I’m a HUGE fan of raw diets for dogs and I encourage them to anyone with a younger dog, or an adult dog for that matter. However, my problem has always been with whether or not it’s safe to switch an older dog, or a dog with health problems over to a raw diet.
This article is meant to shed some light on this very topic for those out there that are struggling with what to do with regards to feeding your older dog a raw diet.
Are My Feelings Outdated?
Because many dogs live lives of continuous vaccinations, monthly chemical heart worm and flea and tick applications and kibble fed diets (and most of the kibble diets aren’t from high end foods like Acana), their body’s lack EVERYTHING they need to flourish.
A dog who has lived through eating a diet that is completely against his nature, over vaccinated, poisoned monthly through parasite treatments, receives zero oral care on the teeth and gums and gets little exercise and/or social interaction, without a doubt has an immune system that is completely shot by the time the dog is a senior!
The chronic skin, stool, lumps, bumps, ear problems, joint pain and finally disease, ARE in my opinion all related to what the dog endured over his life time (eg: diet, chemicals and pesticides). It’s simply common sense.
While I have always shied away from starting a senior, or sick senior dog on raw due to a weakened immune system, many say this is just what they need to recover, regardless if the dog has health concerns.
Opinions From Holistic Veterinarians
In an article from Whole Dog Journal, Veterinarian, Dr. Ian Billinghurst (considered the father of raw feeding for dogs), shares how his experience with feeding raw food to immune compromised animals actually accelerated the immune system back to normal.
He indicates that was the reason that he wrote his book “Give Your Dog a Bone” which was how the movement for feeding raw began.
Other holistic vets weighed in with their opinions as well.
Dr. Jean Hovre shared how she wouldn’t feed dogs with a weak immune system, leaky gut or dogs that are debilitated, raw diets.
However, one of my favorite vets, Dr. Becker shares in one of her articles that by removing processed foods from a sick dog’s diet and adding a species-appropriate diet (this means raw), plus the appropriate supplements to target any inflammation and/or yeast (as necessary) and assist organ function, can eliminate symptoms and target the root cause and heal leaky gut.
She also mentions that every dog is individual and the needs vary from dog to dog.
In the article, Dr. Wynn shares that elderly dogs, dogs weakened due to chronic illness or disease, dogs who suffer with pancreatitis and dogs already suffering with “dampness” in the body (TCM which relates to Chinese medicine believes that certain foods cause blockages in the body) should not eat raw, in her opinion.
Dr. Newkirk who is a huge fan of home prepared raw meals, stated that his biggest concern with raw has to do with dogs who have serious bowel issues. In the article, he recommends feeding cooked meals for a short time only.
Dr. Silver: Another one of my favorite holistic vets. 🙂 Dr. Silver likes to take it slow for older dogs when they are compromised in any way. Here’s what he had to say when I talked with him:
“I’m not a raw food nut. I think there are values to having the food raw or minimally processed, but there also are values to cooking the food, in terms of increasing its availability. For instance, broccoli is more available for absorption of its micronutrients when its steamed, versus serving it raw.
Gentle cooking, as compared to the brutal high temperatures and pressures used with manufacturing kibble and to a lesser extent canned, doesn’t destroy many nutrients. This is why we eat food that is both cooked, and raw as with salad and fruit, to have all of the benefits of cooking where appropriate and raw where appropriate.
I don’t believe that raw feeding is what improves dogs and cats health, its the feeding of wholesome food, gently cooked or raw, as compared to the highly processed manufactured pet foods.”
Dr. Kollath’s study on raw vs cooked/processed food for dogs: I’m not sure exactly when the study was done, but it took place at Karolinska Hospital in Sweden where they fed animals a cooked and processed food diet.
While the animals were young, they looked healthy, however, as they matured into adulthood, they started to age faster than normal. The animals also showed symptoms of chronic degenerative diseases. Osteoarthritis, cancer and inflammatory bowel disease are just a few common degenerative diseases in dogs.
This should tell you something since all three of these diseases mentioned are rampant in pets today!
They then selected a group of animals that were to be raised on a raw food diet. These animals aged slower and were free of the the symptoms of degenerative diseases.
At this point, I definitely would NOT rule out feeding raw to an older dog or even a sick dog. However, for dogs with a serious illness such as cancer, I think that I would either cook the food gently (which is something that I have always recommended to my readers) at a lower temperature, or switch over to a partially raw diet slowly by adding a little complete raw to some lightly cooked food.
There’s nothing wrong with doing both. Maybe you’re uncomfortable with a complete raw diet; that’s okay. You can do one or the other, or both.
*IMPORTANT NOTE: If feeding beef, make sure that it is frozen for several days before feeding due to the Neospora intestinal parasite often found in cattle. So, don’t just purchase beef from the grocery store and feed. Freeze it first for several days before feeding it to your dog. Learn more about Neospora here.
I also like the idea of adding nutritional supplements that contain antioxidants like this one, or this powder form along with additional calcium and toxin free fatty acids which are all critical when home cooking. Then slowly replace the cooked meat into the cooked meal (or a dehydrated meal for awhile) with raw, vs simply jumping into an all raw diet immediately.
References: Whole Dog Journal – The Evolution of The Raw Dog Food Diet, HealthyPets.Mercola.com, Wikipedia, Janie’s Own Experience 🙂