Clinical health markers in dogs fed raw meat-based or commercial extruded kibble diets

J Anim Sci. 2021 Jun 1;99(6):skab133. doi: 10.1093/jas/skab133.


The interest and demand for healthy and less processed foods for human consumption have been mirrored in the pet industry, with an explosion of alternative diets available. Several nontraditional feeding methodologies including raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) are believed by many dog owners to be superior to traditional extruded commercial dog foods. Despite the strong opinions, limited data are available comparing objective health measures among healthy dogs fed using different methods of diet preparation. Therefore, we compared health markers in client-owned dogs fed an RMBD to markers in dogs fed a high-quality extruded kibble. We hypothesized that healthy adult dogs fed RMBD would show differences in biochemical and hematological parameters and improved clinical health scores (e.g., dental, external ear canal, and integument scores) compared with dogs fed a kibble diet. A cross-sectional observational study was performed comparing hematology, serum biochemistry, urinalysis management history, and clinical health scores in healthy client-owned dogs reported as fed RMBD (n = 28) or kibble (n = 27) for >1 yr. Dental, external ear canal, and integument health scores were assigned by a single veterinary evaluator blinded to feed group, using a scale where 0 was normal and 3 was most severely affected. Spearman correlation coefficient (rs) was calculated to assess the strength and direction of the relationship of biochemical outcomes with age and body condition score (BCS), while analysis of variance was used to determine if biochemical analytes differed by breed or gender. Biochemical data were analyzed using multiple linear regression models, adjusting for the covariates gender, breed, age, and BCS. A composite clinical health score, (CCS) = 9 - (dental score + otitis score + integument score), was compared between feeding groups using Mann-Whitney test. Serum alkaline phosphatase activity (P < 0.001) and globulin concentration (P < 0.001) were lower, while lymphocyte count (P < 0.05) was higher in dogs fed RMBD. No differences were found in urinalysis between diet groups. Dogs fed RMBD showed a slight improvement in CCS compared with kibble-fed dogs (CCS: P = 0.03). Owner management significantly differed with a greater likelihood of management interventions including dietary supplements and sporting activities in the RMBD group. Further work is needed to specifically determine the impact of diet processing and nutrient content on canine health.

Keywords: canine nutrition; hematology; integument score; otitis score; periodontal score; serum biochemistry.

Publication types

  • Observational Study, Veterinary

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed* / analysis
  • Animals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / veterinary
  • Dogs
  • Meat*
  • Nutrients