When Raw Natural Dog Food Just Doesn’t Work

Very fat Beagle dog

Never enough to eat. Never.

Don’t Throw that Raw Food on the Wall Just Yet!

I asked my readers about their biggest frustration in a recent issue of Vital Animal News, and got some great answers! Here’s a cry of discouragement that I think is a good learning tool. This is a common situation that many of you may have wrestled with.

DJ writes:

We (us & our 2 shelties!) have been on this raw/natural “train” for appx. 2 years (they’re 2 1/2 yrs old) & we’re still having problems/issues:

    • I cannot get their weight down! I’m feeding them exclusively raw @ 2% of their ideal weight.
    • they don’t seem to be satisfied, they act as though they’re starving & gulp their food down way too fast.
    • their coat does not reflect an all raw diet ~ it’s dull & lifeless + they shed terribly.

  • they scratch a lot, especially after baths ~ that’s another ongoing struggle, trying to find the right shampoo
  • their teeth & gums are not in great shape either, I’m currently trying to get that turned around without a dental cleaning under anesthesia ~ I haven’t tried the raw meaty bones yet, is that my only option for a healthy mouth?

The only positive from raw feeding at this point has been that one of the shelties had really bad skin issues which I finally was able to get cleared up through trial & error switching from one raw food to another.

…Raw feeding is expensive and it’s discouraging when I read all the rave reviews online & don’t see the results with mine! At times I’m just ready to throw in the towel!!”

Please don’t throw that towel just yet, DJ. I think I can help.

The Limits of Diet

I’ve run into variations of this frustration over the 25 years I’ve been a homeopathic veterinarian. It reiterates in me a quiet truth:

Diet alone can only do so much for chronic disease. It has its limits.

Now, I’ll never stop recommending a balanced raw diet to every animal owner on the planet, and I have seen amazing results with health by doing so, but there remains, in a percentage of animals, illness that won’t respond to diet change alone. Even the best natural dog food, raw and amazing in its ingredients, may not be enough.

I ask a series of questions when I hear of problems that persist in an animal who’s on a great diet, and here are a couple I asked DJ.

  1. What’s the vaccination history of these dogs? [Knowing full well that this is the most significant predictor of chronic disease in my patients, it’s important to know how many vaccinations they’ve already received, and if they have plans for more. I often tell my new clients that I really won’t be able to effect much significant, lasting change in health if they don’t stop vaccinations going forward.]
  2. What sort of diet is being fed? [Homemade? Store bought? GMOs in it?]

How Much of This Illness Could Be Vaccine-Related?

Knowing that most, if not all of my patients come in with a history of vaccination, I’m usually on the lookout for suspicious symptoms of vaccinosis, that part of disease that comes from being injected with disease agents in the form of vaccines.

Might vaccinations play a roles in these dogs’ symptoms? I can spot several typical vaccinosis symptoms here.

  • “coats dull & lifeless + they shed terribly”
  • “they scratch a lot, especially after baths”
  • “one of the shelties had really bad skin issues … cleared up … switching from one raw food to another”

Q: What’s the number one reason pets see vets?

A: Allergies. Classic immune confusion disease.

Q: How do allergies show up in your animal?

A: In two main areas:

  1. The skin (itchy, dull coats, shedding excessively, +/- sores)
  2. The ears (waxy, inflamed, itchy, smelly, even painful)

Q: Does diet change cure this allergy state?

A: No, it merely postpones it, as we learned in the 70’s when the “miracle food” of lamb and rice came out. Itchy allergic dogs got nearly instant relief when switched to it. Until they became allergic to lamb. Or rice. Or later, venison or rabbit. Feather based food, anyone?

Uncured, allergies are often progressive like this.

So, I’m very suspicious that vaccinosis is weighing heavily on these two Shelties. Most of my patients, at some point in their treatment, will not get well until I get a vaccinosis remedy into them. I’m far from the only homeopath who’s observed this, either in veterinary medicine or single species medicine (MD homeopaths know this as well in their human patients. But wait. Did you just denigrate RD’s [Real Doctors]? Oh, I believe I did. Sorry).

Often, the improvement after a single dose of a well-chosen homeopathic vaccinosis remedy is remarkable. Caleb is a great example.

Oh, and shampoos? Not much help. We’ve got internal work to do.

What’s Hiding in That Raw Food?

Another wonder, as we move forward into the 21st century, regards toxicity in the diet. Does that natural dog food contain GMO grains, or beets, or soy? Were the animals who provided the meat for the diet fed on GMO corn or soybeans? Any of these could be enough to keep animals eating this food from full health.

Unfortunately, Big Pharma is pushing GMO products out to the public well before their safety concerns have been laid to rest. It’s now known that eating GMOs or feeding them to livestock kills beneficial flora in the gut. As these are intimately related to immune function and digestion, there’s no predicting what illness would look like in someone given no choice but GMO foodstuffs.

Similarly, pesticides are now numbered in the thousands, and foods grown or raised non-organically can bring these to your animal and you.

These ingredients can certainly cause disturbed function and phyical illness. You can choose healthier organic options (if you can afford them!).

Overweight and Ravenous: Another Face of Vaccinosis?

One of the most common diseases plaguing dogs today is hypothyroidism. It’s caused by autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland. Yes, the immune system attacks the dog’s own healthy gland, causing inflammation and lack of function.

What does that look like? Under active thyroids can cause a variety of symptoms, from poor coats, itchiness, easy weight gain, laziness, crazy appetites, and even aggression.

What’s the basis of this? Immune confusion again, right? What on earth would cause one’s immune system to attack one’s own thyroid gland, a key organ in health? My assumption, until proven otherwise, is again vaccination, confusing immune systems since its inception.

How to Test Thyroid Function

It’s fairly common for a blood panel to be run that contains only one thyroid function measurement, called T4. When that comes back in the normal range, Dr. WhiteCoat may assure you that hypothyroidism is not an issue.

