Diet

Pet Foo[le]d

You guys already know that I am the epitome of a dog mom – raw feeding, $200 collars, sleeping in my bed and on the furniture.. The list goes on. I spend at least two hours every day reading and researching raw feeding – the benefits of it and the proper way to feed it to your dog. I’ve joined at least five Facebook groups focused solely on raw feeding, holistic pet care, and Traditional Chinese Medicine for pets [yeah, I’m a bit of a wackadoo – no shame].

It was in one of these groups that another member recently posted a link to an article about a documentary called PET FOOleD, and about 85 people commented on it. All of them recommended it to be watched. And, of course, being the avid researcher that I am, I decided to give it a go.

I am really not a huge TV watcher. I watch, like, maybe two hours a week? And that’s not every single week. Some weeks I don’t watch TV at all. A lot of shows and movies give me major anxiety, and the ones that don’t just make me feel like I’m getting dumber and wasting my time. That said, when I come across something that really interests me and I think I’ll learn something from, I will actually sit down and watch it.

Last night I finally had some time to carve out to watch the documentary. The only expectation I had was that it was about the pet food industry [specifically dogs and cats]. Right off the bat, the film opens up with an interview with a wildlife veterinarian who feeds her pets raw. From a young age, she knew she wanted to be a vet. She shadowed a condor rehabilitator who aided in the recovery of injured birds by feeding them what they’d eat in the wild: raw meat. When she was finally old enough to go to vet school, she was confused when the nutrition classes taught the students solely about kibble. How could animals live on something that wasn’t natural to them?

Let me go on a little tangent here about veterinarians. I am by no means an expert, and I don’t claim to be. But what I do know from all of the groups that I’ve joined and all of the research that I’ve done, is that most vets will just regurgitate information they’ve been taught. They don’t form their own opinion or do their own research on the products they are selling to their clients. I trust my vet’s opinion for several reasons. 1) She’s very forward thinking. She’s constantly going to seminars and conferences on new ideologies, and educating herself in order to give the best possible care to her clients. 2) She’s a breeder and she shows her dogs. Many of the things she preaches are through her own trial and error. 3) She doesn’t speak at her clients, she speaks to them. She tries to educate people on what she’s administering and why. She lets people know why certain products will be beneficial to their pets.

Okay, back to the documentary. The film takes us on a tour through the history of kibble – how it came to be in the first place, and where it’s ended up today. It is very graphic at times, and also very emotional. Several people are interviewed about their pets passing away suddenly and horrifically by ingredients in their dogs’ food. Another veterinarian is interviewed about her belief in raw feeding, and how animal obesity has become such a problem in this country because of feeding our pets kibble.

Because the film is right up my alley, I found it to be extremely interesting and intriguing. The biggest message it sends is that we shouldn’t be cheapskates when it comes to caring for our pets and giving them a proper diet. There is an understanding that not everybody can afford to feed their pets raw – in this country it is still very expensive, and, when it comes to more than one pet, it can be time consuming to meal prep. The hope is that educating people on the dangers of buying inexpensive pet food will at least drive the pet food companies to monitor the ingredients in their product more efficiently. At this point, the FDA really isn’t regulating pet food production, which is why so many products have been recalled over the last 10 years. Buying expensive kibble doesn’t necessarily guarantee a healthier pet, but it has a higher chance of containing better quality ingredients than the lower priced brands.

As always, I understand that feeding raw isn’t an option for everyone. As I mentioned, it can be expensive and it is time consuming to meal prep. But I do encourage you to do some research on raw feeding and also on processed pet food. Start to scan the bags for certain ingredients to ensure your pet isn’t taking in something toxic. After switching my own dog to raw, I will always be an advocate for it, but there are decent kibbles out there on the market – you just have to do your research. Don’t be lazy. If you’re taking on the responsibility of a pet, then you also take on the responsibility to care for them properly, and that includes feeding them as well as you possibly can.

I encourage everyone to see the documentary. It was educational and very eye-opening. It even further solidified that my decision to switch Bella to raw was the best decision for her that I ever could have made.

The Ever Evolving Raw Food Movement [And What I’ve Tried So Far]

It’s been a little over a year now since I made the decision to switch Bella to raw. And as far as her health goes, it has been absolutely the best decision I could have made.

