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Why Cooking of Dog Food Can Cause Allergies and Malnourishment...

From the desk of Mogens Eliasen - first published: June 5, 2003

Mogens Eliasen - the author of this article
on 'cooking'

Has anyone ever see a wolf sitting around the campfire cooking his food?

When we heat food, we dramatically change the chemistry of it. Humans cook food because we want to eat food we are not biologically programmed to eat. We cannot digest raw meat - but we can handle the cooked meat…

Dogs are carnivores. They are programmed to digest raw meat - and they don't deal very well with cooked food…

Understanding the chemistry of digestion

Proteins are huge molecules - thousands of atoms combined. They are so big that they cannot penetrate the intestine's semi-permeable walls and enter into the blood stream. They must first be broken down to smaller molecules, sometimes the very building stones of proteins - amino acids (typically some 10-100 atoms). However, more often than not, the digestion process does not go that far. The body cannot build everything from amino acids. The "protein fractions" that are produced by the digestion process are thus a very fine adjusted "compromise" between whole protein molecules (that are too big and too complex to be useful) and simple amino acids (that are too small and too simple to be useful).

These "protein fractions" (typically a few hundred atoms) are very unique for the species. They represent a very delicate balance between the nutrients the body needs and can make good use of and the specific chemistry provided by the enzymes in the stomach when given access to the natural food.

You can think of an enzyme as "a hand" that grabs a piece of the big protein molecule and breaks this piece off. That piece now becomes a "protein fraction", with a very unique chemical structure. The enzyme continues doing this, until the protein no longer contains any parts it can grab.

There are thousands of enzymes. Each one is unique. Each one attacks a very specific part of a protein. Each enzyme must find an exact match in order to "break it off" the protein molecule.

The total effect of all the enzymes is that they break the proteins down into "protein fractions" that are small enough to be absorbed and transported by the blood, and they are extremely unique and exactly fitted to what the body needs. Each enzyme produces its own "fraction" from an adequate food source. If the food source isn't adequate, it cannot produce anything, even though the food appears to contain "all the fundamental nutrients" in the form of all the right amino acids...

Heating protein - breaking the structure down

In a way, this enzyme breakdown process is similar to what happens when you heat a protein. Heat generally means, "supplying molecular energy". The protein molecules absorb this energy by moving. They shake and rotate. The more heat, the faster they move.

Now, when you start to shake and vibrate a huge "clumsy" molecular structure like a protein, it will break into pieces! Literally. When you cool those pieces down again, they do not recombine, because they got separated from each other... hence the irreversible change of the structure by cooking.

Many of those pieces that were created by the heat process will now be small enough to be absorbed through the wall of the intestines, so they go into the blood. Others will still retain parts that can be adequately treated by some of the enzymes, at least partially. Some of them will even be identical to some of those that were made by the enzymes when they worked alone - but that is the rare exception...

All these fractions might still, to some degree, be useful for the body. It might be able to find ways of using those "unusual" ones that are produced in addition to those that are identical to what was produced exclusively by the enzyme process. It might cause some stress, though...

The problem is that mixture of protein-fractions that is produced by the cooking plus the enzyme digestion is NOT the same as what is produced by the enzymes alone....

It is documented that several vital components are missing (at least 30 chemically known such "protein fractions", called "missing links", are identified as vital for dogs, just as vitamins are for you and me - and those "missing links" are not to be found in any heat processed meat.)

Why some dogs get allergies from cooked meat…

There are also components generated that are not fitting with the body's metabolism, but they are small enough to get absorbed into the blood... They could very well be allergens!

The risk of this is particularly increased because heating generates a lot of "protein fractions" that are identical - and hence occur in large concentrations. "Large", compared to what the body can handle, as far as its ability to deal with inadequate protein goes. It does not take much to exceed the immune system's threshold for what it considers "a concern" - and you have an allergy break-out as a result of feeding cooked meat, which really is nothing but an overreaction from the immune system towards a foreign substance it cannot deal with in any other way...


There is another big difference between raw and cooked. Many proteins will, when heated, not only break down into smaller pieces, but those smaller pieces will, in certain cases, recombine with each other and generate a substance that is similar to a plastic polymer. This way, the original protein is transformed into another huge macromolecule that may or may not be easy for the enzymes to attach.