We now know that more values must be measured to accurately assess thyroid function, thanks in large part to Dr. Jean Dodds and her work in this area. If you are suspicious of low thyroid problems in your animal, ask for the following in your blood profile:

  1. T4
  2. Free T4
  3. TSH
  4. Thyroglobulin autoantibody

If these values come in out of normal range, you know you’ve got problems with your animal’s thyroid function. While I treat with homeopathy, I will also add a glandular supplement to support that weakened gland. Your vet may opt for artificial thyroid hormone, and that could be a fine place to start. It’s not unusual to see significant symptom improvement by doing so.

Teeth and Gum Disease

Bad breath, red gums, discolored tooth enamel and calculus, that dense accumulation of material adhering to the teeth are symptoms seen quite frequently in the chronically ill.

While raw natural dog food can help with this by avoiding the simple carbohydrates that feed tooth damaging bacteria in the mouth, if bones are missing, it may not be enough to keep the mouth healthy.

DJ needs to get these dogs tearing into and chewing on raw meaty bones, just like these dogs’ wild cousins do. I’ve seen cleanings averted with these, the best tooth brushes on the market.

But again, if you’ve done this and still see and smell a less than healthy mouth in your animal, it’s a good sign that something more is needed. Enlist a homeopathic vet to help get the Whole Animal well, and the teeth and gums will follow. I’ve seen this time and again over the years in my practice.

The Deepest Solution

When I’m called on to help an animal, it’s because I’m a veterinary homeopath, and that’s all I do. So, homeopathy is my go to medicine when a sick animal comes to my practice, regardless of diet.

When I hear a history like these two dogs have, it’s apparent that diet alone isn’t enough to get them cured. That’s when my gentle but deep-acting tool called homeopathy comes into play.

Homeopathy has an amazing and long history of success, not the least of which is in animals, who don’t have a placebo effect, by the way. Homeopathy’s naysayers, not understanding how it could possibly work, say that “it’s impossible!” and any effect is a result of wishful thinking on the patient’s part.

Enter the animals, who live in the moment and who either get better when a remedy is given or do not. If they do, the remedy fit well. If they don’t, we know that we must try again.

I’d suggest that DJ, and anyone else who can relate to her frustration, not throw out the raw diet, but rather realize it has limits. Your dogs can be properly cured with homeopathy, and for this, you need professional help [see my AVH link on this page]. While acute disease like injury, burns, abscesses, bites, stings, and sudden diarrhea or vomiting can very much be DIY, it’s always best to leave the chronic diseases, the commonest lingering, often maddening illnesses of our day, to a veterinary homeopath.

A large part of getting these animals cured lies in case management, and that’s what we’re trained in. A vet who practices homeopathy, ideally as his sole modality, will be able to guide your animal carefully and surely back to full health in most cases.

Have you seen the limits of great diet in your own animals? Did DJ’s concerns mirror your own? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. Ava Philippus on February 7, 2020 at 10:11 pm

    Do you only deal with dog-related questions? I have cats.

  2. Rowena on January 24, 2018 at 7:09 am

    I acquired a purebred miniature poodle puppy at 8 weeks old. NO puppy shots whatsoever, no worm or flea meds, absolutely nothing because I got her from my mom and she does not give her dogs any of these things. I noticed that she was scratching when I got her…probably due to dirty living conditions. Fast forward another 8 weeks…still no shots or meds. I put her on Primal raw freeze dried food as soon as I got her, and added a variety of fresh raw meat and coconut oil, ACV and keifer to that. I use 5 different varieties of the Primal food to rotate proteins…I stay away from the chicken/sardine one because of HHP. She gets no pork either. She is now itching like crazy (all night), half of her hair has fallen out, red raw ears (but no smell or discharge). She is not licking her paws yet, but she has a red rash on her stomach that looks like impetigo if I had to guess. WTH? She has no fleas (we don’t get them here), she has no indication of mites or ringworm, and she has never been outside (because she has not had any shots), so no ticks either. I do not use soap or fabric softener on her bedding…I wash towels and bedding with Borax and vinegar. She is not a dirty puppy (since I got her), she gets a bath every ten days or so, and I follow that up with a 50/50 rinse of ACV and water.
    So much for raw diet?
    I am thinking about taking her off the Primal freeze dried and just giving her ground lamb and ground veal with home cooked rice and some veggies to see if I can get the itching to stop. She has never been to a Vet…yet. Even if I got desperate enough to take her to one for a culture, I would probably not give her any antibiotics if prescribed…and she would then be exposed to Parvo at the Vet clinic…so that is why I do not take her. The only thing that temporarily soothes her skin is drenching it with coconut oil. I have a black greasy puppy lol!
    What the heck am I doing wrong??? My puppy is very active (when she is not scratching), no loose bowels, no constipation, no flaking skin, no red eyes or runny nose…nothing to indicate illness. The only difference between my moms dogs who seem healthy and my puppy is that my house is CLEAN, and my dog gets the Primal freeze dried food and other raw meats. Could there be “something” in the Primal food that is causing all of this????

    • Rowena on January 24, 2018 at 7:49 am

      Oh, I should add…she does not have mange. Most of her skin…even where the hair is falling out is perfectly white! You would think that her skin would be RED or raised with all the scratching…or have sores or something! The only exception is that her stomach has a a strange bumpy rash, and when you flip up her ears, they are hot and red (I might have gotten water in them a few weeks ago while bathing), but they do not smell, nor do they have any oozing or discharge. I am totally stumped. I cannot understand this…why my moms other puppies all seem so healthy while eating kibble and living in a filthy environment, while mine is such a mess with losing hair starting from the back of her neck to halfway down her entire body, and itching like crazy.
      This is a 16 week old “virgin” puppy that has never been fixed, vaccinated or treated for anything. She has not been exposed to other dogs or cats.

      • Selarah on December 11, 2019 at 4:31 am

        Did you figure this out?

