Inside the Raw vs. Cooked Dog Food Debate: Hollywood's Top Vets Weigh In

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Oprah Winfrey's vet says "dogs are scavengers" and need meats that humans don't provide them, while Bryce Dallas Howard's pet doctor says the animals could get sick off bacteria, parasites or other microorganisms present in the raw food.

In health-conscious L.A., the obsession with eating well can carry over to dog bowls. Most experts agree canines should eat whole foods over processed, feed-grade ingredients, but whether cooked or raw is the subject of big debate.

For director Roland Emmerich, who recently adopted Chihuahua Bella with his husband, Gerardo Soto Emmerich, the decision was easy — after talking to friend Michael Fossat, producer of Netflix doc Pet Fooled, which takes on the commercial pet food industry and makes a case for raw diets. "I saw the film when it was done: Every species has a specific diet, and altering it does have health effects," says Emmerich, who also supported the film financially. Oprah Winfrey's vet, Chicago-based Barbara Royal, has been a believer in raw diets for more than 20 years. "Dogs are scavengers, they stay alive on parts of the body that we don't provide them," she says, adding that the wrong diet can cause dental disease and skin issues. For those who must buy ready-made raw dog or cat food, look at the ingredients and ask, "Is this food an animal would hunt for? Would my grandmother understand this label?"

But not everyone is pro-raw. Vet Patrick Mahaney advises such clients as Bryce Dallas Howard and Jane Lynch to steer clear. "There could be pathogens — bacteria, parasites, viruses or fungi that might sicken the pet. It can be easily cooked out," says Mahaney, who advocates a cooked whole-food diet for pet owners like Meghan Trainor and Louise Linton. Linton and her husband, producer and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, own Chihuahua De Beers, who developed inflammatory bowel disease while on kibble. "We transitioned her to a whole-food diet [Lucky Dog Cuisine], and she eats with great appetite, never vomits and has perfect stools," says Linton. Trainor adds that her pups Biggie and Roo "have maintained a healthy weight and have tons of energy."

This story first appeared in the June 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.