Raw Tips

Bad behavior linked to diet.

The food we feed our pets can have major impacts on their health and behavior. Behavioral issues—dramatic changes in mood, signs of strange new habits, even aggression—can be challenging to overcome and addressing these concerns can feel overwhelming. But the solution may be simpler than you think. Read more below on the impact that essential nutrients can have on pet behavior and hear from Professional Dog Trainers Kelly Gilbert and Ben Miller from Bark Busters, MD on the importance of proper nutrition when curbing destructive behaviors.

How to detect signs of malnourishment in your pet.

Brown puppy scratching its neck

A key indicator of your pet’s health is their stool – what color it is, the consistency, and how frequently they go. The same can be said about an animal’s skin—the largest organ in their body which equates to 10-15% of their body weight. Changes to your pet’s skin can indicate potential problems with their overall health. Pets can experience hair loss, dull coat, skin flakiness or infection, itchiness, or skin disease if their food lacks the essential nutrients they need to be their healthiest selves.  

Alongside these physical symptoms, malnourishment can manifest in behavioral symptoms as well. “Behavioral issues and malnutrition go hand in hand”, says Ben of Bark Busters. Kelly and Ben’s work focuses on pinpointing the source of their four-legged clients’ behavioral issues, educating pet parents on good leadership, and teaching them communication techniques. Hyperactivity, aggression, and eating inedible materials— sticks, wood, furniture, and cardboard—are just a few examples of some behavioral abnormalities they work to correct. 

In their initial consultation, Bark Busters educates their clients on the importance of nutrition. Kelly explains that “dog DNA is 99% wolf still to this day, and we know that wolves are eating raw meats, organs, and bones in the wild. Dog DNA also requires these nutrients in their diet. Kibble ingredients are cooked at high temperatures and then bonded together with carbohydrates and fillers causing a lot of waste in the dogs’ system.” 

While dogs have come to differ from wolves in some ways, they still benefit greatly from a raw food diet as opposed to highly processed pet food. Kelly and Ben have seen incredible changes to their clients’ behavior once pet parents switch to a truly raw diet.  Kelly describes many breakthroughs, such as “a huge decrease in hyperactivity, no more digging holes in the backyard, no more picking up random earthy materials throughout their walks, no more allergy issues, a better coat, less defecating because there is less waste, and more!”

What’s going on in our pets’ bodies?

To better understand how nutrition impacts animal behavior, it is essential to understand the biological processes working hard behind the scenes in your pet’s body—and what these processes need to function correctly.


Enzymes are compounds present in your pet’s gut and are essential for the digestion and absorption of food and nutrients. Active enzymes are catalysts for many biological processes such as the breakdown of food molecules and cellular metabolism. Kibble and canned pet foods undergo intense processing that typically involves high heat which destroys the beneficial enzymes that occur naturally in raw food. Physical symptoms of enzyme deficiencies that can result from eating a highly processed diet may include chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and increased gas and stools. These deficiencies over time can ultimately lead to changes in behavior.

Essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids

Essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids work synergistically in nature with enzymes and beneficial bacteria to offer animals balanced nutrition. High heat processing, exposure to oxygen, and storage conditions can all adversely affect the amount and quality of these essential nutrients within processed kibble or canned pet food. 

Amino acids (proteins)

Amino acids (proteins) are the building blocks of the body. Processed kibble and canned pet foods often use plant sources to boost overall protein levels in their food. However, unlike meat and animal products, plant sources of protein do not provide a complete amino acid profile.  

Two amino acids that impact your pet’s mood are tryptophan and taurine. Tryptophan deficiencies have been proven to cause depression, anxiety, and aggression. This is because tryptophan synthesizes melatonin, niacin, and serotonin in your pet’s body which all encourage a more balanced mood. Dogs cannot produce tryptophan within the body; therefore, it must be provided daily through the diet. Foods that are naturally high in tryptophan include raw eggs, rabbit, beef liver, turkey, and pork. 

Taurine is another amino acid that is important for dogs, and especially essential for cats. While dogs can synthesize taurine within their bodies, this requires sufficient amounts of the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Plant protein does not provide taurine and is often low in methionine and cysteine. Taurine is also degraded by heat and air exposure, which makes supplementation necessary in a kibble diet. However, even with supplementation, processed pet foods may be low in these amino acids due to various factors. Symptoms of taurine deficiency can include lethargy and skin or fur issues, which have been linked to heart disease in cats and dogs. Natural foods high in taurine include poultry, fish, liver, and heart.


Water is essential to almost every bodily function. Electrolytes, otherwise known as macro minerals, include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium, and chloride. Hydration is not possible without electrolytes, as they help the body hold onto water. Due to the difficulties with digesting kibble, synthetic electrolytes are often not absorbed by your pet’s body. Serving regular tap water with kibble may not actually hydrate your pet because their body lacks adequate electrolytes to retain the water. Symptoms of dehydration can include loss of skin elasticity, low energy, acute vomiting, diarrhea, or panting.

A healthy gut

A healthy gut microbiome with beneficial flora will impact your pet’s behavior. The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published a study examining dogs with historical behavioral issues, the gut microbiome structure, and their adrenocortical activity. Their findings concluded that the gut microbiome structure should be considered when mitigating animal behavior disorders. Green tripe or kefir are great options for natural probiotics or add in a scoop of Protect: Soil Based Probiotic as an easy alternative.

Food Dyes.

It has been observed in children and other animal studies that certain food dyes can adversely affect behavior, and it is safe to consider that this may also be the case in dogs. Many processed pet foods and treats contain these food dyes. These are not included for the dog’s benefit, and are purely used to make the food more visually appealing to the pet parent.

Carbohydrates (aka sugar).

Carbohydrates (aka sugar) are divided into two categories: fiber and starch. Starch is the storage form of sugar, with multiple sugars bound together. When starchy carbohydrates are ingested, they are broken down into simple sugars in order to be absorbed by the body, which in turn increases blood sugar levels. While these sugars can be utilized for energy, it is not the ideal energy source for a carnivore. Processed kibble and canned pet foods almost always contain very high amounts of starchy carbohydrates, and therefore sugar. These are included both as inexpensive calorie fillers, as well as binding agents to ensure that kibble retains its shape. Spikes in blood sugar due to a starch-heavy, processed diet may inflame behavioral issues in dogs. Many pet owners report calmer and more balanced energy levels when hyperactive dogs are switched to a raw diet.

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Good nutrition fuels good behavior.

Fresh food ingredients support a happy and healthy pet. Raw food offers enzymes, vitamins, minerals, synergistic processes, complete amino acids, water with natural electrolytes, and natural probiotics to support a healthy gut and brain. Make the switch to raw, read our educational blogs, or browse our canine nutrition services to get a tailored raw consultation or recipe for your pet. 

Disclaimer: This blog is intended for educational purposes only. You are responsible for your pets’ health and safety. We encourage you to research topics further and consult with your Veterinarian or Pet Nutritionist before modifying your pets’ diet. If you’d like more one-on-one guidance, we offer consultation calls with our in-house raw feeding experts.