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.

For Those Who Would Rather Home Cook

Are My Feelings Outdated?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.

questioning raw diet for dogsA 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.

flea and tick applications

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.

More 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 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.

conclusion on dogs and reaw feeding image

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 🙂

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  • Monica Kelly

    Hello! I started a raw diet with all three of my dogs in 2014; then they were 4 years (25lbs), 9 years (135lbs) and 10 years of age 84lbs overweight). I actually made one dog fat on raw (was learning as we went). I eventually got my overweight dog down to a happy 64 lbs. In 2015, one of my oldsters (135lb) was labelled in kidney disease and our then Vet blamed me for having put him on raw. I tried the KD diets, but he just went further down hill, maybe if he was switched over sooner it would have been different? Or the supplements and hydration added sooner. I wish I used an internal medicine vet as well. Again I was learning as I went, and learned that some Vets just leave you on your own when they diagnose kidney failure in your pet, the attitude I got was just enjoy and euthanize. You can’t cure kidney failure; but you can stabilize further damage if you move quickly. There were many supplements I just couldn’t get into the dog because he was always queasy. I mastered subQs but eventually I sent him to heaven feeling of a failure. In the past years, I got better with the raw diet feeding with the remaining dogs who are now 6 years and 12 years. Recently my 12 year old dog (unrelated to the one who died) was labelled in kidney failure Dec 27. Her blood work numbers were high and I was given 3 weeks to bring them down. So I jumped into a mode I was in previously by pulling out the supplies I had from previous dog, (SubQs, aluminum hydroxide, standard processes supplements, liquid iron supplement, and multi vitamin B) have been re-reading kidney dog info. She started out queasy, so I cooked her dishes, lightly microwaved green tripe juices and all (gag) poured over sticky rice helped as one of the dishes, binder is added to every meal, 20 mg pepcid 2x a day, even included ACV and gradually replaced with raw meats (pork, beef, lamb) and (low phosphorous foods) steamed veggies, sticky rice, macaroni or soaked rolled oats. I could tell by her appetite and attitude that she was improving. At the 3 week mark, Her blood and urine numbers had dropped!!! Internal med vet didnt ask what I was feeding; but she said to keep it up 😉 I am still at work with the daily routine, my dog’s attitude has returned to the want of dog walks and ball throws! So I can only assume we are stable for now. (which makes me nervous! Don’t want to mess things up!)

    • janie

      Hi Monica:

      Thanks so much for sharing your story with us and how your dog went downhill once placed on the prescription KD diets for kidney disease. Like many, including holistic vets, I don’t believe for one minute that a raw diet caused kidney disease.

      You did really well for learning as you went and most people find themselves in that very same position Monica. We tend to beat ourselves up pretty good when our dogs cross the rainbow bridge; feeling we didn’t do all we could, or we did the wrong thing. This same scenario is true for many instances in life and the good that comes out of it is that these experiences give the us the ability to do better next time. “Live and learn” if you will.

      I’m assuming that your dogs were fed kibble most of their lives? If this were the case, then like you mentioned, starting them on a raw diet earlier may have helped your one oldster. There’s a good possibility that his kidney function was already limited due to years the wrong diet, chemical flea and tick products, vaccinations, etc. For the dog that was diagnosed with kidney failure on Dec 27th; have you vaccinated her recently or when was the last time?

      I will send you a private email Monica. Your story is very inspiring and “thank you” for taking the time to share what you’ve done here which will help others.

      You did GREAT!


    • sandy

      hi, my 15 1/2 yr old pomeranian mix was diagnosed last month w/ kidney disease. His BUN is 32 and creatinine is 1.8. He’s been eating homemade organic food for the last 10 years or so. His vet is telling me to feed him prescription kidney food which is kibble and canned. I don’t feel comfortable feeding him that but the other problem is he’s now so picky about his food. I’ve been reading up on homemade diets for kidney disease and am relatively familiar w/ the foods that are low in phosphorus, the problem is getting him to eat it. There’s also so much information I’m not sure what supplements to give him. The dogaware site recommends that I give him eggs and organ meats too and to also feed raw meat. I’ve never fed him raw meat before so I’m not sure if now is a good time to start. Could you help to let me know what supplements you include w/ the homemade diet? I’m saddened everyday watching him refuse every food I give him. Thank you.

      • janie

        Hi Sandy:

        I’m so sorry to hear about your little old boy.

        We recently edited our cookbook and included this type of information. It includes recipes, ideas, the best supplements for the disease and other helpful tips. You can learn more here if you like. We did this because we receive soooo many questions.

        You can easily follow the recipes in the book for kidney disease to include some raw meat (not RAW fish though). Again, the book includes some of the best supplements for the disease.

        You can also take a look at the supplements here in our store Sandy.

        I wish you and your little old timer the very best Sandy.


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