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.


BrittBeah said...

I'm glad you are keeping us posted with what you find out on your journey fot fixing you sick girl. Another one of the blogs I read recently had a post about "people food". It is by a vet that acctually feeds her frenchies raw. Here is the link:

Barb said...

Good response to the question about "how do you know the diet is balanced?" :-)
My take is, when you are feeding the EXACT same thing, every day, 365/yr, with no changes or supplements or anything different - which describes how we were taught to feed our pets with "only their pet food, no snacks, and heaven forbid no 'people food'" - then yes, you'd better be darn sure that every morsel contains every nutrient they need*, in the correct proportion. And yes, it does take a degree in nutrition and access to lab analysis equipment to formulate a diet like that.

*of course, one problem with this philosophy is that we still haven't identified every single nutrient that HUMANS need, or understand the amounts and proportions. And a heck of a lot more research goes into studying human nutrition than pet nutrition.

Jemma the Chihuahua said...

I am somewhere in the middle. I used to feed kibble before I knew better, but when Jemma started getting recurrent ear infections, I switched her to a pre-made raw diet. We then went to prey model, back to premade, and now home-cooked. She wasn't liking the raw diet very much and getting her to eat it was like making her eat poison. Plus, she has liver disease, so I feel that a cooked diet is safer for her. But the most important reason that got me switching was because she started scratching all the time (not food allergies) and for some reason, her fur is just so dull and flaky on the raw diet. Maybe the pre-made diets are not as "balanced" as they claim to be, I don't know.

Anyway, I started out cooking with ratios, like 75% protein and 25% vegetables. Now I formulate her diet to fit the NRC 2006 requirements and analyze it a bit with to make sure her diet is meeting her individual requirements. I think that's the best I can do for her at this point. It is a lot more work using the NRC requirements though and sometimes I want to ditch it and go back to doing ratios.

P.S. I make veggie slop, too :)

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Thanks everyone. I tried to pull up and it would not come up.... I'll try later.


Shannon said...

Jennifer, thanks a million for your advice!! My husband watched me making the veggie SLOP last night and said, "the dog is eating better than we are". I'm so excited about the digestive improvements.

BrittBeah said...

Jenn if you try my profile page the dolittler is amongst ALL the blogs I read, you can read it that way. She has quite a few entries on raw feeding. Today she has a very sad event posted. You and Stephen may be interested to read.