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.

Before we move forward, let me start by saying that one of the simplest and best things you can do to feed your senior dog is to home cook and our cookbook simplifies the process for you in every way.

dogs cookbook for easy recipes

questioning raw diet for dogsAre My Feelings Outdated?

Because many dogs live lives of continuous vaccinations, monthly chemical heart worm and flea and tick applications and kibble fed diets, their body’s lack EVERYTHING they need to flourish.

A dog who has lived through eating a diet that is completely against his nature, is 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.  It’s just 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.

little older dogMore opinions…..

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 alternative 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.

Eliminate Skin Issues 

If you’re thinking of changing your dog’s diet to raw due to skin problems and yeast infections, please see our #5 star Anti-Yeast & Allergy Kit here which can help manage this skin while building your dog’s immune system.

 conclusion on dogs and reaw feeding image

At this point, I definitely would NOT rule out feeding raw to an older dog.  (Read the comments from others below).  However, for dogs with a serious illness such as cancer, I think that I would lightly cook the meat (which is something that I have always recommended to my readers anyway when feeding older dogs) at a lower temperature. There’s nothing wrong with feeding both a cooked and raw diet to your senior dog. Again, there’s a lot of considerations such as disease, before jumping into all raw. *READ THIS IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT RAW BEEF: 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.

Make Your Life Easier

Another excellent idea is to use a food such as Dr. Harvey’s Paradigm which is a super green food. Or, their Raw Vibrance is an excellent choice as well. Both are premixes and you simply add your protein and oil to it. We recommend organic cold pressed coconut oil. Either of these foods (or you can rotate them as well) in combination with our cookbook is an excellent combination for feeding your old friend a diet that he not only needs, but craves and will thrive on. You can order Dr. Harveys Paradigm or Raw Vibrance here and save 10% when you use the code MOD0219. References: Whole Dog Journal – The Evolution of The Raw Dog Food Diet, HealthyPets.Mercola.com, Wikipedia, Janie’s Own Experience 🙂

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Showing 97 comments
  • Greg

    Please Help!!!!! Mt dog Vinnie is my son and has not been doing well. I thought I was doing my best and buying only the best, but I now feel the pet food industry doesn’t care about our animals. He is a 10 yr old Cairn terrier. He is a dieabetic, had cataract surgery last year and now has been dealing with acute pancreatitus. Tons of vet bills and no relief. He gets sick, won’t eat sometimes, diearhea. They put him on Royal Canin low fat GI years back. He wouldn’t eat so I started him on boiled chicken and he ate it up, tried rice, but he picks it out After a week and a half he stopped so I switched to lean ground turkey, ate it up a week or so then no. Went to boiled beef, chicken jerky in the oven, gizzards and hearts. He will eat, but not when I need to give him a shoat he just eats after hours and he can’t take it anymore I guess. The vet has him on Tysolin powder I believe and pain med Gabopentin and a anti vomit pill. It’s been a month and it’s about the same, I’m exhausted and on the net every night. I’m considering a raw diet and his teeth get so bad I want to do the raw bone. Is it ok to try raw bones and switch over to the raw diet slowly? Can he tolerate the raw bone, which is best? Any help would appreciate.

  • Nicole

    I’m a bit overwhelmed all the info both here and elsewhere, but I want to help my dog because the meds and prescription hydrolyzed protein diet has not helped at all. My Gidget still has diarrhea. Vet says it is bowel inflammation after ultrasound and numerous testing.

    • janie

      Hi Nicole:

      I’m sorry to hear about Gidget. What are you currently feeding her and are you giving any supplements?


  • stephanie

    Hi, I wonder if you can help? I switched my dogs to raw about 8 months ago and all has been going well particularly for my older dog (11 year old GSP) who has been behaving younger and looking so much healthier on it. However, he is getting weak in his hind quarters (getting stuck on the sofa etc) and finding it increasingly hard to pass his stools (which are too hard for my liking). He has access to fresh water, gets a leafy green & root vegetable meal one a week, sardines once a week and glucosamine supplements every day as well as coconut oil and seaweed powder daily & ACV 3-4 times a week What else can I do to improve things? Is a raw diet too much for him? Should I try something else? Thanks in advance for your help.

