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What do you feed your dog? May 23, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, pets, Uncategorized.
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Silence Dogood here. The question of what people feed their pets has fascinated me since I first read The New Natural Cat, with its recipe for “building a mouse” for optimal feline nutrition. I was thinking about it again this morning as I opened a new bag of dog food and found a free can of dog food inside.

The brochure packed with the can said that it contained chicken, rice, dried egg, prebiotics, beet pulp, antioxidants, and a balanced omega 6:3 ratio for skin and coat. I couldn’t help but feel that it was too bad we don’t give our own food’s contents as much thought, as we mindlessly reach for the potato chips.

Not that I plan to rush out and use the coupon that came with the can. (I’ll put it on the shelf with the cans next time I’m at the grocery so someone else can use it.) We don’t feed our cats or dogs canned food, however nourishing. (Though I may put a little of this on our current dog, our black German shepherd, Shiloh’s, dry food as a treat until the can is used up.)

We’ve fed dry food to our dogs since I got my first golden retriever, Annie, and the breeder insisted that I feed her Eukanuba large breed dry food. We fed our second golden, Molly, Eukanuba as well, and both ate it with alacrity (and anything else we chose to give them). Goldens love food, and ours would eat anything, including fruits and vegetables, except for plain lettuce, and they’d eat lettuce if it was dressed.

Shiloh is a different story. Dog food doesn’t much interest her. We’ve tried every high-end brand of dry food two pet stores had to offer, but she ate them with no more enthusiasm than the IAMS large breed dry food we now give her. To entice her to eat it, we’ll add a little cottage cheese on top or bury a couple of those pellet-sized chicken or beef treats deep in the recesses of the bowl so she has to dig around to find them. A bit of shredded cheese on top works, too. But whatever we’re doing, she won’t eat her food unless she’s actually hungry (though you can bet the cottage cheese disappears fast enough!).

Why dry food? No obesity, shiny coat and eyes, brilliant white teeth with no dental problems and no need for home brushing or veterinary cleanings that require anesthesia. Our cats and dogs have thrived on dry food. But of course, that’s not all they get.

Shiloh loves her sweet potato and wild cherry (antioxidant-rich joint-health) treats. She also loves plain yogurt, cheese, and eggs fresh from our little organic flock. And, of course, whole wheat or multigrain bread and plain popcorn. We had to work with her on the fruits and veggies, but now she loves them and waits at my feet as I chop them for each meal, knowing she’ll get her share. She even loves plain lettuce! Interestingly, the two things she turns her snout up at are pasta and rice.

So our plan is to give our dogs an enriched dry food for basic nutrition, supplemented with a wide variety of healthy “people food.” Our dogs have all been huge—outsized even for their breeds—so we give them food specially formulated for large breeds, including nutrients to protect their joints. (Large breeds can develop joint issues as they age, so it’s important to protect them from obesity and anything else that puts undue strain on their joints, as well as to supplement their diets with joint-cushioning nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin.)

However, we recognize that other people approach their dogs’ diets very differently. Our friend Delilah cooks her Boston terrier, Dukie Macdonald, elaborate meals from scratch every week. She’ll make a week’s worth of Dukie’s food on the weekend and freeze individual portions so she can thaw and serve them to him daily. Like the Natural Cat author, she’s convinced that a carefully thought out combination of fresh, from-scratch foods is the best way to ensure Dukie’s good health. I’m sure his meals are every bit as tasty as the ones she and Chaz make for themselves!

Then there’s the raw-meat movement. Many dog lovers are absolutely convinced that the best food for dogs is raw meat, which of course would form part of their diet in the wild. (Though not all of it, never forget: Dogs, like people, chickens, pigs, and bears, are omnivores, enjoying a wide range of food, unlike cats, who are true carnivores. Not that ours don’t relish cheese, popcorn, and sweet breads like pumpkin bread along with their regular food.)

As a vegetarian, I’m not about to go for the raw-meat or cooked-meat options. I know that many vegetarians put their dogs on vegetarian diets, and dogs can do fine on them, but I’ve never been tempted to try that with our dogs (or, God forbid, cats). I figure I’ve chosen to be a vegetarian, they haven’t. But that doesn’t mean I’m prepared to bring slabs of raw meat into the house. (Shiloh does get plenty of bones to chew on, though, so her teeth and jaws get another workout.)

Then there’s the question of how much to feed. Our cats get full bowls of cat food and can eat as much as they like, when they like. They’ve never abused this arrangement and we’ve never had an overweight, finicky, or sickly cat. Shiloh gets two small cups of dry food in the morning and again at night, assuming she’s eaten her breakfast by then. (She tends to snack on it throughout the day unless she’s really motivated, when she’ll eat it at a single sitting, always lying down like a Roman Emperor at a banquet.)

So, what do you feed your dog? Why do you feed that particular food or menu? How much do you give them? And how do they like it? This inquiring mind wants to know!

                ‘Til next time,



Announcing new miracle meals! June 28, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, pets, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Sheesh, when I saw this headline in my inbox, I thought it must be an e-mail from RealAge about how I could eat whatsit and live to be a thousand. But no, turns out it was from Duncraft, purveyors of birdseed and bird-related products like feeders and birdbaths. Duncraft was in fact announcing a new line of actual high-protein, balanced meals (think cornmeal, not dinner, they’re referring to texture) specially designed for nestlings.

Just yesterday, I got another shock in the “meals” line. As our friend Ben noted in a previous post, I’d dashed into a local grocery to snag some fresh mozzarella for a marvelous Caprese salad (while he and our puppy Shiloh stayed in the air-conditioned car listening to the latest sports updates on the radio). I was heading back towards checkout with the mozzarella when I saw a refrigerated case that was completely different from anything I’d ever seen in a grocery store before. It was devoted to fresh foods for dogs, packs of meatballs and sausage-like rolls. Grabbing a brochure, I read that the fresh foods were made from chicken, turkey, or beef, plus liver, peas, carrots, brown rice, and a bunch of vitamins and minerals, all lightly cooked to perfection without ruining their nutritional value.

No, I didn’t buy any—I barely had enough money for the mozzarella, and Shiloh has plenty of premium dry food at home—but I’ll admit I was awed. Our friends Delilah and Chaz cook up their own dog food for their beloved Boston terrier Duke, aka Dukie Macdonald, but this is the closest I’ve ever seen to what they make for him, and there it is, prepackaged and ready to go. A “miracle meal” indeed! Even more impressive, a miracle meal available from an ordinary grocery store.

I’ve long been aware of the raw-foods movement in pet foods, where advocates propose giving dogs and cats the equivalent of what they’d be eating in the wild, raw meat and some vegetables and grains (to make up the equivalent of prey animals’ stomach contents). But somehow, I’ve never been tempted. We humans started out eating raw foods, too, until we discovered that cooked foods tasted better and were easier to digest. Why not offer our hard-won advantages to our pets, as well? And if cooked food’s not worth eating, why the hell are we eating it?

But getting back to that refrigerated case of food for dogs—the brochure made the point that it’s not “dog food,” it’s “food for dogs”—does anyone out there cook for their dogs rather than feeding them “dog food”? And if so, what do you cook?

            ‘Til next time,