Former BBC trained broadcast journalist, Kate Bendix’s, view on BBC’s Trust Me I’m A Vet!
Trust Me I’m A Vet - Unless You’re Talking About Food
Kate Bendix worked for many years in television documentaries. In 2009, she jacked it all in, embraced poverty, and started her own business ‘My Itchy Dog’. Being an experienced broadcaster and journalist Kate loves the sound of her own voice and features on radio shows and in dog magazines whenever she can get past security!
Kate’s take on Trust Me I’m A Vet
Full disclosure - I am a BBC trained broadcast journalist, and proud of it. In my former life I made investigative, consumer, and factual programmes across the BBC until I changed career to work with dogs in 2009. My colleagues and I strove to be fair and accurate, as well as informative.
Which is why, after watching Trust Me I’m A Vet on BBC1 about obesity in dogs, food and feeding I am so angry. I’m going to remain polite and say that it was the worst researched, misleading load of codswallop I have seen on TV in a very long time.
For those of you who didn’t see it (well done, your time is better served going for a dog walk) let me summarise their key findings:
- Dogs are becoming obese
- We’re so used to seeing overweight dogs that we fail to recognise a dog as being overweight when we see one
- Dogs need to be a healthy weight to stave off long term health problems
So far so good. Then this:
- Raw feeding is the new ‘fad’
- There is no evidence to suggest raw feeding is any healthier for your dog than feeding them ‘complete’ foods e.g. kibble, tins and trays
- Dogs should be fed a ‘standard’ processed food
- Feeding raw food to your dog exposes the entire household to superbugs. E.Coli and campylobacter to name just two
Let’s just pick that apart shall we?
Raw feeding is the new ‘fad’
Raw feeding of dogs, and cats for that matter, is here to stay. And however cynical we tend to be about being ‘force fed’ products we don’t like, consumers, you the dog owners, are the ones leading the charge in feeding their dogs raw food in the first place. You, dear reader, are part of a growing body of raw feeding devotees. You are growing the market in raw feeding, not the producers. Supply and demand. By the time the vet mentioned the word fad for a third time I was throwing things at the telly. I haven’t felt quite so patronised in a very long time.
There is no evidence to suggest dogs fed a raw diet are any healthier than those fed ‘a processed food’
That’s true, to an extent. I have a friend with six dogs, all thriving on different diets. This is a pain in the backside for her but she has the dogs’ best interests at heart, and if she’d wanted an easy life she wouldn’t have six of them! A couple thrive on raw, three are on wet food and another eats kibble. They’re all little rockets, a good weight and happy, but she really knows what she’s doing in the first place and has the confidence to chop and change their diets as she sees fit. Many dog owners don’t. Most are swayed in their choice of dog food on the advice of their vet, who has little to no nutritional training, and who let themselves be swayed and ‘incentivised’ by the largest kibble brands - Royal Canin and Hills.
There is a great deal of undercooked starch in a dry dog food which can lead to gut problems: wind, that doggie smell, loose stools, itchy skin and fungal problems. Raw food has barely any starch and what there is comes from vegetables, and in far smaller quantities.
As for evidence it is well observed that a kibble fed dog switched on to raw food will have a better coat, more energy, better teeth and gum health, less ‘output’ to pick up, less wind, far better gut health and be less likely to carry excess weight.
Dogs should be fed a ‘standard’ processed food
Processed kibble has the nutrition added after cooking. It comes in a pack and is sprayed on to the food. Raw food contains its nutritional value within the food itself making it far more bioavailable to your dog.
I want my dog to get her nutrition from the food itself, not the additives. I also want her to eat less carbohydrates and more lean protein to lessen the risk of her developing diabetes later on in life.
So whether it’s peer reviewed research or anecdotal evidence I know which is better for my dog just by looking at her.
Feeding raw food to your dog exposes the entire household to superbugs.
