (raw, homemade,
vegetarian) diets appeared more prevalent. In the present study, most (79 per cent dogs, 90 per cent cats) pets
were oered conventional food. However a few (13 per cent dogs, 32 per cent cats) pets were fed conventional
foods exclusively. Many pets were oered homemade (64 per cent dogs, 46 per cent cats) and/or raw (66 per cent
dogs, 53 per cent cats) foods. Dierent feeding practices were associated with geographical location.
Conclusion As an increased risk of nutrient insuciency and associated conditions have been attributed to
unconventional feeding practices, veterinarians must be aware of pet feeding trends and educate clients about
the nutritional needs of companion animals.
Worldwide, over half of the population keeps companion
animals.1 In the USA alone, 47 million households have
at least one cat, and 60 million have at least one dog,
totalling over 94 million cats and 89 million dogs.2
Since the introduction of conventional dry (kibble) and
wet (canned, pouches, rolls) pet foods to the market,
these diets have been fed to the majority of dogs and
cats in developed countries and are considered by
many to be the conventional method of feeding dogs
and cats.3 4 These products are designed to be easy
and convenient, and it has been suggested that the
longevity of companion animals could be attributable,
in part, to the development of nutritional targets and
provision of complete and balanced commercial
products.5 Regulatory guidelines and recommendations
are published in North America by the American
Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and in
Europe by the European Pet Food Industry Federation
(FEDIAF), based primarily upon pet nutrition research
data collated by the National Research Council. These
guidelines were introduced around 50 years ago and
empirical estimates of many nutrient requirements are
lacking in the literature.6 The global pet food industry,
a continually growing market worth about 70 per cent
of the $115 billion pet care business, has a vast array
of pet food options available to consumers, with almost
1000 different brands listed in one online database.7–9
If processed kibble or canned products are considered
Veterinary Record (2020) doi: 10.1136/vr.105828
1Department of Clinical Studies,
University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary
College, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
2School of Veterinary Science, Massey
University, Palmerston North, New
3Department of Animal Biosciences,
University of Guelph Ontario Agricultural
College, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
4Petcurean Pet Nutrition, Chilliwack,
British Columbia, Canada
E-mail for correspondence: Dr Adronie
Verbrugghe, Department of Clinical
Studies, University of Guelph Ontario
Veterinary College, Guelph, ON N1G
2W1, Canada; averbrug@ uoguelph. ca
Provenance and peer review Not
commissioned; externally peer
Received December 20, 2019
Revised March 31, 2020
Accepted April 17, 2020
on June 23, 2020 by guest. Protected by copyright. Record: first published as 10.1136/vr.105828 on 18 June 2020. Downloaded from
conventional pet foods, there appears to be increased
interest in feeding alternative or unconventional diets—
that is, homemade (HM) and raw animal products
(RAP), to companion dogs and cats.3 10
Trends in nutrition for companion animals have
come to shadow trends in human nutrition,11 as
dogs and cats have evolved from working animals to
family members.12–14 Current trends include natural,
‘ancestral’, grain- free, HM and RAP.15–17 Trust in
the pet food industry has been decreasing, though
veterinarians are still considered a reliable resource for
food recommendations by most pet owners, at least in
the USA.10 A growing number of concerned owners are
turning to other sources of guidance for their companion
animals’ health and nutrition.10 18 19
The risks associated with feeding nutritionally
inadequate diets have been well documented, including
infectious pathogen exposure and nutrient deciencies
or imbalances.20–26 Reported diseases associated with
feeding unbalanced HM diets include pansteatitis,
dysregulation of bone metabolism, myelopathy
and seizures.27–32 Infectious diseases and antibiotic
resistance have also been reported in association
with feeding RAP.33–35 Feeding commercial processed
kibble or wet food is not a fail- safe measure against
nutritionally associated disease, and cases of ingredient
adulteration and nutrient imbalances have occurred.36 37
However, in the USA, re- calls and reported incidences
are relatively few in comparison with the amount of
processed pet food manufactured and fed to pets each
year,38 and it appears that veterinary practitioners
generally recommend feeding complete and balanced
commercially processed diets to dogs and cats.39 In view
of the plethora of feeding practices and the changeable
perspectives of pet owners it is necessary to regularly
document feeding of companion animals and identify
trends in order to keep practitioners up to date. This
study aimed to examine dog and cat feeding practices,
with a special focus on countries with large English-
speaking populations, and to compare the results
with data published over the previous 10 years. It was
hypothesised that prevalence of HM and RAP would be
greater than previously reported, while the proportion
of animals exclusively fed conventional pet foods would
be lower.
Materials and methods
Literature review
Using the University of Guelph Library, six journal
databases were collectively searched, with full-
text articles available through the Academic Search
Premier, AGRICOLA, Cambridge Journals, Google
Scholar, the Web of Science, and Wiley Online Library.
These databases were searched using defined search
filters (ie, FILTER 1 – ‘Pet’: Pet OR Dog OR Canine
OR Cat OR Feline OR Companion animal; FILTER 2
– ‘Feeding Practices’: Feeding Practices OR Diet OR
Food) and limited to publication years 2008–2018.
Studies performed outside the countries of interest
(Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and the USA), or
including populations other than healthy dogs or cats
were excluded. Particular foods were considered to be
exclusively fed if the study reported that food as the
only food fed. Alternatively, foods were considered to be
inclusive in the diet if the study reported that other foods
were also fed. The reported findings of these studies
were collected, tabulated and graphically represented
to visualise trends in feeding practices over time.
A multiple choice and short- answer survey titled ‘Pet
Feeding Practices’ was designed and administered
online ( www. surveymonkey. net). The study was
published in English only. As participation was based
on self- selection, there were no inclusion or exclusion
criteria. The survey was distributed online through
social media, initially posted to canine and feline
interest groups on Facebook, Inc, and available for
a total of 135 days from September 2016 to January
2017. The survey link was open to sharing, allowing for
dissemination through other social media platforms.
This avenue had been successfully used previously to
attain adequate participation and so was chosen for
sample collection, recognising the demographic bias
introduced and the inherent risk of self- selection. The
study was approved by the research ethics board of the
University of Guelph (REB #17-08-092). Questions were
designed by SD and NC, and the survey was piloted on
15 final- year veterinary students.
