What is the Volhard diet for dogs? Advantages and disadvantages

If you’ve been interested in the different ways to feed your dog, you’ve probably heard of natural food and the different specific diets that exist. Among these, there is the Volhard diet.

Let’s try to dig a little deeper into the subject so that we know exactly what it is, its pros and cons.

Where does the Volhard diet come from?

At the origin of this dog diet, is a beautiful story. That of a 5-year-old Newfoundland dog and her owner, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, who became a behaviorist and breeder.

It all started in the United States, when Wendy Volhard learned that her dog Heidi had severe liver disease. The prognosis is grim, he has barely 6 months to live. But that’s without counting on the unconditional love she has for her dog. She refuses to resign herself.

Reading the book The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog, by Juliette de Baïracli Levy, a pioneering herbalist in holistic veterinary medicine (who is interested in dogs as a whole and not just the symptoms of their diseases), will provide her with her first lead.

The herbalist details the dangers and harms of poor dog nutrition. It recommends a partial 2-week fast, to cleanse the body of the animal, and the establishment of a special diet. Wendy thinks she has nothing to lose by trying. She will therefore apply to follow these tips. And quickly, she notices that Heidi’s condition is improving!

Over the next few weeks, Wendy completely questions her dog’s diet. She is definitely eliminating kibble, which was her main diet.

She will gradually modify the diet proposed in the book, by adding, among other things, cereals, raw meat, aromatic herbs, vegetables, while maintaining a short period of fasting and will thus lay the foundations for what officially became, in 1984, the Volhard diet.

As for Heidi? She will finally live 12 and a half years!

What is the Volhard diet?

This diet tends to reduce carbohydrate intake and favor proteins and lipids. It is based on very specific meals, distributed in 2 rations, in the morning and in the evening, for 6 days. The 7th day, the evening meal is suppressed, giving way to fasting.

Cereals are part of the morning ration, while raw meat and liver (animal protein) are only part of the evening. The bones are only given in powder form. Fresh herbs, probiotics (yogurt, kefir), to balance, strengthen or support the intestinal flora, are present every day.

Typical meals consist of:

  • Raw meat and liver (50%);
  • Cereals (20%);
  • Probiotics;
  • Fruits and vegetables ;
  • Fresh aromatic herbs;
  • Molasses;
  • Cod liver oil and safflower oil;
  • Bone powder;
  • Vitamins C, B and E.


According to Wendy Volhard, this diet would allow improve the dog’s digestion and to settle certain troubles.

It would also promote The well-being and the performances of the animal, thanks to the holistic approach, which would stick as close as possible to the natural needs of our companions.

Reducing carbohydrate intake, at their level strictly necessary for the proper functioning of the body, for the benefit of proteins and lipids, would also be a determining element of the good health of dogs.

To make it easier, a dehydrated version was developed, in agreement and in collaboration with the designer.

The inconvenients

With the large number of ingredients that must be prepared, weighed, foods such as bone powder that are not common, vitamin supplementation that should not be mistaken, the detractors of this diet say he is not not easy to apply on a daily basis.

It would also be time consuming and the risk of create deficiencies or imbalances food, if not properly applied, would still be possible.

The use of raw meat is not unanimous among specialists. Indeed, it is likely to contain bacteria (salmonella, listeria, E. Choli …), parasites (tænia), or Aujeszky’s virus, in pork. Dangerous for dogs, they are also transmissible to humans, via saliva and animal feces.

The cost of such a diet is also a drawback mentioned.

The food in question

Our sedentary, stressful lifestyle leads us to seek alternatives to improve our daily lives. Faced with ecological questions, the climate challenge, scandals in the agri-food sector, many of us question our habits, our diet, what we consume and how we do it. Because we want to live well and better.

And what we want for ourselves, it makes sense that we also want it for our companions, whom we love and who accompany us throughout life.

Diet is one of the essential factors for well-being and the good health of the dog and this is an area in which it is possible to act concretely, whether it is to preserve one’s health, or to resolve certain disorders that plague one’s life.

The different eating patterns

When it comes to pet food, there are 4 main types of food:

  • Industrial food;
  • Homemade food;
  • Natural food;
  • Vegetarian and / or vegan food:

Industrial food

Foods and supplements are selected according to their nutritional intake (vitamins, proteins, lipids, etc.) to adapt them to the typical values ​​of the animal (age / weight / stature ratio). The raw materials are transformed according to industrial processes, to arrive at their final form, the croquettes and the pâtés.

Practice, complete and relatively inexpensive, however, this food raises questions, in particular as regards the quality of the raw materials chosen and the transformation process which involves starch, essential for the manufacture of croquettes.

This starch, from the carbohydrate family, if it is present in too large a quantity in the croquettes, is poorly assimilated by our little companions and can be the cause of hyperglycemia (diabetes) and pancreatitis.

advice : Choose good quality kibble, carefully study the labels and choose, preferably, brands that guarantee a low starch rate.

Homemade food, or “household ration”

Like industrial food, it is interested in the nutritional contribution of foods, but differs from the latter by the fact that the foods used are fresh products, cooked at home (meat or fish, vegetables, starches) , to which it is recommended to add certain food supplements and vitamins.

When properly prepared, with the necessary supplements, it is deemed to be of better quality than industrial food, because the products chosen are very little processed.

It is, however, more restrictive to implement, but those who have adopted it say that it is only a matter of habit, just like for us, when we choose to cook to eliminate or reduce our consumption of products. processed.

Natural food – Volhard, BARF, Raw Feeding type diets …

Some of these diets assume that the dog is a carnivorous animal. Raw meat, offal, bones, should be his main diet. Others directly recommend intact, unmodified prey to restore the dog to its original diet.

For others, our companions are “facultative carnivores”. That is to say that they do indeed have the physiological structure of a carnivore, but they may not feed exclusively on meat. They propose to get closer to the natural diet of carnivores, while giving it a balanced and varied diet, based on the right proportions of all food families (fruits, vegetables, raw meats, cereals, etc.), vitamins and food supplements.

Some of these diets are highly criticized and even sometimes discouraged by specialists, especially for the intake of raw meats, as we have seen previously.

Vegetarian and / or vegan food

This diet is based on the principle that dogs have been domesticated and fed by humans for so long that they no longer need meat, or animal protein, in the case of a vegan diet.

It takes up the main principles of vegetarian or vegan diet, transposed and suitable for carnivorous pets. This diet, which comes to us from the United States, remains in the minority, little known and is very controversial for the deficiencies it would cause.

Relatively recent in France and not popular enough for manufacturers and scientists to take a serious look at it, the lack of objective data does not allow definitive conclusions to be drawn.

To conclude, if you decide to change your dog’s diet, remember that there will be a transition phase. Indeed, changing it overnight is not recommended and can cause digestive problems.

And in any case, veterinarian advice is recommended. He knows your dog, his needs, his medical history and the characteristics of his breed. He will be able to give you the right advice.