If there’s such a thing as a problem dog child, Bella has been mine. Right out of the shoot, Bella came to me with an ear infection. She’s had nothing but seasonal and food allergies since around the age of one – so constant dandruff, itching, scratching and several rashes. She’s an anxious personality, which has birthed many sores on her legs from chewing and licking incessantly. And, thanks to an insecure and uneducated ex-boyfriend, she was never socialized properly, and was, in fact, attacked several times as a young puppy. This has led to mild dog aggression due to the fact that she legitimately doesn’t know how to meet and interact with other dogs. When my ex and I parted ways a couple of years ago, I made it my mission to give Bella the best life she could possibly have. The first thing I did was amend her diet. And we are currently working with a trainer on learning how to socialize and reteaching Bella the basic fundamentals of dog training.

Prior to the raw diet, poor Bella had sampled nearly every expensive food brand there is – from grain and gluten free, to holistic, to organic. We tried every meat formula there is: beef, chicken, white fish, salmon. They all seemed great at first – her symptoms would go away for a spell [the hot spots, the dandruff, the rashes, the lethargy], but we wouldn’t even get through one 30 lb bag of dog food before her irritations would pop back up again. It seemed like the food was masking Bella’s symptoms instead of doing away with them. And when the most expensive kibble on the market couldn’t alleviate the issues, I decided to start researching raw.

When we initially started the raw diet, I got my food through a distributor on the east coast called ReelRaw. What I love about this company, and the reason I ultimately ended up going with them, is that for an additional cost they will pre-measure all of the meat for you [instead of buying it in bulk and weighing it out yourself]. Being a total rookie to raw feeding, I had no clue what a balanced raw meal should look like, nor how much food per day I should be feeding Bella. And I definitely didn’t know how to introduce her to the diet. This company did it all for me, and it was a completely seamless transition from kibble to raw [**this is not an ad – I just truly love and recommend this company for anybody who is new to raw feeding and wants the same smooth switch].

The hardest thing about switching Bella to raw was coming to terms with the fact that feeding her a meat only diet is completely well-rounded [to those who are unaware, the premise of the raw diet is that you’re essentially feeding your dog what he would eat in the wild – similar to the Paleo diet for humans, where the only acceptable food is natural food]. In the wild, dogs really only eat meat and bones, but many people who feed their dogs raw will add fruits and veggies. Because kibble contains these things, there’s a belief that dogs should be consuming them raw.

Raw food aficionados refer to this is Prey Model vs. BARF [Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food]. The Prey Model goes by the notion that dogs should only consume meat and meaty bones; the BARF model follows a kibble-like diet where dogs receive fruit and vegetables in addition to the meat. Over the course of the past year, I have tried both on Bella. Initially we stuck to meat only so she could get accustomed to the new food regimen. After a month or two, I started adding leftover fruit/veg to her meals, as well as raw goat’s milk to help with digestion. For a while we ordered juiced greens from Green JuJu, as I had heard a theory that dogs cannot absorb the nutrients from these foods unless they are in a crushed up, mushed up, juicy form [jury’s still out on this one]. But my problem child is sensitive and all of these additives just aggravate Bella’s system, so recently I have done away with the fruits, veggies and goat’s milk and kept her solely on meaty bones and ground meat mixtures.

Recently I’ve been testing the Traditional Chinese Medicine theory that certain foods can have heating and cooling effects on the body. While this has historically been used for humans, more and more people have been testing this practice on their dogs [to read more about this, here’s two articles I found to be extremely helpful: TCM 1, TCM 2]. Since Bella shows signs of a dog that runs on the hotter end of the spectrum, I have been focusing on feeding her cooling foods. I have removed chicken, lamb and turkey from her diet, and have kept her food consumption to mainly duck and rabbit varietals. It’s only been a couple of weeks since we made the switch, so it is a little bit too soon to tell, but her dandruff and skin allergies already seem to have minimized even further. Something else to keep in mind if you’re considering transitioning your pet to raw [generally speaking, starting your pet with chicken is the best – despite the fact that the meat may aggravate your pup’s system, it’s the lightest meat and the easiest for them to digest, thus making the transition to raw much smoother].

I know that this diet regimen is not for every one or every dog, but I am just happy that I have found something that has provided some relief for Bella. Now that I have experienced the health improvement from feeding raw, I will probably never go back. It is an expensive diet, and taking on the meal prep can be time consuming, but it has been worth all of the pain to see my dog so happy and energetic. Bella may be five years old, but she’s definitely going on two.


