How a Raw Diet Cured My Dog's Chronic Diarrhea
Jake, who used to have a tricky tummy
There was a time when I used to panic if my dog ate a Goldfish cracker that fell on the floor. That's all it took. One single Goldfish cracker and my beautiful boy, Jake, would be up several times through the night with diarrhea.
"I think many of you have a similar version of my story. Your once healthy dog becomes sick and you begin looking at everything to make him feel better."
Jake always had a "tricky tummy". He was always the dog who could never have "people food", who always seemed to be getting over an episode of diarrhea, and could never eat anything except his high priced, boutique kibble. Even when the only thing he ate was his kibble, he still suffered miserably with episodes of diarrhea. Jake's tummy would improve on the bland diet of chicken and rice, often with a side of metronidazole, panacure, or baycox, but any improvements were short-lived. Let's not even discuss his anal gland issues.
Most of the time I could never pin point what caused Jake's diarrhea. Stool samples were always negative for parasites, and I was vigilant about his diet.
I think many of you have a similar version of my story. Your once healthy dog becomes sick and you begin looking at everything to make him feel better. It never occurred to me that the root of Jake's stomach problems was his 'dog food'. Vets and pet store staff recommended all types of kibble to manage his digestive issues: grain free, no chicken, novel protein, sensitive stomach, limited ingredient, I/D... and yet nothing helped.
We reached a crisis the summer that Jake was two. The flea, tick, heartworm topicals, along with a booster vaccine sent his digestive issues into overdrive, and Jake went for weeks without a firm stool. I began to research the best diets for dogs. I spent hours and hours researching kibble, kibble ingredients, calling calling customer service of kibble brands. I went from pet store to pet store looking for help. At 2 years of age, Jake was diagnosed with colitis and the outlook for the quality of his life wasn't great. His vet suggested scoping and life long medication. Not once did we ever think that it was not just the particular brand of kibble, but the kibble itself that was the problem.
My life, and Jake's life, changed after a lengthy discussion with the owner of a holistic type of pet supply store and his almost whispered question:
"Have you ever thought about a raw diet? It changed the life of my dog..."
After a month or so of research into raw diets, I decided we needed to try the raw diet. I fed Jake his last supper of kibble, fasted him for 14 hours and then fed him a breakfast of raw chicken with edible bone, beef organ meat, and some tripe; and I waited for the diarrhea to begin.
And I waited. I fed him more raw dog food for supper, and continued to wait for diarrhea. I went to bed fully expecting to be up all night with a sick dog... and still no diarrhea. I was astounded. I had read about dogs responding this way, but I didn't think it would happen to Jake. That night, he had his first firm poop in months and months.
I completely credit the fresh, species appropriate raw diet with curing Jake's colitis.
Jake has de-aged since beginning his raw diet. His coat is healthy and shiny, he has clean, healthy ears, his teeth and gums have improved. He's a happy and healthy dog.
Update, April 2021: When I first switched my dogs from kibble to raw food I followed a model that relies on ratios (80-10-10, for example). As I became more educated about the nutritional requirements of dogs, I began to add different proteins, vegetables, kelp, eggs, and oily fish.
I now follow the nutritional guidelines established by the NRC, and while not every single meal that my dogs eat is 'complete and balanced', their diet as a whole is nutritionally complete and balanced. Nutritional guidelines help to ensure that dogs aren't missing essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fats, etc.) in their diets which are critical for good health.
This is a reader friendly guide to NRC nutritional requirements for adult healthy dogs. (I strongly disagree with the pamphlet's message that dogs are fine with a good portion of their calories coming from carbohydrates, or that dogs can thrive on a vegetarian diet; however, other information in the guide may be helpful in understanding the nutritional requirements of canines. As well, when I formulate diets for healthy adult dogs I make sure the diet has at least 2 or 3 times the recommended allowance for protein coming from highly bioavailable sources of animal products.)
In the words of Maya Angelou: once you know better, you do better.