Briey, this study includes the results from four
multiple- choice questions to capture demographic data,
and four multiple- choice questions, each including
a text entry ‘other’ option, to collect information
on species (cat, dog or both), location of pet food
purchasing (supermarket, pet store, veterinary clinic,
direct from manufacturer, online, home- prepared,
‘other’), pet diet and frequency of feeding. Pet diet was
self- reported by selecting frequency of feeding one
or more of the following: commercial meat- based dry
food, commercial meat- based wet food, commercial
meat- based raw food, commercial vegetarian dry food,
commercial vegetarian wet food, commercial vegan
dry food, commercial vegan wet food, home- prepared
food with cooked meat, home- prepared food with
raw meat, home- prepared vegetarian food, home-
prepared vegan food, a therapeutic diet prescribed
by a veterinarian, commercial treats with cooked
meat, commercial treats with raw meat, commercial
vegetarian treats, commercial vegan treats, homemade
treats with cooked meat, homemade treats with raw
meat, homemade vegetarian treats, homemade vegan
treats, food scraps/le overs including cooked meat,
food scraps/le overs including raw meat, vegetarian
food scraps/le overs, vegan food scraps/le overs.
on June 23, 2020 by guest. Protected by copyright. Record: first published as 10.1136/vr.105828 on 18 June 2020. Downloaded from
Table 1 Summary of nine peer- reviewed publications published between 2008 and 2018, documenting pet feeding practices in Australia, Canada, New
Zealand, the UK and the USA, compared with the present study
Reference Year published Country Survey method Population Demographics
Species (sample
 Australia
Telephone Randomised Australian and USA citizens
from local phone book
Not reported Cats ()
Dogs ()
  UK Paper – in clinic Clients of private and charity veterinary
Not reported Dogs ()
  Australia Paper – in post Randomised residents from Sydney
phone book
Not reported Cats ()
  UK Paper+interview in person Clients of private and charity veterinary
% female;
Age: % – years, %
– years, % –
years, % > years old
Dogs ()
  Australia Paper – in clinic Melbourne residents attending veterinary
clinics and dog- related community events
% female;
Mean age . years (SD
Dogs ()
  Canada Paper – in clinic Medical clinic patients Not reported Cats ()
Dogs ()
  Canada
eSurvey Dog breeders Not reported Dogs ()
  Australia Telephone interview,
Randomly selected households from
online community panel
% female;
Age % – years, %
– years, % –
years, % – years, %
> years
Cats ()
Dogs ()
  USA Interview in person Agility trial participants Not reported Dogs ()
Present study Australia
New Zealand
eSurvey Owners of dogs and cats % female;
Age: % < years, %
– years, % –
years, % – years,
% – years, %
– years, % > years
Cats ()
Dogs ()
Though the term ‘meat’ may not be entirely precise
with respect to the nature of animal products in some
pet foods (ie, animal by- products as opposed to muscle
meat), it was chosen as it is common and recognisable.
Similarly, though the term ‘vegan’ is dened as a
creed or lifestyle philosophy, it was used to refer to
foods without any animal ingredients (ie, no meat,
dairy, egg or honey ingredients) due to familiarity of
the term and possible ambiguity of the phrase ‘plant-
based’. Frequencies of feeding options were ‘never’,
‘occasionally’, ‘frequently’, or ‘daily’.
Statistical analysis
Survey responses were analysed and descriptive
statistics applied to assess categorical data. Diet
was categorised as conventional if it consisted of
commercial processed meat- based foods, raw if it
consisted of commercial or homemade raw meat- based
foods, homemade if it consisted of homemade food,
vegetarian if it consisted of vegetarian food, or plant-
based if it consisted of vegan food. Data were reported
as frequency counts (n) and percentage/proportion
(%). Chi- square analyses of the obtained survey data
measured differences between groups of interest,
with a P value of 0.05 being considered significant.
Countries of focus (Australia, Canada, New Zealand,
UK, USA) were compared with each other, and with a
global average.
Literature review
Nine peer- reviewed articles published between 2008
and 2018 were identified that described dog and cat
feeding practices in corresponding countries (table1).
Eight of these studies included data regarding feeding
practices for dogs, while only one included data for
cats. Previous publications focused on only one or two
geographical regions and most did not include rigorous
descriptions of diet types (eg, discussing ‘commercial’
versus ‘RAP’ feeding without identifying the category
into which a commercial RAP product would fit). Five
articles focused predominantly on feeding practices,
while four included information regarding feeding
practices as a component of a larger study. Two articles
focused on specific subsets of dog owners, including
breeders18 and sporting/working dogs.40 A summary
of pet feeding practices extrapolated from the previous
literature published between 2008 and 2018 can be
seen in table 2. In general, among both species the
feeding of conventional products, particularly as the
sole diet, appears to be decreasing, with increasing
inclusion of unconventional diets, particularly RAP.
A total of 3673 questionnaires were included in this
dataset, with 3161 from Australia, Canada, New
Zealand, the USA or the UK. The other 512 respondents
were spread between 57 other countries. A summary of
on June 23, 2020 by guest. Protected by copyright. Record: first published as 10.1136/vr.105828 on 18 June 2020. Downloaded from
Table 2 Summary of dog feeding practices in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA published between 2008 and 2018 and including the
present study
3 41 42 43 44 45 18 46 40
Present study
Year published        
Diet: dogs
Exclusively conventional %* -% - - % -%
Includes conventional %* -% % -% -%
Exclusively homemade .–.% -.% -% .% -.%
Includes homemade % -.% % -% -%
Exclusively raw - ------ %
Includes raw % - - .% - - % %
Diet: cats
Exclusively conventional %* % ----- %
Includes conventional %* % -% -% -%
Exclusively homemade % ------ .%
Includes homemade % - - % -.% -%
Exclusively raw - ------ .%
Includes raw .% - - .% -.% -%
*Indicates data estimated from graphical representation. Note that the categories 'raw' and 'homemade' can overlap, as in the case of a homemade diet containing raw animal products. In previous studies, this
distinction is not made, so homemade raw food could be represented both under 'raw' and under 'homemade' categories, for the data from the present study, raw homemade food is categorised simply as 'raw'.
Particular foods were considered to be exclusively fed if the study reported that food as the only food fed or that the diet comprised solely that food. Alternatively, foods were considered to be inclusive in the diet
if the study reported that other foods were also fed or that the diet comprised more than one food.
Table 3 Frequency with which dog and cat owners provided various treats or snacks for their pets, as reported by pet owners in an online questionnaire on
pet feeding practices
Never Occasionally Frequently Daily
Dogs (n=) Commercial treats .% () .% () .% () .% ()
Homemade treats .% () .% () .% () .% ()
Table scraps .% () .% () .% () .% ()
Raw animal products .% () .% () .% () % ()
Cats (n=) Commercial treats .% () .% () .% () .% ()
Homemade treats .% () .% () .% () .% ()
Table scraps .% () .% () .% () .% ()
Raw animal products .% () .% () .% () % ()
the demographic data of survey respondents is shown
in table1. Half of respondents had dogs only (51 per
cent, n=1870), a third had both dogs and cats (33 per
cent, n=1200), and less than a quarter had cats only (16
per cent, n=603). Dietary information was acquired for
1542 cats and 2940 dogs. Just over 10 per cent of dogs
(13 per cent, n=381) and just over a quarter of cats (32
per cent, n=488) were exclusively fed a conventional diet
as their main meals. Feeding of treats and table scraps
was considered separately (table 3). The majority of
animals were fed diets that comprised at least partially
conventional food, representing 78 per cent (n=2301) of
dogs and 90 per cent (n=1390) of cats. Of those animals
fed conventional diets, more cats (86 per cent, n=1196)
than dogs (79 per cent, n=1839) were fed this way daily
(figure 1). Daily feeding of conventional kibble was
reported for 61 per cent of dogs (n=1796) and 69 per
cent of cats (n=1064), and daily feeding of canned food
for 15 per cent of dogs (n=427) and 44 per cent of cats
(n=684). Although 8 per cent (n=243) of dogs and 18
per cent (n=282) of cats were fed prescription diets, less
than 5 per cent of those animals (n=11 dogs, 11 cats)
were reportedly fed a prescription diet exclusively.
