Tag Archives: raw food diet

23Apr/15

What to feed your dog

I find there are two kinds of owners when it comes to dog food. The owners who say, “I would NEVER give my dog people food!” And the owners who slip something off their plate every time they see those sweet puppy dog eyes.

I have to admit, I am the plate-slipper kind of owner.

indulge

Here she is licking salt off my face, like the walking food source that I am.

While treats are a matter of taste, picking the right dog food is a lot tougher. We are in the age of choices, and deciding between aisles upon aisles of kibbles, raw diets, freeze-dried and frozen meals – it’s hard to know what to do.

When I was doing my research for this blog, I messaged all my veterinary friends to get their take on how to choose a dog food. Their responses showed what a hot-button issue it has become. “You’re so brave to write about that!” they said. And I got more than a few “I’m staying out of that one!” Some named a couple brands that they personally use, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend for everybody. (Which makes sense because not all dogs should eat the same food.)

But I do think there is a place we can all start from when choosing a dog food. (Yes, I am going there, vet friends.) Please be kind and know that I am just going over some basics and that I fully encourage you to do your own research. And, as always, consult with your vet because some dogs have very specific nutrition requirements based on their health.

AH, THE PURINA DAYS

When I was a kid, dog food was easy. There was Purina, Alpo and Milk Bones. That’s it. And if you gave your dog anything else, you were “spoiling” them. As long as the packaging had a picture of a dog and a wagon on it, you were good to go.

THEN WE GOT WISE

Fast forward a few decades and enter the era of the informed pet owner. No more cheap dog food for us. (Or horse meat? Was that a real thing?) We wanted to do better. And just like everything else that used to seem simple (kid’s birthday parties come to mind) the internet has enabled us to more easily share ideas. That’s a good thing! But the dark side of the internet is that it has also allowed us to more easily compare ourselves with others, and awakened a forum for the competition of who can be the best. The Best Mother! The Best DIY-er! The Best Pet Owner! (That’s me, by the way.) Look at any blog or Instagram and you can see this competition playing out in real time.

For example, my refrigerator looks WAY BETTER than this one from the internet.

refrigerator

In your face, @marthastewart.

THE BASICS

So there is a lot of noise out there. I think a good place to start is with the VERY basic. What are dogs supposed to eat? Are dogs carnivores, herbivores or omnivores? (Surprise, surprise – there is controversy about this subject too!) I found a good article addressing this question, which claims the following:

– It is believed that all dogs originated from the timber wolf about 15,000 years ago

– Wolves are definitely strict carnivores (nothing but meat)

– Domesticated dogs are not exactly wolves, but share a lot of their traits – therefore they are carnivores too

– Dogs’ carnivorous traits include sharp teeth, front to back (no square molars to grind grains); the absence of salivary amylase, the enzyme herbivores and omnivores have to help break down starchy carbs into simple sugars; and a higher concentration of stomach acid that aids in digesting meat and protecting them from bacteria in decaying meat.

– Although dogs are basically built to be carnivores, over the years they have adapted to eat non-meat foods, including scraps from their owners’ cast-off meals, whatever they could scavenge and, more recently, commercial dog foods.

Read the entire article here and decide for yourself.

BUT ARE DOGS REALLY LIKE WOLVES?

Carnivorous wolves they may be, dogs have become highly functioning omnivores. And let’s be honest, thanks to their incredibly malleable genome and years of human tinkering, most domesticated dogs don’t look anything like their lupine ancestors.

for real wolf

Real wolf.

real wolves

Native American Indian Dogs. (A mix of wolf, Siberian Husky, German Shepherd and Malamute.)

Luca

And English Bulldog Luca, who is the cutest wolf I’ve ever seen.

LET THEM EAT MEAT! (BUT ONLY MEAT?)

Now that we know dogs are carnivores, but have adapted to also eat grains and vegetables, we are faced with a choice. Do we stick with an all-meat diet? A raw-food diet? Or do we “compromise” and buy a more convenient kibble that has ingredients other than meat? I think that depends on your dog and your lifestyle.

Dogs, like us, are all individuals and their dietary needs are going to be different. There is going to be some trial and error. (For some people, just finding a dog food that doesn’t make their dog itchy or have diarrhea is a feat in itself.)

And committing to an all-meat regimen is no easy task. I had a hard time finding an all-meat kibble online. (I did find a Real Meat Pet Food site, where a 10-pound bag of beef dog food was about $100.)  Even brands like Instinct and Taste of the Wild are “grain-free” but still contain vegetables, and in some cases, fruit (and other stuff).

Feeding raw meat is do-able, but can be difficult. It’s expensive, it’s tricky to store, and it’s hard on some dog’s digestive systems.

Unless you’re going to cook every day, you’re going to have to find yourself a decent kibble. This is when we enter the crazy world of canine marketing. What should you look for? What ingredients are acceptable?

