UPDATED SECOND PROGRESS REPORT: Study of Microalbuminuria in Dogs Fed Raw Food Diets

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With the increasing popularity of raw food diets for dogs (and cats), no data were available that determined the laboratory reference range values for healthy animals fed these diets. Were they different than those of dogs fed commercial kibbled foods?  In 2003, in collaboration with Dr. Susan Wynn, we investigated the basic clinical laboratory parameters of 256 healthy adult dogs of varying ages and breed types being fed raw food diets for at least 9 months. We found that dogs fed raw meats (natural carnivores) had higher red blood cell and blood urea nitrogen levels than dogs fed cereal-based food (obligate omnivores).

The intake of proportionately large amounts of raw meat protein and the significantly higher BUN concentrations found in our initial study, suggested the possibility of some spillover into the urine of  measurable amounts of urea nitrogen and/or albumin. A second two-part study was therefore initiated to measure and compare the albumin content of the urine of raw and cereal fed dogs. Results indicated that there was no leakage of albumin into the urine of healthy raw fed dogs, and that no apparent short- and long-term clinical effects on renal function were detected from the feeding of raw diets. Below is our research findings. Enjoy, Dr. Jean Dodds

Conclusion (Study 2)
Updated 11/08/2005

Based on the results provided below for another 19 healthy dogs of several breeds and varying ages, feeding a diet of raw ingredients does not appear to cause leakage of albumin into the urine in most of the dogs tested. All but three dogs had negative ERD – HealthScreen tests for the presence of microalbuminuria. The reason for the positive reaction in three dogs (one low and two medium positive) is unclear as there was no identifiable abnormality in health history or on recent physical examination.

In combining the results of the first and second study, a total of 37 dogs were screened by ERD. Thirty-two of them were negative for microalbuminuria, and five were positive (two low and three medium positive). Two of the five positive dogs had medical reasons relevant to the finding of microalbuminuria.  Follow up ERD testing of these two dogs were negative, after their low-grade urinary tract infections resolved.  The other three dogs were lost to follow up.

Background

Veterinarians and companion animal owners are increasingly aware of the key role played by wholesome nutrition in maintaining a healthy immune system and resistance to disease. Alternative approaches to nutritional management include the feeding of specialty premium foods and prescription diets as well as a growing interest in feeding raw food diets.

We have investigated the basic clinical laboratory parameters of 256 healthy adult dogs of varying ages and breed types being fed raw food diets for at least 9 months. We found that dogs fed raw meats (natural carnivores) had higher red blood cell and blood urea nitrogen levels than dogs fed cereal-based food (obligate omnivores).

The intake of proportionately large amounts of raw meat protein and the significantly higher BUN concentrations found in our study, suggest the possibility of spillover into the urine of measurable amounts of urea nitrogen and/or albumin. Whether this occurrence can be demonstrated is one question, and, if shown, the second relates to the question of its potential short and long term clinical consequences.

The purpose of the present study was to assess the presence of microalbuminuria using the Heska test kits in dogs already fed exclusively on raw foods for at least 12 months, and dogs on cereal based diets both before and after switching to raw diets. The outcome will determine whether veterinary clinicians should be aware of the increased prevalence of microalbuminuria in dogs fed raw diets.

Raw Food Diet Study

In collaboration with Dr. Susan Wynn, we previously investigated the basic clinical laboratory parameters of 256 healthy adult dogs of varying ages and breed types being fed raw food diets for at least 9 months. The same laboratory (Antech Diagnostics) analyzed the samples from 227 of the dogs. From this group, there were 87 dogs fed the classical BARF diet of Dr. Ian Billinghurst, 46 dogs were fed the Volhard diet of Wendy Volhard, and the remaining 94 dogs were fed other types of custom raw diets.

