It occurred to me after writing this post that this is probably only a big deal to me, but what the hell, I’m posting it anyway.
Here is my BIG NEWS…in the midst of several “lockdowns” this past year, I spent much of my time doing a deep dive on-line into exploring the idea of feeding my dogs a more species appropriate whole food diet. This is more commonly known in the dog world as raw feeding. What?!?! This is a HUGE change for me because previously I have been on the other side of the fence on this subject, primarily because of what I had been taught in vet-tech college, which was reinforced by every veterinarian I worked for.
I’ve been aware of the concept of raw feeding for years, but couldn’t find convincing arguments from what I would consider reliable sources, and was a bit suspicious of anecdotal testimonies from the raw feeding community. I was taught that commercial pet food was the best and only thing to feed my pets. I now know that this is simply not true. I had to put aside what I was taught, be open minded and use some good old common sense. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this is the fastest growing sector of the pet food industry, much to the chagrin of the giant commercial kibble pet food companies.
My decision was also driven by all of the recalls and pet deaths linked to commercial pet food and treats over the past several years that are forcing many of us to take a hard look at the traditional pet food industry. Ultimately I decided I wanted more control over what my dogs were eating. What I found surprised me and made me question what I had previously believed. I won’t even try to explain it – if you want to educate yourself do a Google search on Susan Thixton and “The Truth About Pet Food”, and the documentary Pet Fooled by Kohl Harrington – spoiler alert, be prepared to be shocked and appalled.
Yes, commercial pet food is an option, but it is probably not the best option. Personal example – Rex has food sensitivities and the only food that worked for him was a prescription diet that cost $100 for a 25 pound bag of food. Turns out this food is made from pulverized chicken feathers with bunch of chemicals added to qualify it as a nutritious diet. Yep that’s right, I was paying $100 for a bag of ground up feathers and chemicals!! WOW.
The idea of raw feeding can seem daunting, and as with most things these days the internet is full of conflicting information. I’ve done my best to acquire my information and seek guidance in this journey from people in the raw feeding community who have been doing this for decades, (including holistic veterinarians), but even more importantly people who are generous enough to share their experiences and humble enough to admit that they don’t have all of the answers. It is an evolving and growing concept, and sharing information is the best way we can help each other help our dogs live healthier lives. Of course there are weirdos within this community who think they have all of the answers and will attack and trash talk anyone who doesn’t agree with them, but as 2020 made quite evident, there are always trolls out there in any community. I think we’re all painfully aware of that now, and know to just ignore them.
Let me be clear – this is a choice I am making for my dogs. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my choice and I would never criticize someone for their choices. Cost and convenience are important factors that impact decisions about what we feed our pets. Surprisingly, once I did the math I found that the cost is similar to some of the high end commercial diets on the market, and depending on how much DIY you want to do there are a lot of ways to save money. Time is real the investment in this situation. I also had to invest in a new chest freezer because of the number of dogs I’m feeding. For people who don’t care to do all of the calculating involved there are services who will provide a meal plan for you to follow, and if you don’t have the time or inclination to put together a diet there are companies that provide complete meals. These options do cost a bit more.
Personally, I am enjoying the process. The raw food meals require some creativity when choosing combinations of ingredients to balance the diet, and making the cooked diet for the seniors is fun since I love to cook and have missed it. Cooking for one wasn’t that enjoyable so I was doing less and less. Now I cook almost every day! If I’m not making up a batch of dog food, I’m making dog treats. The best part is that the dogs are crazy about the food, so I never get any complaints about my cooking even if I screw something up. (Score!!)
Here’s a thought…We love our dogs, which is why we share our homes and almost every aspect of our lives with them. I think it can be easy to forget that we also control and choose every aspect of how our dogs live their lives. Where they sleep, when they go for a walk, how long they are left home alone, who they interact with both human and canine, the level of veterinary care provided to them, what kind of training (if any) they receive. Hell, we even control their basic biological needs – when and what they eat and even when they go to the bathroom!! We control ALL of it and I feel it’s our responsibility to do our best to use the resources available to us to make the best choices for them. Diet is a hugely important, but often overlooked piece of the puzzle.
Without a doubt I’ve already seen an improvement in my own dogs on several levels, the most obvious and dramatic being they now produce less than half the amount of poop simply because they are utilizing most of what they’re eating. They look great and are more satisfied too, which results in happier, calmer pooches, and a peaceful household.
Don’t worry – I’m stepping off of my soapbox now.