A sceptic’s guide to raw food - Veterinary Practice
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A sceptic’s guide to raw food

Nick Thompson begins a series discussing the feeding of cats and dogs with raw food claiming ‘it’s a logical way to treat many of the chronic pathologies that bog down daily practice’

RAW food feeding for dogs and cats
was unheard of 20 years ago. Today,
in a number of mainstream
practices, it is their preferred
method of nutrition. Many vets up
and down the country are familiar
with and encourage the use of raw
food. And that’s just the dozens I’ve
spoken to personally.

But still most of the profession are
keen to sell processed kibble and tins of
“scientifically formulated” food. The
majority of
vets are
sceptical that
a home-
produced diet
could be as
applicable as
the well-established processed diets.

I would like to take you on a
whistle-stop tour of practical small
animal raw food feeding over the next
six months to show you how easy it is
to introduce and maintain with clients
and patients, including: ideas behind, and justification for, raw food; practical
considerations in raw food feeding;
creating a raw food diet; issues arising
feeding raw and how to deal with them;
diseases treated using raw diets in cats
and dogs; the future of nutrition.

I was as sceptical as you when I first
heard of raw food feeding, in the mid-
90s. I still believed what I’d been taught
at college that clinical nutrition was just
too complex for the practising vet and
that leaving it to the professional food manufacturers was the only option. So I
carried on pushing packet food, but
went for the best I could find: the most
natural, the best proteins, the best

Gradually the penny dropped. The
theory behind raw food is that dogs and cats have evolved to eat raw food
and have been eating it since their
ancestors crawled out of the oceans.
Logically, if you feed a diet that is
readily recognised, efficiently digested
and easily assimilated by the mammalian
body, you will get less antagonism
between food and teeth, food and gut,
food and the immune system.

That’s all very well, but does this
play out in practice? That’s what this
series of articles is all about. The theory
stacks up 100% and the practice does
too; vets advocating raw are able to treat
conditions otherwise considered
difficult, intractable, incurable or only

We are able to treat IBS syndrome,
colitis cases, atopy and dental problems
in dogs which often respond quickly and
permanently. In cats, diabetes mellitus,
stomatitis, colitis and an array of allergic
disease can often be cured.

In both species, the modern ills of
“lack of energy”, bad breath, poor coat,
scurf, doggy smell, obesity, fussy eaters
and recurrent loose stools just become a
thing of the past.

Stark difference

The worldwide raw food revolution was
started by Dr Ian Billinghurst, an
Australian vet who, having seen a stark
difference in the general health of dogs
kept in the outback contrasted with their
urban cousins, suddenly realised the
profound effects processed food was
having; the farm dogs were being fed
mainly raw meat and bones and the
townie dogs kibbles and tins. The farm
dogs had less chronic disease, were
more energetic and contracted less
infectious disease.

He fed raw to his own dogs in the
country and noted, on moving into an
urban environment, how his once
healthy dogs, now on the “best
processed food” gradually developed
“the same range of problems that my
clients’ pets were suffering”.

Taking his inspiration from the
medical journalist Pat Lazarus, Dr
Richard Pitcairn and Dr Wendell
Belfield in the USA, he wrote Give Your
Dog a Bone
, based on his experience with
his and his clients’ dogs moving from
processed to raw diets.

Since Billinghurst, a slew of other
vets and nutritionists have looked at the
problem and come to similar
conclusions: processed food causes
disease. Lonsdale, Schultze, Volhard and
even Emeritus Professor of Medicine at
UCLA Donald Strombeck (author of
the textbook Small Animal
) all say roughly the same
thing. Just as our human doctors do, of

I have a second opinion practice in
Bath where I see the patients of
veterinary colleagues where
conventional nutritional approaches
have not given the expected results.
Patients have mainly skin and bowel
problems, but can range from
behaviour issues to unpigeonholeable
multi-systemic problems.

Raw food is a cornerstone of most
cases. The only time I will not consider
raw food as part of the treatment is
where a client is unwilling (rare) or
unable (more common) to consider a
raw food diet. If I were cynical, I would
say I loved processed food; it pays my
wages. I would much prefer to pay my
mortgage through preventive medicine
including raw food as part of a health
strategy, rather than a disease treatment


Raw food is not a dirty word. It’s a
logical, safe, simple and economic way
to treat many of the otherwise daunting
chronic pathologies that bog down daily
practice. You don’t have to become a
fully paid-up member of the raw food
brigade to do some reading, talk to
colleagues using it and refer cases that
are not amenable to management on a
more conventional diet.

Follow this column over the next
six months and I will take you on a
journey that could change your
professional life.


  1. Ian Billinghurst:
  2. Pat Lazarus (2000) Keep Your Dog Healthy
    the Natural Way
    . Fawcett Books.
  3. Dr Richard Pitcairn:
  4. Dr Wendell Belfield:
  5. Dr Tom Lonsdale:
  6. Kymythy Schultze: www.kymythy.com/.
  7. Wendy Volhard: www.volhard.com/.
  8. Dr Donald Strombeck (1999) Home-
    Prepared Dog and Cat Diets. The Healthful
    . Blackwell Publishing.
    Small Animal Gastroenterology (1996) 3rd
    edition. Saunders.

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