**PLEASE NOTE: THE ABOVE ARE MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH FEEDING MY DOG RAW. THIS DOES NOT MAKE ME AN EXPERT, NOR DO I CLAIM TO BE. IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING MOVING YOUR PET TO RAW, CONSULT YOUR VET, OR DO YOUR RESEARCH! THE INTERNET CAN AND DOES HOUSE ALL SORTS OF WEIRD AND WACKY INFORMATION, BUT MOST OF WHAT I’VE FOUND ON RAW FEEDING HAS BEEN EXTREMELY HELPFUL. FORUMS AND FACEBOOK GROUPS ARE ALSO A GREAT WAY TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY FEEDING THEIR DOGS RAW, AND MOST RAW FOOD DISTRIBUTORS HAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS – YOU CAN ALWAYS CONTACT THEM IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS. I AM ALSO HAPPY TO HELP WITH ANY INQUIRIES. AGAIN, I AM NOT AN EXPERT, BUT I WILL HELP IN ANY WAY THAT I CAN.**

The RAWsults Are In

We’re just a couple of days shy of Bella’s one month mark of being on the raw diet.

Conclusion?

Switching Bella to raw food was hands down paws down the best decision I ever made [well, best decision in relation to Bella’s diet, that is].

When I initially decided to try raw food for Bella, it was because her skin was reacting so horribly to kibble – and not just any kibble, one of the most expensive ones on the market! She was losing chunks of hair and she had so much dandruff it almost looked like she’d been snowed on. She was constantly scratching her ears and her belly, shaking her head, sneezing, chewing on and licking her legs. At $80+ for a 28 lb bag of high quality food, these weren’t the results we should have been getting.

Today is Bella’s 27th day eating raw. She looks like a completely different dog. Her coat is shiny and soft; the dandruff that she does still get is stress-induced [a fun Doberman quality] and goes away the instant we head out for our evening run. Her hair has grown almost completely back and she no longer scratches uncontrollably. Even her energy levels seem to have stabilized.

If you’re on the fence about feeding your dog raw, I would highly recommend making the switch. Even trying it out for a month to see what you think. It is expensive, but I believe in keeping both my dog and myself healthy. And so far I’d say the results of the raw diet have been worth every single penny.

If you have any questions about starting your dog on the raw diet, please feel free to ask/email: bellaandtheblonde@gmail.com. I am by no means an expert, nor do I boast to be, but I’d be happy to help you with inquiries and get you headed in the right direction.

RAWr

Real talk – I care waaayyyyy more about Bella’s well being than my own.

I mean, I would legit starve myself for a week if it meant that my dog could eat and survive to see another day.

Yeah.. I’m a bonafide dog mom. And DAMN PROUD OF IT.

I may have mentioned before that poor Bella has struggled with sensitive skin from the get-go. When I adopted her at eleven weeks old, she had a mild form of mange [demodex], which is relatively easy to treat if recognized and diagnosed early enough. And through trial-and-error with different kibbles, I learned that she has a very common gluten intolerance, as well as a sensitivity to fish-based food formulas. It’s basically been a constant uphill battle with trying to find a dog food that was good quality and helped her skin allergies.

**SIDENOTE: something I learned recently in my research – if you’re feeding your pets a gluten-free chicken- or turkey-based food, make sure that the meats the company uses are grass-fed. Because grain-fed animals bear grain-fueled meat. So, essentially, you aren’t really feeding your pet grain-free food at all. ALWAYS make sure you do your research!

I thought we’d finally found a solution with a brand called FROMM [I highly recommend this food, actually, for those of you whose pets don’t have horrendous skin issues and are willing to shell out some extra moola for a good quality food], but in our situation it seemed to only temporarily mask Bella’s skin sensitivities instead of help them long-term.

So the hunt was on again.

I am constantly doing research on the proper diet for Doberman Pinschers specifically. As is typical with the internet, though, every blog and every website say something different. You can basically do all the research you want but nothing will actually matter until you try things out for yourself.

I’ve always been interested in the raw diet, but I never knew anybody who had fed their dogs raw, and had heard it was pricey so I never looked further into it. But after hitting yet another dead end in Bella’s diet, I decided that maybe it was time we tried something new. Drastically new.

As luck would have it, a coworker of mine happens to feed her two black Labradors raw. And has been for six years. She hooked me up with a bunch of links to sites and gave me some pointers on where to find stuff locally. But since I’m totally green when it comes raw feeding, I decided to do some more research before jumping in feet first. And that’s when I stumbled on a company out of Maine called ReelRaw.

If you’re considering raw feeding, I HIGHLY recommend this company. You can email them before you make any decisions and their staff will answer any questions you may have. The BEST PART about this company is that they MEAL PREP FOR YOU! This is honestly what swayed my decision. Having never prepared and handled raw food for my dog, I wasn’t sure exactly what to feed her, how to properly introduce the diet, and how much to give her. This company does all of that for you [PS – this is not an endorsement, I just really like how this company works].

