Monday, June 18, 2007

on feeding

Like many dog owners concerned over the quality of commercial dog food I have recently switched to raw, homemade meals and treats for my dogs. We have four dogs, each with slightly different needs. While I vary the theme for each of them I am as practical with their food prep as I am with my human family of 5. Same basic meal with a little extra this or that depending on their individual needs.
We start with meat. Columbia River Natural Pet Foods has a wide variety of meat. Some like the chicken with bones and beef mixes are less expensive than what you pay for hamburger. Other meats they offer are less expensive than what those meats intended for human consumption. But if I can't get to the specialty pet stores that sell it I use ground beef. I use ground meats particularly for the puppies as their teeth and jaws aren't strong enough to tear the meat away or break up the bones. For the adult dogs I offer meaty bones including chicken thighs, legs, wings, parts of the whole chickens that my human family won't eat (necks, backs, etc.), soup bones, oxtails, knuckle bones. When it comes to the chicken bones I've been amazed at how they wolf them down. Frankly I was worried at first as they seem to bite down hard, crack the bones and swallow them virtually whole. After several weeks neither of my adult dogs has had any problems resulting from this and I am not finding any evidence of the bones not being digested. Feces seems normal, occasionally whiter than before I fed them raw. I admit, however, that this is hardly a scientific study of the matter and controversy continues about whether to feed unground bones, raw or not to your pets. All I can say is thus far there have been no problems.
One meat I am sure to feed only after cooking is salmon. Raw salmon and trout from the Pacific Northwest can contain a parasite that can make dogs sick or even kill them. I've read that freezing the fish for 24 hours kills the parasite but need to do more research. I prefer to give canned salmon with the bones. I also sometimes have fed canned sardines or tuna.
To the meaty bones or ground meat/bone mixtures we add 1 T. yogurt or cottage cheese for the beneficial bacteria, an egg with the extra Omega Fatty Acids or more usually a squirt of EFA supplement, and a vitamin mix made by Holistic Pet Center . I am going to start adding more vitamin C. Dogs, like humans, no longer produce this important antioxidant. A friend and mentor, Kim Shira, who turned me on to feeding raw told me that they have found that supplementing with vitamin C aids in the prevention of hip dysplastia. (Yes, this is a genetic disease but it apparently prevents the problem from fully manifesting.) I will add a little more each day to determine how much each dog can tolerate. The feces starts to get too loose and I'll cut back to the more tolerated dose.
As far as how much my adult dogs, Skye and Kayla are getting about one cup or so of food twice a day. My 4-month-old puppy, Celie gets about 3/4 cup 3 times a day and Gus-Gus, the 6-month bulldog eats about 1 1/4 cups 3 times a day. And they all get a treat every so often. All are maintaining healthy weight with good muscle tone and little body fat.
As I say I am very new to this way of feeding my dogs. But I am happy with the results. It is costing us more. Probably 2-3 times more depending on what I can find on sale. So I make my own coffee and don't get one of those overpriced, fattening hot milkshakes at the gourmet coffee stores. Well, not as often. It seems to be evening out.


Traci said...

I didn't know that too much Vit C caused runny stools... that explains a lot though! I think that my guys have found their tolerance at about 250mg per meal (morning and night).
I do not have a good source on bones right now. Do you have any suggestions? I'm nervous about feeding them (heard of cracked molars and all) and knowing it would require crating them, am not sure it would go over well here. Sedona is not a fan of eating in her crate (sigh). What do you suggest?

Léo said...

Levels of C varies depending on a number of factors. It's good to know what their normal need is and then be willing to increase it if they're sick or exposed to something.
I guess you don't have a natural pet food store in your area? I bet you have stores that specialize in Mexican foods and they would have things like oxtails and tripe. Do you have an old-fashioned meat market? Ask if they'd grind chicken or turkey necks, etc. You could also ask them to throw in the organ meats. Since they usually throw a lot of that away they may give you a good price. They may even be able to grind bigger bones like lamb shanks or knuckle bones for you. If ground they could be fed without crating. But that wouldn't have the benefit of cleaning the teeth.
I haven't heard about bones cracking molars. I imagine it is possible since we too crack our teeth chewing on ice and such. I also ran across an online article today that said feeding bones was dangerous since they could get lodged along the digestive tract and had X-rays to prove it. But it also talked about no such thing as a healthy wolf. I think feeding raw is about being informed about what our dogs need and are eating. But it can't be about avoiding every problem. That's impossible.
Let me know if you figure out how to include bones for your guys. I'm learning here too. I hope it works out.

StubbyDog said...

I'm thinking that I need to suck it up and go talk to a local butcher. I did find an online retailer in Texas that carries frozen ground meat/veggie mixes, and actually delivers them here fairly inexpensively (approx $2.50 per pound). But I'm sure I can get it cheaper if I can find stuff locally. Huge disadvantage to living in the South...the whole natural foods thing isn't as common down here. ;)

I'm not sure on the bones. Since I HAVE had a problem with a dog who cracked his molars (Zach), I've always been wary of what they have to chew on. Brady is such a hard chewer his teeth are pretty much nubs at this point.

C-Myste said...

Look for a store that sells ethnic foods: i.e. where the Latinos shop. That's where you'll find the good selection of dog-edible stuff. You should have no problem finding such a store down there.

Cracked molars, etc are going to be from hard cooked bones, not from soft raw bones.

Columbia River is what Russ and Tina have been feeding Gryph and Stratus as well. Closest distributor here is Roseburg. I'm having fun with the DIY thing anyway.

BTW Russ & Tina have been herding at Brigand's Hideout with their boys. They'd love to see Skye herding sometime too (like you need another thing to do). They remember Skye and like many people were quite partial to him.