  3. Wytira on July 19, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    I have a 2 and 1/2 year old min pin not who has had awful skin problems the past few months. He has been on a raw diet since he was 6 months old, although he’s has vaccinations up until the age of 2. His skin problems began around March this year when we noticed he had scabbing and hair loss. We consulted a holistic veterinarian, who informed us to stop vaccinating, take him off of flea and tick medications. Apparently it was folliculitis and we had to stop using shampoo to bathe him, only rinsing him off with water (even that, the vet said is not ideal because we don’t want to charge the ph of the skin). His skin healed and hair grew back. About three weeks ago I noticed that he had a small lump on the back of his neck. The lumps then started spreading over his body. Some are small and result in scabs with hair loss, but the one on his neckand some others on his back are not healing. Our vet says they are carbuncles, they ooze blood and pus. He told us to clean the wounds with coloidal silver. I have been doing this, but the sores are spreading and the old sites are not healing. I don’t know what to do. Our vet suggested nutriscan, but it’s so expensive and I’m hesitant. I feel so helpless, and just completely hopeless watching him break out in sores and lose his hair in clumps. He’s not bald patches all over him, and 2 says ago I found a sore around his mouth. I am so terrified. I’m starting to doubt my decisions about him being on raw food. Any advice? I feel so terribly alone in my struggles.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on July 22, 2017 at 5:50 pm

      Hi Wytira,
      First and foremost, stop spending money on trying to find a cause (Nutriscan won’t get you any closer to cure). Secondly, you’ll need professional help, as this is chronic disease. No simple answers, but a homeopathic vet can help you get him cured, slowly but surely.
      You’ll learn how to choose a good one from the free Apoquel Alternatives Report on this page: https://vitalanimal.com/apoquel-dog-1/

    • sean macbeth on May 15, 2022 at 7:20 am

      Try Prana products. I use Adrenal Support, good mix of effective roots, plants and support for what’s missing in the diet. I give him meat slightly heated to kill surface bacteria, brown rice and melatonin twice daily – 3 mg. No skin issues. Everything is an experiment until you find the right thing.

  4. Sandra Todd on July 18, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I’ve been using raw, homemade and various healthy diets on my dogs and my many foster dogs for years. About 2 year ago I adopted a little 3 year old poodle mix from the shelter with an abundance of skin problems. Determined to solve this without using Dr. Whitecoat. Dr. Will was not taking new clients at that time, so I turned to Homeopath Dr. Minter in AZ and we worked together by computer and phone. She had received so many shots and worm treatments, was spayed and clearly traumatized by all that happened to her. It took over a year of patiently trying different homeopathic remedies and diet changes. The biggest change came when we switched from a high protein meat based diet to a more vegetarian diet. The results were dramatic. Now I use one of the premix diet base, usually either Sojos or Honest Kitchen, add in about 20 – 30% of a raw meat mix and other things like coconut oil, raw eggs, lots of veggies like butternut squash and others. I also give her nutritional yeast and a supplement called Veggie Dog. We travel in our motor home a lot so I also use the freeze dried a lot on those trips. She had dental surgery right after I got her and they took out 9 teeth because they said her were not attached to bone. But that makes it difficult for her to gnaw on bones. Do you have a recommendation for a bone that she can chew?

    • Will Falconer, DVM on July 18, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Hey, Sandra, Nice work! So glad you and Dr. Mintner got such a great response! And yes, it does take time to sort these cases out, as itchy skin is just too common a symptom to decide on a remedy from.
      The bone most everyone can chew, teeth or not many is chicken necks. I’d start by holding the end of one, offer it room temp and before a meal, and see how your girl does.

  5. Terry Journey on February 19, 2017 at 12:32 am

    Dr. Will, is the prevention program the same as the treatment program? I am so hoping to hear from you via email, but I did not get your email that you sent. Don’t know why. Thank you!

  6. Terry Journey on February 16, 2017 at 1:16 am

    Dr. Will, my dog has lungworm and has been taking Panacur. I am so worried about having to give this. Is there a natural way to get rid of it? He still has it and we have done 3 courses within 4 months now 🙁

    • Will Falconer, DVM on February 16, 2017 at 3:49 am

      Hey Terry,
      I replied to your email earlier: Yes. Homeopathy can likely cure this in experienced hands. It’s going to take time, attention to details, and patience, but cure is the expectation.

  7. Carol on June 21, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    Hi Dr Will,
    I have a gorgeous 5 year-old Aussie Bulldog who has had skin problems ever since I got her as a pup. She is an intact, raw-food, no heart-worm, worming, or flea chemicals baby and has been since she came to us as a 12 week old pup. She was vaccinated when I got her and then had kennel cough nasal vaccine annually for two years because there is no way to get your dog in a puppy play-group, training school or boarding kennel around here without it (believe me, I tried!).
    Everything you have written here resonates with me. I believe deep damage was done to her by vaccination and I also believe that even without vaccination she would have familial vaccinosis from her over-vaccinated parents. I would have loved to let her have a litter but don’t want to send more inherited vaccinosis into the dog population:( It would be great to have a register of raw-feeding, non-vaccinating dog breeders. It would be fascinating to see what generations of this kind of care would achieve for our dogs.

  8. Kim on June 16, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    I believe My almost 3 yr old double doodle may have problems from vaccines. She got a rash soon after we received her. Not knowing better we finished her shots. Upon having her spayed and the vet wanting to put her on steroids, she may have already had antibiotics which would always take rash away but would reemerge within a month, I decided to try a holistic vet. After many bouts of antibiotics with the same results the holistic vet wanted to put her on an immune suppressant drugs for awhile. Didn’t want to do that so now have been working with a homeopathic vet via email and phone for about 4 months.
    At first used merc LM1 1x in liquid form. Rash did not come back as before but her belly is still red with a different looking rash it changes all the time from looking great to terrible, She was also very itchy. Vet said this was good because her body is responding. Then gave her a second dose. More of the same rash all aver the place but her ears started to get really inflamed and red and oozing very badly. She sent the remedy graph 200C which was a bunch of little pellets. It took awhile to clear up but it did then 1 of the ears got bad again then cleared up Then the other one got bad then cleared up with the same advice hang in there she is responding. We are still on this pattern of getting bad then clearing. Ziva our dog never had any ear problems before homeopathy. Her ears were always beautiful. Does this sound like I should hang in there or get a second opinion? Are either of those remedies ones you would use for vaccinosis? I know she should be good she was an editor of a homeopathic news letter at one time.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on June 17, 2015 at 6:24 am

      It sounds like graphites has helped, and I’d hang in there with your vet to see where she’s heading. “Responding” to a remedy can be a discharge, as in the ears, but it shouldn’t be prolonged or difficult. It should be tolerable and your dog feels and acts better as the response proceeds. “Got bad then cleared up” twice sounds like the vital force is working.
      Both of these remedies are vaccinosis remedies, yes.

