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Our Policy on Raw Feeding and The Burns By Your Side Scheme

Published: Monday, July 10, 2017

Burns Pet Nutrition and its charitable arm, the Burns Pet Nutrition Foundation has decided that the Burns by Your Side Reading with Dogs Scheme will not be open to participants who feed raw meat based diets (RMBD) to their dogs.

Our Reasons

While this decision may seem controversial, it ought not to be. There is a substantial body of evidence that raw feeding of meat and other raw animal products poses health risks, not just to the pet itself but to humans who come into contact with the pet.

Raw meat, whether intended for consumption by humans or pets is frequently contaminated by micro-organisms especially, E. Coli., Salmonella, Campylobacter and Listeria. Trials have shown that dogs which eat raw animal products, even if they do not show signs of disease, can become carriers and shed these bacteria into the environment.  This poses a risk to the health of susceptible humans, particularly young people, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, for example due to illness or chemotherapy. 

A second danger is that dogs fed on RMBD are much more likely to transfer antibiotic resistance to humans as compared to cooked diets. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), the American (AVMA) and Canadian (CVMA) Veterinary Associations, American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have all issued policy statements advising against the feeding of RMBD. The US based Delta Society Pet Partners programme has not used pets fed on RMBD since 2010.

What the Experts Say

(AVMA) Website

“Q:  Are there certain groups of people or pets that are more prone to the risks of infection associated with any type of food?

A:  Young children, elderly people, and immunocompromised individuals (chemotherapy, immune disease, etc.) are at higher risk of infection and illness if exposed to bacteria.

One of the important concerns that drove the development of this policy [on RMBD] is the concern that therapy animals fed raw diets and taken into hospitals, nursing homes or other healthcare facilities could serve as sources of infection to patients whose immune system may already be compromised by illness.” 

AAHA Statement

“Raw protein diets are now demonstrated to be a health risk for several groups, including: The pets consuming the diet; other animals in contact with these pets or their feces; human family members; the public

People at highest risk of serious disease from the enteric pathogens found in raw diets include those that are very young, old, or immune-compromised. These are the very groups that are the focus of most animal-assisted intervention (AAI) programs. It is especially important that therapy pets involved in AAI not be fed raw protein diets.”


As far as we are aware, Burns Pet Nutrition is the first UK Animal Assistance charity to ban the use of pets which are fed on Raw Meat Based Diets.

Surprisingly, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) do not appear to have a clear policy on this issue. For example, the BSAVA website states: “Where there are children or immune compromised adults in the household medical advice should be sought, before considering whether to prepare, handle and store raw food.”

Burns Pet Nutrition wishes to make clear that this policy is limited to the feeding of raw meat based diets (RMBD) only and is not intended to preclude the use of other brands of pet foods as long as they are cooked to minimise the risk of contamination by infective agents.

Further information:

*University of Liverpool Research: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/infection-and-global-health/research/pet-health/raw-pet-food/

*Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association: http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/full/10.2460/javma.243.11.1549

*AVMA statement: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Raw-Pet-Foods-and-the-AVMA-Policy-FAQ.aspx

*Canadian VMA statement: http://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/raw-food-diets-for-pets

*AAHA statement https://www.aaha.org/professional/resources/raw_protein_diet.aspx

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