Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Nutrition and Your Dog

Well, gosh - i must admit i'm a bit embarrassed.
I posted a recipe for dog biscuits a few weeks ago and now feel like i need to mention some changes many of us may need to make in how we feed our doggies.

As a disclosure: i grew up feeding our golden retreivers Nutra Max. I don't know of the ingredients, but my girl made it to the age of 14, so some combination of that food and her rigorous lifestyle of horsey romping helped her stick around. My husband's last dog, Tela was fed cheap chow. Cheap. I felt bad, but we're poor and she was old and didn't care what she ate and she wasn't really mine. Yes, i can be an awful person. Miss Pocket Muffington Rommel, however will be fed the best food that we can afford (i don't even want to say how much i've spent on silly toys and treats - she's just so cute and fun to buy things for!) because we want a smart, well balanced, teachable, willing, happy and healthy dog to hike with us and herd our (near future) goats for many years to come.

Mealtime can be a puzzle - kibbles in a Kong = puppies who have to think a lot get very tired!

Here in Austin we are so lucky to have the Lee Mannix Center for Canine Development, minus Lee himself who passed away this spring in an automobile accident. The center is not cheap - but i can already tell (after just one class with little Pocket) that it is so worth it. They teach us to be the best dog-leaders we can be, using pack dynamics, proper nutrition, and of course positive reinforcement.

I knew when purchasing our first bag of puppy food to avoid those generic or even brand name foods with colors, grain as a first ingredient, or other fillers. I chose Loyalle puppy kibble at the recommendation of my feed store.  No one, including my trainer and vet has heard of Loyalle (made by Nutrena, maker of horse and poultry diets, etc) I'm wondering if i went astray! Pocket does not love her kibble, but that's most likely because she gets delicious peanut butter and natural treats during training and would rather leave that boring kibble for the turtle to scavenge (yes, Holly has in fact eaten up dropped kibble, much to Pocket's confusion). Reading the ingredients closely i see this: the first ingredient is poultry by product. The second is brewer's rice. 4th or 5th is wheat and there is corn in there somewhere. Not ideal.

Puppies and turtles, living together.
Pocket has since moved off lead around the turtle and is so far polite and reliably calm.

I don't want to cross any lines with LMCCD or divulge any of their 'secrets' but i will mention this one note on nutrition as i feel it is so important. Like kids on candy, puppies and dogs who eat trash will act stupid. These are the ingredients to avoid:
Corn, Wheat, Soy, Sugar, Egg, and Dyes.

My dog biscuits are made with whole wheat. Whoops. I originally got that recipe when i was in elementary school - i guess understanding of dog nutrition has advanced a little since then? I'd hope so. I'm not certain WHY wheat is bad for dogs - it may just be that some dogs have wheat allergies (just like people) so it's best to avoid? In any case - i'll still be making some biscuits with wheat flour, but i'll try and mix it up with other flours, or flourless (jerky type).

It's a hard life to be a dog with so many toys to choose from!
The ideal diet to feed your dog is a raw diet. This will keep their teeth and skin healthy, their bones spry, and their demeanor top notch. I can't afford to feed raw (meat and veg) but i'll do my best to choose a dog chow that fits more closely with LMCCD's recommendations once Pocket has finished this bag of puppy chow. Another note of interest: puppy, senior, active, weight management: all  marketing ploys that are unnecessary if you're feeding high quality food.

Good quality fish is a great protein to use in treats. This one was thrown back.
Many apologies for steering you wrong. My next dog biscuits will be adapted from one of these or these recipes or some other experiement with meat, veggies, yogurt and non corn/wheat/soy grains. Why no eggs? I don't know, but i guess she won't be getting any of those either. Doggies are herbivores and love their roots and fruits - Pocket is partial to tiny cherry tomatoes. Yogurt up to a tablespoon a day is also great, especially if it's organic or homemade. Keep variety in your pup's food - just like a child, he/she needs to develop a good immune system to handle random 'snacks' (aka horse manure or squirrel carcasses). If fed the same thing constantly (just like protecting your child from all germs and having them grow up sickly with no immune systems) they won't be able to handle it.
Treat your pup with raw veggies (in moderation and avoiding the toxic ones), high quality meat, human grade ingredients (but never human scraps) and stay away from those preservatives, dyes, and other addictive nasties you'd avoid in your children's foods.

Here's to your health, and your dog's (and your turtle's!)

Some good sounding dog recipes can be found here. Please don't use the wheat flour they recommend though - try potato, rye, or oat.

****Update from the original posting: Lee Mannix recommends no eggs, but i've found that very high quality food (including Nature's Variety Kibble and Raw, which i've started feeding Pocket despite the expense) includes eggs. Since my girls lay organic, free range eggs - i say they're as good for Pocket as they are for us. I'll still try and replace the wheat flour in my recipes with oats, rice or some other flour, and make my treats with fresh veggies and organic meats (including yogurt, pumpkin, and fish oils). Just use common sense, don't feed them anything that isn't high enough quality for you to eat, and avoid addictive ingredients or those that could have antibiotics or additives in them.

****** Second update: just a quick note. We all wonder how much to feed and how much this will really cost? Nature's Variety has a great feeding guide to use when feeding their products. I've found it very helpful. Right now Pocket is about 12 pounds, a growing puppy, and being fed 1 and 1/4 cups kibble with 2 oz raw. Once she's grown, about 20 pounds, and averagely active, she'll be fed 7/8 cup kibble and 1.5 oz raw (or 1 ounce raw and a whole cup kibble, give or take training treats, etc). That's not so bad! The food is expensive, yes - but the quality allows for lower quantities fed.

This post was seen in Simple Lives Thursday - Join the hop!

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