I’ve been raw feeding for many years and my dogs are very healthy but there is one issue I’ve been unable to resolve, and that is bile vomiting. My dogs seem to do it at least a couple times a month, and it usually happens on a fasting day.
Like you, I was also mystified about my dog’s periodic bile vomiting even after years of raw feeding. I had noticed that it always happened when his stomach was empty, and usually while I was in the kitchen preparing food. I asked everybody I could think of about this, including expert raw feeders. I was always told that it’s just the sign of an empty stomach and I should feed my dog.
This didn’t make sense to me. A dog’s stomach should be able to handle being empty, since the stomachs of wild dogs are empty most of the time. The only difference is that when the bodies of wild dogs prepare to eat it’s because the prospect of food is real and imminent. Domestic dogs have no feeding autonomy. They are dependent on us for food, and it seems reasonable that their bodies can be triggered into preparing for it as a habituated response to certain environmental stimuli, whether or not food is actually forthcoming.
So after much reflection, it finally occurred to me that a combination of conditioning and my activity in the kitchen was causing my dog’s body to prepare itself for food, much like the act of hunting would, if he was living in the wild. Since part of that preparation process involves enzymes and digestive fluids being secreted into the stomach to assist with the breaking down of the anticipated foods, I theorized that when foods are not actually forthcoming, the bile and other assorted secretions irritate the stomach lining, which causes the body to eject them through vomiting.
But this was only part of the story. Since the function of bile is to break down fats, I was forced to conclude that the underlying cause must be related to fat in the diet. It seemed obvious to me that the body was simply overproducing bile, which could only be caused by the overconsumption of fat. I tested this theory by cutting way back on the fat content of my dog’s food. Previous to this, I had not been in the habit of trimming the fat from his food and was even feeding a small percentage of ground meat which often contains high fat. It took a few months for the vomiting to stop. After that, it happened a couple times a year for a couple years until it stopped completely. I know others who have made the same changes with the same successful results.
Some dogs vomit bile in late puppyhood but have decreasing episodes as they grow into adulthood even if the diet does not change. Because of this, some people insist that bile vomiting is a normal part of physiological development. We can be fairly certain this is not the case, however. It takes energy for the body to produce digestive fluids like bile. Living organisms (human, canine, etc.) are extremely economical. Everything has a function. The body doesn’t over- or under-produce by mistake, it does so in response to some deleterious influence. Our job is to find and remove the harmful influence. In this case it’s rather easy because we know that the function of bile is to break down fat. Too much bile can only mean there’s too much fat in the diet.
In addition, there’s an important clue to be noted in the fact that the problem doesn’t usually show itself until a dog is into the teenage months. What this tells us is that it is a condition that develops slowly over time (pathological degeneration). Too much fat in the diet creates the need for the body to overproduce bile but it takes awhile for the body to adapt to this need. It most likely does occur earlier in kibble fed dogs than raw fed, because generally the bigger the feeding mistakes the quicker the degeneration. However, kibble fed dogs may not actually exhibit the symptom as much as raw fed since kibble stays in the stomach longer and is typically fed more often (free feeding) so the stomach is not empty as much. Obviously that doesn’t mean degeneration isn’t taking place. It will just show itself in other ways.
As a dog gets into adulthood, if the same feeding mistakes continue, the body continues to respond in the only way it can — by producing bile in the quantities it deems necessary to break down the excessive fats in the diet. If the dog starts to bile-vomit less as time goes on, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s “outgrown” the problem. What it means is that the stomach lining has become tougher as a consequence of frequent contact with the acidic, undiluted bile. In that situation, the cost of having the bile stay in the stomach may be less than the expenditure of resources it would take to eject it. Vomiting is a very costly emergency device; if the body can find a way to more efficiently protect itself, it will. There will always be a cost, however. Like a callous on your hand or increased tolerance for alcohol or drugs in humans, a dog’s body will have to give up in sensitivity and vitality what it gains in protection. Increased tolerance always means a corresponding decrease in vitality. A stomach that has had to adapt itself to wrong feeding will not be able to function optimally and efficiently. And since the body operates as a whole unit, there will be other problems caused by these mistakes, although they may not show up until much later. Chronic bile vomiting is an early warning that there is trouble ahead if we don’t make changes.
