Reviewed by the BioHackers Lab Team | Last updated: May 25, 2020

In today’s interview I get to speak with Bella and Duke pet food team and a qualified practitioner of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, Rowan Sanderson.

We talk about about species-specific raw dog food and how it can help your dog resolve serious health issues and stay healthy.

Rowan is very passionate about saving dog’s lives and improving their health.

Dogs are carnivores.

Yet, often we feed them highly processed, very starchy food that, similarly as in humans, contributes to a myriad of illnesses.

Diabetes, pancreatitis, arthritis, cancer, mood disorders, autoimmune disease and skin problems – these are the diseases we commonly associate to poor diet in humans, and since the introduction of processed dog food, in dogs also.

Rowan talks about how the species-specific raw dog food, tailored to individual needs, gets dogs back to what their diets were originally meant to be and helps them thrive.

If you know someone who is interested in learning more about:

  • What is raw dog food vs regular dog food
  • How can raw dog food can help improve the health and longevity of their dog
  • Why raw dog food can even help resolve issues such as diabetes and mood disorders in a dog
  • Do you feed a dog only meat and bones or any other food?

Then this interview is for them.

I enjoyed this interview with Rowan to learn about how to keep your family pet healthy through the food you feed them, in this case a raw dog food.

He made some interesting connections between dogs and humans in terms of the huge impact a highly processed, unnatural diet can have on health.

This actually makes a whole lot of sense!

Special thanks to Rowan for joining me on the show.

Enjoy the episode!

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Hear episode 67 directly on your favorite podcast app by clicking a link below:

Speaker Links

Rowan Sanderson
Rowan Sanderson: team member at Bella & Duke and Practitioner of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition

Follow, or find out more about, Rowan on these official links:

Show Notes with Timestamp Links

Find summarised highlights of what we talk about during the interview.

Use the clickable timestamp links to jump direct to those points in the audio file below:

[00:19] – Introducing, Rowan Sanderson, who is a member of the team at the raw pet food company called Bella & Duke (based in Scotland) and a practitioner of functional diagnostic nutrition whose ultimate obsession is asking “Why?” followed by solving the question “How can we fix this?”. He is a qualified Bulletproof coach; currently doing further training with Chris Kresser from the California Center for Functional Medicine. Also, he is very passionate about saving dogs and improving their health!

[02:10] – What is raw dog food? Rowan explains that for him, this is a diet that is an evolutionary specific diet that fits the dog’s biology; it helps lower inflammation, improves longevity, improves mitochondrial function, is accessible, easy to digest and also provides all the essential nutrients specific to individual dog’s needs. It nourishes rather than creates disease.

[04:39] – While there are some differences between dogs and humans there are also a lot of similarities in the health issues they experience. They too suffer from arthritis, IBS, pancreatitis, autoimmune diseases, hormonal issues. Rowan explains how he has applied the lessons learned from his online functional health clinic; food is a vital part in creating these issues.

[06:34] – Raw means uncooked food; animal proteins, meat, bone, cartilage etc. By having it raw, it remains in the form that dogs have evolved to eat it, while retaining an array of potentially beneficial bacteria for the dog’s microbiome, being easier to digest and when bones are in question, they are less likely to splinter.

[08:11] – Dogs ate this way before the invention of processed dog food and were remarkably healthier, with longer life spans and less disease. E.g. Pancreatitis in dogs increased by around 850% in the US in the last five years.

[10:53] – Rowan points out that this is not a new and unproven diet and that it’s with the creation of processed food that dogs’ health has deteriorated – similarly to humans. When dogs go on a raw diet they have incredible recoveries from numerous health issues including diabetes and schizophrenia.

[12:20] – Dogs also suffer mentally from eating the wrong diet. Rowan explains how eating something that causes inflammation leads to depression, intestinal permeability (which also leads to autoimmune disease), anxiety, lethargy etc.  (Listen to our interviews with Mikhaila Peterson and Amber O’Hearn for more on carnivore diet benefits to mental healh)

[14:08] – Rowan explains he does not know of any other industries that advocate junk food as a way for health. Bags of dried food a.k.a kibble is exactly like cereals for humans.

[16:05] – Is raw pet food nutritionally deficient when compared to scientifically formulated dog ‘kibble?  Rowan explains that even if dog kibble was nutritionally whole the delivery method is a huge problem as it is made with mechanically recovered leftovers from the human food industry, full of oxidants and sugars and starch which dogs – being carnivorous – are not designed to thrive on.

[18:47] – The raw food, on the other hand, is nutritionally dense real food, that doesn’t need any additional vitamins and minerals added to it. Rowan explains that some dogs experience a transitional period where it has difficulty digesting the raw food when coming off kibble. Food enzymes help make this transition easier. All dogs instinctively prefer the human grade meat and bones!

