Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"I wouldn't feed this meal to a dog!!"

"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."
-Immanuel Kant
It's 5pm, do you know what your dog is eating? A post at Re-Nest started my wheels turning about what we are feeding our pets (and what those of you out there in TV Land might be feeding yours) so I thought I would share our experiences with you. My family eats an organic, "Paleo" diet as much as possible (all things in moderation, of course!) so we decided to have our dogs go "Paleo" as well and buy grain-free dog food. 

Why Grain-Free?
Grain-free foods and treats contain ingredients and nutrient levels which most closely resemble the ancestral diet of dogs and cats; high in animal based proteins and a healthy balance of fats and low carbohydrates(derived from vegetables and non-grain sources). The protein content in grain-free dry foods is high but not so high that can damage a dog's system (there are claims that raw-meat only diets can damage a dog's pancreas and more) and the rest of the food is composed of fresh fruits and vegetables (not corn gluten, which is the corn by-product that most dog food is made of). It only makes sense that animals descended from wolves and wild cats would be healthier eating a meat-based product instead of a corn-based one, but in our corn-based American society these days, who is really surprised that we are feeding our pets corn too?

How did you chose your food? 
   There are tons of options of dog food options out there from a Raw Food diet (this all-natural, rehydratable"just add meat & water" one looks pretty neat!) to your average bag of kibble at the grocery store but here was our criteria when we chose our dog food:

1. Quality of the product: We wanted a high-quality product that provided the best nutrients specifically formulated for active dogs.

2. Ease of Use: I think that raw food diets (especially one that incorporate vegetables and other necessary nutrients and enzymes) is probably the best thing for my pet, but do I have time to be baking breakfast and dinner for a pack of dogs twice a day? Um, No... I wanted to be able to buy the product, put it in a huge Tupperware to keep it fresh and then scoop it out twice a day at mealtimes. Dry food without preparation was a must.

3. Price: Buying raw meat for our pets, especially organic meat, is often cost prohibitive for many families, ours included. I do believe that feeding creatures, be they children or pets, quality food now saves on medical bills later but sometimes the price tag right now is just too high. Bagged, grain-free foods can be found at reasonable prices at a variety of retailers, even in the boonies where we live, or can be bought in bulk online.

So what do your dogs eat?
    We are actually in a food transition right now. We have fed our dogs EVO for the past two years and absolutely LOVED it! Unfortunately, Proctor & Gamble just bought out EVO and, as they did with IAMS after the Eukanuba buy out, they plan to "adjust the formula" in the food after the buyout is complete in June 2010. By law, P&G has six months to inform the consumer that the formula has been changed, so your dog could be eating grain & other junk for six months (while you are paying full price!) and you would never know!
     In light of the buyout, we are in the process of switching over to another grain-free dog food. We have tried "Taste of the Wild" and "Orijen" foods (both in their red meat/bison formulas) and we have decided to go with "Taste of the Wild" because it is significantly cheaper. I bought three huge bags of EVO this month before the formula changed, so once the pups run out of that I will put them completely on "Taste of the Wild." and see how it goes... Another review to come! Here is a site that lists all of the grain-free dog foods and their contents if you would like to compare foods and chose for yourself.

What differences did you notice after transitioning to grain-free food?
     We transitioned right after bringing a new dog, formerly a stray, into our home (Sadie, our little princess that you've seen on the site before). Her ribs were showing she was so thin, her coat was awful and she was generally unhealthy when we brought her home. Our oldest dog, Atticus, was a little chunky thanks to too many extra treats from his Mama (oops!). After several months on grain-free food, all of our dogs had healthy, thick, coats (we received a flood of  compliments on the two boys coats today while volunteering at the local pet shelter! And those dog people know a good coat when they see one!), much improved overall muscle tone for all of the dogs and their previous health problems (chronic yeast ear infections in both spaniels) disappeared! We haven't had to take the dogs to the vet other than for accidents and their annual shots since switching to grain-free! And the dogs weights all evened out to be "perfect specimens" without having to feed any of the dogs more or less food than the recommendations on the bag.
   Additionally, because the food is so nutritionally dense, you are able to feed your pet a smaller quantity of food. Those of you out there (like Re-Nest's author) who are feeding your 50 lb dogs four cups of traditional, corn-gluten dog food daily will be able to cut back to two cups of grain-free food, in our experience. The grain-free foods are more expensive, but the smaller quantity needed allows us to make a smaller bag of grain-free last as long as the grain-based food we were purchasing previously.

What do I do with all of my old corn-based dog food?
Don't know what to do with all of that old dog food? Corn Gluten is also a great natural, broad-leaf weed preventative for your lawn. It is part of a long term maintenance program, so check out "corn gluten" on an organic/natural gardening page, but you can sprinkle the old dog food straight on your yard and it will disintegrate after a few waterings or good rains!

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