  9. SZak on May 21, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    I feed a home cooked raw diet to my two havanese, 10 yrs and 8 yrs old. One is white and one black and white. I have tried to find a premixed balanced raw food for both and tried Steves, Sojos, Primal, etc., etc. I use to own my own pet boutique and sold many of those high quality foods myself to my customers. However, in the early years I never had problems with tear staining and draining, but in the past two to three years, every time I try to move my pups to a manufactured raw diet within a week the tear staining and draining return. Take them back to home made raw and within a couple of days it stops.
    I am somewhat convinced it is because of the palm tree oil used as the ‘Natural’ Vitamin E source as this oil is reddish in color like the staining. However, according to Steve’s Real Food there are no supplements added. So I have three questions: 1. what do you think is really causing the tear staining when ever a manufactured food is used versus making it completely from home, 2. does the ‘no supplements added’ in Steve’s Real Food only imply there is ‘nothing above the required label reportable amount’ added?, and/or 3. could the meat I use a higher quality with minimal available bacteria than used in any manufactured raw foods as there are only so many suppliers for a large pet food industry.
    Thank you,

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 22, 2015 at 10:39 am

      Sandra, this may forever be a mystery! I thought I’d learned it when someone reported a correlation with grain in or out of the diet. She’d seen it come and go with grain, so it seemed pretty clear. I think the clearest thing is, tearing is a discharge. Discharges appear when the body is working against something, trying to get well. Your homemade food is pure enough that your dogs find no need to discharge, and when they eat prepared food, they are less well, for what ever reason, and start up discharging.
      Best I can surmise from your experience. Are the two related?

      • SZak on May 29, 2015 at 9:32 am

        Dr. Falconer,
        Thank you for your reply. As to the possibility of grain having an effect, I do use approximately less than 25% of grain in my homemade food for the fiber (male prefers peeled boiled red potatoes, female cooked pearled barley) and this does not seem to induce eye discharging. So as you say a mystery I guess it will remain. I worry about them getting the proper vitamins too so I give them a supplement but only 1/4 of what is called for per day, anymore than that and their eyes goop up as well. Again thank you for your thoughts, I guess I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.

  10. L on May 8, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Well, maybe I got lucky, because I am pleased with what ASIT has done for my dog.
    Her skin looks beautiful! She hardly scratches at all anymore. She tolerates most foods with a limited ingredient kibble as a base (Nutrisca salmon).
    And she only needs the ASIT once a month now, fingers crossed.
    Her dermatologist supports my homeopathic measures, I had tried everything prior to going this route…but I have no regrets.

  11. L on May 7, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    I took my dog to a specialist/dermatologist for skin testing 2 years ago, she gradually improved, receives immunotherapy and is now stable. She is 6 years old.
    I do a lot of homeopathic stuff too, fish oil, no vaccinations, minimal pesticides. I have learned a lot from this website.
    BTW: Environmental allergies get worse with age, not better. A lot of the allergens are airborne, impossible to avoid.
    Good luck with your dog, I’m just sharing what has worked for my dog.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 7, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      The expectation with classical homeopathy, in the hands of a skilled practitioner, would be all allergies, environmental or otherwise, do NOT get worse, but go away. When we cure the patient, the allergy state is extinguished, and treatment stops.
      Normal is often forgotten. Normal means one is not bothered by a bite of chicken, a whiff of pollen, or a bit of flea saliva. The restoration of normal is called cure. Impossible with conventional medicine, possible with carefully prescribed homeopathy.

  12. Stephanie T on May 7, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    I’m not sure where to start. I have done so much research, seen our regular vet, and now a holistic vet. I feel like my head is spinning. Here is our story. Pardon the length! I know Maisy’s issues aren’t a quick fix. I just feel like we’ve taken so many paths that I’m just looking for the ‘correct’ one. Any insight?
    Maisy, a 14 month old chocolate lab.
    Maisy’s journey with ‘allergies’ started shortly after we brought her home from the breeder. We found spots on her stomach, took her to our vet, who diagnosed her with a staph infection. Not only was it on her stomach but it had traveled to her ears also. Our vet promptly put her on an antibiotic which cleared up the staph infection and we thought everything was fine. Until, 3-4 weeks later when the staph infection reappeared. Back to the vet, back on antibiotics. Only this time, the antibiotics gave her a yeast infection in her ears. It’s been a never ending cycle. She’s had maybe 5-6 staph infections. Antibiotics clear it right up and we’re back at it, 3-4 weeks later. Her vet is ‘hoping’ she just has sensitive puppy skin an will outgrow it. We’ve talked about allergies but he’s said she’s to young to diagnose and will need to be at least 2 so they can do some testing.
    After the 2nd staph infection and itching, I decided to start my research on dogs with allergies. We love our vet, but I am not happy with the answers he’s giving me and just treating her symptoms. I want to treat the cause and allow her to live as happy a life as possible. I also contacted Maisy’s breeder to see if she had any knowledge about other dogs from her litter (or previous litters) having allergies. She said none of her puppies have ever experienced this problem.
    We have tried several different foods. All dry. Exclusive Chicken formula, Taste of the Wild bison formula, Blue Buffalo limited ingredients salmon, Blue Buffalo limited ingredients turkey, and are now trying Natural Balance limited ingredient duck. I have done a side by side comparison of her first few dog foods and have found the common ingredient was chicken (or chicken eggs, chicken meal) and fish meal. So we’re trying to at least stay away from anything with chicken. I did do a few days of home cooked food but for her size and the amount of food she needs, it isn’t cost effective.
    I see a naturopath and know, even for our small town in WA state, that there is a holistic vet locally. SO I figured…why not? What could it hurt at this point? We’ve been twice. She is fantastic. However, Maisy isn’t getting any relief. In fact, she’s gotten worse.
    The holistic vet gives her laser treatment and acupuncture which I love…amazing way to calm down a lab puppy! smile emoticon She has her on a probiotic, benadryl (if needed), Super Querceitin, San Miao Wan San (for 1 month), Orenda Eze (for 10 days), Zymox ear solution, and an anti-itch spray. I also came home with other ideas to help with itching (peppermint or green tea over food, for example). The holistic vet also believes in chinese ‘theory’ (for lack of a better word) in which wind=itching. Unfortunately we live in an area of WA state that is known for it’s wind and the trees grow sideways if not anchored down as a sapling. We also talked about ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ foods and what would be best to put Maisy on. Which is why she’s currently on Duck. She also believes in limited vaccinations and rotating foods every 3 weeks until an allergy dog develops an iron gut (her words!).
    I’m not opposed to believing that Maisy has some environmental allergies. However, I do believe some of her issues come from food. Example: When we had her on the turkey food she threw up and had about 4 days of very loose mucous filled stool. Took her off that almost a week ago and she’s been fine (besides the itching and digging/biting of fur/skin). She has no problem’s switching from one food to another.
    At this point though, even after everything we’ve tried, and all the research I’ve done, I’m at a loss and feel helpless. I know she has to be miserable. You wouldn’t know it though! She still eats & drinks wonderfully. Has all the energy & enthusiasm you’d expect a lab puppy to have! But seeing her lose her hair this past week, at a rapid pace, has been alarming. Hoping for some words of wisdom!

