Dear Doctor: August 2022


But which raw diet?

Q: I have several dogs and usually feed them dry kibble in the morning and a brand of dehydrated food cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit (enough to kill harmful bacteria) in the evening. I am considering an evening switch to raw food. My vet won’t discuss this with me as he never prescribes raw food. I also spoke with a vet at a major dog food company, and they wouldn’t endorse any raw food, either. If I decided to ignore all that advice, is there one brand of raw food that your veterinary nutritionists could/would recommend? There are just too many to choose from. Thank you.

Erika Trapp
Kemp, Texas

Dear Ms. Trapp,

A: The board-certified veterinary nutritionists at our veterinary school’s Clinical Nutrition Service are with both your vet and the large pet food company you contacted. No health advantage to feeding a dog a raw diet has ever been proven, but there are a number of documented downsides. Chief among them is the risk of bacterial contamination. Uncooked dog food has been shown to contain such pathogens as Salmonella. Other bacteria that have been found in raw meat diets include E. coli 0157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter, and Clostridium.

A couple of years ago, researchers in the Netherlands tested 60 raw-meat products intended for dogs. More than half of them had levels of bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter that exceeded the maximum threshold set by the European Union and could cause severe gastrointestinal distress. E coli, which can cause serious illness and even death in some cases, was found in about a third of the samples. The products were made in Scandinavia, Germany, and the United Kingdom, all of which have hygiene standards comparable to ours. With that in mind, why take any chances with raw diets?

We should note that dehydrated food cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit is barely cooked and hovers right around the mark at which harmful pathogens can persist.

Should a senior citizen get a “next” dog?

Q: I’ve just lost my beloved pet and would like to get another dog but am wondering if, at the age of 71, that’s a responsible thing to do. Thoughts?

Otis Burkehauser
Duluth, Minnesota

Dear Mr. Burkehauser,

A: Go for it — as long as you’re reasonably healthy. Why should you lose the joy of having a canine companion just because of a number? Even if you feel a creeping frailty, you can choose a dog that doesn’t require much exercise — perhaps a toy breed, or an older dog who has slowed down in life (many of them need homes but tend not to be chosen at shelters), or even a greyhound, who has energy to burn but is also content to lie around much of the day and then accompany you on leisurely walks.

Do make certain that you can afford to take care of a dog if you

© Kim Charlson
Who said you’re too old to get another dog?

are transitioning to a fixed income. Food, medical care, toys — they all cost. And make sure somebody is willing to take your dog home with them if your health should decline precipitously or your pet should outlive you. (The average lifespan in the U.S. is about 79.) But other than those considerations, you deserve to continue to have the joy that daily life with a dog brings. And the dog deserves daily life with you in your warm, loving home.


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