Many respondents claimed to feed a diet that
included HM foods to some degree, although few dogs
or cats were fed HM diets exclusively (table 4). Raw
animal products were fed to over half of all animals
represented in the survey (table 4). Figure 1 depicts
the frequency of feeding HM and RAP diets to dogs and
cats. Of the animals receiving RAP, more were fed a HM
RAP diet (89 per cent, n=1724 dogs; 87 per cent n=709
cats) than were fed a commercial RAP (67 per cent,
n=1296 dogs; 64 per cent, n=516 cats). Few pet owners
said they fed RAP exclusively (9 per cent, n=268 dogs; 6
per cent, n=94 cats). A smaller number of pets were fed
vegetarian foods, with these foods included in the diet
of 22 per cent of dogs (n=650) and 4.7 per cent of cats
(n=73). Of these, approximately half (47 per cent, n=302
dogs; 70 per cent, n=51 cats) were fed completely plant-
based (vegan) foods, with a small number (6.8 per cent,
n=44 dogs; 15 per cent, n=11 cats) fed plant- based
diets exclusively. Aside from the main diet, most dogs
(77 per cent, n=2,228) and cats (61 per cent, n=936)
were given treats (table 3). Similarly, the feeding of
scraps was prevalent, as they were fed to 81 per cent of
dogs (n=2,347) and 55 per cent of cats (n=842).
on June 23, 2020 by guest. Protected by copyright. Record: first published as 10.1136/vr.105828 on 18 June 2020. Downloaded from
100 A1 A2
Canada New Zealand UK USA
Percent of dogs fed a conventional diet
Percent of dogs fed a conventional diet
Autralia Canada New Zealand UK USA
100 B1 B2
Canada New Zealand UK USA
Percent of dogs fed a conventional diet
Percent of dogs fed a conventional diet
Autralia Canada New Zealand UK USA
100 C1 C2
Canada New Zealand UK USA
Percent of dogs fed a conventional diet
Percent of dogs fed a conventional diet
Autralia Canada New Zealand UK USA
Figure 1 Frequency of inclusion of conventional kibble or canned (A),
homemade (B), or raw (C) food in the diet of dogs (1) and cats (2) as a percentage
of pets in each country as reported by pet owners in an online questionnaire
about pet feeding practices. Red indicates ‘never’, orange ‘sometimes’, blue
‘often’, green ‘daily’.
Table 4 Geographical variations in PET diets, as percentage of respondents in each region, based on an online pet owner questionnaire on pet feeding
Conventional inclusive
exclusive Homemade inclusive Homemade exclusive Raw inclusive Raw exclusive
n % n % n % n % n % n %
Global (n=)  .  .  .  .  .  .
Australia (n=)  .
 .
 .
 .
 .
Canada (n=)  .
 .
 .
 .
 .
 .
New Zealand (n=)  .
 .
 .
 .
 .
UK (n=)  .
 .
 .
 .
 .
USA (n=)  .
 .
 .
 .
 .
 .
Global (n=)  .  .  .  .  .  .
Australia (n=)  .
 .
 .
 .
 .
 .
Canada (n=)  .
 .
 .
 .
 .
New Zealand (n=)  .
 .
 .
 .
UK (n=)  .
 .
 .
 .
 .
 .
USA (n=)  .
 .
 .
 .
 .
 .
Columns without a common superscript letter differ significantly from each other at the . level based on chi- square analysis. Note that the categories 'raw' and 'homemade' can overlap if a diet is both raw and
Geographical location underpinned signicant
dierences in the most prevalent feeding practices
among the main countries represented by the survey
(table 4). Exclusively feeding RAP was the most
prevalent in Australia, exclusively feeding a HM diet
occurred most oen in Australia (dogs) and the USA
(cats), and New Zealand and Canada had the most
exclusively conventional feeding practices (gure 1,
In total, 3505 survey respondents answered the
question regarding the location where they purchase
pet food (table 5). Pet stores were the most popular
location for purchasing pet food, accounting for 53
per cent of respondents (n=1845). Supermarkets (31
per cent, n=1085), online distributors (30 per cent,
n=1061) and purchasing direct from the manufacturer
(14 per cent, n=503) were the next most popular.
Ten per cent of respondents reported purchasing pet
food from their veterinarian (n=345). Farm or animal
feed stores (4 per cent, n=145), butchers (3 per cent,
n=101), and big- box stores (2 per cent, n=66) were
represented to a much smaller extent. Few respondents
said they acquired their companion animals’ food from
raw feeding co- ops, hunting, slaughterhouses, breeders
or specialty vegan retailers. Occasional references were
made to acquiring meat that was out- of- date, either
directly from supermarkets or from individuals who sold
out- of- date meat specically for animal consumption.
In the study reported here, conventional diets
were the most popular choice of dog and cat foods,
a finding consistent with previous publications
(table 2).3 41–46 However, it appears the practice of
feeding non- commercial and unconventional foods,
either as the sole source of nutrition or in conjunction
with a conventional diet, is higher now than has been
previously reported (table2). While the majority of dogs
and cats are still being fed conventional pet food, a large
proportion of survey respondents reported additionally
feeding HM foods and RAP, with a smaller proportion
offering vegetarian or vegan diets. Differences in
modern feeding practices based on geographical region
were found (figure 1, table 4), though comparison of
pet feeding practices between countries has not been
well described in the published literature. Based on
the present data, it appears that feeding practices
in Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA are
relatively similar (figure 1, table 4), but Australia
differs. Australian respondents indicated decreased
feeding of conventional diets, particularly in favour of
RAP (figure 1, table 4). This finding is supported by
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Table 5 Geographical variations in pet food purchases, as percentage of pet owners in each region, based on an online pet owner questionnaire on pet
feeding practices
Pet store Supermarket Online Veterinarian Direct from manufacturer
n % n % n % n % n %
Global (n=)        .  
Australia (n=)  
 
 
 
 
Canada (n=)  
 
 .
 
 .
New Zealand (n=)  
 
 
 
 
UK (n=)  
 
 
 .
 
USA (n=)  
 
 
 .
 .
