What’s with all the rules? Are you anti-raw?

It’s come to my attention that our rules in the Facebook group about feeding advice aren’t well understood.  I’m going to try to fix that with a brief article that explains my thoughts in a little more detail.

Let me first start off by saying two things that are specific to raw feeding:  1) I understand that raw feeding, by itself, is a controversial, hot-button issue.  2) I am not, in a general sense, against raw feeding, when it comes to healthy dogs.

I’d prefer to not get bogged down in the controversy that surrounds feeding raw.  I believe that it’s been helpful in improving the health of some dogs not affected by primary CIL.  The issue I have with raw is very simple.  It’s just not possible to eliminate enough fat from a raw diet to make it appropriate for dogs that have primary CIL. 

To get to that level of ultra low fat, food has to be cooked, and excess fat has to be drained.  There’s no way around it.  There’s just too much fat in a raw diet.

So, that’s the short answer.  But there’s a lot more to it.  Bear with me here.

CIL is a confusing disease to begin with, because we have primary and secondary disease states, where the CIL itself has different causes.  In secondary CIL, the task is fairly straightforward.  Remove the cause of the primary disease, and the secondary stuff goes away.  When CIL is secondary, the primary disease is usually IBD, and dogs that react to a protein source, such as chicken, are often primary IBD dogs.  With *those* dogs, it’s often as simple as feeding a hypoallergenic diet or changing their protein source from one thing to another. 

A key thing to remember here is that these are dogs who might well tolerate a higher fat diet, once the IBD has been addressed.  So you might see success stories with these dogs that involve things like raw diets or other oddly fat-filled items.

I’m all for being happy about any success!  But we need to remember that, for primary CIL, fat is always the enemy.  And most of us don’t know, and don’t have a way to know if CIL is primary or secondary. 

Vets often prescribe a hypoallergenic diet initially, in the hope that CIL is secondary and the diet change will fix the problem.  If it does, you can be fairly confident that your dog has primary IBD and that CIL will resolve on its own. In these cases, it’s fairly clear that the protein source was the problem.

Unfortunately, the primary CIL dogs need a different approach which will always include a low fat diet, and the path is not always so straight.

Here’s where things get sticky from a group rules perspective.  It can be argued that a rule against recommending fatty foods is too strict, since some of these dogs (CIL secondary dogs) will ultimately be able to eat more fat.  It can also be argued that we should give people the information to assess what approach they want to take, and let them decide. 

In truth, that’s exactly what we do.  I encourage everyone when they join the group to read the articles here on the website, which talk extensively about these issues.  I hope that they’ll work with their veterinarians to determine if, say, a hypoallergenic diet should be prescribed.  That’s the one higher-fat diet I’m not going to worry about, because it’s always fed with a vet’s supervision.

So, we do try to provide information that allows everyone to make informed decisions about what they are willing to risk.  But when it comes to random posts in an open community on the internet, there’s all kinds of ways things can go sideways fast.

I’ve been doing this since 2009, on three blogs, on two forums I’ve created, and now on Facebook.  One thing I’ve learned is that people don’t always have the time to educate themselves adequately, and that even when they do, there’s a lot to process and they don’t always take it all in easily or quickly.  Then you have the people who pop in to promote a product and the people who are obsessed with the latest feeding trends and believe those things will cure every ill known to mankind.  And, in the meantime, there are sick dogs here that desperately need to be helped.

I am all about harm reduction.  People have questions, and they need solid answers that will not create more problems for their dogs.  With that always in mind, I can’t endorse recommending any high-fat diets or food items, because the potential for harm is too great.  One person comes online and talks about how well their dog did on a diet that is relatively high in fat, and the next thing you know, there are three or four sick dogs in the group because they’re primary CIL dogs and their owners tried that high fat diet. And those dogs might not recover from that relapse, and they might die.  This is a serious disease.  

This is where it gets personal for me.  I don’t want sick dogs in the group that I could have protected.  The bottom line here is this: No dog, whether primary or secondary, is ever going to have a relapse because they avoided fat.  Some dogs *are* going to relapse if they are fed too much fat. 

But that’s not happening on my watch.  Not if I can help it.  

Everyone here probably ought to learn as much as they can about primary and secondary CIL, protein and fat, and then make a decision about what to feed.  But we all need to recognize that not everyone who comes to the group will have had time to get up to speed on this issue, and since dogs’ lives are in the balance there’s a grave responsibility implied in that. 

Because I don’t want a single relapsed dog laid at *my* feet that I could have protected, we’re not going to endorse any diet here that doesn’t meet the ultra low-fat standard.  I hope to protect all CIL dogs to the best of my ability, and that’s the sole reason this rule exists.

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