reports that Nature’s Variety, a raw pet food company, has unveiled results of a recent "research study" on their products. Whenever you see "research," especially on the web, you need to consider whether it’s really valid scientific information or a marketing ploy. This particular case certainly doesn’t seem like anything approaching real research.

Apparently the study, commissioned by Nature’s Variety, involved the feeding of six adult dogs variations of different diets over a 4.5 month period. They looked at stool quality, volume and odor, blood chemistry, quality of their skin and coat and body weight.

  • In research, we worry about sample size. You need to have enough animals to detect any real differences. With 6 dogs, 4.5 months of feeding and different diets, you don’t have much of a chance to detect a problem (or a benefit, usually). You could have a diet that kills 10% of the dogs that eat it every year and not detect it in study of that size!
  • The number of dogs and time don’t even fulfill AAFCO feeding trial requirements, so this doesn’t provide any information that would be accepted using standard requirements.

Nature’s Variety director of research stated “It’s kind of a sigh of relief.”

  • It’s pretty concerning that the head of research would be relieved that there were no obvious health problems in such a small study. If they don’t have real confidence in the quality of the food, why are they selling it? If you have confidence in your diet, you say "Of course, as expected, our diet was shown to be nutritious and safe…" not "Wow, we’re really happy no dogs died!" Research to indicate safety and nutritional value should be done before you sell, not well after.

Duclos said she expects the study to be published in a peer-reviewed journal in about one year.

  • Not likely. For one thing, from what they are releasing, it’s very weak and not defensible scientifically. For another, they’ve already released the results. It’s inappropriate for people to release results before they’ve undergone peer review, and releasing data in a press release will probably prevent any reasonable journal from even considering the study.

It’s good that Nature’s Variety is trying to do some research. It’s also good that they’re addressing Salmonella contamination following their recent recall. The fact that they are doing something progressive is an encouraging sign. However, they need to do proper research, and make sure it undergoes appropriate scrutiny, instead of using small and relatively useless studies to generate press releases.

Raw feeding has inherent risks of exposure for people and pets to potentially harmful bacteria like Salmonella. Raw feeding can probably be done safely for both the pet and people in some, but not all, situations. More information about raw meat feeding can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources page. 

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