Columns without a common superscript letter differ significantly from each other at the . level based on chi- square analysis. Note that the categories ‘raw’ and ‘homemade’ can overlap if a diet is both raw and
previous studies investigating pet feeding practices in
Australia. For example, most dogs were fed food other
than commercial dry or canned food, including nearly
a quarter fed raw meat.47 Also compared with the USA,
greater reporting of feeding raw bones and meat was
noted in Australia.3 Animal Medicines Australia, in
association with Newgate Research and the Pet Food
Industry Association of Australia published results
from a survey revealing that a quarter of dog owners
and 10 per cent of cat owners gave their pets leftovers,
and 16 per cent of dog and 4 per cent of cat owners
made homemade diets specifically for their pets.48
Additionally, 20 per cent of dog owners acquired food
from the butcher for their dog, though only 4 per cent
reported doing so exclusively. These values are in close
agreement with the findings of the current study. The
rationale for this difference is unclear. It has been
suggested that pet owners in non- urban regions may
be more likely to make their own pet food, as access
to commercial foods may be lower. However, this has
not been supported in Australia.46 Furthermore, a high
prevalence of non- commercial foods included in the
diet of urban dogs in Perth, Western Australia, has
previously been reported.47 The term ‘BARF’, standing
for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, was first coined
in Australia, with an Australian veterinarian being
considered the founder of the BARF movement in the
1990s. It is possible that the perception of Australian
pet owners may be particularly influenced by well-
known local veterinary figureheads promoting the
feeding of foods other than commercial processed diets.
The survey results suggest that present day feeding
practices for both dogs and cats consist generally of a
combination of commercial processed pet food as well
as HM and RAP. Quantication of caloric intake was not
possible, though respondents reported the main diet of
the animal separate from treats, snacks or scraps. Thus,
it is possible that, particularly for animals being fed HM
and RAP foods in addition to their conventional diet,
greater than 10 per cent of the animal’s caloric intake
could potentially come from unconventional sources,
considered a nutritional risk factor by the World
Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition
Committee.49 Around 10 per cent of respondents
indicated they fed veterinary therapeutic diets to their
pets, though few animals were fed these diets solely.
Successful dietary management of many diseases
requires adherence to a strict nutrient prole, and the
practice of feeding other food sources along with a
veterinary therapeutic diet may decrease ecacy of
nutritional management of disease. This presents an
area where more consumer education is needed.
In comparison with earlier studies, the dierences in
feeding practices may partially be explained by a loss
of trust in the pet food industry.18 50 In 2007, a large
and highly publicised global pet food crisis occurred,
where diets from many of the largest and most popular
pet food brands were found to be contaminated with
inorganic toxins, leading to sickness in nearly 500 dogs
and cats, and death of over 100 animals.36 51 This crisis
has had ongoing implications for trust in the industry;
more than a decade later, respondents participating in
this survey reported concerns regarding the origin of
pet food ingredients and potential contamination.52
The humanisation of companion animals may
contribute to the feeding of unconventional diets,
reported by a large number of respondents in this
study. Trends in animal nutrition shadow trends in
human nutrition, with increasing consumer interest
in ‘natural’ and ‘holistic’ foods demonstrated in both
human and pet feeding practices.10 12 15 53 Moreover,
people may also feed HM diets to pamper or bond
with their companion animal; they may perceive
these diets to be more palatable, or they may consider
them to be healthier than processed commercial
diets.54 Feeders of RAP have been reported to have
signicantly dierent perceptions of the pet food
industry, as well as animal health and nutrition than
feeders of conventional diets.10 In particular, people
who feed RAP to their pets had lower condence in
the advice of veterinarians, especially with respect
to companion animal nutrition. They also reported
concerns regarding the safety, quality and nutritional
value of conventional foods, and perceived RAP as
being more natural and healthier than conventional
diets. Promoters of HM diets and RAP claim that these
foods will improve health, increase energy and even
reverse chronic diseases such as cancer; however,
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there is currently a lack of peer- reviewed research to
support these claims.55–57
Avoidance of conventional pet foods in favour
of HM diets and RAP may put the health of dogs and
cats at risk. Published analyses of HM diets or recipes
intended for dogs and cats indicate that most have
one or more nutrient insuciencies and imbalances in
comparison with National Research Council nutrient
requirements.26 58 The most common and signicant
nutrient insuciency in HM diets are calcium,
phosphorus, vitamin D and essential amino acids.
Additional published reports feature cases of adverse
health conditions directly resulting from the feeding of
an inadequate HM diet.27 29 59 60 Skeletal abnormalities
caused by insucient or excess calcium, phosphorus
and/or vitamin D appear to be the most commonly
reported physiological eect of an imbalanced HM
diet.28 30 59 61 While nutritional inadequacy is a risk with
HM foods, these diets may also prove to be benecial for
some pets and their owners by nurturing the human–
animal bond as well as specic nutrient targets for
individual animals and management of nutritionally
responsive pathologies.54
Results from the current study suggest that more
owners who are feeding RAP are choosing to use
HM rather than commercial RAP. Raw HM diets are
associated with the same potential for nutritional
deciencies and adverse health eects as cooked
HM diets.25 31 60 61 Feeding RAP has been shown to
pose the extra risk of contamination with microbial
pathogens.20–22 Companion animals fed diets
containing RAP are at risk of infection from pathogenic
bacteria as no chemical, enzymatic, heat or pressure
treatment step is undertaken to kill potential bacterial
contaminants. While commercial RAP may undergo
some sort of processing, such as dehydration, high-
pressure pasteurisation, irradiation or freeze- drying,
these processing methods may be insucient to
completely eliminate potential pathogenic bacteria.62
More investigation regarding safe processing of RAP is
required. Foods containing RAP have been implicated
in clinical infections in companion animals, and also
in potential transmission to people.34 35 63–66 Of greatest
concern is the possibility for transmission of antibiotic-
resistant organisms from animals fed RAP to people.33 67
Considering the large proportion of animals oered RAP,
as reported in this study, this appears to be a feeding
practice growing in popularity. Thus, investigation
into safe and ecacious ways of feeding nutritionally
complete and balanced RAP to dogs and cats warrants
further investigation.
In contrast to feeding RAP, some participants reported
avoiding feeding animal products altogether to their
companion animals. About one- quarter of dogs and less
than 5 per cent of cats were oered vegetarian or strictly
plant- based (vegan) foods as part of their diet, though
few were fed these diets exclusively. To the authors’
knowledge, the only previous study documenting
the prevalence of vegetarian or strictly plant- based
diets was from our own research group, which used
data from the same population as the current study.52
Vegetarian and plant- based diets are generally accepted
as suitable for dogs, with veterinary supervision,
but they are considered by many to be unsuitable for
cats.68 69 HM plant- based diets pose the same risks for
nutritional insuciency as HM diets containing animal
products, and probably pose additional risks with
relation to some essential nutrients such as sulfur-
containing amino acids, long- chain polyunsaturated
fatty acids and vitamins B12 and D.68 70 71 Few studies
have been published that have investigated the health
status of dogs or cats fed plant- based diets. Though no
adverse health eects attributable to consumption of a
vegetarian or plant- based diet have been reported, the
phenomenon is relatively new and published studies
have been limited.72–74 Comprehensive investigation of
the impact of feeding plant- based diets long- term has
yet to be published for either dogs or cats, but given
the increased prevalence of feeding these diets, further
research is warranted.