It may be relevant here to point out that the domestically raised animals that we feed to our dogs have a great deal of fat on their bodies because they are overfed and fed unnatural, high-starch, drug-laced foods. By contrast, the natural diet of most prey animals produces a very low toxic load, and much less body fat. These are the animals that our dogs are biologically adapted to eat. The foods that domestic dogs are fed diverge sufficiently from this to cause pathogenic conditions so common that they may seem inevitable, unavoidable and even “normal”. Bile vomiting is a perfect example. Bile vomiting is common, maybe even so much so that it is “average”, but it is NOT normal.
We have to consider the suffering of the dogs as well. I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t think it would be fun to have my stomach lining so irritated that it would elect to expend the considerable energy and resources necessary to eject its contents. Vomiting brings relief but the act itself is downright unpleasant as well. Wouldn’t it be better to stay open to finding and removing the causes of this problem so our dogs don’t have to experience it at all? Frequent feeding is not the answer. It not only exacerbates the original problem (while suppressing its effects, similar to the way drugs work), it carries additional costs of its own.
Digestion represents the greatest drain on energy of all the body’s various processes. We can’t expect to have healthy dogs if we never give their bodies a chance to cleanse and heal, the way nature would. The problem is, cleansing, healing and digestion cannot happen concurrently. Can you talk on the phone, wash the dishes, prepare dinner and write in your journal all at the same time? This may seem ridiculous but it’s perfectly analogous. The body does lots of multi-tasking but it has its limits. You don’t have to take my word for this. Just watch your dog turn down food next time he’s highly stressed. They know that digestion cannot happen when vital energies are being diverted to deal with a stressful situation. There are a million examples of how various bodily processes shut down when too much is being asked of the body all at once. One of the costs of frequent feeding to “prevent” bile vomiting will be that the dog will never be able to go a day or so without eating at all, which is almost universally recognized now (thank goodness) as a very beneficial practice. Regular fasting greatly extends the life of dogs because it replicates what they adapted to in their long biological development as a species. The ONLY time a dog’s body can catch up on its eliminative backlog is when the stomach is empty.
Additionally, feeding doesn’t always prevent bile vomiting, as it turns out. This excerpt is from an article I found on one of the veterinary sites:
“Pet owners can also see vomiting in their dog immediately after a meal. This occurs because the bile and gastric fluids irritated the stomach beforehand, and adding food to the equation is simply too much for the already-upset stomach to handle.”
And finally this, from the same article:
Dr. Levine concluded, “Most cases involving a dog who is vomiting a yellow fluid can be solved with more frequent feedings, medication and a couple other measures. But in a few instances, an underlying problem is to blame. So if you don’t see improvement, additional investigation will be required.”
Apparently the best advice the veterinary profession has for us is to feed constantly and if that doesn’t work, they’ll be ready with the drugs. Be assured, that’s what is meant by “additional investigation”. Diagnosing is all about determining which drugs to administer. It has nothing to do with discovery and removal of cause.
Unfortunately, nobody seems to be discussing the true underlying causes of bile vomiting. The information I’ve discovered and am sharing here offers the only hope I’ve seen of getting to the bottom of it. If I had found anything like this discussion when I was working on unraveling this mystery, I surely would have been grateful. It’s for others who want the best for their dogs that I take the time and trouble to share what I’ve learned.
ELECTIVE TUMOR REMOVAL
I adopted a 9-year-old mixed lab from a shelter. The shelter took her to their vet and had a lump on her chest looked at. This vet said to watch and see if it gets any bigger and if it does, get it checked again. I took her to my vet and mine looked at the lump, which had grown some, and she said it needs to be removed and checked for cancer. My vet would charge around $500 for the operation, which would include everything, hospital stay for 1/2 day, anesthesia, etc. I could really use the extra money for other things for my dog, BUT I also want her to have the best of care. What do you think?
All remedial disease treatments should be evaluated in terms of cost versus benefit. Without even acknowledging the financial cost, the other costs of tumor removal are very high (harm, stress, toxicity and recovery time for the animal) and are not usually considered by vets, while the benefits are questionable and typically exaggerated. Even when a tumor is associated with cancer, tumor removal has not been shown to increase survivability and may even decrease it, especially if the dog owner is not prepared thereafter to change the way he treats and feeds the dog. The tumor is not the enemy! It is merely a symptom of a much, much larger problem that can only be resolved through removal of cause.
