The Benefits of a Raw Food Diet

By Julie Anne Lee DCH RscHom & David Ruish DVM

Every time somebody comes into our clinic with a seven or eight year old dog on geriatric food it makes me want to cry, because it reconfirms that the general public is being told that their dog is geriatric at this age. It’s ridiculous that your average size healthy dog is considered geriatric at such a young age.

The main question we ask our clients regarding nutrition is this: Would they exclusively feed their children, simply out of convenience, from boxes and cans, supplemented with processed vitamins and minerals and never a fresh fruit or vegetable? The answer of course, is no. Dogs and cats eat raw food in the wild and most domesticated cats, given the opportunity will naturally hunt and eat raw meat. Their health depends upon natural enzymes produced in the gut and mouth with a diet of raw meat.

The old wives’ tale that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s is true when they’re producing this enzyme that prevents any possibility of bacterial overgrowth. If a dog or cat were cut in the wild, they’d lick their wound to prevent bacteria from forming. But domestically, they infect themselves and therefore need Elizabethan cone collars to prevent them from licking wounds because their mouths are full of bacteria.

According to human researchers at several universities in the US and UK, degenerative diseases and cancer in particular, have been consistently linked to enzyme deficiencies and the lack of antioxidants. This has resulted in the Canada food guide recommending more real food, and far less processed food, the same applies to animals. A cell is a cell.

Raw food contains enzymes and it does not rob the enzyme-excreting organs in order to break down food reaching the stomach. Digestive enzymes are found in the cells and fluids of the body. They are specialized protein substances that speed up and create chemical reactions. These enzymes don’t exist in commercial pet foods because the manufacturing process kills them.

Without these bacteria-fighting enzymes and antioxidants, our dogs and cats are left susceptible to disease and sickness as well as periodontal disease, which in turn requires dentistry, which in turn requires anesthetic which in turn strains their kidneys and other internal organs. If an animal’s mouth is full of bacteria, plaque, tartar, gingivitis, and inflammation, the bacteria goes to the organs upon swallowing. It’s like having a chronic infection, lowering the immune system and allowing a pre-disposition for secondary disease to occur.

Raw bones are also important for animal diets; they are the natural toothbrushes for cats and dogs. They exercise and improve the jaw muscles and help to prevent impacted anal glands. Cooking bones make them dangerous for animals to ingest. When bones are cooked, the calcium is leached out, leaving them brittle and dangerous therefore bones must always be fed to pets raw. The animal’s body absorbs the calcium that binds bone together, and breaks the bone down into a chalk-like substance that is excreted in their feces. Raw bones are also important to make the feces bumpy in order to massage and empty the anal glands of its pheromones and prevent impaction.

At our clinic we recommend raw food diets for our patients as a preventive health measure. We advise against free-choice feeding. Horses and cows are designed to graze, dogs and cats are designed to gorge, eat and digest and then relax their organs. Their organs are being used too often when they feed freely. We recommend feeding them once or twice a day within a set period of time. A healthy dog or cat will not be susceptible to the bacteria and parasites the way humans are, but if an animal is recovering from an illness or is ill, raw food would have to be introduced slowly.

Some people have hesitation feeding raw diets because of the risk of bacterial contamination by pathogens. There is always the possibility when raw meat is not prepared properly that there can be problems. It has to come from a good source and be clean. However, even if it isn’t properly handled it shouldn’t be the problem that it can be for humans. We are mammals, but individual species have different quirks and characteristics. Not that many years ago, dogs and cats ate fresh-killed game at mealtime. Dogs, wolves and coyotes are built to scavenge on game that has been dead for some time and of course there are no refrigerators in the wild.

The preconceived notion that dogs and cats have genetically changed, so that processed food is better for them is incorrect. It takes hundreds of years for a body to change genetically, and it simply has not been that long that dogs and cats have been eating processed food. This is like saying that we humans, have genetically changed so that fast food is better for us. We all know that this is not what is best for us, so why would it be for our animals?

Some people think that dogs might become aggressive towards other animals once they taste raw meat, but in our clinic we often see exactly the opposite happen. Once they are taken off processed foods that are full of sugars and fillers, most of our hyper and aggressive patients are calmer and less reactive. We often compare this to the common practice of hyperactive children being taken off sugars and food colouring.

Every day at our clinic we see the benefits of what raw food has done for our patients. They have a decrease of gastro-intestinal issues, skin and ear conditions and gum and teeth problems. We see more energy and less behavior problems and of course they have softer, shinier and fuller coats. It’s very rare that any of our clients ever report back with problems resulting from raw food.

Dr. David Ruish says that in the general dog and cat population, he has seen a huge increase in new diseases. “When I graduated in 1981, I don’t remember hearing much about hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, skin diseases, allergies and cancer. Now it’s very common. Why are all these new diseases cropping up?” He believes it’s at least partly to do with their nutrition.

In 1997, when we started to recommend raw food to clients, it was often up to them to make their own food, but now raw pet food is a growing industry. There are many reputable companies selling raw food that have veterinarians on staff, testing and analyzing their organic, non-medicated products for pathogens. Thus making it more convenient and easier than ever to create a healthy, balanced and natural diet for our furry family members.