This section was my absolute favourite. When I say favourite I mean it’s the bit which made me apoplectic, partly because it was such a facile piece I can’t believe the BBC put their name to it, and partly to do with treating dog owners as morons.
The vet and a research professor got together to look at the problems of handling raw meat “raw meat is known to harbour many types of bacteria”. Yes of course it does, I harbour many types of bacteria, what’s your point?
The professor played with the meat then placed her hand into a petri dish to grow bacteria in culture. Low and behold people, I kid you not, bacteria grew. It’s a miracle!
Professor “This is a plate that I took of my hand after handling the raw meat”
Vet “There’s a lot of bacteria on there isn’t there?” I am breathless with this revelation.
“The next one is from a swab that we took from a bowl”
“Wow! This was after the dog had eaten, you swabbed the bowl and this is what was left?”
“Yes, then we took a swab from the dog’s mouth after eating raw meat and you can see there is an awful lot of bacteria there”
“There is an awful lot of bacteria there”
You get the idea. Are you shouting at the screen as you’re reading this? Go on, let it all out, you’ll feel better.
They found E.Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter in the cultures from the hand, the bowl and the dog’s mouth.
Now tell me, how many of you out there handle raw meat for yourselves or your dogs then don’t wash your hands afterwards? How many of you fail to clean your knives, chopping boards and surfaces either in the dishwasher or in hot soapy water? How many of you eat from your dog’s bowl (after they’ve finished of course, it would be rude to go first)?
And how many of you wonder just how clean your dog’s mouth would be if they ate kibble instead of raw food? I mean all that bottom sniffing, grass eating, dog poo eating, rubbish bin raiding activity is as nothing compared to eating raw meat. If your dog only ate processed food their mouth would be a haven of freshness and sunshine. Wouldn’t it?
I don’t know of a dog owner who doesn’t wash their hands several times a day after stroking the dog before handling food. Dog bowls in dishwashers are just fine, the temperatures see off bacteria from dog bowls, dinner plates and all the mouldy mugs your teenager can hide under the bed before you start to notice a shortage.
Basically the message should be “don’t let your dog lick your face” and that’s been the message for all eternity. Though many of us still let them do it and we’re still here to tell the tale.
Not only that but did you know that 9 of the worst, antibiotic resistant superbugs in the world are found on the London underground? On chairs, handrails, doors, all over. The Victoria line is the worst offender with 22 types of harmful bacteria found to be dwelling there. We take nearly 5 million tube journeys per day. Per day! And you don’t see the BBC making programmes about that now do you?
They could’ve saved at least 10 minutes of my precious time by just saying “wash your hands, people.”
Rip Off Britain’s (BBC1)
Rip Off Britain’s (BBC1 1st June) feature on raw feeding was far more evenhanded. It was great to see a veterinary raw feeding advocate featured, including her reasons why she made the switch from dry to raw. She is now seeing dogs plagued by chronic conditions: atopy, obesity and allergies for instance regaining their health after making the switch over to raw.
One the other hand, a speaker for the British Veterinary Association made the point that raw meat can contain pathogens harmful to human health for which I go back to my earlier points: You treat raw meat for your dog in precisely the same way you would for your own - wash utensils, chopping boards and bowls in the dishwasher. And if you’re buying raw, prepared pet food like Natural Instinct then the food has been frozen at much lower temperatures than a domestic freezer and for long enough to render any remaining pathogens deceased!
The truth about handling raw food safely
So if you want to feed raw but don’t like to handle raw food then simply buy it in, with all the hard work done for you. Natural Instinct source their meats from British farms, they mix each recipe quickly and blast freeze it so it freezes down as fast as possible. Without doubt raw food contains pathogens so batches are tested throughout the process. The product is then shipped to your local pet store or directly to your front door. Always defrost it in the fridge, use what you need and store the remainder on the bottom shelf of the fridge to use at the next mealtime, for up to four days.
Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands.