Doctor's Corner | June 2012
by Dr. Jason Sweitzer
09:04 PM, Monday, June 18
Welcome to the Dr.'s Corner. I am Dr. Jason Sweitzer and I am a veterinarian at Mission Animal and Bird Hospital in Oceanside with a specific interest in Emergency Medicine, Behavior, and Exotic Animals. This column is your chance to ask a vet your questions. I’ll pick topics that are the most timely and useful to pet owners but will try to respond to all e-mails. Please submit your questions to

Q: I have been thinking of switching to a grain free, raw diet for my dog. Is there anything I need to know?

A: This is a great question and one of my biggest pet peeves so I am glad you asked. Let me break this down into the raw food diet portion, and then the grain free concern.

Raw food diets have many claimed great health effects including elimination of itching, skin infections, loose stools, vomiting, and being the more natural food, etc. Most of these are not only not true but they can be worse on raw food diets. If they are improved, it is often for a reason other than being a raw food. The biggest reason a raw diet may help is because it contains a different protein source than you were feeding before (a cooked packaged food has the same effects). The things they don't mention about raw foods is food safety and that dogs are not wolves. A German shepherd dog or chihuahua is nothing like a coyote or wolf and they actually have physical differences including digestion and especially longevity. Raw foods markedly increase the bacterial counts throughout your home. Remember you clean your counters after preparing meat but your dog will lick their bowl, lick their feet and walk all over the house and sit on the couch or bed. Then they will lick your hand or give you a kiss. Guess how much Salmonella and E. coli they just spread over your whole house? A Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist I spoke to recommended to never feed your dog a raw food diet. Period.

As for the grain-free craze. This was perpetrated by food companies realizing that humans had some grain allergies and dogs have skin allergies so dogs must have grain allergies. If they sold grain or gluten-free foods, they could charge a lot more for it. We're talking making millions of dollars off these foods. It makes sense, the problem is it just isn't true. Skin allergies in dogs are composed of fleas, food, and environment with food usually the significantly smallest portion. Of those dogs who actually have food allergies, the overwhelming majority are to the meat protein in their diet with chicken, beef, and dairy making up almost the entire food allergy pie. They are not bad just the most commonly used proteins. The remainder of the food allergies are to the less commonly used proteins like fish, rabbit, duck, lamb, etc. with grains and gluten not even registering as a blip on the allergy spectrum. I spoke to one of the major food companies and they admitted to me that the only reason they came out with a grain free diet, is because that is what everyone is buying and they lost market share without it. No science, no research, just pure money and business.

If you want to help your dog (and these are also true for cats), do not feed grain or gluten free diets and never feed raw food as it can cause hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (bloody diarrhea). Instead, talk to your veterinarian so they can try to first evaluate if a diet trial may even be helpful (many times it is fleas or environment that need addressed instead) and help guide you through the search for the right food. So to answer your question about what you need to know...don’t do it! Hope that helps keep yourself, your animals, and your family safer, and helps keep your wallet fuller.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 10, 2012
I have been feeding my dog raw food for about 9 months and the difference in his energy, his bowels movements, his coat, his all around everything is AMAZING!! I can't believe this article from Dr. Sweitzer. It's everything in the opposite of what I have seen with my dog. Am sure he agrees with covering your dog in pesticides to "avoid" fleas as well. It's unbelievable the scare tactics that doctors, such as Dr Sweitzer, use to get pet owners to poison their animals and potentially shorten the lives of their babies becasue a vet, supposedly "EDUCATED in animal care", has scared them into believing drugging and feeding their animal corn is healthy. Educate yourself and research these topics before listening to a doctor that FAILS to name ONE accredited source behind his findings. Good grief it's unbelievable this article was even published.
July 09, 2012
It's so frustrating and saddening to read such a misinformed column written by a veterinarian. I assure readers that there are many, many veterinarians who will disagree with what's written by this vet. It's fear-mongering at best, and certainly doesn't provide any useful, up-to-date information for people to make an informed choice about how to care for their pets.

Perhaps this veterinarian isn't aware of the most recent pet food recalls for salmonella - dry food manufacturing was the culprit, and yes, some people got sick handling the food. If you are concerned about food safety you should be staying away from dry food!

This publication should provide more substantive information on this topic, rather than this hysterical rant.

Raw food diets aren't for every animal... some of them are too sick to eat as nature intended because they've been fed as this veterinarian advises, with highly processed "food" lacking in any natural nutrition.

If you feed your human family fresh food, you should ask yourself, why shouldn't your pet eat fresh food? Ask professionals that are educated on the topic of fresh food for pets for advice.
July 05, 2012
There are so many errors and shocking misconceptions about this Dr.'s reply, its impossible to know where to start. I suppose the thousands of animals who died from tainted commercial dog food, some of them veterinary prescribed, might not agree with him. I also wonder who this Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist is that he doesn't name is. I suppose Dr. Doogie Howser might be the source and more than likely this is a vet who will probably tell you that a booster shot is a seat your baby sits in while having dinner, a tv dinner mind you, probably made by Hills Prescription diet. Fresh food, raw food, healthy grains, its all good, it all has its place and education is the name of the game. Dr. Sweitzer's advice to JUST DON'T DO IT, comes in a time when people JUST WON'T LISTEN, because this is a time of truth and Dr. Sweitzer just does not speak that language.

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