    • Will Falconer, DVM on September 16, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      Hey Stephanie,
      Sorry for the late reply, but this is so common in vet medicine. Drugs make the symptoms go away, but they keep coming back, usually worse each time. I’m glad you left that behind. It’s a dead end, and cure is impossible with that approach.
      And your holistic vet isn’t having much luck either, sounds like.
      I’m a homeopath, and though I’m not taking new patients for a spell, I’d recommend you visit my Resources page and find a homeopathic vet to help you. One who does ALL homeopathy, so their mind is right. Both feet in the same canoe. Distance matters not. Work on the phone is fine, if you find someone who does this as their sole practice.
      It’s still not easy, as this is chronic disease, and will take time and attention to cure, but homeopathy can cure it, if you stick with it.
      Limited vaccinations?? I’d say, rather: Zero vaccinations. Allergies = sickness. No way should a sick dog ever get vaccinated! Against the label, for one thing. See my waiver page for more thoughts on that.
      I wish you all the best. You’ve got a bit of uphill to go, but you’ve got a youngster, and a vital one at that, so it won’t be impossible. Just feed as balanced a diet, closest to raw as you’re able, but like this article says, that won’t cure this gal.
      She needs a homeopathic vet.

  13. Deb on May 7, 2015 at 10:54 am

    Hello Dr. Will! This article speaks VOLUMES to me! I have 2 allergy dogs – one with the itchy flaky skin…. The other with what I call doggie IBS. This is my trouble dog! I know that certain foods are her triggers, but stress also plays a role & that I don’t know how to help her with…. We have tried essential oils, Bachs Rescue Remedy, trying to desensitize her, but she continues to have flares with chronic diarrhea. Both are rescue animals so (especially with the IBS girl), I don’t know vaccination history. And in my own learning journey, I also vaccinated because I didn’t know better!!! They have bith been titer tested last year – IBS dogs numbers were as high as they tested to – so we don’t know how high those numbers actually are!! The other dog was double what the numbers should be for protection…. That did not include rabies titers because this is the year that they are due (will not be getting the vaccination – titers instead). I live in western Canada and we are workimg with a holistic vet & trying some Chinese herbs, but we aren’t majing progress. have you got ANY suggestions for me – anything DIY?? Feel free to pm me if you can direct me anywhere for help in the the Calgary, Alberta area… Thanks so very much in advance. I really need help!

  14. Nancy on May 6, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    I wish I could find pain relief for a dog with damaged vertebraes in lower back. I have spent a fortune. Chiropractor and acupuncturist with stem shock added and reduced her weight on and on. She is 5 and has spent t 3 years of that in pain. 4 vets later and no good. Hair analysis you name it. So upset.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 6, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      Hi Nancy,
      Homeopathy, in the hands of a vet trained in and practicing it as the majority of his/her practice, should be able to cure this, or at least, get relief. See my comment about the AVH a few comments up the chain.
      All the best. There is hope for this poor dog.

  15. Donna on May 6, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    I have my IG on a prepared raw for about 5 months now. He loves it! No more not wanting to eat or acting like his tummy hurts. My problem is that I am feeding the recommended about for a 25 lb dog to what was a 17 lb dog. He is now close to 14 lbs. I just can’t keep weight on him. I just started with a homeopathic vet so hopefully this can be fixed.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 6, 2015 at 6:33 pm

      Great move, Donna, and yes, a good homeopathic vet should be able to cure this. Bravo.

    • li on January 3, 2016 at 11:45 am

      Donna did you fix the issue with weight gain? curious about an update

  16. jessica austin on May 6, 2015 at 11:27 am

    I have a 2 year old English Bulldog that has allergies. I began her on raw milk and coconut oil and saw a drastic improvment. This was about 2 months and she is beginning to get hives again. I don’t know anything about raw diet and just began looking into this. She has been vaccinated since the beginning and has been in heartworm and flea prevention. How do I even begin this journey.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on May 6, 2015 at 6:30 pm

      Hi Jessica,
      The first place is to learn about and stop vaccinations. She’s done. For life. Any more will worsen what you see now. Search on that word on the search box I have on every page and start absorbing that information. Literally, the most important decision you’ll make in her life.
      Then, get off the pesticides for fleas and heartworm. I address both of these in the links in the last sentence.
      Finally, get a veterinary homeopath hired to help you cure this. Once cured, the homeopathic prescribing stops and you keep her out of trouble by avoiding #1 and #2 above. My Resources page has the AVH list on it to help you find someone to help you.
      This is curable, but not DIY. It’s chronic disease and takes careful management to get to cure. That’s part of our training and experience.