In addition to their main diet, most animals were
fed treats, snacks and table scraps/leovers. There
does not appear to be great dierences in the overall
prevalence of feeding treats or scraps in this study
compared with previously published papers, though
the frequency of feeding may dier.3 46 75 76 Treat
feeding may be associated with training and bonding
with pets, while it has been suggested that feeding of
scraps and leovers may be a food waste management
strategy adopted by pet owners.46 Considering the
high proportion of dogs and cats reportedly fed treats
or snacks, the risks of these foods must be considered.
Feeding excessive treats or scraps can contribute to
obesity and unbalancing of otherwise appropriate
diets.49 77 Additional considerations when bone is oered
as a treat or snack are the risk of tooth fracture from
chewing the hard bone, intestinal obstruction if pieces
of bone are ingested, and constipation or obstipation
from consumption of indigestible material.78
Among the respondents of this survey, pet stores
were the most popular location for purchasing pet food,
followed by supermarkets and online distributors.
This is in relatively close agreement with reports from
2015 to 2019, showing an increase in online pet food
purchases in the USA.79 80 This growth in the online
sector of the market may be associated, at least in
part, with the online resources for information, true
or otherwise, about pet health widely available on
the internet. Many pet owners regard the internet as a
source of information for pet care, including nutrition,
which may be a contributing factor in the rising
trend for inclusion of unconventional food types, as
apparent in the data collected here.10 79 While many
online blogs and resources are available from animal
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and veterinary nutritionists, there are countless others
from impassioned veterinarians, pet parents and/or
paraprofessionals espousing their personal experiences
and views as well. Never before in the history of pet
keeping have so many opportunities for information
and potential misinformation been available to pet
owners, which may complicate the decision- making
process regarding pet feeding practices.
Limitations to the present study must be considered
when interpreting the current results. To minimise
selection bias, no reference was made to any particular
type of diet or feeding practice in the title or introduction
of the survey. However, given that the survey was
available for sharing, it is possible that specialty focus
groups or specic types of pet owners were recruited
into the study, biasing the results. Exclusivity of
feeding practices was not asked of the respondents but
determined if they selected that they fed only one type
(conventional, HM or RAP) of diet and never fed any
other foods, with the exception of treats and snacks.
This may have been more discriminant than other
methodologies, which may have relied on self- reporting
of exclusivity of feeding. Additionally, dierences in
recruitment strategy, survey method and phrasing
dierences in questions probably account for some
of the variation in demographics, data collection and
results as compared with previous reports on feeding
practices. Historical studies had relatively similar age
and gender demographics, though the present survey
results generally had a greater number of female
respondents, and a slightly younger sample population,
which could bias results if these demographics aected
their feeding practices (table1).
The survey reported here was completed by 3673 dog
and cat owners from around the English- speaking
world and provided information regarding how
these animals were typically fed. Most animals were
fed conventional diets—that is, heat- processed and
commercially available kibble and wet foods, but
this number was lower than in previously published
literature. Feeding unconventional (ie, RAP or HM)
diets was more prevalent than previously reported, and
accounted for at least part of the diet in over half the
animals represented. For animals with nutritionally
responsive health conditions for whom a therapeutic
diet is recommended, the efficacy of these diets must
be discussed, particularly with respect to feeding
other diets in addition to the therapeutic diet. There
were significant geographical differences in feeding
practices—in particular, Australia had a much higher
prevalence of feeding RAP and a lower prevalence
of feeding conventional diets. Considering the high
prevalence of unconventional feeding practices,
veterinary healthcare teams must be aware of the
potential risks and benefits of these practices and
educate their clients to help best meet the nutritional
needs of their companion animals.
Funding This study was funded by Mitacs Accelerate.
Competing interests SD is the owner of Dodd Veterinary Services and participates
in paid internships and engagements within the pet food industry. NC is an associate
professor and academic group leader at the Massey University School of Veterinary
Science and a member of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global
Nutrition Committee. AV is the Royal Canin Veterinary Diets endowed chair in canine
and feline clinical nutrition at the Ontario Veterinary College, serves on the Health
and Nutrition Advisory Board for Vetdiet and has received research funding from
various pet food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers. SA is the owner of Sit Stay
Speak Nutrition, consults with various manufacturers within the pet food industry
and consults with Pet Recipe Designers. A- KS serves on the scientific advisory board
for Trouw Nutrition’s Companion Animal and has received funding from various pet
food manufacturers and feed and food ingredient companies. JA is employed as the
nutrition manager at Petcurean Pet Nutrition.
Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request.
Anonymous questionnaire responses available upon request from from https:// orcid.
org/ 0000- 0002- 8151- 5844.
© British Veterinary Association 2020. No commercial re- use. See rights and
permissions. Published by BMJ.
SarahDodd http:// orcid. org/ 0000- 0002- 8151- 5844
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... Other than in hunters' dogs and this small Finnish study, wider risks to domestic pets have not been explored. However, the feeding of pets with raw meat is increasing (Waters 2017;Dodd et al. 2020), and as this can include game meat, these risks may have increased. Raw meat is now widely available commercially as a main or supplementary petfood, usually supplied as frozen minced meat. ...
... Frequent exposure of dogs to such dietary lead levels is likely to present health risks. As UK households own an estimated 13 million dogs and 12 million cats (2022; ukpetfood 2023), and raw diets are increasingly popular within and beyond Europe (Dodd et al. 2020), numbers of pets at risk could be high. ...
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UK and EU regulators are evaluating the potential health benefits of restricting the use of lead ammunition. Little information is available on exposure of pets to ammunition-derived dietary lead from petfood containing meat from wild-shot game animals. We found dogfood including wild-shot pheasant meat to be widely available in the UK. 77% of samples from three raw pheasant dogfood products exceeded the EU maximum residue level (MRL) for lead in animal feed, with mean concentrations approximately 245, 135 and 49 times above the MRL. Concentrations > MRL were also found in a dried food containing pheasant, but not in a processed food, nor in chicken-based products. Lead concentrations in raw pheasant dogfood considerably exceeded those in pheasant meat sold for human consumption, possibly because the dogfood mincing process further fragmented lead particles from shot. Dogs frequently consuming such high-lead food risk adverse health effects; this should be considered within decision-making processes about regulation.
... On the other hand, there is an increasing interest of owners about nutrition trends like "grain free", "homemade", "raw food" or "vegetarian" diets for dogs. According to a survey study in English-speaking countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and USA) concerning canine feeding practices by owners between 2008 and 2018, the proportion of dogs fed with inclusion of non-conventional diets like home-made diets or vegetarian appears to be increasing (Dodd et al., 2020). These changes in feeding practices are raising concerns about microbiological risks regarding owners and dogs when raw products are involved (Runesvärd et al., 2020). ...
... Pet nutrition is the centre of owner preoccupation and veterinarian face hardly to multiple question between science and marketing. Because the aforementioned study by Dodd et al. (2020) showed different results from one country to another, conducting surveys in different countries will be a useful tool to improve veterinary education in the eld of nutrition. In absence of information from veterinarians, owners will search on the internet (Morgan et al., 2017;Morelli et al., 2019). ...