Literally the one and only downside is that if you live on the west coast, it takes roughly two weeks for your order to arrive. But when the package arrived at my office a WHOLE DAY EARLY, I was like a kid in a candy store. [Yes, that is literally the point of desperation I had gotten to with wanting and needing Bella to be healthy. I get excited about raw food deliveries].

We are only a week into the new diet so I can’t say for sure if this will be the winning food route for Bella, yet. But STAY TUNED – I will definitely post my observations in a month or so..

I know that raw feeding isn’t ideal for everybody. I’m not trying to convince anybody to switch over unless you have the means to do so and are willing to try. It is more expensive than kibble, and it’s really not worth cutting corners to cut cost because in the long run you’re still paying more but lower priced meat means lower quality meat.

But what I am asking is that you DO YOUR RESEARCH when it comes to the food that you’re feeding Fido. I mean, you see the way that eating McDonald’s every day effects the human body.. The kibble you’re feeding your pet could potentially be doing the same kind of damage.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT.

Do any of you guys feed your pets raw? I’d love to hear thoughts and feedback!

Balance for Bella

I am not yet blessed with a human baby. And while, because of this, I know absolutely nothing about raising a child, I do know that all moms want the same thing for their children – and that is their health.

It is no different for me and my own fur child.

And since I have resolved to make this a better, healthier, and happier year for myself, it only makes sense that I would include Bella as well.

When it comes to taking care of my dog, I have the same state of mind that homeless people have with their dogs – if I’m down to my lest penny with not a speck of food in the fridge, I will starve myself for a week before I let my dog die of hunger. Some may call that crazy – I call it love. Fur baby first.

When researching the proper diet for Bella, I started with the basics: her breed. Dobermans in general are an extremely active breed of dogs. They are high energy and therefore high metabolism. And so of course everything I found suggests foods high in protein to feed their active lifestyles. This is the perfect diet for my other Doberman, Roca, who fits the mold of Dobermans to a “T.” For Bella, however, the high protein diet just doesn’t work.

The reason I decided I wanted to look into a more proper food choice for Bella is because she is not like other Dobermans. She is extremely food motivated, to the point where if she didn’t have caramel brown socks and a cropped tail, she would no doubt be mistaken for a Chocolate Labrador. She is also lazy. My alarm goes off at 5:30 every morning and I literally have to drag her out of bed at that hour. A high protein diet for a dog that doesn’t meet the physical activity requirement is an obesity problem waiting to happen. Before I became Bella’s mom full-time (when I was still with my ex), I could never have her on the diet I wanted because she was shared. She ate the same food as Roca (who was also a puppy at the time), so she was on an extremely high fat and high protein diet (puppy foods, as a whole, are all designed this way to provide these babies with the proper nutrition for their rapidly growing bodies). My ex also liked having a “bulky” dog that looked mean and intimidating. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, if the dog is healthy. Bella wasn’t healthy, though. At anywhere from 90-95 pounds, she was carrying at least ten extra pounds of weight on her, which on a human is generally not the hugest deal, but on a dog whose frame is not built for that – you’re basically setting them up for major arthritis problems as well as doggy Diabetes, thyroid problems, etc. etc. The list goes on.

So while Bella may not be your a-typical Doberman, she still exhibits some of the standard skin issues. As a red color, she is not the “au naturale” black tone, which, if you know anything about dog breeding, the nonstandard varietals of breeds tend to have more health issues. Because Bella is red, she is more prone to allergies, whether they be caused by food, pollen, or even environment. For this very reason (and after many a trial-and-error with different kibble brands), I have kept Bella on a salmon formula. The omega-3’s in the fish-based food help keep her coat looking beautiful and the grain-free quality keeps her from getting horrible dandruff. Unfortunately, the salmon formula also happens to be high in proteins and has very little food variation, which I am finding is not the best diet for my girl.

Obviously, every single dog is different and they are all going to require a different diet. I have tried the raw diet, and if I could afford to keep Bella on that, I would. No questions asked. It is hands down the best remedy I have found for any and all health problems. However, since I am on a budget, I will have to find a suitable kibble substitute.

After realizing that the standard Doberman diet is not going to be the best choice for Bella, I moved on to my next phase of research: finding a food that contains all the food groups (aside from grains) necessary for a healthy diet. While I love the salmon formula because it keeps her coat healthy, it does not escape my notice that it has absolutely no other nutritional value. Bella eats grass like it’s burning up in flames before her very eyes.

If you’ve done any research on why dogs eat grass, every article you find will tell you – nobody has any idea why. And then they’ll give you a list of possible reasons: boredom, gastric and bowel inflammation, stomach relief (vomiting), supplementing, needing fiber – whatever the case is, the bottom line is we don’t actually know why.

