I have an 11 year old lab. I have a friend that has a 15 year old lab. I have another friend who put his 8 year old lab down.

Based upon the following experience I have a question.

The oldest lab, a 15 year old, has had a natural diet all its life. Some cooked meat, some raw meat, pumpkin and green beans. Every once in a while it would get dog food, but very rarely. This dog is healthy. Lots of grey hair but very chipper, good weight. Trots to get balls, there is no more full sprint ball retrieval, but this dog stays active.

The eleven year old is in pretty good shape, but is beginning to fade. Some dog food (upscale, whatever that means), pumpkin and green beans. It gets cooked chicken and fish remnants.

The 9 year old ate nothing but off the shelf grocery store dog food. Whatever was handy. Poor guy had many tumors and cancer in it's intestinal tract and was recently euthanized.

It seems that some of the dogs in my life that have been given a more healthy diet are experiencing greater longevity. The owner of the 15 year old said, "no dog food for my dogs. Only real food."

There is obviously not enough information to make a determination regarding the wellness of the dogs and their diet.

So my questions are

  • What are the risks of feeding my dog standard off-the-shelf dog food?

  • What are the benefits to feeding a dog a diet of regular real food rather than processed food?

  • Are there any studies or correlations of data to support one way or the other having a difference on the health of any pet?

There were some incidents a few years ago of a Chinese food manufacturer putting melanin in their food, and it was sold in the US. The results were horrific and there were quite a few deaths of pets. I can't help but think that in other processed foods there are harmful compounds that may not kill your pet in the short term but will effect its health long term regarding various cancers or other malaise that could have an effect on longevity.

Thanks in advance.

  • 2
    Remember that the plural of "Anecdote" is not "Data". I know of many dogs that have lived long, healthy lives (15+ years) on commercial food. I also know of dogs fed raw that died prematurely. There are so many factors involved in health including genetics, environment, and activity levels, that deciding what to feed based on a few anecdotes is not likely to give a reliable result.
    – jalynn2
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 21:45

2 Answers 2


Yes, there are some studies.

Pro raw food studies

I've found this article which mentions two studies:

A study conducted in Stockholm, Sweden by Dr. Kollath showed that young animals 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.

Unfortunately they mentioned no source for this study. For the second study they linked this source:

Another study out of Belgium used data gathered from more than 500 domestic dogs over a consecutive five year time period (1998-2002). 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 – that’s almost 3 years!


Nutritional imbalance

Just reading this it seems that raw feeding is really the best. But I found a summary of studies about the risk of raw food diets:

Hypervitaminosis A was reported in a cat fed a pork liver-based raw food. The cat returned to normal health when the diet was changed back to a commercial canned food. Feline pansteatitis was reported in 10 cats fed a homemade diet of cooked pig brain or raw and cooked oily fish. Nutritional osteodystrophy was reported in 2 litters of 6-week-old large breed puppies fed a bones and raw food (BARF) diet from about 3 weeks of age. Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism has also been reported in a litter of German shepherd puppies fed a diet of 80% rice with 20% raw meat. The diet contained excessive amounts of phosphorus. Not all puppies fed the diet experienced problems, suggesting individual or genetic susceptibility.

A nutritional analysis of 5 raw food diets (2 commercially produced and 3 home-made) found low calcium and phosphorus in 3 of the 5 diets. Two commercial diets were high in vitamin D. Two of the diets were deficient in potassium, magnesium, and zinc.

These are just some individual cases so it is not possible to say that in general the raw food diets are bad. So the same article mentions:

Supporters of raw food will argue that feeding a variety of foods will lessen the risk of nutritional imbalance.

Infectious disease risk

The same article mentions a study about the infectious disease risk:

There are several studies that document the presence of infectious agents in raw foods and the potential for contaminating or shedding these agents in the pet’s environment. A recent study analyzed 240 samples from 20 commercially prepared raw meat dog diets (beef, lamb, chicken, or turkey), 24 samples from 2 commercial dry dog foods, and 24 samples from 2 commercial canned foods. The commercial foods were collected on 4 different dates, 2 months apart. Three samples were collected from each product at each sampling point and were evaluated by culture for Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, Campylobacter, and by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for Cryptosporidium, Neospora, and Toxoplasma. The PCR was performed only during the third and final sampling period. Almost 6% of the raw food diets were positive for Salmonella, while none of the conventional diets were positive. Escherichia coli were isolated from all types of diets. It was found in almost 50% of the raw food diets but in only 8/24 (33%) dry and 2/24 (8%) canned diets. There were no significant association between the type of raw meat and the agents isolated.