A similar process can happen also on dehydration.

The classic examples are egg yolk and blood. When heated, egg yolk coagulates into a solid substance that still contains many of the original building elements of the raw yolk, but not all of them. On top, the structure has totally changed because of this polymerization, and there is no way you will ever get the original raw yolk back...

With blood, it is similar, except that, here, the coagulation is caused by a combined effect of dehydration and exposure to oxygen in the air. As all mothers know, bloodstains do not get liquid again when you try to add water...

The combined effect of all this

The thermal decomposition will also have some positive effects: it will literally make certain parts of the digestion process easier and less demanding on the enzymes, as the cooking already did part of their job breaking down the big protein molecules in the food. But the price was a toll on the available nutrients, and the creation of some that may not be adequate food at all... For people, who are not meant to be carnivores but want to eat meat, this is great news - it enables us to eat meat! But for a dog that is meant to handle the raw food, it is outright destructive.

Coagulation alone can explain why certain nutrients "disappear" when you cook food. But the two types of processes both work for that. Personally, I believe it is a combination of the two that produces the overall effect.

The conclusion should be obvious: Don't cook your dog's food!


Mogens Eliasen


Mogens Eliasen holds a mag. scient. degree (comparable to a US Ph. D.) in Chemistry from Århus University, Denmark, has a extensive education also as military officer and in business management. He has been working with dogs, dog owners, dog trainers, and veterinarians since 1970. A large part of his dog work has been in the area of education and education planning, and as consultant for dog owners and dog training associations. He is a strong advocate of treating the dog with respect for its nature as domesticated wolf, and has published several books and videos on topics related to dogs, dog training, dog behavior, and responsible care of dogs. He publishes a newsletter "The Peeing Post" containing lots of tips and advice on all matters pertaining to dogs.

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Titles available from K9joy®:

Anders Hallgren:
"The ABC's of Dog Language" (140 page book - 1996)
Understand what your dog is telling you - and communicate with it on its own terms. A must have for all dog lovers. Easy to read. Easy to use as reference.

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Dog's Social Behavior" (2.5 hr. video - 1998, updated on DVD 2006, with support materials on a CD)
How the dog's behavior is linked to its instincts and needs. What you can change and what is "for life". How you use this information to dramatically improve your relationship with your dog.

Mogens Eliasen:
"BrainWork for Smart Dogs" (380 page e-book - 2003)
How you get a happy and well-behaved dog, stimulating its brain with 15 minutes of fun per day. Dogs need to work and use their instinct in order to be in mental balance. Everyone can do it with these instructions. More than 40 exercises to choose from!

Mogens Eliasen:
"Don't Pull on the Leash!" (40 page e-book - 2005)
The 5 simple steps in this complete training manual will effectively stop any dog from pulling on the leash, with no pain or abuse and no special equipment - and make the start of a much better relationship with the dog.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Is Your Dog's Drinking Water Safe?" (30 page e-book - 2005, updated 2006)
A layman's overview of how and why drinking water gets contaminated - and what you can do about it.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Feeding Your Dog - the Natural Way" (1 hr. video - 1998)
The fastest introduction to get you started on feeding your dog a natural diet. It explains the dog's physiology in simple terms, so you also understand why you should do this.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Canine Choice - by Nature" (80 page e-book - 1999, updated 2005)
The simple "how-to" about feeding a natural diet for optimal health.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Raw Food for Dogs - the Ultimate Reference for Dog Owners"
(340 page e-book - revised/expanded 2006)
Everything you need for making your own informed decisions about what to feed your dog, and why and how. Includes numerous examples of feeding plans plus two chapters on how to work with your vet, also if he/she does not approve of your feeding...

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Wolf's Natural Diet - a Feeding Guide for Your Dog?"
(125 page e-book - 2004 updated/revised 2006)
What we know and don't know about the wolf and its natural feeding, and about the dog and its domestication, and what we can and cannot conclude from wolf to dog... this is the big "why?" behind any responsible approach to feeding your dog.

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