But my vet says dogs are living longer ..
But my vet says dogs are living longer because of better nutrition provided by kibble? In our minds, this concept is rather misleading, as our fur kids are living longer today because of improved social status and advances in medical care. “Back in the day" dogs were not considered the valuable family members and companions they are today. Dogs were left outside to brave the elements. They were guardians of house, possessions, and livestock. Dogs had a purpose, a job, and when they could not do that job, they were retired or disposed of. Medical care for dogs was scant and typically unimportant, as more prestige was gained from being a livestock vet than a canine vet. Very little notice was given to the dog's health as long as it could still do what was asked of it.
The following information is meant as a general guideline, and has been researched from other sources.
Nowadays, our canine kids enjoy a better life, one that is easier and less taxing. They sleep inside with their pet parents. They enjoy the social status of family companions. People care more about their welfare. They receive the benefits of improved health care - much of which has evolved in the last 50 years because of the ailments caused by processed foods - and the added bonus of people caring about them receiving that care. For example, 100 years ago people would have never paid thousands of dollars to give their canine kids a hip replacement, or hundreds of dollars to get routine dentals performed on their fur kids. Nutrition has had a negligible role to play in increased longevity other than the fact that dogs are no longer starving and do not have to hunt or scavenge (both of which are energetically costly). Instead of contributing to longevity, these "nutritional advances" have contributed to more and more health problems previously unheard of in dogs - diabetes, various cancers, inflammatory bowel syndrome, and bloat, for example. Veterinary medicine has evolved into “modern veterinary medicine” because of the increasing prevalence of processed food-related diseases and the need to treat and fix them, which sadly often involves switching your dog onto a higher-priced “therapeutic" processed diet! Granted, these diseases are diagnosed more frequently today because people actually know what to be looking for, but the amount of canine kids suffering from these ailments today as opposed to earlier dogs logically indicates a strong link to the foods they eat, links that have been proven to exist between humans in developed countries and processed foods.
What about increased longevity? Dogs' longevity has only recently been determined by “research” performed by the commercial pet food companies. They use these estimates to "show" that their food helps animals live longer. But longer compared to what? No one cared about canine longevity in the earlier days, except the select few concerned with breeding canines, so no one kept records or performed surveys. So this longevity estimate is only valid from when the surveys started. Indeed, kibble has been improving from the early prototypes that created a variety of nutritional deficiencies, like overgrowth and bone malformations in puppies; this still is a problem, but this “nutrition" has not contributed to longevity in nearly the same manner that increased social status has.
According to Dr. Pete Wedderburn, writing for the Telegraph: "It seems strange that in this era of improved nutrition and better medical care, dogs are living shorter lives."
Did you know? Research conducted by (Goldston) in 1989 indicated that the average senior age of dogs was 9 years [Goldston, R.T. (1989) Geriatrics and Gerontology. The Veterinary Clinincs of North America, Small Animal Practice. 19:202], and this decreased to 7 years in (AVMA) [ref]. At the same time, the average vet bill increased 410% as reported in Petwise (UK), 2009. In term of South Africa, Alan Duggan published an informative article via Business Report in 2016 [ref]. During the same period that the study was conducted, pet owners have changed the way they feed, with a 71% shift to dried food according to PFMA statistics published in 2011. Imagine the current state of affairs.
In reality, canine kids’ longevity and quality of life has been decreasing for many breeds since the advent of processed grain-based food. People who remember the “old days” when dogs were fed raw meaty bones often report their dogs living well through their late teens. Nowadays it is a "miracle" and a testament to the "excellent nutrition" the fur kid must have received, and vets and commercial pet food companies claim this "miracle" as occurring often enough to become “commonplace”. Too bad most of the vets who remember the good old days have now retired or even moved on.
So they say dogs are living "longer"? And indeed people can step forward and say they have 16-year-old Golden Retrievers and 14-year-old German Shepherds and 11-year-old Great Danes. But what about the quality of life for these old dogs? They have horrible teeth and rancid breath, severe arthritis or degenerative joint disease, cancerous or benign tumours, diabetes, kidney failure, nasty greasy coats, and soft fatty bodies lacking muscle tone. People say this is just "old age" and that we see this more often nowadays because dogs are living longer. But is this really true? Many of these ailments are caused by or heavily influenced by a lifetime of eating processed food and developing periodontal disease and bacteria-laden teeth [Lonsdale, T., Raw Meaty Bones Promote Health Paperback – August, 2001 (Amazon)]. Those who remember the “early days” remember long-lived dogs enjoying better quality lives until one day they just did not wake up. This slow, accumulating progression of disease is invariably linked with processed foods - something that has been proven time and again in human medicine and is being proven daily by the amount of processed food-fed pets suffering from a variety of these ailments and sitting in vets' waiting rooms.
If pets are living longer, then why are they being considered "old" at younger and younger ages? A dog is now a senior by the age of 7 or 8; some even say a dog is "old" at 5 or 6. Try and get health insurance for your fur kids past 8 years of age and see what happens ... Cats are considered seniors by the ripe old age of 7 - tell that to raw fed cats still going strong at the age of 20! One can therefore logically conclude that this premature ageing is caused in large part by processed foods, as stated by Dr Lonsdale. Cancer, diabetes, obesity, kidney failure, heart problems, and arthritis (among other things) are being seen in younger and younger dogs. Dogs 3 years of age are being euthanized for malignant, systemic cancers! What happened to this “dogs are living longer” claim? It is high time we stop slowly poisoning our beloved friends through commercial diets and excessive “preventative” health care measures!