There were 69 dog breeds represented, including 233 purebreds, 16 crossbreds, 1 mixed breed and 6 of unknown breed type. The predominant breeds represented included: 28 Labrador Retreivers, 21 Golden Retrievers and 21 German Shepherd Dogs, 10 Whippets, 8 Shetland Sheepdogs and  8 Bernese Mountain Dogs, 6 Rottweilers, 6 Border Collies, 6 Doberman Pinschers, and 6 German Pinschers, and 5 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, 5 Australian Shepherds, 5 Borzoi, and 5 Great Danes. Most of the dogs were neutered males (73) or spayed females (85), whereas there were 31 intact males and 32 intact females. Another 6 dogs were of unknown sex. The mean age of the group was 5.67 ± 3.52 years (mean ± SD); and the mean length of time fed a raw food diet was 2.84 ± 2.54 years.  The data from this group of dogs were compared to the same laboratory parameters measured at Antech Diagnostics from 75 healthy adult dogs fed a commercial cereal-based kibbled diet. Preliminary statistical comparisons of results for the raw and cereal-based diets found them to be essentially the same with the following notable exceptions:

•  Higher packed cell volume (hematocrit) in all raw diet fed groups (range of  51.0 ± 6.6 – 53.5 ± 5.6 %) versus cereal-based kibble (47.6 ± 6.1 %).

•  Higher blood urea nitrogen (BUN) in all raw diet fed groups (range of  18.8 ± 6.9 – 22.0 ± 8.7 mg/dL) versus cereal-based kibble (15.5 ± 4.7 mg/dL).

•  Higher serum creatinine in the Volhard raw diet group only (1.20 ± 0.34 mg/dL) versus cereal-based kibble (1.07 ± 0.28 mg/dL).

While a more detailed analysis of other parameters has yet to be completed, initial results indicate that dogs fed raw meats (natural carnivores) have higher red blood cell and blood urea nitrogen levels than dogs fed cereal-based food (obligate omnivores). Thus, the normal reference values for dogs fed raw food diets should probably be revised.

Research Hypothesis

The intake of proportionately large amounts of raw meat protein and the significantly higher BUN concentrations found in our study, suggest the possibility of spillover into the urine of  measurable amounts of urea nitrogen and/or albumin.  Whether this occurrence can be demonstrated is one question, and, if shown, the second relates to the question of its potential  short and long term clinical consequences.

The purpose of the present study is to assess the presence of microlbuminuria using the Heska test kits in dogs already fed exclusively on raw foods for at least 12 months, and dogs on cereal based diets both before and after switching to raw diets. The outcome will determine whether veterinary clinicians should be aware of the increased prevalence of microalbuminuria in dogs fed raw diets.

Research Proposal

The study was designed to include two populations of healthy canine subjects:

Study 2  Dogs Fed Raw Diets (for One or More Years)

Kitty Jones, President of West Los Angeles Dog Training Club, a group of dog trainers and owners who feed raw diets to their dogs served as the point person for collecting the data for this second study. Urine samples were obtained and tested from 16 healthy adult dogs belonging to club members. The prevalence of microalbuminuria was compared to that from Heska’s historical data base for dogs fed on standard commercial diets (presumably cereal based foods for the most part).

RESULTS

Study 2       Dogs Fed Raw Diets    [16 fed home made raw diet; 3 fed BARF diet]*
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* all from Southern CA.

†  fed BARF Diet.

References

Wynn S G, Bartges J, Dodds W J.  Raw meaty bones- based diets may cause prerenal azotemia in normal dogs.  AAVN Nutrition Research Symposium, June 2003 (abstr.).

Dodds W J. Complementary and alternative medicine: the immune system. Clin Tech Sm An Pract, 17(10: 58-63, 2002.

Roudebush P. Ingredients associated with adverse food reactions in dogs and cats. Adv Sm An Med Surg, 15(9): 1-3, 2002.

Dodds W J,  Donoghue S. Interactions of clinical nutrition with genetics, Chapter 8. In: The  Waltham Book of Clinical Nutrition of the Dog and Cat. Pergamon Press Ltd., Oxford, 1994, p.105-117.

Dodds W J. Pet food preservatives and other additives, Chapter 5. In: Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine.  Mosby, St. Louis, 1997; pp 73-79.

Volhard W, Brown K L. The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog. Howell Book House, New York, 1995, 294 pp.

W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843

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