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Background Nowadays, more people are treating dogs as family members. This reflects their increased attention towards their nutrition, with renewed interest for non-conventional diets such as Biologically Appropriate Raw Food/ Bones and Raw Food in United States (BARF) or homemade. In previous studies, owners feeding their dog non-conventional diets reported lower levels of trust in veterinary advice. The aim of the study was to identify differences in lifestyle between owners feeding dogs non-conventional diets and those feeding conventional diets (i.e., dry/wet pet food) to give further insight for improving communication between veterinarians and owners. Results A total of 426 surveys were usable. Fifteen percent of the participants lived in the metropole of Paris and had more than one dog (mean 1.72 dogs). Thirty-eight percent of the survey respondents stated that their dogs were fed exclusively with non-conventional diets, while 55% declared using conventional diets alone (not considering treats). The study canine population was for the most part neutered (63%) and purebred (68%). Amongst owners feeding conventional diets exclusively, 47% determined how much food to feed by consulting the feeding guidelines on the packaging, and only 28% said that the amount of food was prescribed by their veterinarian or veterinary nurse. Out of the participants feeding non-conventional diets, 65% declared that the information for formulating the recipes was gathered on the internet or in non-veterinary books. When compared with owners feeding exclusively conventional diets, those feeding non-conventional diets were living more frequently outside the metropole of Paris, had fewer children (0.23 ± 0.57 vs 0.37 ± 0.78; p = 0.03) and had more frequently other animals. They also dewormed less often their pets, walked their dog more each day (91 vs 78%; p < 0.001) and without leash for more than 6 h per week (46 vs 31%; p = 0.003). Conclusions This survey described differences in the habits of owners feeding dogs non-conventional diets in comparison with those feeding conventional diets. Data suggest that owners using non-conventional diets may be more attentive to the ethological needs of their dog which could be a starting point for practitioners for achieving better client-veterinarian communication.
... Striking a balance between meeting the behavioral and nutritional needs of cats requires recognition that in the wild, obtaining prey requires considerable energy expenditure from cats and the animals that are consumed are quite small and of low caloric density (Bradshaw and Throne, 1992;Bradshaw, 2006;Sadek et al., 2018). In contrast, cats kept as companions in homes (especially those living solely indoors) are often relatively inactive and offered highly palatable, high-energy kibble, in addition to treats (Shoveller et al., 2016;de Godoy and Shoveller, 2017;Dodd et al., 2020). Because of the significant differences between outdoor and indoor environments, the frequency of feeding of indoor cats needs to consider the energy density and availability of the diet. ...
Despite the cat's popularity as a companion species, many owners and practitioners lack high quality information about important aspects of their behavior and management. Myths, anecdotes, and narratives of cats as 'low maintenance, self-sufficient' animals are pervasive, and the degree to which these may underlie complacency about fully meeting cats' needs is unknown. Several studies suggest that cat welfare and the human-cat bond may benefit from improved education about how to optimize the domestic cat's management and husbandry needs in homes and elsewhere. This paper is the second of a two-part series addressing common myths about cats. The purpose of this paper is to review and debunk common misconceptions about optimal cat care, feeding behavior, genetics, and training. Replacing these misconceptions with scientifically generated information could have a significant impact on the behavioral management of cats, positively influencing their physical health, mental stimulation, and well-being, and reducing stress for both cats and the people caring for them. Areas where further research is required to address ambiguities, and to better meet cats' needs in homes and other environments, are also identified.
... Recently, new alternative types of pet foods such as raw foods and cooked homemadestyle diets are increasing besides conventional types of pet foods due to a trend of pet humanization and diversification of consumer needs [16][17][18]. The classification and definition of alternative diets including raw foods and cooked homemade-style diets are well noted in the study of Parr and Remillard [16]. ...
Background: New alternative types of pet foods such as raw and cooked homemade-style diets containing human food ingredients have been introduced due to a trend of pet humanization and diversification of consumer needs. Objectives: To evaluate nutritional adequacy of new alternative types of dog foods containing human food ingredients as maintenance diets for dogs. Methods: Eleven homemade-style foods for adult dogs were purchased from online channel in Korea and analyzed to evaluate nutritional adequacy for adult dogs. Nutrients analyzed included crude protein, amino acids, crude fat, fatty acids, and minerals. Results: Crude protein and amino acids in all products satisfied Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) requirements. Crude fat in one of 11 products did not meet AAFCO requirements. The most deficient minerals were selenium (10 of 11, 90.9%), copper (five of 11, 45.5%), zinc (five of 11, 45.5%), potassium (three of 11, 27.3%), calcium (three of 11, 27.3%), iron (two of 11, 18.2%), and magnesium (one of 11, 9.1%). Six products were not in the range of the recommended Ca:P ratio in AAFCO dog food maintenance nutrient profiles. Conclusions: This study performed nutritional evaluation of raw and cooked homemade-style foods as maintenance diets for adult dogs. Some nutritional inadequacies were observed including some minerals, Ca:P ratio, and omega-6:omega-3 fatty acid ratio, although three products (26.2%) satisfied the AAFCO standard except selenium. Overall, the data suggest a need for accurate nutritional adequacy statement for consumers based on proper methods to validate the formula.
... (5) Feeding animals-this factor underlies the behaviours associated with using food leftovers to feed pets and other animals. These behaviours could be controversial, as feeding animals with human food could be perceived by consumers as a way to reduce food wastage, but on the other hand, it could contribute to animals' health problems (Dodd et al., 2020). In present exploratory analyses, it was found that people who more frequently fed the leftovers to animals were taking care of a pet, were younger, lived in bigger households and less frequently were vegetarian or vegan. ...
Purpose The goal of the present research was to resolve two problems with contemporary methods used to assess consumer food waste: the lack of established categories of food wasting behaviours and difficulties in assessing food waste. In Studies 1 A and 1 B, a five-factor questionnaire for measuring food wasting behaviours was developed. Study 2 and Exploratory analyses verified whether the questionnaire allows for predicting the amount of wasted meat, dairy and bakery and a range of socioeconomic characteristics. Design/methodology/approach Based on pre-registered studies, a new questionnaire for measuring the frequency of food wasting behaviours, the Food Wasting Behaviours Questionnaire (FWBQ), was developed. Findings The results provided evidence that behaviours associated with food wasting could be narrowed down to five distinctive basic categories: (1) discarding food because of its' unpalatability; (2) preventing food waste through buying only the necessities; (3) preventing food waste through planning; (4) preventing food waste through sharing and (5) preventing food waste through feeding animals. The FWBQ allowed for investigating the socio-economic factors that influence food wasting behaviour. Finally, the FWBQ allowed for predicting the amount of wasted meat, dairy and bakery products. Also, particular factors were associated with a range of socioeconomic characteristics. Originality/value The FWBQ has been shown to be an inexpensive and easy-to-use method for systematising distinct categories of food wasting behaviours and demonstrating their determinants. The study takes an empirical approach (rather than intuitive) to distinguish separate categories of food wasting.
