Food for Thought (...and for Dogs)

November 02
by Dan 2. November 2012 10:18

We've been making our own dog food for the past five years. The whole process was sheer accident. When we adopted our second dog Lucy, she had "medical issues" which were pretty vaguely stated. We saw only her fur was blotchy, raw and uneven. After some research, we though: allergy. So began creating a basic allergy-free porridge to try and help. Within literally a week we saw a dramatic difference. From there we startedresearching dog food in general, saw the repeated dog food recalls traced primarily back to questionabe ingredients from China, and began to get more serious. A neighbor has a daughter who is a Vet, and introduced us to the BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet, which further reinforced that we were on the right track.

We have a large rice cooker, so we started our home-made dog food base by cooking a vat full (remember, we have four+ dogs at the moment) of Costco brown rice once a week; we add various veggies such as carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes/yams, etc (fruits and veggies that are beginning to go bad are actually great for dogs as plant matter in this state is generally a bit easier for the dogs to digest; in the wild they're used to find ripe/rotting fruit on the ground, for example). We usually steam the veggies for about 10 minutes, but it really isn't necessary, it's just a bit easier for Bogart to eat in his old age. Next we get chicken thighs from Costco that still have the bone and skin, generally giving one thigh to each dog raw per meal, mixed with the veggies & rice. Chicken bones are fine IF they're not cooked (this is a variation of the BARF--bones and raw food--diet you may have heard of). Finally, we usually add a couple of squirts of fish oil, and usually a raw egg for each dog (squashed shell included) The cost of all this is surprisingly cheap--it's comparable with so-called premium dog foods. We have it down to a science, where it takes about 30 minutes a week to prepare the "base". We generally mix everything up and put it in a cauldron in the fridge, adding the chicken thigh and egg at mealtime.

After further research, we moved from using brown rice to quinoa, which is a similar grain, but more nutritious.

Unfortunately, some dogs may take a bit of adjusting to this type of diet for two reasons:
First, the dog food, while deceptively unhealthy, is manufactured to be tasty--so weaning them off that "taste" may (or may not ) be a challenge.

95% of ALL dog food, be it an upscale "designer" brand or Alpo, is made by just a handful of manufacturers (that's the main reason that the recalls seemed to affect so many brands). Those manufacturers, in turn, buy many/most/all of their ingredients (cheaply) from China. And the big shell-game surrounding this process centers on protein. Specifically: what's the type of protein in your dog's chow, and what is the source? The extreme example of unhealthy comes from a particular source of protein. Traces of phenobarbital has been found in many brands of dog food 9albeit in trace amounts)--this is due to the fact that euthanized pets typically have, in turn, become part of the raw ingredients that becomes your dog's dog food. There's a very strange wholesale industry that literally "buys" euthanized animals from vets. The carcasses then get rendered and shipped off to China, recombined with other low-value protein (such as melamine in extreme cases) to artificially "boost" protein levels. This toxic "soup" is then imported back to the US (Google phenobarbital and dog food), combined with filler and the manufacturer level, packaged up as "Tasty" whatever, and sold to uninformed pet owners. To the tune of billions of dollars. The protein games played at the raw ingredient level is where a lot of the issues happen. For instance, literally adding old leather shoes has been one way to boost protein levels--the leather actually increases the protein percent of the food. The only problem is the protein in question is of a type that is (of course) wholly indigestible to the dog; it just passes through. Same with other typical so-called protein boosters: animal fur, claws, feces, blood, intestine, fetuses, (etc), and melamine. It helps make the label read good, but malnourishes the dog. Or worse.
The dog food industry is essentially unregulated, with one of the only requirements is listing the food breakdown on the package. And the listing can be very easily camouflaged. And no matter what the dog food you buy, the odds are it's made by one of just three manufacturers, which is why the recalls in the last few years have affected to many dog food brands. And all three get the bulk of the raw ingredients from our friends in China.
Second, if you make your own, it may take a while for the dog to adjust. A dog's stomach needs certain enzymes to digest certain foods. If they haven't had that food for a while (or ever) the enzymes are missing. So it may take a while to get those enzymes built back up. That's why a wild dog can eat a variety of foods--he has all the enzymes he needs for just about anything. The more you feed an animal just one thing, the less diverse set of enzymes the animal maintains. Along that line, think about how healthy you woudl be if all you every ate---day after day--- was potates; or carrots; or, a better analogy in the case of commcercail dogs food: Twinkies. Even if the dog food was great (and they aren't) the dog at best would be getting a narrow range of nutrients. So diversifying your diet can go a long way to best coverihng your animal's dietary needs--sort of don't put all your eggs in one basket idea. Add fruit, vegetables, grain, eggs, gte the idea.

It sounds like lots of work. And honestly, getting into the grove is. But you'll also be amazed at how little time it takes once you get your system down.
Think also about cutting way back on the various vaccines they get (we're down to just rabies, but the truly important ones will vary by region and how much the dog gets around, etc) as well. Along that same line, spread the vaccines out--in other words, don't give a rabies booster and a parvo inoc at the same time; spread them out a month or more. There's growing evidence that combining these cocktails produces significant health issues over time.
If you're interested, here's a great entry point:



Introducting Otis

October 30
by Dan 30. October 2012 02:00
Otis was found on the streets at roughly four months old, dangerously dehydrated and starving. He had been strangled, beaten, and was disoriented. The presumption was he was being tortured in an effort to get him to fight. Otis, it appears, was happy to disappoint. So he was discarded, and was subsequently picked up by the Pierce County Humane Society.

But it took a while for Otis' story to turn happy. PCHS does not accept Pit Bulls. As a result, Otis was due to be euthanized. But one of the employees took pity and called, a local rescue group, and Otis’ life magically changed!

Unfortunately for Otis, change proved hard. And some of the experiences he suffered through could not be undone. For instance, his injuries resulted in neurological damage and permanently robbed him of his ability to feel thirst. He had never been socialized, and all the trauma he experienced in his short life gave him a large dose of anxiety and fear.

The changes he was experiencing proved hard for him and those around him. He went through half a dozen foster homes, remaining largely manic, afraid and confused.

We heard about him through a couple of broadcast emails from Kindred Souls and were intrigued. We already had several dogs, but could feel the urgency in the plea for help in those emails.

So we decided to take Otis into our home as a foster dog.

After so many foster homes and changes to his life, Otis continued to find illusive the one thing he needed most to improve: stability. In his brief stays with all previous fosters, he really had not progressed, at least not as much as was hoped. Naively, we were determined to change that.

At first, it was very hard---for Otis and us. He didn’t know how to interact with our other dogs: he didn’t know how to play; didn’t know how to trust; and literally didn’t know how to drink water. This for him was just another hop to another unknown—so it seemed.

For the first four months he was with us our life was not our own. I literally had to hold him in place all evening, trying to calm him down, keep him from his awkward and confusing style of "play" with the other dogs (which annoyed them and usually led to a fight), and just get him used to touch.

Finally, he began to improve, relax. He began to seek affection. Slowly, we began to see, despite all he'd been through, Otis' spirit was every bit intact. When he embraced it, his sense of joy was unparalleled. He was the Phoenix, and he was rising!

Our original intent was to get him ready for adoption. But we eventually realized, given his history, that O might be still vulnerable to change. We began to fear that, even if the perfect home was found, the change alone might unwind all the progress he had made, putting him at risk all over again.

We decided we could not take that chance with O--not after all he (and we) had gone through. And, of course, we had grown to love him by now.

Otis ended up being not just a life we could save, but a true life-changing experience for us...

So we decided to keep him. Or was it the other way around? :-)

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