What to feed?

Here’s an article I recommend reading before buying in to raw food diets for your dog:

Raw Meat and Bone Diets for Dogs: It’s Enough to Make You BARF

Some of the most rewarding interactions we have with our pets involve food. Most dogs respond with gratifying enthusiasm to being fed, and this activity is an important part of the human-animal bond. Providing food is also part of the parent/child dynamic that in many ways characterizes our relationships with our pets. Giving food is an expression of affection and a symbol of our duty of care to our pets.

Because of these emotional resonances, pet owners are often very concerned about giving their pets the “right” food to maintain health and, if possible, to prevent or treat disease. This has allowed the development of a large, and profitable commercial pet food industry that aggressively markets diets with health-related claims.

…One of the most popular unscientific notions sold to pet owners these days is that of feeding diets based on raw meat, typified by the BARF diet. According to the a leading proponent of this idea, Dr. Ian Billinghurst, BARF stands for Bones and Raw Foods or Biologically Appropriate Foods (though I confess other interpretations have occurred to me). Raw diets are frequently recommended by veterinarians and other who practice homeopathy, “holistic” veterinary medicine, and other forms of CAM. This is not surprising since, as you will see, the arguments and types of reasoning used to promote the BARF concept are also commonly used to defend other forms of alternative veterinary medicine. Let’s take a look at the arguments some BARF proponents make for this diet.

The article then examines some of the arguments for raw food diets: that dogs are wolves, evolved to eat raw meat, can’t digest grains, that dog food is made of euthanized dogs, etc.. It then goes on to correct some pure misinformation and look at evidence-based facts about our canine companions and their digestion and health:

Now let’s have a look at the problems with this raw dog food marketing propaganda. To begin with, the concept of “evolutionary nutrition” ignores the simple fact that taxonomy and phylogeny are not destiny, nor do they reliably predict the specific details of a species’ biology, including its nutritional needs. Sure, dogs are in the order Carnivora, but so are giant pandas, which are almost exclusively herbivorous. Functionally, dogs are omnivores or facultative carnivores, not obligate carnivores, and they are well-suited to an omnivorous diet regardless of their taxonomic classification or ancestry.

It also looks at the very serious safety issues with BARF diets:

…The risks of raw meat based diets, however, are well-documented. Homemade diets and commercial BARF diets are often demonstrable unbalanced and have severe nutritional deficiencies or excesses.16-18 Dogs have been shown to acquire and shed parasitic organisms and potentially lethal infectious diseases associated with raw meat, including pathogenic strains of E. coli and Salmonella.25-27 Many other pathogens have been identified in raw diets or raw meat ingredients, and these represent a risk not only to the dogs fed these diets but to their owners, particularly children and people with compromised immune systems.29-30 The bones often included in such diets can cause fractured teeth and gastrointestinal diseases, including obstructed or perforated intestines, and the FDA recently warned pet owners against feeding bones to their canine companions.

Food for thought I thought I’d pass along to anyone facing the onslaught of marketing directed at animal owners. The proponents of the raw food diet are especially fanatical, so it’s worth thinking twice and getting medical opinions.

I do worry about the quality and safety of dry dog food, and make a point of buying Gilly good food from companies which guarantee high-quality ingredients and which have nearly universal approval from both vets and other pet owners.

My personal picks (and no, I’m not getting kickbacks from any of them for saying so): Canidae, Wellness, Artemis, or Eagle Pack brands – these are the ones I trust and Gilly likes. There are lots of good foods out there, though, many of which we haven’t tried.

Based on what I know at this point, I prefer the high quality dry food (with supplemental variety) to a wet food diet because it’s better for his teeth – a serious consideration these days because while animals used to die from other causes well before dental issues took them, they live so much longer now that the ones on Atkins-style diets are coming up with heart problems from gum disease, etc.. (More on this here.)

You can check recall lists at the FDA here, and there are tons of ‘rating’ sites out there to sift through if you like: there’s places like the Dog Food Analysis forum,  the widely-shared Rate Your Dog Food guide (not sure about the science behind this one, but it’s interesting), etc.

I also supplement Gilly’s dry food with (cooked) meat, vegetables, grains and fruit that I’m eating, because he likes and thrives on it. Oddly enough, the thing he chews more thoroughly than any other food, and with the most gleeful crunching and self-evident pleasure, is steamed green beans. Watching him eat a string bean is one of life’s great pleasures, in fact. Broccoli is also a hit, as are apples, figs, dates, rice, and many other foods I eat.

His all time favorite tastes of people food? Mac-n-cheese and blueberry pie, hands down. If they are side by side with a piece of steak, he’ll eat the pie first, then the mac-n-cheese, then the meat. Go figure.

Just as some people are fanatical about feeding only raw meat and bones, others will tell you your dog’s gonna DROP DEAD!!!! from a single piece of human food!!!!!!11111!!!!

There are human foods dogs can’t safely process, it’s true, and it’s essential to know something about common poisons.