Despite veterinary propaganda to the contrary, the causes of tumors are easily determinable. Once causes have been identified, it’s an easy matter to eliminate them. The one exception that could make surgical removal a preferable option is when a tumor is interfering with the functioning of a vital organ.
Surgical tumor removal is not a conservative approach. It is risky, radical and frought with harmful consequences. The natural way of dealing with tumors is gentle on the dog, has no side effects, and is almost always successful. These methods are not researched, since there is no money to be made, so we are left to rely on logic, reason, what we know to be true of how life works, and so-called anecdotal information. There are literally thousands of testimonials on record from people who either resolved tumors on their own bodies or whose animals’ tumors autolyzed on their own, using methods which involved NO supplements, no herbs, no remedies, no chemo (of course) and, in fact, no medical or veterinary intervention at all, “holistic” or otherwise.
Unfortunately, nobody’s speaking the truth about all these unnecessary tumor surgeries. They are not harmless, and neither are biopsies. It is common for dogs to succumb to cancer or other severe illnesses within months of having ‘benign’ tumors removed. Vets claim there is no connection, but in truth the harm and toxicity associated with tumor removal can push an already compromised dog over the edge. Even needle biopsies are not harmless, and are not necessary, because finding out whether your dog has cancer or not will not reveal to you what needs to be done to resolve either the tumor or the cancer, since vets are not taught this information. Biopsies are far more beneficial to vets than they are to dogs or dog owners, because they give vets the opportunity to scare dog owners into submitting to harmful drug, herbal or surgical treatments, none of which prolongs life or improves quality of life but causes much additional suffering to the dog.
The body doesn’t make a mistake when it forms a tumor. A tumor is a brilliant engineering feat that costs the body a good deal of its precious resources. The body only forms tumors if it deems dangerous the level of toxicity in the blood. Tumors are nothing but temporary depositories that sequester toxins and extraordinary wastes and keep them out of the bloodstream and away from tissues and organs. Tumors are sometimes associated with cancer because when the bloodstream becomes saturated with waste, cells adapt themselves to an acidic, anaerobic environment. The body forms tumors as a way of protecting itself, and keeping itself functioning at the highest possible level, given the circumstances it is dealt. Even cancer is the body’s last ditch effort to accommodate itself to sustained injurious influences. That veterinary and medical professionals typically remove tumors and send the patient home without a moment’s thought to why the tumor formed in the first place is criminal. Their claim that nobody’s capable of understanding the causes of tumors is completely false and self-serving.
In dogs and humans, the obvious problem is too much waste in the body: indigestible foods, vaccines, medicines, herbs, fake nutrients (supplements), etc. Of course since vets and doctors contribute to these sources, they’re not about to tell us that they cause harm.
These ideas have been lost in an avalanche of medical belief that gets pounded into our brains from all directions everyday, and that’s why they are unfamiliar. For people whose minds are not yet committed to medicine (so-called holistic as well as allopathic), they offer great potential for understanding disease and approaching it in a way that involves the least amount of additional harm.
The wisdom of the body is far greater than our capacity to fully comprehend it. We may not know why tumors form in the areas they do, although it can sometimes be surmised if enough information is known about the habits and history of the afflicted individual. But that’s not really necessary, it’s only necessary to remove those harmful influences in the diet and/or lifestyle of the afflicted dog (or person) that are generally known to cause disease. That’s what the science of health (aka Natural Hygiene) helps us do. It’s important to note that when tumors do occur in areas where surgeons can’t get at them, like in the brain or inside a bone, other even more harmful methods are typically employed, including the kinds that have a record of deadly outcomes, like chemo, radiation, etc. In these situations, the cancer always gets the blame for the death, but it’s the treatments and the continuation of original causes which are responsible.
The fundamental difference in the health science approach is that it holds that disease does not happen randomly or indiscriminately. It has causes, just like everything else in the universe. That being the case, it’s not even necessary to prevent it, it’s only necessary to not cause it.