... Non-heat-processed meat items, which include raw meat diets (RMD) and air dried, freeze dried or dehydrated treats, are an increasingly popular diet choice for dogs. 1 These foodstuffs have not undergone any cooking or heat treatment as part of the production process; however, the process used for treat production must have been proven in sampling tests to destroy Salmonella. 2 Items used as treats or chews may include body parts, such as ears, snouts, tendons, skin, trachea, tails, penis, hooves and feet, from a range of animals. 3,4 Previous studies have demonstrated that dog owners who choose to feed non-processed meat items do so as they believe them to be a more natural and healthier choice for their pet. ...
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Background: Dried non-heat-treated meat treats, such as ears, skin and tails, are popular supplementary dog foods. Previous studies have demonstrated Salmonella spp. contamination on treats, particularly in pig ears and chicken products. This small, exploratory, cross-sectional study investigated Salmonella spp. presence in dried treats available in the UK. Methods: A selection of dried treats from local pet shops and online retailers underwent bacterial culture for Salmonella spp. and subsequent antimicrobial susceptibility testing, with Salmonella serotype determined by whole genome sequencing. Results: Eighty-four samples were tested, with 16% being Salmonella spp. positive. Five Salmonella serotypes were identified, each associated with specific treat types. An antimicrobial-resistant phenotype was identified in 39% of isolates. All serotypes identified are known to cause human infection. Limitations: This study was limited by a small sample size and limited number of retail sources. Conclusion: Salmonella spp. of public health concern were present in some dried dog treats in this study. Dog owners, pet food retailers and veterinary professionals should be aware of the potential zoonotic disease risk associated with these treats, and appropriate hygiene measures, including thorough hand washing, should be utilised if they are fed.
Feeding during normal reproduction is often not thought of until there is a problem with conception or gestational losses. Energy demands of lactation and early puppy/kitten are of concern, particularly in large and giant breed dogs where mineral balance is crucial to normal development. There is a paucity of information around optimizing feeding during conception and gestation with many myths around ingredients which will be explored in this article along with supplements that may be able to support spermatogenesis and conception which primarily comes from the human literature and may have validity in times of difficult conception.
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The rising trend in non-communicable chronic inflammatory diseases coincides with changes in Western lifestyle. While changes in the human microbiota may play a central role in the development of chronic diseases, estimating the contribution of associated lifestyle factors remains challenging. We studied the influence of lifestyle—diet, antibiotic use, and residential environment with housing and family—on the gut microbiota of healthy and owner-reported atopic pet dogs, searching for associations between the lifestyle factors, atopy and microbiota. The results showed that atopic and healthy dogs had contrasting gut microbial composition. The gut microbiota also differed between two breeds, Labrador Retriever and Finnish Lapphund, selected for our study. Among all lifestyle factors studied, diet was most significantly associated with gut microbiota but only weakly with atopic symptoms. Thus, diet- and atopy-associated changes in the microbiota were not interrelated. Instead, the severity of symptoms was positively associated with the usage of antibiotics, which in turn was associated with the microbiota composition. Urban lifestyle was significantly associated with the increased prevalence of allergies but not with the gut microbiota. Our results from pet dogs supported previous evidence from humans, demonstrating that antibiotics, gut microbiota and atopic manifestation are interrelated. This congruence suggests that canine atopy might be a promising model for understanding the aetiology of human allergy.
The marketing of dog food influences pet-owners to nurture the ‘carnivorous’ nature of the dog, keeping animal-based protein central to the industry. Alas, dog food has a significant impact on welfare. Consumers are aware of this impact, shifting the industry towards alternative pet food movements such as Open Farm, the first certified humane food. This article examines the material and discursive practices through which ‘humaneness’ is constituted as a quality within the humane pet food supply chain and how it reinforces embedded animal hierarchies. By reviewing the marketing and history of commercial dog food production, I show how ‘caring’ for the carnivorous dog lays the framework for killing. I use Open Farm's transparency tool to trace the value chain and compare it with the imagery, discursive claims, and material practices found within the Global Animal Partnership standards. I argue that instead of questioning animal-based protein, humane certification creates an alternative in which the pet owner could still ‘care’ for the wildness of their domesticated dog while simultaneously ‘caring’ for farmed animals. Thus, it reinforces the hierarchies of the industry. Additionally, the validity of the humane claims depends on the animals’ charisma and proximity to humans. In other words, marketing in the humane dog food supply chain creates animal–animal positionalities, in which the animals’ care or killability is mediated through the humans’ supply chain and marketing. However, as I show with interview data, the hierarchies are fragile and must be continuously reinforced, as animals can slip into different positions. Their proximity to humans alters their positionality and their killability.
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A 4‐month‐old male Old English Sheepdog was presented for evaluation of a raw meat‐based homemade diet after a 1‐month history of progressive lameness. Marked dietary deficiencies were detected, which included calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D. Hypovitaminosis D and hypocalcaemia were diagnosed by serum analysis. Evidence of severe diffuse osteopenia was noted on survey radiographs. Dual‐energy X‐ray absorptiometry (DEXA) was used to quantify bone mineral content and density and compare to published reference ranges. The puppy's initial bone mineralization was markedly subnormal, with bone mineral density 66% lower than expected, and bone mineral content 40% lower than expected. Subsequent DEXA scans were performed at intervals during the puppy's recovery to document the rate of bone re‐mineralization and guide therapeutic recommendations. Marked improvement was achieved within 4 months through exercise control and feeding of a diet appropriately formulated for large breed puppy growth and development. This report reinforces the necessity of thorough dietary history and highlights the potential for malnutrition in pets fed homemade and raw meat‐based diets. Use of DEXA has rarely been reported in clinical cases, yet can be a valuable tool for diagnosing and monitoring cases with abnormal bone mineralization. Further studies using DEXA to track bone mineralization in healthy puppies are encouraged to develop a more robust reference range of bone mineralization in growing dogs of varying sizes, weights and ages.
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People who avoid eating animals tend to share their homes with animal companions, and moral dilemma may arise when they are faced with feeding animal products to their omnivorous dogs and carnivorous cats. One option to alleviate this conflict is to feed pets a diet devoid of animal ingredients—a ‘plant-based’ or ‘vegan’ diet. The number of pet owners who avoid animal products, either in their own or in their pets’ diet, is not currently known. The objective of this study was to estimate the number of meat-avoiding pet owners, identify concerns regarding conventional animal- and plant-based pet food, and estimate the number of pets fed a plant-based diet. A questionnaire was disseminated online to English-speaking pet owners (n = 3,673) to collect data regarding pet owner demographics, diet, pet type, pet diet, and concerns regarding pet foods. Results found that pet owners were more likely to be vegetarian (6.2%; 229/3,673) or vegan (5.8%; 212/3,673) than previously reported for members of the general population. With the exception of one dog owned by a vegetarian, vegans were the only pet owners who fed plant-based diets to their pets (1.6%; 59/3,673). Of the pet owners who did not currently feed plant-based diets but expressed interest in doing so, a large proportion (45%; 269/599) desired more information demonstrating the nutritional adequacy of plant-based diets. Amongst all pet owners, the concern most commonly reported regarding meat-based pet foods was for the welfare of farm animals (39%; 1,275/3,231). The most common concern regarding strictly plant-based pet foods was regarding the nutritional completeness of the diet (74%; 2,439/3,318). Amongst vegans, factors which predicted the feeding of plant-based diets to their pets were concern regarding the cost of plant-based diets, a lack of concern regarding plant-based diets being unnatural, and reporting no concern at all regarding plant-based diets for pets. Given these findings, further research is warranted to investigate plant-based nutrition for domestic dogs and cats.