With balanced nutrition day to day, a wide variety of treats in moderation, and with lots of exercise, Gilly’s digestion is fabulous and his figure dashing, his fur shiny and his spirits perky.

It’s working for us.

Your picks for a healthy dog diet?

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13 responses to “What to feed?

  1. Via JH on Facebook:

    “Our Willie is a Shi Tzu -Poodle cross, and had serious food allergies, which we discovered through a long process of elimination. Painful elimination. Our vet recommended boiled yams, rice, lean chicken and beef. Well, what works is simply the boiled chicken breast, mixed with some water and a quarter cup of high- quality dry food. Taste of the Wild and Solid Gold are some favorites. We tried everything suggested, but found that, for our little one, no carbs works best. She loves raw or cooked green beans, broccoli, apples and carrots. She especially goes wild for the cut off ends of brussell’s sprouts. She manages to sneak a pretzel here and there, and enjoys hoovering up any crumbs under the dining table!”

    Sprouts! We love sprouts.

    I really don’t know anything about coping with food allergies, so thanks for this, JH.

    Your yams reminded me:

    A friend’s vet recommended he add pumpkin puree to his dog’s food when she got very elderly and started having digestive issues; she loved it & it seemed to improve both her interest in food and her ability to process it.

    Of course, they also reminded me of one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on the whole vastness of ye ol’ interwebs:

    I Haz A Sweet Potato

    • Jeannette Hawley

      I’m loving this! Just another factoid I learned about Shi Tzus, Pomeranians, Lhasa Apsos, and the like: these breeds are susceptible to digestive disorders, so simple, single-ingredient meals work best. Willie is allergic to pollens, too, which shows up as itching skin rashes and digestive upset. The same treatment works. Plain boiled chicken at first, then add in a little bit of dry food, cooked veggies one meal at a time. Some dogs are better with lamb, or beef, or pork. Willie is sensitive to fats, so we stick with lean. It took us a year to finally settle on this plan, and our wonderful vet gave us suggestions, but said we’d be able to tell from Willie herself what worked. Two meals a day is best, feeding every twelve hours. In sum-your dog will let you know what they need. It takes a lot of patience, but today,w e have a VERY healthy, active, loving dog, who looks and acts like a puppy. She’ll be 9 on July 4.

      • Hooray for figuring out what she needed –

        Willie is almost exactly Gilly’s age! He’ll be 9 on August 13 . (We celebrate his birthday on July 4 and Labor Day, the days in between, and every other day of the year.)

  2. I love the sweet potato story! Although I remember thinking the first time I read it why not just let the dog eat the sweet potato already. My dogs have all either loved them or left them alone. Ruby likes them cooked but raw she just gnaws on them and gets bored. Better to clean up raw sweet potato than, say, shoes or money. I definitely believe that people food is fine for dogs, but only if it’s in her bowl or from a plate on the floor. Begging and countersurfing are frowned upon. She especially likes melons and blueberries this time of year. And frozen bananas. Raw bananas not so much. But I let her try most things. And lick all the plates before they go in the dishwasher. Dry dog food, yeah. I’m fine with the Iams lamb & rice, as it’s what she gets at the neighbors and at the spa, and they have it at the store nearby. I don’t lime to make special trips as I don’t have a car. My beloved Kuba was very sensitive, and I had to make all her food (plus supplementary vitamins etc) from scratch. Lamb and risotto was her fave, but she also loved chicken with rice and all the broccoli ends and potato peels and so forth, in a sort of casserole. With canned pumpkin and yogurt. Any bite of unauthorized food meant endless walks in the park at 3 am. Which I gotta say, the park at 3 am is not scary at all with a leash and 85 lbs of Rottweiler, German shepherd, and husky in one hand and a bag of dogshit in the other. Scary people cross the street to avoid you.

  3. the park at 3 am is not scary at all with a leash and 85 lbs of Rottweiler, German shepherd, and husky in one hand and a bag of dogshit in the other. Scary people cross the street to avoid you.

    ha ha ha ha ha ha

  4. After I first read the sweet potato story I offered Gilly one raw to see if he was interested: he sat down politely, looked at me, looked pointedly at the microwave, then lay down and waited for me to cook it for him.

  5. my daughter would also eat the pie first, then the mac-n-cheese, and then the steak!

  6. Off-subject:
    Quasi-feral Abyssinian cats thrive on a no-grain kibble of venison salmon and a modicum of peas and carrots, and rare chicken livers sautéed in butter or rendered fat.

    • I’ll be over for feeding in about three hours. Four if there’s traffic on the Cross-Bronx.

      • Would that it were true! I’ve 9 little girls spending the night!
        (fyi: Phoba & Deima wish to supplement their diets with SIberian Dwarf Hamsters)

  7. Here’s a link to a book review, sort of:
    Feed Your Pet Right (but not garlic or onions!)

  8. Pingback: Gilly’s obsession with mac-n-cheese, explained. | Gilgablog

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