In conclusion you should know which incredients your dog needs to avoid nutrition imbalance and you should keep the food fresh and cool in a clean environment, if you want to feed your dog with homemade raw food diet.

Is canned food really that bad?

I do not know what kind of food the dogs of the Belgium study were fed. In Germany dog food is handled by the German food law and the German Feedstuffs Act. That means that only ingredients humans are able to eat are allowed to used for dog food. The quality has to be the same as for humans. Indeed scrapings of slaughter are used, too, but from pigs, cows, birds, etc. which were slaughtered for human food. So the quality of the meat is very good.

There is still the question if the meat has to be raw. To answer that it is worth reminding what is happening in the stomach of a dog. The gastric acid degenerates the proteins of the meat, so that the enzyms are able to degrade the proteins. The same degenerating process is happening by cooking meat. So for old dogs it can be comfortable to eat cooked meat, because it is easier to digest.

Today there are many good dry or canned food diets for dogs. It is possible to adapt the food to the age and health condition of the dog. That is a big benefit as compared to homemade food.

So a good quality canned food is as good as a raw diet food but less risky of infectious disease.


At the end it is a question of believe if you prefer raw food diet or not.

It may depend on the region where you live, if you can trust the dried and canned dog food. If you buy it, (if possible) take care of the quality and how much meat is in there. The main ingredient have to be meat.

If you decide to feed raw meat homemade food, please inform yourself about the needs of a dog. They are different to humans. Take care of the quality of the food and that it is kept clean and fresh.

  • Just curious: how can "a pork liver-based raw food" be healthy for anyone or anything in the world? No food for anyone / anything should be limited to only one ingredient for the entire life. That is the basics of nutrition everywhere. Moreover, the liver is a very dangerous base food, since it contains in high excess some nutrients, and (almost) totally lacks others. Therefore, comparing commercial canned food to this brings no useful information. Actually, it misinforms, suggesting that commercial canned food is healthy.
    – virolino
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 10:21
  • Also note: natually, a cat's food is entire mice, as opposed to pork liver. That should provide enough argument that the study was terribly flawed. IMO
    – virolino
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 10:22

What are the risks of feeding my dog standard off-the-shelf dog food?

If you read the contents of the food as written on the can, you will understand that it is mostly junk. Therefore, the risk on dog's health eating that food is the same as the risk for you eating a diet composed only of fast-food for extended periods of time.

These risks are beautifully concentrated in the example you gave, with the three dogs.

What are the benefits to feeding a dog a diet of regular real food rather than processed food?

If by "regular food" you mean the food prepared for humans, that is not very good for dogs. At least partially, it is poisonous to the dogs and cats. Why? Simple. Because they contain salt (and sometimes a little sugar) and spices. As well as other substances which cannot be metabolized by the dogs - and additionally create serious trouble in the long run.

I cannot tell for sure whether it is a good diet for a dog to eat the equivalent of food for humans - ingredients OK for dogs, but cooked with heat (boiled, fried, etc.)

Are there any studies or correlations of data to support one way or the other having a difference on the health of any pet?

The studies are usually sponsored and lobbied by the companies who manufacture and sell the said food. If they say "Yes, it is OK", are you ready to believe them?

It is just like with the studies saying that smoking does not cause health problems. You draw your own conclusion.

I will give an example, commenting a sentence quoted from a study in the answer of @HarasBrummi

Hypervitaminosis A was reported in a cat fed a pork liver-based raw food. The cat returned to normal health when the diet was changed back to a commercial canned food.

So the study compared a diet with excess of liver to some canned food - possible the canned food was a special batch created and packed especially for the study.

This study implies that commercial canned food is good only because it is better that excess of raw pork liver. How do we know that excess of raw pork liver cannot be really healthy? Simple: the natural diet of cats is whole mice (and other small rodents and birds) which they can hunt, as compared with any part of a pork. Also, a whole mice has all the nutrients needed for life, while the liver has a very limited list of nutrients, lacking most of the others.

A balanced raw food for dogs seems to be the best choice - it is the closest to what the dogs would eat if they were wild.

The only serious problem that I can see with this approach is that the food can be contaminated, especially if it is not obtained from reliable sources. While some contaminants can be easily "treated", other tend to create long term serious problems.

In the end, the answer is the same as for humans: the choice is yours. Some humans prefer to eat a lot of meat. Others are vegetarian. Others go to the extreme of being strictly raw vegan.

They are all alive they are all more or less healthy. They all have some afflictions.

The same is for our pets.

  • 2
    "you will understand that it is mostly junk". In your opinion. You also dismiss studies based on their funding source, yet we are seeing more problems with food that is not being tested. This answer is full of personal conjecture and opinions without any backing sources.
    – jalynn2
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 21:42

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