What You Need to Know About Food Therapy for Dogs

Guest article from drruthroberts.com

Before I delve into food therapy, I’d like to share two stories with you about patients that taught me the value of food as medicine:

The first is about Murphy, a 6-year-old labrador who was diagnosed with cutaneous hemangiosarcoma. This is a tumor that generally recurs after it has been removed and becomes more invasive until it shows up in the internal organs or debilitates the pet. Within eight months the average pet has died or been euthanized. Murphy had his tumor removed, and the owners did not want to pursue chemotherapy for him. We treated the blood deficiency and stagnation with a diet rich in blood tonics, as well as a simple herbal formula. After six months we discontinued the herbal formula, and three years later Murphy is still free of cancer.

The second story is about Thunder, an 8-year-old mastiff who had horrible arthritis in her knees. Western medications did not provide much relief for her, and it became more and more difficult and painful for her to walk. Sling walking her was very difficult for the owners because of her size. They were running out of hope and options. Thunder didn’t think much of acupuncture, and even less of the herbal formula that I prescribed. She did think that the cooked food was a super yummy idea. Amazingly, in six weeks she could walk without pain and had lost 20 pounds. 

These two patients made it clear to me the power of food to heal when used as a recipe to treat the health problem. 

So what is food therapy?  

The basic idea is to make a recipe for the pet’s food to correct an imbalance or to keep a healthy pet healthy. The recipe will mimic the actions of an herbal formula that would be prescribed for the imbalance if the animal is ill, and if healthy, feed the pet’s constitutional element. Each element has factors which support it, and other factors that weaken it.

For a Fire element dog, cooling foods will keep the fire from blazing out of control and slow the progression of heart disease, separation anxiety, and senility. Warm, drying foods would have the opposite effect and worsen these conditions. 

What would a recipe for a healthy pet look like? 

A diet balanced for healthy Fire or Wood element pets might consist of beef, turkey, and pork with kidney beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens. With home cooking, it’s important to maintain a proper calcium: phosphorous ratio to prevent bone issues. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. An easily absorbed calcium source like calcium citrate is best. I generally recommend using a balanced daily vitamin supplement like Holistic Total Body Support to make sure all the nutritional bases are covered. Home-cooked diets are best for most pets, as they are easy to digest, but should be warmed before feeding. Adding warm water is the easiest way to do this.

What if I don’t cook?

The Original CrockPet Diet takes surprisingly little time to prepare a batch, and you can even freeze it. When we had 10 pets, we were able to make a month’s supply of food, pack it for freezing, and clean up in less than 3-4 hours. 

A food therapy plan can serve as a shopping list of proteins and carbohydrates to look for in commercially prepared foods. Canned diets are next best, and dry is the third option. Many clients are opting to use all protein canned products and then add cooked vegetables and carbs. This works especially well for vegan or vegetarian folks who want their pets to eat properly. 

For folks that need to continue with dry food, I recommend adding warm water to the dry food and letting it soak for a bit to make it easier to digest. Adding cooked vegetables is also a great option. Digestive enzymes are helpful in assisting the digestive process, especially for animals with chronic issues.

What about raw diets?

In the raging battle between raw and cooked, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine stands on the side of cooked, as the spleen/stomach is considered to be the cooker of the 100 degree soup. Raw can be useful for the extremely hot young dog, and the dog with chronic damp heat issues. However, raw does create dampness, so as the heat clears you may need to change the diet to avoid too much dampness ( i.e. diarrhea, urinary issues). 

What about no grain diets?

The most important thing we can do to protect our health and the pet’s health is to reduce inflammation. Grains that are highly processed cause inflammation, first in the gut and then elsewhere in the body. The dog develops leaky gut syndrome, and hunks of protein are absorbed into the bloodstream without being properly broken down. This leads to the immune system attacking foods that are absorbed this way, and as the immune system responds, a whole host of problems from skin disease to diarrhea ensue. 

Often we may start with no grains, and as the health of the pet improves, add back in whole grains that the pet has not eaten in the past.  The only situation where I recommend feeding absolutely no grain or carbohydrate is for cancer patients. Tumors prefer a quick source of glucose, and if we take away grains, we feed the dog and not the tumor. 

How much will this cost?

A four-day supply for 2- 50 pound dogs would cost $12 to $15 dollars per batch. Feeding two dogs would run about $1.50 to  $1.88 per day per dog. Compare this with the better pet foods at $3 per pound, and your feeding cost is less with home-cooked food. 


Dr. Ruth Roberts has supported thousands of dogs and cats in overcoming health hurdles like kidney disease, GI Illness, allergies, and cancer. Her natural approach to healing creates a gentle yet effective path for your pet to take on their journey to wellness. Dr. Ruth created The Original CrockPet Diet, a balanced home-cooked diet for pets, as the foundation of health. Dr. Ruth will help you to develop a health plan for your pet via e-learning, videos on a range of health topics, and one-on-one coaching. Dr. Ruth Roberts is Your Pet’s Ally.


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