Did You Know? Currently, the oldest recorded dog is Jerry, an Australian cattle dog-bull terrier mix. He is 27 and lives with his owner in Australia (Outback Mongrel Could Be Oldest Dog. USA Today. 7-13-2004 [ref]) . Jerry only raw-feeds. The oldest dog, as verified by the Guinness World Records, was also an Australian kelpie, named Bluey [ref], who lived to 29 years, 5 months and 7. Bluey worked among sheep and cattle for 20 years, and survived until Nov. 14, 1939, when he was put down. He had lived on a raw diet of kangaroos and emus. He was the world's oldest dog, a record that has never been beaten. Another Australian kelpie, Maggie [ref], was possibly the oldest canine in the world, has died at the age of 30 recently. Unfortunately, her owner, Brian McLaren, never did keep any papers for Maggie, and therefore the actual age cannot be verified. Still, 30 years ... one a raw diet with lots of raw cow milk!
Extending the Lives of Large and Giant Breed Dogs
If you own a large or giant breed dog or are thinking about getting one of the big guys, we hope you’ll watch Dr Karen Becker interview with Dr. Jeff Bergin, a chiropractor at the Mercola.com Natural Health Center and owner/breeder of Newfoundlands.
Dr. Bergin and his partner, Christine, raise and breed Newfoundlands, and based on Dr Becker's opinion, they do things the right way. In fact, it’s not unusual for their giant breed dogs to live into their late teens.
As highlighted by Dr Becker, some of the wonderful practices Dr. Bergin follows with his Newfoundlands include:
- Feeding exclusively raw diets.
- Breeding for health, first and foremost. Dr. Bergin breeds his dogs only once or twice during the course of their lives, with at least six years between litters. He does not breed dogs with congenital defects, and so far only one of his dogs has had a genetic health issue, a heart problem. (Heart problems, osteosarcoma and hip dysplasia are the most common health challenges for this breed.)
- Performing regular chiropractic adjustments. With large and giant breed dogs, it’s very important to take care of the frame. Dr. Bergin happens to be both a licensed animal chiropractor as well as a human chiropractor. He performs regular manual orthopedic manipulation on all his dogs, from the moment they first stand on their own through the remainder of their lives. This practice is one of the keys to keeping a big dog’s musculoskeletal system from degenerating with age. Dr. Bergin’s dogs are typically fully mobile even at the end of their lives.
- Limiting vaccines and other assaults on the immune system. Dr. Bergin only vaccinates his dogs against rabies, because the law requires it. By strictly limiting the number of vaccines they receive, he helps keep his dogs’ immune systems strong and resilient.
- Insuring Newfoundlands litters go to the right families. Dr. Bergin and Christine perform a mandatory home visit to families interested in their dogs. They won’t release a dog without seeing the new home. They conduct in-depth interviews with prospective owners to insure the puppy will be well taken care of. They also insist on a commitment from prospective owners to feed raw.
For most pet parents and guardians, it’s the quality of their dog’s life that is most important. You may have your precious fur kids with you for eight years or twice that long. As Dr Becker constantly reminds us, by focusing on the three pillars of health – nutrition, maintenance of the frame, and a strong, resilient immune system -- you can insure you’re providing her with everything she needs for an excellent quality of life, however long her life may be.
Why then, a natural diet?
In an article by Roxanne Stone MSc (Nutrition and Food Science with a minor in Chemistry from Utah State University), written for Dogs Naturally Magazine [ref], Roxanne references a study conducted in Sweden by Dr. Kollath, which showed that dogs “fed a cooked, processed diet initially appeared to be healthy, but once they reached maturity, they began to rapidly age and develop degenerative disease symptoms. The control group that was raised on a raw, uncooked diet did not age as fast and showed no degenerative disease symptoms but remained healthy.”
In the same article written by Roxanne, a study conducted in Belgium is referenced [ref] (requires Adobe PDF Reader), which the “The authors, Lippert and Sapy, were able to statistically show that dogs fed a homemade diet, consisting of high quality foods used from their owners’ meals versus dogs fed an industrial, commercial pet food diet had a life expectancy of 32 months longer.” How's that! The conclusion?
A raw, species appropriate diet is the best defence we can give our fur kids to thrive and maximize their opportunity for a long, healthy life. As caretakers of these amazing companion animals who unconditionally enhance our lives, we feel that it is not only fair to provide this to them, but rather our responsibility.
Some of this work was adapted from the works published by Carissa Kuehn, Myths of Raw Feed, http://rawfed.com/myths/.
Additional Articles and Videos
Good reference articles & videos further reading available at:
- Why Are These Popular Dogs Dying So Much Younger Than They Used To? By Dr. Karen Becker ( Mercola)
- Revealed: The health, sickness and lifespan of pedigree dog, The Telegraph (Telegraph)
- How Long Will Your Dog Be with You? It Depends Heavily on This… By Dr. Karen Becker (Mercola)
- A 17-Year Old Newfoundland? Discover What This Breeder Is Doing Right, interview by Dr Karen Becker (Mercola)
Why Don't Dogs Live Forever? Video by Rodney Habib, our most favourite Pet Nutrition Blogger.