    • janie

      Hi Stephanie:

      It’s nice to hear that for the most part your old boy is doing well on a raw diet. However, I’m a little confused on what his actual meal consists of daily. Is he getting fresh greens daily or weekly with the root vegetables?

      What does his actual daily meal consist of for the most part?


  • Jordan

    13 year old golden retriever. He was already slowing down and got pretty severe acute pancreatitis. Has been on a high quality kibble all his life. I feel driven to go raw, but am worried it’s not the right thing to do. Have about 1/2 dozen books on the way and have been scouring the internet. I have this vision that he is going to get some energy back and be a happier dog if we go raw, but not sure if I would be doing more harm than good if I make this major change so late in the game. Comments are appreciated.

    • janie

      Hi Jordan:

      Are you giving him any supplements? Would you be willing to home cook and include a little raw as well?


      • Jordan

        I have him on glucosamine and a probiotic. Yes I would be willing to home cook some meals. I started giving some raw chicken necks to test the waters from local farmers market.

        The BM’s have gotten much bigger and more frequent since the pancreatitis. Hoping Raw or gently cooked might help normalize.

  • Kelly A Miyake

    I’m reaching out here to see if anyone has a clue with what is going on with my 8 y.o. Bernese Mtn Dog/Pyrenees mix. Healthy as a horse with zero issues, then 5 weeks ago, it was as if someone turned off a switch. He stopped eating, developed urgent, mucusy diarrhea with little to no fecal matter in them. Was dehydrated for a week or so but he got subcutaneous fluid injections twice. Over the past 5 weeks, he has lost 15 pounds, has had almost every test run imaginable and neither the regular vet or the internal med vet can say they have any idea of what’s causing this. They have ruled out prostate via a fine needle biopsy, all organs look normal on sonograms and xrays. no bloody stools or vomiting. No worms, parasites, etc. His bloodword is “pristine”, urinalysis shows only slighty elevated proteins due to dehydratration. I “force feed” him through a diner-style kechup bottle to get some fiber in him to try to bulk up his stools. (I blend up rice or potatoes with chicken or beef and add metamucil.) The diarrhea has gotten better since I started squeezing the food into his mouth 3x a day. The only other thing going on is that he is now urinating on his way to the door. He went from dehydrated to not being able to get out fast enough. He is drinking a lot and urinating about every hour to two hours. Unless I see him get up to go to the door, he ends up urinating on his way there, usually about 4-6 ounces of urine. He’s up 2-4 times a night as well. He has bouts of heavy panting several times a day. Again, this came on suddenly but nothing has turned him around. The only tests left to run are too expensive (I’ve spent over $2K ruling out all the “usual suspects” to no avail.) He is losing muscle mass, esp in his hind quarters and no struggles to get up quickly. 5 weeks ago, he was running through the yard like a dog half his age, keeping up with my 4 year old lab/hound. Any help is greatly appreciated.

    • janie

      Hi Kelly:

      I’m so sorry to hear this. When was the last time he was vaccinated? When was the last time any chemical flea and tick medicine was used? Was he tested for Lyme Disease?


  • Shelby Sauer

    I just thought I would add to this. I have a 9 year old corgi who went they disc surgery this year (was totally paralyzed). He’s now walking again, but about 8 months after had some sickness and we found a mass in his tummy. The decision was made to put him on palative care until it was “time”. My friend had been pushing me to raw food for some time and I thought why not – let him live like a king till the time comes. Fast forward a month and a half and no mass, swelling or pain. He is now walking better than he had in years and has the energy of his 6 year old self. I’m totally in shock. Do your research but I would totally recommend trying raw!

    • janie

      That is AWESOME NEWS Shelby! Thank you so much for sharing.

      The power of food and the power of feeding the RIGHT FOOD for your dog!

      Glad to hear this…..


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