The links between nutrition and animal behaviour have been poorly researched, and still to this day, are quite unclear. It is quite apparent in the human population that what we feed ourselves and particularly our children, will have quite a dramatic impact on behaviour – modern food colourings, preservatives, and flavourings have all been demonstrated to have close links to certain behavioural syndromes like ADD (attention deficit disorder). I personally have seen many dogs respond in an extremely favourable way to the removal of processed dog food from their diet. Whether this is due to the removal of chemical colourings and flavourings, or whether it is simply the improved nutritional value of raw food diets, I am yet to be convinced.
What I can categorically say is that many dogs suffering from anxiety, hyper excitability, and aggression, will respond very favourably to a change from processed dog foods to a fundamental balanced raw food diet. Studies performed by Dr Pottenger back in the 1930s, clearly demonstrated marked increase in aggression in cats that were fed on a cooked food diet versus those fed raw food. The cats fed on the cooked meat diet showed not only increased aggression to other cats, but also significantly more aggressive behaviour towards their handlers. This behavioural change was easily reversed when the cats were put back onto a raw meat diet.
Recently I had be opportunity to work with veterinary behavioural specialist Dr Gabrielle Carter, assisting her with treating allergies in her own dog. Not only did the allergies improve dramatically, but Gabrielle was very surprised and pleased to advise me that her dog’s separation anxiety issues had equally well responded on the new raw food diet. She was so surprised by the significant change in her dog that she has approached me to assist her in developing a proper formalised trial, using raw dog food as a management tool with anxiety and other dog related behavioural disorders.
It would appear from some basic research that supplying raw meat diets does improve the natural levels of 5- hydroxytryptophan, which is the body is natural precursor to producing serotonin (a neurotransmitter), which has a powerful impact on mood, and other behavioural traits.
I would certainly encourage anyone involved in dog training to consider a change to a raw food diet for any particular problem dogs you come across. The far reaching health benefits of a raw food diet still continue to amaze me, and correcting behavioural problems is just one of the many benefits of making the change.
By Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons)