Saturday, April 18, 2009

Balancing Act

In the last 10 years, I have fed a raw food diet to my greyhounds. I have also assisted countless others in switching their dogs, mostly greyhounds. Many of my dog agility and obedience friends have switched their dogs. Although I am certain that some dogs do not do well on raw food, I cannot think of any at this moment that I personally know. However, Reagan's digestive problem does make me review what I am feeding. Is her problem a raw food problem? I don't know.

One of my vets is more mainstream than the other and he is the vet I have been using with Reagan's problem. I doubt he would ever recommend feeding raw food to a client, but I think he has seen enough benefits to not discourage someone from it. He is open minded. Since we are messing with Reagan's diet, he has been assisting me with some research about raw diets. Its interesting to read what is said about "us" (the raw diet feeders) on vet forums. "These people have a religious conviction that feeding raw is best and if you shriek too much, they will simply find another vet or lie to you about what they feed." And "You can reduce the likelihood of alienating these clients by discussing the alternative of having bone completely ground into the meat." It makes us sound like crazy cult members. :-)

Time and time again, the idea of a balanced diet appears. My vet asked how I determine that I am feeding a balanced diet. So I asked him how he determined he was feeding his children a balanced diet. To his credit, he gave a fantastic answer. I think he puts a lot more thought into what his kids eat than most parents today. My approach to feeding my hounds is virtually the same as his except that my kids (the greyhounds) never eat any junk food. I never have to counter a meal at McDonald's like a parent does. This weekend I am going to eat pizza, enjoy Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and drink lots of Dr. Pepper with my sister. The only vegetable I might consume is mushrooms on the pizza.... but the hounds will still be eating their fresh, healthy foods.
So why is it that people are so hung up about a balanced diet for pets? Yes, it is important, but nature never intended for anyone to eat a balanced diet on a daily basis. The balance comes over time. I have been asked many times for a recipe. Recipes scare me. As soon as you adhere yourself to a strict plan, I believe you subject your dog to possible deficiencies. This is why I post my S.L.O.P. or veggie mixes each time. I want to inspire you to reach for a wide variety of foodstuff. Feeding a wide variety of foods, provides all of the nutrients over time. It gives your dog lots of whole food sources in which to pull nutrients from. My dogs eat a wider variety of vegetables than I do and I am a vegetarian.

At this point, feeding something like kibble is completely illogical to me. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not trying to be insulting. Kibble is widely accepted and plenty of dogs live long healthy lives eating it. The availability of quality kibble has grown enormously. If Reagan ends up doing best on kibble, I too will feed kibble. But imagine if people ate Total cereal mixed with a little Ensure and a multi-vitamin three times a day. It does not sound so healthy does it? So I am disappointed when I still hear a vet talking about "us" like we are crazy when a diet similar to kibble for a human would be considered insane.

I am sure that some folks do a poor job feeding raw food. Some vets mentioned seeing some vitamin deficiencies not seen in a very long time. For example, someone feeding a recipe with raw meat and no bones could easily create a calcium deficiency if there is no calcium supplement. However, one client doing it wrong isn't a good enough reason to chastise the rest of us.

So I concluded that I still love feeding raw food. I have kicked up the veggies a notch. I am committed to making sure my hounds are getting a dollop of SLOP (among many other things) each day now. I am not ready to try something as extreme as kibble with Reagan yet. We will just have to wait and see how she does.