  17. Betsy on April 17, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Have a 9 year old Labrador who had been on raw food for 2 years. I have had to take her off the raw food due to belching and gas. She is now back on can food and the issues have stopped but I still have to be careful of fats and any type of fish oil. Over the past year I have dealt with many who have tried to help but to no avail. She has only had her puppy shots, no medication, no heartworm and no flea and tick control products. In February I decided to call a well known nutritionist/homeopath for help. Well needless to say, I spent $250 for her assistance with homeopathy. I was given one remedy and told to follow her strict raw diet 90/10 without fail and use only her vitamins. I was given no other instructions but to call her whenever I had a question. She would assume that all is well if she does not hear from me. It has been two months and my dog’s issues got worse. I informed her and she said not to worry she is doing great her body just needs to heal itself. I decided that to put her back on can food, probiotics and enzymes and hope for the best. Dr. Falconer, from what I know of homeopathy it is detailed and there needs to be a close relationship between both parties is this correct or am I totally off the mark.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 17, 2015 at 10:51 am

      You are absolutely correct, Betsy. This doesn’t sound like someone trained properly in homeopathy. Worsening needs attention, no tincture of time, unless it’s worse briefly, a few days after the remedy is given and then proceeds to improve. I wince at reports like this. It gives homeopathy a bad name.
      Do visit my Resources page and find someone certified by the AVH. Distance matters not.

  18. Annette Spanhel on April 11, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    My rescue Btittany mix (12 yrs old) seems to be finally allergy free. She has been raw fed for about 4 yrs which includes green tripe and raw fish. I get my food from TX Tripe.
    One major change I made Last year is I also stopped heart worm meds and use your drops. My intuition is telling me that was the icing on the cake for Sadie. She is off prednisone now and is doing very well.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 12, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      That’s great news, Annette! Glad you’ve crossed that threshold of being able to have Sadie steroid free. That alone will make a huge difference in her vitality and overall health.
      And great observation: getting off the toxic heartworm meds made a significant difference. I have every reason to believe that is true.

  19. Bonnie Yagiela on April 8, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    ive had Blaze for almost two years. He was 8 months when I got him. As my first dog, I had a lot to learn. The trainer I worked with suggested the raw diet as the healthiest way to feed him. I now have a stack of books on it, and I’ve been feeding the raw diet after a few months of having him. His fur is as soft as mink, his teeth are “perfect” according to our Holistic Vet. He continues to have an allergy to something, though. He scratches his ears, licks his paws, and his groin is pink. His Vet wanted to see how he’d do off of chicken, which she said is a hot food. I get his food sent from Darwins: all natural! I’m thinking of getting the antibody test done called Nutriscan. Have you heard of it? Do you have any Holistic treatment suggestions?

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 8, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      Hi Bonnie,
      It does sound like you’ve got some chronic underlying disease to get cured. Avoiding chicken (or any other thing that comes up on Nutriscan, which often identifies way too many things as allergens, IMO) won’t cure the allergy state. You’ve got to dig deeper, and to my knowledge, there’s nothing that does this better than homeopathy. It takes professional help to get to cure though, as with all things chronic.
      Follow that link in the article and see who might help you through the AVH.

    • Rhoda Clark on May 6, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      I just had Nutriscan done for my three and there were definitely some surprises! I can now customize their diets to remove what showed some sensitivity. I’m really glad I did it but it was $280 per animal.

      • Will Falconer, DVM on May 6, 2015 at 6:24 pm

        I’ve seen some disturbing results on these tests, Rhoda: reactive to darn near everything tested! I hope yours were more hopeful.

  20. Dr Mary on April 7, 2015 at 6:04 am

    Dr Falconer, I applaud your comments regarding including additional thyroid values in your dog’s bloodwork. As you know, in the world of functional medicine for humans we don’t necessarily use the lab’s ranges when we are looking to optimize an individual’s health. The lab ranges are designed to establish pathology, and to justify a prescription to “fix” that lab value. For a functional medicine analysis the ranges are reduced, generally, by about 20%, and we look for trends. This is a very general statement and is not true for every value, but for thyroid, you can reduce the upper and lower ranges by about 20% and see if there is a tendency for weakness in that area. By no means allow the vet (or MD!) to tell you, “everything is normal” and you not get a copy of the actual results! Take a closer look and see if you spot a trend! Thanks Doc for all your enlightening work!

  21. Madeleine Innocent on April 6, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    I am often dismayed that people feed their dogs and cats a raw diet, but no bones. Just look at their teeth. They are bone crunching machines and absolutely need bones daily. For cats a chicken neck or half a chicken wing is best. For dogs, you need to experiment according to their size. I recently adopted a 3 year boxer of unknown origin. Flat faced dogs have a harder time with bones, but I eventually found that she can cope with lamb neck bones. All gone in about half an hour. Perfect. I liken crunching on bones for them is like going out for a coffee for us. Keeps their minds happy.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 7, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      Agreed, Madeleine. I imagine a big endorphin releasing activity, what with the satisfied contentedness one sees in these chewers.

    • Rhoda Clark on May 6, 2015 at 3:02 pm

      What kind of toothpaste would you recommend? I spend a lot on raw food (Darwins, and it’s a sacrifice to do it)so I sure don’t want a toothpaste with chemicals in it! When I fed knuckle bones they fractured teeth so that scared me out of giving bones!
      my Irish wolfhound mix seems to have teeth that just collect plaque more than the other two. Are some breeds worse than others?

      • L on May 6, 2015 at 4:25 pm

        I have had good luck with Petrodex (6.2 oz tube) I brush their teeth once a day, I have avoided professional cleanings as much as possible. However, some dogs especially small breeds have lousy teeth and have required a professional cleaning and extractions as much as once or twice per lifetime.
        I still let them work on a frozen raw beef marrow bone about once a week…..with supervision. Yes, they can break a tooth, have GI upset, so it is not without risk.
        I distract the dog after about an hour or two and grab the bone and discard it.