FINDING A GOOD KIBBLE IS ALL ABOUT READING LABELS

We stand in the pet food store and stare at the shelves. We read labels, scratching our heads because they all have ingredient lists a mile long. We choose the lesser of all the evils and still feel a little guilty. (At least I do.)

feed with love

And we really want to do better.

You have to read dog food labels with a discerning eye. By law, food manufacturers are supposed to list the largest percentage of what’s in the food first. So I am always looking for foods that start with some kind of meat ingredient. Be wary of the word “meal.” Meal is a Frankenstein-like meat monster. “Chicken meal,” for example, is suspect because by law it is allowable to use “4D chickens” to make this meal – the four D’s being dead, dying, diseased or disabled.

Next, the fewer ingredients the better. Although they will have to add some kind of preservative to keep the kibble fresh on the shelf, tons and tons of chemicals are not what your dog needs.

Basically, choose food for your dog that you would choose for yourself. Real, whole foods are best. Compromise wisely.

And by all means, slip your dog a piece of boneless, skinless chicken off your plate once in a while. Because, despite what you’ve heard, people food is dog food.

Take it from me, the Best Pet Owner on the Internet.

What do you feed your dog?

09Jan/13

What CAN’T you feed your dog?

We all know this look.

dogs want treats

What are you eating?

It’s pretty hard to resist.

did someone say treat

I smell bacon.

While old-school dog wisdom was: never feed your dog people food, new-school rules have changed.

Feed a raw diet! Cook for your dog! Beware of additives, preservatives and everything non-organic!

Personally, I grew up with dogs who ate whatever was on sale. Sometimes we’d slip them a treat from the dinner table. Overall, they did okay.

As an adult, I worked at a veterinary hospital and my eyes were opened. I saw obese dogs suffer from arthritis. Every holiday season, we’d see a handful of very sick little dogs who’d eaten an entire box of See’s candy.

holidays are over but

No chocolate for you, Denali!

I had to educate myself and clients about things like pancreatitis, kidney stones and the dangers of bones splintering in the intestinal tract.

Needless to say, what is okay and not okay to feed your dog can be confusing. And no matter what your personal preferences are with “dog food” versus “people food”, there are some hard-and-fast rules that can help you make an informed decision.

Because, after all, they are definitely worth it!

keep them safe

WHAT TO AVOID FEEDING YOUR DOG AND WHY:

Avocados – these have a fungicidal toxin called persin, which is not only in the fruit but in the leaves, bark and seeds. No guacamole bites!

Onions/garlic – destroys red blood cells, which leads to anemia. Watch out for onion powder in baby food, which is recommended sometimes for sick pups.

Grapes/raisins – researchers aren’t sure what they contain but studies show them to cause kidney failure in high quantities.

Macadamia nuts – like grapes and raisins, contains an unknown toxic element – as few as six can be fatal.

Xylitol – an artificial sweetener found in gum, mints and other products, it can spike insulin levels and eventually lead to liver failure.

Chocolate – contains varying amounts of theobromine, a chemical that is toxic in concentrated quantities. Milk chocolate has a little, baker’s chocolate has a lot – in general, the smaller the dog in body weight and the higher in concentration the theobromine, the more dangerous the chocolate!

Fat & bones – fatty, rich foods can overwhelm your dog’s system and lead to pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. Bones, while safe in many instances, can sometimes splinter in your dog’s stomach and perforate the digestive tract – or create a blockage that might require surgical removal. Feed with caution!

Stone fruits – peaches, avocados, plums, etc., can be dangerous because the swallowed pit can cause an obstruction. Also, in some cases, the stones contain toxic elements like cynanide.

Raw eggs – besides the danger of e-coli or salmonella, raw eggs can block the absorption of vitamin B.

Unrised dough – don’t leave that dough to rise unattended! Ingested dough can rise in your dog’s tummy and cause a very unhappy situation.

Other common substances to monitor:

Advil/Ibuprofen: very toxic to dogs. Be sure to store these in a safe place and not to drop any on the floor.

Antifreeze: leaky antifreeze puddles on the garage floor or driveway can be very tempting to lick since it tastes sweet. Clean spills up immediately and store in a high cabinet/shelf.

That covers the basics of dog ingestion safety. In an emergency or if you’re ever in doubt, call your local veterinarian, emergency center or the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435 (note a $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.)

But before I sign off, the dogs at WOOF wanted to make sure I gave you another message.

BY ALL MEANS, GIVE YOUR DOGS SAFE AND TOLERATED TREATS!

what treats are ok

Eating is one of your dog’s main joys in life. Don’t deprive them of things they love – so long as they’re not overweight, can tolerate the treat with no tummy upset and it’s not on the no-no list.

Because life should be enjoyed.

dont worry

And as Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.

good

xoxo,

Vickie Jean @ WOOF