[20:18] – The microbiome (which starts in the mouth) in humans and dogs are designed to be vastly different. Studies have shown longevity in cat owners that is partly contributed to an increased microbiome diversity.

[21:29] – Rowan explains that people are often concerned over raw food and bacteria such as salmonella. That is why they flash freeze the food (while preserving the nutrient content). In his human clinic, when testing peoples’ gastrointestinal tract, it is extremely rare not to see bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella etc., in the human biome. This only becomes a problem if they don’t have enough good bacteria to keep them in check.

[22:55] – Different environments contribute to different biomes but are also a source of different toxins. An Australian farm had three dogs live to over 30 years old; he intermittently fasts them and feeds them raw pasteurised dairy. Rowan and his colleague Mark did a podcast recently discussing if all dogs have this genetic potential? Are we harming them with a processed diet?

[25:38] – What are the benefits to teeth and their mouth structure? By not getting a lot of starch their digestion is improved, the pathogenic bacteria are kept in check in the stomach, mouth or by the healthy gut biome and there is less teeth decay. The bones in the food are already broken down to avoid any injuries but there are other treats available for improving jaw strength and dental health.

BioHackers Lab Tip: Listen to Dr Steven Lin for more about mouth microbiome and diet and healthy teeth and gums.

[28:53] – Dogs, being carnivores, thrive on an all-meat diet which is rich in healthy fats. In addition, there are things like raw carrots added to feed the microbiome and they provide antioxidants without spiking insulin.

[30:13] – Rowan shows of his 2-week-old puppy Bear on the YouTube video.  Rowan explains how there is never a wrong time to introduce healthier food to your dog. Lowering inflammation and improving mitochondrial efficiency is always going to help people and dogs recover quicker. He explains how he will be using organic goat milk kefir along with the raw food to wean his puppies and help their microbiome even more.

[33:47] – Are there any other differences in food for puppies, adults and older dogs? Puppy food is ground a lot finer to make it even easier on digestion and is also designed to help and support puppies in the growth phase. Similarly to the debate in humans, do older dogs also need more protein? Rowan believes it is a combination of things that are going on; lack of stimulus and lack of enzymes. He recommends adding collagen or gelatine into dog food and supplementing with digestive enzymes.

[37:26] – It is always a good idea to pulse in digestive enzymes for both humans and dogs to improve digestion, but you don’t need them all the time. Improved digestion can help with itchy skin, IBS, and bloating or flatulence. People focus on probiotics, which while super beneficial in other ways make bloating worse.

[40:58] – Dogs digestion almost always improves on a raw diet. Rowan explains that they only had a couple of cases in the last two years where the dog wasn’t thriving, and this was because they had severely compromised digestion, which was improved with digestive enzymes.

[41:36] – Rowan explains their mission at Bella & Duke is to save dogs’ lives. To do so they are focused on being as honest and transparent in terms of what they are doing right, what they’re doing wrong and how they can help people to progress and grow. Their Facebook group is open and welcoming; with people exchanging anecdotal, n=1 experimentation and various issues they’ve got with dogs. They are also going to do a series of podcasts with solutions to common problems.

[44:13] – Is the raw food diet applicable for all breeds. Rowan explains people generally stick to having 80% meat, 10% bone and 10% offal with small amounts of fruit and vegetables added in. He doesn’t know a single person who has not seen massive improvements in their dog eating raw dog food.

[45:53] – Rowan’s tip when looking for raw dog food is to focus on quality sourced human grade meat devoid of added powders, additives, and allergens. Like humans, dogs are also sensitive to lectins, so also look for something which does not contain lectin.

[47:14] – The Bella & Duke product currently comes delivered in a box, flash frozen in individual containers, akin to ready meal trays which can be thawed out. These containers can be returned or recycled, and Rowan explains they are constantly evolving to find environmentally friendly practical solutions. It is a subscription service with regular deliveries which means the meals are never frozen for long periods of time.

[48:47] – If they wish, those with access to quality products can try making the dog meals themselves. Rowan explains it’s a question of balancing costs, emotional bandwidth, feasibility, accessibility, and quality nutrients. As with our own meals, it is not so much about what you eat, it’s what, what you eat ate. He advises grinding the food up a little and throwing in a little bit of seasonal local vegetables which won’t spike the insulin response.

[53:00] – For those wanting to find out more on related topics, the Bella & Duke website is a great place to start. They also have a YouTube channel with videos about what they are doing and why, as well as a whole suite of podcasts on iTunes. Also, don’t forget to check out their Facebook group!