Canine cleanses are getting popular among dog owners — here's why

Aug 15, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. ET

One of the latest pet crazes in Hollywood is putting dogs on raw food diets. Known as a canine cleanse, this clean-eating regimen for pups is touted as being key in promoting long-term health for our favorite furry friends. But is a canine cleanse really necessary or even safe for dogs?

According to famed Yogi and healthy living activist Rainbeau Mars, author of the 21 Day SuperStar Cleanse, there is nothing controversial about feeding dogs raw foods and shunning the junk ingredients commonly found in commercial dog food. "Cleanses aren't necessary in nature, but we've gotten so far away from how we'd eat in the wild," she explains. "Many popular dog food brands use fillers and ingredients we wouldn't feed our worst enemies, so we can't be surprised when our beloved pets fall sick."

Mars recently headed up a 14-Day Family Health Challenge, which invited families and their pets to detox their diet. The guidelines included avoiding factory farmed products, white sugar and flour, fried and fast foods, and chemicals while eating plenty of nutrient-dense organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins and vegan or raw foods. What does this mean for your dog?

Mars' recommendation:

  • 75 percent of your dog's diet be comprised of organic animal produce such as raw wild salmon or raw bison
  • 25 percent of your dog's diet be comprised of some type of vegetable, such as squash or carrot
  • Experiment with other raw or vegan sources of food such as coconut, quinoa, nuts and other foods dogs would find in the wild

Mars collaborates with Dr. Roger Valentine, a holistic pet and human health expert in Southern California, who encourages the canine cleanse and for pet owners to clean up their pets' diet. "It's best if animals are raised the way they would be in the wild," he explains. "Yes, they need protein, but it doesn't need to come from a can. We could instill longer, healthier lives for our pets if we paid more attention to how we treat and feed them."

Participants in the 14-Day Family Health Challenge report that their dogs have less anxiety, more energy and healthier coats. The purported long-term effects of a canine cleanse are increased health, disease prevention, higher quality of pet life and fewer vet bills.

Actress Shannon Elizabeth, who is vegan, has her pack of tail waggers on a cleanse protocol and can't imagine feeding them any other way. She says, "I like to feed my kids (dogs) in a way that simulates how they would eat in the wild. So many diseases pets get don’t exist in nature and only came about with the invention of processed dog foods. It might cost a little more to feed them this way, but it pays for itself in the lack of vet bills many times over, especially as they get older." Other celebrities who are all for the canine cleanse include Alison Eastwood, Travis Barker and Woody Harrelson.

However, not everyone is on board with a doggy detox diet.

Dr. Benjamin Savard, DVM, head veterinarian at the Raintree Pet Resort and Medical Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, isn't in favor of Mars' canine cleanse regimen.

"First of all, I don't think it's necessary for a dog's health," Dr. Savard says. "The purpose of a cleanse for people is to cleanse out toxins that have built up due to a poor diet, and there is no hard and fast research on dogs that cleanses are beneficial."

There is also a risk of nutritional deficiencies that can occur if pet owners don't have adequate knowledge about the nutrients that dogs need. But malnourishment isn't the vet's most concerning issue with the canine cleanse. "My biggest concern is that this particular protocol recommends giving raw meats to their pets," he states. "Raw meats can be deadly for people and the same can be said for dogs. In particular, raw beef, poultry, pork or fish can cause illness due to parasites, E. coli and salmonella." Even the highest quality raw products can be a health risk for dogs.

Dr. Savard says if you are going to put your dog through a canine cleanse, avoid raw meats and make sure that all animal products are cooked properly. He also recommends contacting a veterinarian who specializes in canine nutrition to make sure that you include adequate proportions and the best balance of foods to ensure your dog doesn't suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

Whether or not you decide to put your dog through a canine cleanse, Dr. Savard says that feeding your dog a high-quality dog food, such as Science Diet, will give your best furry friends all they need for optimal nutrition and health.

More on your dog's health

6 Common dog ailments every owner should know
Canine health risks that lurk at the dog park
Signs and symptoms of pet cancer