      • Will Falconer, DVM on May 6, 2015 at 6:23 pm

        This sounds like a symptom of chronic disease, Rhoda. I’d recommend getting a vet homeopath on board to help you cure it. Meantime, use softer bones: veal, turkey, and always raw. Should break teeth on those and way better than any man-made toothpaste and elbow grease 😉

  22. Betty Kendall on April 6, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    I recently purchased a 14 week old German Shepherd Male to be my house dog. Two days after his arrival, he was diagnosed with Giardia and placed on Metronodizole and Clavamox. the following week he was diagnosed with denidictuc mange, for which the vet recommends ever increasing doses of Ivomec.
    I would really appreciate any suggestions for this GSD. I realize I could return him to what would most likely be a miserable existence, but prefer to bring him back to health. Thank you

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 6, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      Poor guy, Betty! I’d be willing to bet, if you looked a week or two prior to him getting Giardia, he likely got parvo vaccination (along with about 4 others in the same syringe). That’s known to be immune suppressive, and the Giardia took over. If it isn’t Giardia, it’s often Coronavirus, but same scenario. Then come the drugs that carpet bomb the gut, killing good flora along with Giardia, further impairing his immune system. Enter demodex, the mite that can only grow when there’s an immune deficiency. And you’ll get a postcard for more shots before too long!
      100% manmade disease, and in the name of “prevention!”
      None of this can be helped with “quick tips” over comments like this. It’ll take hiring a homeopathic vet and some months of work, likely, to get him well. But here’s the good news: if you work this way, carefully, and step out of the medical paradigm he started in, you can cure him.
      I wish you all the best. Thanks for sharing this all too common and sad tale of damage from conventional medicine with us.

      • Tricia on April 8, 2015 at 6:25 pm

        You are so right about the vaccines -> Giardia link.
        Parvo shot at 6wks & DHPP at 8wks (at breeder) then came home to me with Giardia at 10wks.
        I didn’t know any better and continued going back to the vet for Panacur & metronidazole along with more and more vaccines. Two years of this craziness, until I wised up. I’m floored by the money I spent.
        With my second dog we avoided all that nonsense and went the nosode ($5) route until 9months. Now at almost 4yrs old, he has been exposed to parvo 3 times that I know of…And no issues.
        My advice = don’t even get on the Merry Go Round.

        • Will Falconer, DVM on April 9, 2015 at 9:52 am

          Thanks, Tricia, for your voice of experience corroborating what I’ve seen.
          I blogged about this merry go round, but called it a Machine. Yes: Danger. Keep Out.

          • Peggy on May 6, 2015 at 12:08 pm

            I don’t know about any other state but here in Florida, if you don’t get your dog vaccinated at least for rabies, you pay a fine! My dog gets a 3 yr. shot. As far as parvo, I had 3 dogs that came down with it and it was very expensive to treat them but they lived. The first two dogs got a modified live virus and that’s where they picked it up. I would suggest using a killed virus instead. but if you choose not to get it at all and your dog comes down with it, it’s very painful to watch them suffer, some dogs do not live through it, also, it’s very expensive to treat and some people choose not to because they don’t have the money.

  23. Karen on April 6, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    One of our dogs, who has been fed a raw diet since he joined our family at 8 weeks of age, is chronically itchy with dull, dry fur. He is a rescue and was given his multi-valent puppy vaccines before he came to us but has not been vaccinated since. He gets a variety of oils (hemp, coconut and, recently, fish to see if that will help) and a variety of raw proteins. We had a hair mineral analysis test done on him which revealed a low thyroid level – but he demonstrates no other clinical signs of having a low thyroid. We are persisting with the raw diet but it’s distressing for us to see him so itchy all the time. We often worry that it is something in his raw diet that might be causing the itchiness.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 6, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      Hi Karen,
      All too common to blame the itch on food. It’s always, always deeper than that. Why should food provoke someone to itch? Do we have wolves who avoid birds because they break out with itching when they eat them? Unheard of. This is allergies, pure and simple, and man made. The bad news is, he got this way from his combo wombo vaccines, even though you stopped. Now it’s time to get that allergy state cured. Get thee to a homeopath and prepare for some magic. Not one in your town? Doesn’t matter. You can work by telephone.
      Best of luck with this youngster, but don’t prolong the misery. Get him on the road to cure with a homeopathic vet’s help.

  24. Maggie on April 6, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    Where are your references for that GMO claim? That’s pretty serious.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 6, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      Hi Maggie,
      If you look, you’ll see one or maybe both instances of the word GMO is a link. Click, and you’ll find my original, well researched article with lots of references.

  25. Darci Michaels on April 6, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    This article must have written with us in mind! 🙂 I have a 12 year old Lab who she had her first set of the usual puppy vaccines when she was a pup and has suffered from itchy skin, dry, dull, shedding coat (worse in the spring) yeasty smelling, constantly full of wax ears, chews on her paws and recently (in the last year) she has a leaking bladder. This has been her burden for most of her life, made worse since receiving her Rabies vaccine to cross the border from Canada to the U.SA. in 2005. Spayed when she was 7. Silica was working like a charm. It had to be repeated about every 4-8 weeks but now I think things have changed because it is no longer having as long-lasting positive effect on her symptoms. She is a raw fed dog and has been her whole life. I believe she is a very good example of raw food not being able to get at the underlying cause which I think is vaccinosis. I would never consider taking her off the raw species appropriate diet, I know that this is her best support through her challenges. Winnie has only received Homeopathic remedies whenever she has been out of sorts. Except for her current condition she has been a healthy dog.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 6, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks, Darci. I’m glad you could identify with this. Silica is an excellent vaccinosis remedy, and if you got earlier results, I’d question the potency of the last few doses that didn’t bear fruit for this Lab. If you didn’t raise it, you might try that.
      Also, sometimes an interpolated dose of sulphur helps the silica patient to pick up steam again and the response to silica is restored.
      Good luck with Winnie. You are on the right track.

