Yesterday, I led another Cooking for Dogs workshop which is a workshop I designed about four years ago to encourage owners to add fresh ingredients into their dog’s diet. We also discuss the latest research into dog diets (such as the July 2018 announcement by the US FDA about a possible link between grain-free foods and heart disease) and what makes a ‘good’ ingredient for a recipe – things like choosing meat ingredients and the use of spices such as ginger and turmeric.
I’m a supporter of the hybrid diet – where dogs are fed commercial food, raw food and also homemade food for variety and nutritional support and to mitigate the risks of long-term nutritional deficits.
It’s been a month or so now of food-themed interactions with clients and colleagues. For example, during my visit to Kindness Ranch, I was given a tour. They make their own ‘sow chow’ of fresh ingredients for their pigs because they found that commercial pig food is designed to fatten up the pigs for slaughter. (Whereas the pigs at the Ranch have been rescued and will live out their lives naturally.)
Look at the colors in the bowl – fresh foods like watermelon! What pig wouldn’t want to chow down on food that that was this fresh?
And I’ve had a few interactions with clients this week which were also food related. For example, the well-meaning owner of a Labrador puppy. I had to tell her that I felt her dog was overweight and that she needed to reduce the amount of food being fed daily (adjusted also for treats used in training).
She was worried because the bag of her commercial puppy food recommended that she feed even more. I explained that we should feed our dogs according to body condition and that many commercial foods often overstate the feeding rates for their foods. After all, if owners feed more food, then they have to buy more food. (I’m sure there are some dogs that may need the recommended feeding volumes – but these would be the exception and not the rule from my experience.)
And then there was the dog that had been losing weight and urinating in the house. I strongly advised that the dog be taken to the vet for a health check and the results were in – a pancreatic problem brought on by feeding raw. In this case, I suspect that the raw food mix being fed to this dog was way too high in fat and also contained consistently too much liver instead of a mixture of other organ meats such as heart and kidney. Regardless, the dog was not thriving on its diet and, worse, was being hurt by it. A change in diet to a commercial kibble has seen a return to health and no more urinating in the house which is a positive for both dog and owner.
Every dog is different when it comes to diet. There is no one right or wrong answer, but there are tools and techniques we can use to match them to a diet that works.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand