Raw feeding and Pets as Therapy Policy

A while ago I discovered that a pets as therapy organisation in the USA had stopped owners who raw fed their dogs from contributing to the programme. The cause was cited as the risk of cross infection being too great.

Yesterday there was a letter in the Daily Mail Letters page about raw feeding and therapy dogs which clarifies the situation with Pets as Therapy organisation here in the UK. The writer complains about being prevented from continuing in this voluntary role due to the fact that he or she raw feeds their dog - link.

[i]Raw deal Scottish Daily Mail9 Feb 2018 FOR years, I have been taking my dog to visit a care home so residents can talk to her, make a fuss of her or just ignore her. Most folk love to see her and even those who can’t talk like to stroke her.

However, I have resigned from the scheme that organises these visits, as I have been informed that as my dog is given raw meat in her diet, there could be a risk of crossinfection to people. I appreciate such concerns, but when social isolation has become such a problem, surely with a little thought a solution could have been found.

How sad the residents will be denied an uplifting visit from a gentle dog.

Name and address supplied.[/i]

The organisation is not mentioned in the letter but I assumed it was Pets as Therapy (PAT) so checked their website. There is an update (dated February 2018) about raw fed dogs. It appears on their frequently asked questions page under Policies - link.

[i]Pets As Therapy has recently considered the potential risks posed when feeding Raw Meat Based Diets. Raw meat can contain not only parasites, but also the bacteria causing such serious infectious diseases as E-Coli, Salmonella and Listeria which can be extremely dangerous to humans. These bacteria are NOT killed by freezing the meat.

In the light of recent scientific and medical advice from a number of veterinary consultants we are updating our guidelines with the aim of minimising any health risks associated with PAT pet visits to the young, the elderly and the immuno-comprised recipients of our service.

An increasing number of NHS Trusts and education authorities now state in their Infection Prevention and Control Policies that they cannot accept visits from therapy dogs fed on raw meat and in order to ensure that PAT dogs are considered safe to visit schools and hospitals in future, it is our duty of care to comply.

Therefore, PAT pets should NOT be fed raw meat – or unpasteurised milk. This will reduce the potential risk of diseases such as E-coli, Salmonella and Listeria being transmitted to humans from our pets.

Safeguarding our clients is our key responsibility, so your understanding and co-operation in this matter is much appreciated.

If you would like further information on RMBDs, you may find the links below useful:

A short article in the Veterinary Record: http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/182/2/50

An excerpt from the BBC programme Trust Me, I’m A Vet: Trust Me, I'm a Vet: Raw meat trend | Should you feed your pet raw food? The jury's out... but what do you think? | By BBC Two | Facebook

A view from the Food and Drugs Administration in America: https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm368730.htm

The author of the letter says that ‘…with a little thought a solution could be found’ but doesn’t go on to say what that solution could be. Elderly and ill people often cannot nip to the bathroom to wash their hands so perhaps the volunteer could carry hand gel and ensure the visited person uses it before they leave. Some people raw feed because they don’t like the idea of processed food. Perhaps PAT could have advised re alternatives e.g. home cooking for dogs. Also, there are products on the market such as Butternut Box and Freshpet which might be acceptable. Some wet foods are ‘gently steamed’ and contain ingredients that are similar to the company’s raw diets.
I don’t know if PAT offered support and advice but I hope so.


Might I add a further comment as I know of many owners with therapy dogs.
Insisting on a blanket ban of dogs on a particular diet may well backfire in so many ways.

In addition to losing plenty of gentle trustworthy dogs which play a wonderful role in schools, care homes, hospitals, a ‘fear’ of dogs per se may spread to other members of the community.

Yes there is a well known therapy organisation that issues their walkers with hand gel to be used after picking up after their dogs.


Thank you for raising this subject, Dottie, interesting that raw dog food company Poppy’s Picnic invited a group of residents from Dauntsey House Care Home in Devizes to their headquarters in Melksham for a special event a few days a go.

Seaweed - is that a different therapy organisation? Wondering if it is Therapy Dogs Nationwide. If so, maybe they don’t have the rule about raw fed dogs that Pets as Therapy has introduced. The piece was certainly good advertising for Poppy’s Picnic.

Dottie, there was a least one volunteer from Therapy Dogs Nationwide, here is their policy on a raw diet. Looks like a great day was had by all.

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Thank you for clearing that up. Therapy Dogs Nationwide’s policy is (for now), different to Pets as Therapy. However, it would seem that the issue is still being followed up:

There is also a list of sites where we have sourced our information. This will be ongoing and we hope to get more evidence plus representatives of the RCVS for advisement.
They provide clear guidelines regarding reducing the risk of bacterial transmission and it is to be hoped that all parties concerned adhere to these. There is nothing in them that gives me confidence. Infection control is difficult even in ideal situations, let alone with people who are not able to understand or care for their own hygiene and who might have immunity problems.

My dog Millie and I have been volunteers with Canine Concern Scotland Trust for the past three years. We have just been told that because of the dangers posed by raw fed dogs we have to change our dogs diets by January 2019. I have posed the question about why they are still considered safe for the next six months and then boom, they become slobbering bug monsters next day. It’s so sad that we are going to have give up this valuable work. We already take great care with hygiene, washing bottom in hibiscrub, hers not mine, and carrying wipes and hand gel. I not only visit Children with special needs, elderly people with dementia but also take part in university Paws against Stress sessions during twice yearly revision weeks. I have challenged the ruling but fear there will be no change of heart. I am considering setting up myself as Uni Cuddle Dogs for exam weeks , I know my dog is completely safe it seems so unfair.

Hello Jilly - welcome to the forum. It is good that you are undertaking this voluntary work with your dog. The issue is not that your dog is safe, rather that some people, particularly the immunocompromised are at a much greater risk of contracting disease. I am a carer of someone who has antibody deficiency and has infection after infection. This has resulted in antibiotic resistance. Any one of the diseases that are mentioned could be the end for him. Is that less important than raw feeding a dog? Any risk, no matter how small it is perceived to be, should be avoided. There are good alternatives to raw feeding and the Dog Food Directory is a good place to source them.

The other thing is that there are different ways of raw feeding. Not all people give their dogs food from DEFRA approved suppliers and members of the PFMA, who have to follow strict hygiene guidelines. They have no way of knowing whether the dog is at a higher risk of becoming carriers of disease due to their food source.

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Bella and Duke talk to Valerie Yuill from Therapy Dogs Nationwide. https://www.bellaandduke.com/2018/08/therapy-dogs-nationwide-interview/

Thank you for the link Seaweed. This organisation clearly takes a different stance on raw feeding than Pets as Therapy. I do wonder what qualifications Valeria Yuill has in microbiology and what experience she has in managing people and animals who are ill with infections. I would want to know more about this research she claims to have done - where are her references?