  26. Elle on April 6, 2015 at 11:50 am

    These are very valid concerns about raw feeding and you addressed them very well, Dr. Falconer. Raw feeding is only one component in our toolboxes of health-nurturing practices. We’ve recently been dealing with behaviors in our GSD that appear to stem from his lineage and their vaccinations. You can have a vaccine-free dog and she can still exhibit strange symptoms that come from ancestral vaccination histories. Ancestral vaccination history should be something that we all ask breeders about before purchasing a puppy, and not because we’re looking for conventional vaccination adherence, but just the opposite. It sure would bring the subject of over-vaccination forward into the breeders minds if we did so.
    I’m absolutely thrilled to say that after administering the homeopathic remedy Dr. Falconer suggested for our GSD, his odd behavior disappeared like magic. YAY!
    I cannot stress highly enough just how effective homeopathy can be for dogs (and humans). If we can mitigate the effects of ancestral vaccinations on our new puppies with homeopathic remedies and stay away from vaccinations altogether, we can begin to raise dogs that are as healthy as those long-lived farm dogs in the old days, who ate fresh-caught prey and healthy farm table scraps, ran and played all day, drank non-fluoridated, non-chlorinated water, never had flea, heartworm or tick poison administered to their skin, never needed to see a vet other than for stitches or broken bones. Mate those dogs with other dogs raised the same way and we’ve got a whole new world of healthy dogs.

    • Darci Michaels on April 6, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      Elle, your words ring so true for me and I am thrilled to be part of a group of like minds! Thank you Dr. Will for helping us all by bringing forth your knowledge and wisdom making good health accessible to us all should we choose to open our eyes and minds.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 6, 2015 at 1:15 pm

      Good points, Elle. When I worked as a newbie holistic vet in Hawaii, I met a dog from New Zealand. Rabies free islands, both of them. No one vaccinates for rabies because of this status. And yet, this dog showed classic rabies vaccinosis signs: wary of moving water, flashes of untoward aggression, perhaps even choking easily (that part’s less clear in my memory).
      So, how many generations back did this come from? Who knows, but the point was clearly made to me: a certain amount of illness comes from the ancestors’ illness patterns. Whether that’s borne out in actual genes or not, homeopaths see it regularly.
      Hence, generations of healthy breeding animals, who’ve had few to no vaccines or pesticides, treated constitutionally with homeopathy before they are bred — you can imagine the health those youngsters would bring into the world!

  27. L on April 6, 2015 at 10:57 am

    I brush my dogs teeth every evening, I focus on the sides and back where the tartar builds up. Some small breeds have lousy teeth and may need a professional cleaning once or twice in their lifetime, no matter what you do. This has been my experience.
    Whatever, I think the daily brushing helps big time.

  28. Megan on April 6, 2015 at 9:20 am

    I have also had my dog on an all raw diet for about a year. She is a 5 year old Maltese, who had only her first year of vaccinations. She has been loving it! The only thing that hasn’t improved is her teeth.
    I buy her food at a raw food pet store. And I mix in some veggies and fruit. Sometimes I also give her some raw bones too.
    Does it just take a little longer for all the plaque to dissolve?

    • Will Falconer, DVM on April 6, 2015 at 1:23 pm

      Hi Megan,
      Sometimes, even with bones fed several days a week (which I recommend), it can take a while to get teeth to come back to white. But I’d also not discount that it may be some chronic disease lurking that is keeping them this way. Homeopathy has worked wonders as a “side effect” in the mouth, when I was prescribing for the Whole Animal whose problem was elsewhere!
      If you increase bone feeding and haven’t seen the teeth clean up in a couple of months, I’d get a vet homeopath to help you get to the deeper issues and get this little gal cured.

      • Desiree Hodnett on September 16, 2015 at 9:56 am

        Hi Dr Will! Not sure you remember me but you treated my Doberman Dillon several years ago. I am wanting to get my three dogs on a better diet that is free of kibble but don’t know where to start. I’ve seen you mention home cooked food and raw food. Is there a recipe or guidelines that you recommend?

        • Will Falconer, DVM on September 16, 2015 at 4:34 pm

          Stay tuned, Desiree. This’ll be coming in a course next year. Meantime, visit this page for some ideas.
          I do remember you, of course! Hope you’re doing well.

    • Tina on May 7, 2015 at 12:25 am

      We have fed a raw diet for 10+ years; but we fortunately feed exclusively a raw wild game diet. We feed wild game scraps deer/antelope/elk/moose year round. We also feed naturally raised pork liver and farm fresh eggs.
      The issues with the raw diet if you are feeding store bought meat are going to be the diet the animals are fed, the antibiotics the animals are given, and if they are free range or not.
      Even with our wild game raw diet, we feed a daily farm fresh egg with 4 fish oil capsules drained in their eggs daily. Store bought meat lacks the omegas that range free meat has, which is why the coat condition is dry or shedding, etc.

      • Tina on May 7, 2015 at 12:26 am

        The fish oil seems to help with the shedding and flaky skin on one of our 5 gsds; I am sure the wild game around here (MT) get into the farmers fields so they are grain fed as well as naturally fed. 😉

        • Will Falconer, DVM on May 7, 2015 at 8:46 am

          Good point, Tina, and your dogs are a very lucky pack to get to stay strong and healthy on wild game! Wow.

    • patrick garvey on June 20, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Hi not sure if I’m replying in the correct place but here it goes.. My 7yr Weimaraner Papas is itching like crazy and is going to rip his ear off unless I constantly intervene. He has had zero vaccinations since I adopted at four months of age. I recently took him off heartworm meds four months ago( my last “holistic” vet convinced me this is the only med dogs truly need) we have a lot of skeeters where I live(open ponds) and we both get bit continually. He has fleas, well a lot less since applying wondercide but now the intense itching. So it could be one or more of three things- food( recently switched to raw Detailed Answers w bones and tripe). Or the wondercide which we used a few years ago w no issues. or something to do w maybe detox of removing heart worm meds.. Note: he has either been on mostly acana/Orijen or a vegan diet his whole life til I learned acana feeds the enslaved animals gmo grains. Papas has slimmed down and the raw diet seemed to be working til now. I’m heavily leaning toward a home cooked vegan diet w lots of raw oils and fermented seed pates. I only applied the wondercide twice btw. I stopped the vegan diet of two years because I noticed a hard nodule in his ribs( not sure how long it was there) anyway thanks for hearing me out and I hope this is in the right place to be heard.
      Much love,