PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Americans spend a whopping $18 billion a year on pet food.
Whether you buy that food at the grocery store, pet store, or even your vet’s office, the list of choices can be dizzying.
There are thousands of brands of dry food, hundreds of canned food and now, there’s another choice to consider.
Jan Kostyzak has bred and shown Scottie dogs for more than three decades.
After her first 10 years on the show circuit, she heard about the Raw Diet, tried it and became an instant believer.
“Then, I tried other foods, and then I went back to kibble, but you know, I remember people would say the best dogs out there are Jan’s,” Kostyzak said.
The Raw Diet is exactly that, feeding your dog the whole, raw animal.
That means not just the meat itself, but also the bone, fur, and organs. It can come from beef, elk, fish, even vegetable protein sources. The diet itself has been around since the early 90s, but it gained popularity a few years ago during all those pet food recalls.
Dr. Mike Hutchinson, of Animal General Hospital in Cranberry Township, said the Raw Diet is just one more choice in a sea of thousands for pet owners.
“There’s 3,000 different brands of food out there and it’s very difficult to decide. A minority of people, you mentioned some breeders, are picking up on this raw diet,” Dr. Hutchinson said.
If you’ve been debating about making the switch, there are some major considerations. The first is cost because it’s not cheap.
Kristi Hudak, a trainer and handler with K-9 Headquarters, feeds her dogs the Raw Diet. She admits it costs more money. However, depending on what brand of food your dog eats right now, it might not be that different.
“If you are feeding a high-quality kibble, it’s pretty comparable. If you are feeding grocery store $5 bags, then it’s going to be more, but if you are feeding a good quality kibble for $50, $60 a bag then you could even save money,” Hudak said.
The second consideration is health concerns, not so much for your pet, but for you.
“[A total of] 88 percent of dogs that eat them are excreting salmonella and E Coli. So, now we bring those dogs into our house and we love them. We hug them. We kiss them. We let them on our furniture on our bed in some cases, and now we are at risk for salmonella and E Coli and that does happen,” Dr. Hutchinson said.
There are a half-dozen animals on Hutchinson’s farm in Butler County. His dogs and cats eat nothing but dry food.
He has prescribed the Raw Diet, but mainly to treat dogs with health problems like inflammatory bowel disease or allergies.
Yet for use as a regular diet for an otherwise healthy animal, Dr. Hutchinson said the risk just isn’t worth it.
“If you have an older person who is immunosuppressed, if you have a young child or anybody who is on chemotherapy, those kinds of problems, those types of people can pick up those types of diseases from our dogs and that is not acceptable,” Dr. Hutchinson said.
Hudak doesn’t dispute that concern, but argues working with raw dog food is no riskier than handling the food she eats.
“It takes maybe a minute to clean up after you maybe just like you are preparing raw meat for you. You clean the bowls. You wash the bowls. You clean the counter. You wash your hands. It’s no more an issue than feeding raw to your family for dinner,” Hudak said.
She also believes her shepherds eat a more nutritionally complete diet as well.
“The dry foods are filled with grains and preservatives that the dogs can’t digest and they are also cooked at such a high temperature that most of their nutritional value is lost in the heating process,” Hudak said.
Even with the high cost, extra work, and added risk, Hudak and Kostyzak said the Raw Diet is worth it.
In the end, the decision is up to you so be sure to do your research before making the switch.