I started feeding my dogs a raw diet about five years ago to help them maintain their good health, and it did so much more than that. It turned them into vibrant dogs who have been truly thriving ever since.
However, what happens when a dog needs to REGAIN their health? If they have allergies, GI abnormalities, an autoimmune condition, or even cancer? Would it be wise time to start a raw diet then? Those unfamiliar with a raw diet usually will say, no, "they can't handle it," "it's too rich," "it has bacteria," etc. I believe, and I've observed it myself in many dogs, that there is never a more crucial time to begin a raw diet.
If I ever question what I should do, I think back to what comes naturally. A kibble diet is not close to anything that we'd find in nature. It is processed and rendered so much and at high temperatures that the proteins become denatured and carbohydrates become caramelized. All live nutrients are killed, and some additionally produce carcinogens from the heating process (1). This product looks and tastes so far from a food source that pet food manufacturers have to develop flavor sprays to put on the kibble after it is made to make a dog readily eat it (2). Does this sound like anything that will help your dog's body heal? Does this sound like anything they are physiologically meant to handle?
A raw diet has all the nutrients, untouched, alive, and balanced, just as their bodies are designed to recognize and handle them. As for bacteria, your dog's stomach has a pH of about 1 to deal with any bacteria in the food. They have a short digestive tract that is meant to quickly digest and eliminate foods that go rancid quickly. As for "being rich," the only thing it is rich in compared to kibble is nutrients. For those of us who feed raw, we also know that our dogs will utilize most of the nutrients from this diet simply by observing their small stool size compared to the stool of a kibble fed dog.
Take this example, about a lab named Nigel, who had developed hemangiosarcoma of his spleen. A hemangiosarcoma is typically known as a silent killer in dogs that is usually found when it is too late. This was the case with Nigel. He suddenly became extremely weak and displayed labored breathing. The vet didn’t have any options, the tumor was too large and had progressed too far. Nigel wasn’t going to make it past that week. The owner and I decided to work together with a last ditch effort to try and help Nigel. We switched him over to a prey model raw diet immediately. By the end of the week, he made a turnaround and continued to improve. We almost couldn't believe our eyes. You couldn't tell he had cancer. He spent the next eight months with his owner with a quality life, swimming in the pond, going on walks, playing, doing everything he loved with the people he loved. After the eight months, Nigel started to show signs of his cancer with some weight loss and lethargy, and the owner decided it was time. They had a nice last moment together, and he was thankful for the last several months he had with Nigel that both of us know wouldn't have been possible with his raw diet.
It is so much easier to maintain health than to regain it. The best time to start a raw diet is when your dog is healthy. The most crucial time is when they are ill so that they have plenty of beneficial nutrients to support the healing processes of their body. Every decision we make about food comes down to this: food can fuel health, or it can fuel disease. The nutrient rich building blocks of a raw diet or the nutrient dead rendered product of a kibble diet... which one supports health and which one supports disease? Thinking through each diet and the physiology of our dogs, the answer is simple.