Does Raw Chicken Cause Paralysis in Dogs? New Research Says Yes…

Earlier this year, a new scientific article was published about the possible correlation between feeding raw chicken and the uncommon disease polyradiculoneuritis (APN), that can cause canine paralysis.

Since then, several Vetaround dog owners have asked me whether it’s safe to feed their dogs raw chicken.

And although the full story is still evolving and there is also an ongoing debate in general about whether to feed any raw food diets, it’s important to understand the risks and benefits involved with feeding your pets any raw food, but especially raw chicken.

So, to help you decide what’s best for your dog, here’s my summary of the study’s outcomes.

The Link between Raw Chicken and Canine Paralysis

Raw chicken necks are often recommended to pet owners for dental health. They are a popular treat for smaller dogs and readily available in supermarkets.

Yet after new research by University of Melbourne came to light in February 2018, vets now warn against feeding this raw meat to dogs. In particular, they warn against chicken necks.

The study found that dogs who eat raw chicken have a 70-fold increased risk of developing Acute PolyradiculoNeuritis (APN). This disease can lead to a fatal form of paralysis in dogs.

The study suggests the risk of paralysis is due to a link between the bacteria campylobacter (found in raw chicken) and the development of APN.

The Role Campylobacter Plays in APN

Out of the 70 dogs in the study with symptoms of APN, 48% of them had the campylobacter infection too. The study’s lead author links campylobacter to changes in a dog’s immune system, which may then leads to paralysis.

It is important to remember that questions still remain about the results found by this study. In particular how strong the link is between campylobacter and APN. In fact, the majority of dogs in the study who developed APN did not have campylobacter. Campylobacter is actually a common bacteria that sits in the gut of dogs with no obvious symptoms.

The key point here is that dogs can develop APN without eating raw chicken. Apart from campylobacter, another cause of APN can be gastrointestinal infections.

The Symptoms and Treatment of APN

The symptoms of APN can be quite debilitating and distressing for owners. We often see the disease amongst smaller dogs. The progression is usually as follows:

  • Hind legs first become weak
  • The weakness then progresses to the front legs
  • Finally weakness to the face, neck and head

There is currently no medication available to treat APN in dogs. The good news is that most dogs recover without treatment, although it may take up to six months. To assist recovery, owners should feed their dog plenty of water and nutritious food.

I stress that this is a very rare disease, which in some cases can be fatal.

So What Should You Feed Your Dog?

Matthias le Chevoir, the chief investigator of the study, said the cause of APN has long been unknown. Yet the results are concerning given the growing trend to feed dogs raw meat diets.

“We would recommend that owners choose regular dog food rather than chicken necks until we know more about this debilitating condition”

And although debate continues amongst vets and pet owners about whether to feed any raw food to dogs, I would personally recommend a healthy diet consisting of mostly wet dog food with raw food kept to a minimum.

If you’re still not sure what’s the right food to feed your dog, contact us and a mobile vet can come to your home, discuss the risks and benefits of various diets, and help you assess what’s best for your pet.

There are risks involved with feeding your dog any raw food, and the potential for infectious diseases which sometimes can be zoonotic…in other words, you can potentially catch these diseases from your dog.

So, yes, there are some benefits, in my opinion, to feeding raw or “non-processed” foods to your dog, but it is important you are also aware of the potential risks so you can make your own informed choice.

Contact us to find out more.

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