When it comes to finding the right food for your dog, it really just comes down to trial-and-error. Because Bella is my only “child,” I am very in tune to her activities and what she is doing. We spend a lot of time with my parents and their Yellow Lab, who is on a very similar diet and who also happens to eat a lot of grass. Even though all of my research on grass-eating has gotten me nowhere, I’d have to be an idiot not to follow my instincts as to why Bella and Riley (my parents’ Lab) have such an affinity for such a tasteless and nutrition-less green. In their case, they are clearly supplementing for something that is missing in their diet. Hence why I am on the hunt for a well-balanced kibble.

As with my own health, I don’t want to jump into anything unless I’m absolutely sure that this is going to be the right next step for my dog. I am still researching and narrowing down brands that I feel will be suitable to Bella. If you’re having any hesitancies about your own dog’s diet, be sure you do your research and pay close attention to their activity level and whether or not they have food allergies. I also recommend breed-specific forum – people have lots of suggestions and there is a lot more personal research to go off of. It is definitely worth taking the time to make sure your dog is happy and healthy.

Doberman Diet: Raw vs. Kibble

I’ll admit, when my boyfriend first told me he wanted to put our dogs on a raw food diet, I balked. As humans, the words “raw meat” directly translate to salmonella, food poising, illness – something along the lines of unpleasant. Our bodies aren’t equipped to handle a cold cut of meat. Dogs, however, have not evolved as exponentially as humans have. Their diets, for the most part, have remained the same.

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of domesticated dogs as far back as the Paleolithic Era (roughly 20,000 years ago). We can absolutely know for sure that dog kibble did not exist in those days. In fact, the first dog food created specifically for dogs was released in the mid-1800s. So, for 19,800 years, dogs lived on the same diet of meat and table scraps. 200 years just isn’t enough time to allow a whole species to evolve to the point of needing a different diet. After coming to this realization, I thought that perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try.

And, of course, the dogs loved it. What dog WOULDN’T? Raw steak every morning and every night? They were in heaven.

We tend to think of dogs as garbage disposals. They rarely refuse human food. We do have to be careful what we feed them, though. Of late, more and more dogs are showing signs of gluten and corn allergies. A lot of cheaper brand dog foods contain lots of grain and corn products, which, if your dog is allergic, will most likely induce skin allergies and lots of itching and scratching. Dobermans have thin hair and generally have sensitive skin, which means cheap dog foods are a no-no. Since having mine, I’ve done a lot of research through trial-and-error as far as dog foods go. I have also found that foods that are chicken-based cause allergies and dandruff as well. Think about the life of a chicken – they are scavengers, they’ll eat ANYTHING. People that raise chickens to kill and sell, though, probably feed them mostly grains. Grains = allergies. Chicken = allergies. The best meat to give your dog if you’re considering a raw diet is steak.

Yes, steak is expensive – the raw diet is expensive! Take heed.

The great thing about dogs, though, is that they are not picky about the type of steak you feed them. Obviously, you don’t want to give them rotten meat, but the cheapest cut you can find will do. As a suggestion, WinCo was the best place I found for inexpensive steaks. They usually have a cut at $2.30 a pound, or somewhere in that ballpark. The other thing you need to think about if you’re considering the raw diet for your dogs is the fat aspect. Meats are chalk full of protein, but if you don’t exercise your dog, this may not be the best diet. Protein-based foods are best for growing or active dogs, who will be either storing the protein for bulk, or burning it off in exercise. Raw meat also doesn’t contain 100% of your dogs dietary necessities, so you will need to consider how you’re going to supply your pet with a well-rounded diet. There are wet foods that contain mostly liver, which is great for dogs on a raw diet. For my Dobies, they got a cup or two a day of Taste of the Wild Puppy formula (a mid-range priced dog food that contains no grains or corn).

In the end, I ended up taking my girls off the raw diet. It became extremely time-consuming (cutting up the food, keeping it refrigerated, going to the store every other day for fresh meat – you get the idea), and, of course, it cost me a pretty penny. If you have the time and expense to do this for your dogs, though, I highly recommend it.

*If you don’t want to do the raw diet, but you are concerned about your dog having food allergies, I recommend Taste of the Wild Salmon or Orijen Salmon. Both foods contain no grains or corn and the salmon is great for dogs – it also doesn’t hurt that it makes their coats soft and beautiful. My dogs have had both and they have produced the same results. They are on the more expensive side, as far as dog foods go, so if you’re on a budget, visit your local feed store and ask them what they recommend for a similar formula but a lower price. If you live near a Western Feed, I would try there first. The employees are knowledgeable and won’t try and sell you something you don’t need.