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More Owners Turning To Raw Food Diets For Their Pets

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WBZ-TV's Kate Merrill Kate Merrill
Kate Merrill is an Emmy award winning journalist for WBZ-TV News. She...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Anne Blanchette made a drastic diet change for her golden retrievers. When “Bear” got sick in 2006, she switched all her dogs to the raw food diet.

“I did it because I wanted something better for my dogs,” said Blanchette.

And it’s not for pet owners with a weak stomach. The golden retrievers eat one meal a day consisting of entirely raw meat.

Owners usually feed their pets what’s called the “whole prey.” That means the meat, the bones, the organs, everything.

Anne says the diet brought her dogs back from the brink.

“I have brought two dogs who were very ill back to great health. Their coats are beautiful. They don’t get any skin issues. They don’t get ear infections. They are happy, healthy, energetic,” said

 More and more pet stores are bringing in refrigerators and freezers to fill them up with the raw food, making this one of the fastest growing segments of the pet food industry. Sales topped $100 million last year.

But, the diet has its critics.

Dr. Lisa Freeman would never give her corgy “Penny” the raw food diet and she does not recommend it for her clients. Dr. Freeman is a veterinarian at Tufts University and specializes in animal nutrition.

“While they may sound like they have wonderful  effects in dogs and cats there’s absolutely no evidence that they have any health benefits for pets,” says Dr. Freeman.

“We have quite a lot evidence that there are some really important health risks for the pet and for the owner.”

She’s talking about health risks from handling and eating raw meat. Just like humans can get E. Coli or Salmonella from raw meat, so can our pets.

“People think that freezing or freeze-drying raw meat diets will protect them from bacterial contamination. But, in fact, that is not the case,” explains Dr. Freeman.

And while animals in the wild may eat raw food, those animals typically don’t live as long as we’d like our pets to.

The warnings will not sway Anne.

“I know whatever I give them in regards to the raw diet is 100 times better than what’s coming out of a bag,” said Anne.

This makes it a risk worth taking for some pet owners.

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