Message Number: YG202 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Dr. Bruce Williams
Date: 2001-02-25 20:17:00 UTC
Subject: Re: BARF - Healthy

--- In Ferret-Health-list@y..., "Sidsel L. Espersen" <dogs@w...>
> I was wondering, if BARF as the only food would be appropriate for
a ferret,
> what would meat would be best? Chicken? What would I need to add?
> I am already a member of the FerretFeed list, but I was thinking
now we have
> a very esteemed vet here, that it would be great to ask him. (And
of course
> all the other great people here!)

I came across a couple of posts on the Alternative/Complementary
Board of the American Veterinary Medical Association's site (sorry,
this one's vets only) which I thought I would post. The first is
from a very prominent veterinary advocate of Alternative Medicine:

..."We are in the midst of a very heated discussion about it on the
CAVM-L list
right now. Some doctors hold the same religious devotion to it as the
owners do. Some are vehemently against it. Some recommend modified
bone versions to increase safety somewhat.

I know of 2 nutritionists who have analyzed the diet. One ran it
the computer and found multiple imbalances/deficiencies. Another
had people make up the diet at home then submitted it for analysis to
lab. Of the 3 recipes examined, all had mineral imbalances and
deficiencies. One contained E.coli 0157.

Advocates of the diet claim that infection with enteropathogens is
This may be true, although the zoonotic potential scares me a little.
Advocates also claim that problems with choking/perforation on bones
rare. I don't believe it - you hear about dogs dying from this on the
email list 2-3 times a year.

Do not confuse the BARF diet with other homemade raw diets - it's
to balance these better and increase safety by getting rid of the
bones and
adding a bit of grain."

The second post is from a faculty member at the University of
Wisconsin Veterinary School who is also a pathologist (one of my
kindred souls) -

"You will find few -if any- microbiologists willing to ingest (or
recommend ingesting) raw anything, no matter what gourmet food
advocates may say. Back when I used to work as a microbiologist, I
had occasion to culture food containing raw meat a few times.
Sometimes these diets are fed to big cats in private zoos or to
racing dogs. Even using no special enrichment procedures, I was able
to recover various types of Salmonella species, including some likely
to cause severe enteritis. Not surprisingly, Salmonellosis is a
significant problem among racing dogs. There are many other potential
pathogens lurking in such diets, and, as Dr. X (name removed - BHW)
notes, there is a potential for zoonotic transmission, since many can
also cause disease in humans. A few ingested organisms can multiply
into many millions shed in the feces. As a pathologist, I saw sharp
bone fragments in the alimentary tract of necropsied companion
animals that had not (but could easily have) perforated the
intestinal wall, given the right peristaltic activity. We have the
ability to freely take a chance, but when pets are involuntarily
exposed to pathogens it is appropriate to discuss the ethics of doing
so. "

Not to say that this is the definitive word on BARF diets, but it
does very eloquently address the possibiliy of pathogens in raw

I have invited a prominent ferret nutritionist to join this list to
help with such thorny questions, and am looking for vets with
experience in the holistic realm. My open mind should not be
mistaken for true knowledge in this area.

With kindest regards,

Bruce H. Williams, DVM
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