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Feeding raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) to companion animals has become increasingly popular. Since these diets may be contaminated with bacteria and parasites, they may pose a risk to both animal and human health. The purpose of this study was to test for the presence of zoonotic bacterial and parasitic pathogens in Dutch commercial RMBDs. We analysed 35 commercial frozen RMBDs from eight different brands.Escherichia coliserotype O157:H7 was isolated from eight products (23 per cent) and extended-spectrum beta-lactamases-producingE coliwas found in 28 products (80 per cent).Listeria monocytogeneswas present in 19 products (54 per cent), otherListeriaspecies in 15 products (43 per cent) andSalmonellaspecies in seven products (20 per cent). Concerning parasites, four products (11 per cent) contained Sarcocystis cruziand another four (11 per cent)S tenellaIn two products (6 per cent)Toxoplasma gondiiwas found. The results of this study demonstrate the presence of potential zoonotic pathogens in frozen RMBDs that may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and if transmitted pose a risk for human beings. If non-frozen meat is fed, parasitic infections are also possible. Pet owners should therefore be informed about the risks associated with feeding their animals RMBDs.
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Background Close contact between pets and owners provides the opportunity for transmission of antimicrobial resistant organisms like extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)/AmpC beta-lactamase (AmpC)-producing Enterobacteriaceae, posing a risk to public health. Objectives To investigate whether raw feed is a risk factor for household cats to shed ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae, a cohort study was designed. Additionally, raw and non-raw commercial pet food products were screened for the presence of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae. Methods Weekly fecal samples of 17 cats in the control group and 19 cats in the exposed group were collected for three weeks and analyzed for the presence of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae. Questionnaires were obtained to determine additional risk factors. Fecal samples were cultured on MacConkey agar supplemented with 1 mg/L cefotaxime. PCR and sequence analysis was used for screening for ESBL genes in suspected isolates. Pet food samples were cultured in LB broth supplemented with 1 mg/L cefotaxime and processed as described above. Results In the cohort study, ESBL-producing bacteria were isolated from 3 of 51 (5.9%) samples in the control group compared to 37 of 57 (89.5%) samples in the exposed group. A significant association was found between ESBL shedding and feeding raw pet food products (OR = 31.5). No other risk factors were identified in this study. ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae were isolated from 14 of 18 (77.8%) raw pet food products and 0 of 35 non-raw pet food products. Conclusions This study shows a strong association between shedding of ESBL-producing bacteria in household cats and feeding raw pet food. Raw pet food was often contaminated with ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae.
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A survey was designed and administered at eighteen agility competitions across the Northeast and Midwest USA in 2015 to obtain information regarding competition level, training, feeding practices, owner-reported weight, body condition score (BCS) and supplement use. Average energy intake per d from reported consumption was assessed for all dogs in ideal body condition based on manufacturers’ or US Department of Agriculture database information. To assess the respective parameters across competition levels (novice, open, master/elite), non-parametric or parametric ANOVA or χ ² was used to determine significance. There were 494 respondents with usable data. Results showed that approximately 99 % of respondents used treats and 62 % utilised supplements. Of the respondents, 61 % fed primarily commercial dry food. Approximately 25 % of owners fed foods other than commercial dry (i.e. raw/home-prepared or freeze-dried). This 25 % of non-traditional diets included: 11 % home-prepared raw/cooked diets, 11 % commercial raw/cooked diets, and the remaining 3 % were fed commercial freeze-dried raw products. The remaining 14 % fed a mix of commercial dry food and raw/home-cooked blend. Average BCS was 4·7 ( sd 1·1). Mean energy consumption of 238 dogs (BCS 4–5/9) was 444 ( sd 138 ) kJ/kg body weight 0·75 per d (106 ( sd 33) kcal/kg body weight 0·75 per d), with no significant differences observed between dogs at different levels of competition. The mean percentage of energy from treats was 15·1 ( sd 12·7) % of overall energy consumption.
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Background Feeding raw meat-based diets (RMBD) to companion animals raises public health concerns for both animals and humans. While considerable attention has been paid to bacterial contamination of commercial pet food, few literature studies have investigated foodborne disease in companion animals. Salmonellosis is reported to be infrequent in cats but no known data or studies estimating feline salmonellosis are available or large-scale epidemiological studies assessing Salmonella risk factors. Case presentation Two highly suspected cases of salmonellosis in two cats fed with a commercial frozen poultry RMBD are presented, for the first time from the same household. The clinical presentation, diagnostics, treatment and follow-up are reported and the zoonotic implications are discussed. Conclusions This case highlights the health risks posed to both animals and owners by feeding RMBD to pets, and suggests that these risks should be considered by veterinary practitioners.
Commercially available dog treats have become very popular and a common part of the pet’s diet, yet very little is known about peoples’ opinions and feeding habits; therefore, a survey was shared on a popular social network. Most of the self-selected interviewed owners (n = 1833, 83%) use treats regularly, mainly to reward their dog’s behavior or during training-sports activities. Owners usually buy several types of treats, of which biscuits and dental care sticks are the most common, and usually hand out one to five pieces to their dogs every day. Most owners read the labels of the treats to seek the ingredients list and the claimed health benefits; contrarily, many owners look for non-nutritional values, such as flavor (n = 321, 18%), brand (n = 72, 4%) or shape (n = 46, 3%). Seventy-five percent of the owners (n = 1369) follow the feeding instructions provided by the producers on the label. Treat feeding is a common practice among dog owners and there is great variability among regimens (e.g., types and quantities provided). Understanding the owner’s attitudes could help veterinarians educate them to manage treats in the dog’s diet.
A 6-month-old intact female giant schnauzer dog fed a nutritionally unbalanced homemade diet was evaluated because of a 1-month history of lameness and difficulty walking. Abnormalities identified on ancillary tests, in conjunction with the dog's clinical improvement following diet change, suggested a diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency and nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. This report underlines the importance of appropriate feeding management, especially during the vulnerable growth phase.
Following decompressive surgery for degenerative lumbosacral stenosis, a 6-year-old German shepherd dog developed a subcutaneous infection at the surgical site and discospondylitis at the lumbosacral intervertebral disc. Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica, serotype Dublin was recovered from the surgical site. Salmonella of a different serovar was isolated from a sample of the raw meat-based diet that the owner fed the dog.