Monday, June 22, 2009

Believe It Or Not

After two months of what appeared to be calm and effortless digestion, Reagan still looks terrible. She continues to have bald patches and thinning areas of fur on places that used to be thickly covered. She always appears to be slightly underweight despite the volume of food she consumes. Her skin is dry and her coat is brittle.

Dr. Toby strongly suggested that I try cooking what I was feeding to see if she would improve. Maybe she simply cannot break through the cell walls and absorb the nutrients in raw food. Cooking might make the nutrients more accessible.

In the past, I have cooked for older, sick dogs. It was time consuming and my primary concern was simply getting calories into failing bodies. I was not concerned with providing a balanced diet geared for long-term health. Reagan is only 2 years old, so cooking her food was going to be a huge commitment and required some education.

Balancing a raw diet seems very easy to me, but balancing a cooked diet does not. Do you cook the bones until they are soft and if so, is the calcium any good? And if you cook for so long that the bones are soft, have I changed the nutrients in the meat? Should I just forget the bones and supplement calcium? How much? My head was spinning. I decided to seek the assistance of a holistic vet hoping she could guide me through cooked diets.

Ironically, the holistic vet, Dr. Julia, suggested feeding Reagan a high quality, commercial dog food. So for the first time in a decade, I am feeding one of my greyhounds dog food. Yes, you heard that right. I am feeding Reagan kibble.

So far I am stunned with how smooth the switch to kibble and even some canned food has been. From a digestive standpoint, everything is coming out perfectly. I could not be happier. I felt a little pang when Reagan looked at me with "where's my chicken?" eyes. But she still eats her meals with lots of enthusiasm and is the only hound in our house that eats twice a day.... lucky Reagan. Only time will tell if kibble will bring Reagan back to the healthy state seen below. I am hopeful.
I will tell you more about the holistic vet in the next post.


Sientay L said...

I hope the kibble diet works even though it's not your preferred diet. Here's to hoping this will be the answer to Reagan's digestive problems!

BrittBeah said...

Bless her, it must be a terrible let down to have eaten such great things all this time only to be put on dry kibble now. I hope it is worth it.
If you do decide to cook for her, please share! There is such limited info on cooking healthy I would love to see what you find out.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

So far so good digestively. Her coat will be the most telling though.

Britt, I didn't find a lot of cooking info either. There were websites providing balanced diet recipes, but they seemed to all be a meat, a carbohydrate, and vitamins. To me that sounds less nutritious than kibble. The point of a homemade diet is to provide nutrients from healthy foods (at least in my opinion) so you don't have to supplement with a bunch of vitamins. So I was relieved that the holistic vet said a quality dog food would be a better choice.


Hiking Hounds said...

I hope this helps her, poor girl. What kind of kibble are you feeding her? I still give Zephyr a little kibble because he is not fond of his veggies and he gets a little constipated without some fiber. I've been using the Solid Gold "Barking at the Moon" and he likes it.


Jemma the Chihuahua said...

Just curious - which kibble did you choose?

I know it's not your preferred diet, but I have seen first-hand how a switch back to commercial food from a raw diet has been beneficial for my dog. She was suffering from dull fur for a long time and although I didn't really "see" the problem at that time, I noticed a drastic improvement when I switched her to kibble (for convenience issues).

Everyone believes different things, but I really believe that some dogs really do better when all the vitamin and mineral levels and ratios are "right", according to science. I know this will lead to the whole debate on dog food companies and their purposes, etc., which I won't get into...and some people probably would like to prove me wrong. However, you can't fight what you see happening in front of your eyes.

I made a post about it here:

Then I also got some nasty anonymous comments saying that I might as well feed my dog crap commercial brands since I think processed is good.

(Just for the record, we've been back on a home-cooked diet for a few months now and doing well...I work with a spreadsheet now to get everything "right".)

So, although this isn't what you prefer for Reagan, I really hope it does work.

As for home-cooking, unless you have a pressure cooker that can turn the bones into mush, it's better to leave the bones out and add a calcium supplement instead. A general guideline is 800-900 mg of elemental calcium per pound of food being fed. However, like I think I said before, I use NATS to figure out how much calcium is already in the batch of food I'm making and then figure out how much to add, so that it's at the ideal amount according to NRC. It gets quite confusing, so I would just keep with the kibble and see how that goes.

Good luck!

Jemma the Chihuahua said...

P.S. During that stage, Jemma was losing fur in patches as well. If you look at that entry I made, you'll see pictures of it.

Marie said...

Good luck with the diet change. All dogs are individuals. It is amazing that some can eat what we consider is crap food and seem to do fine while others have a problem with a healthy diet. It is all about how THEY can metabolize it.

My mom's dog ate wal-mart Ol-roy for years with table scraps and looked great. (and died at an old age after an accident) I couldn't get her to change foods. She seemed to do just fine on it though. (My theory was that the table scraps helped.)

I tend to switch back and forth with raw and kibble myself. Usually when I am feeling lazy or lately because I had a freezer malfunction and lost a bunch of meat. Even when on kibble I change it alot. Because I am afraid no one kibble is the best over time. How can we know it is really balanced for each dog?

Sorry to have rambled. I hope it works or that you find the key. Did you check out the recipes in the book "Food pets die for" by Ann Martin? She was very into cooking for pets.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

I'm sure Reagan is teaching me the One-Diet-Does-Not-Fit-All lesson. While I figured that was true, I wanted to believe it would only happen with other people's dogs. :-)

I am feeding Blue Buffalo Lamb & Rice kibble and canned food.

I have heard of the book "Foods Pets Die For", but have not read it. Honestly, if kibble ends up working for Reagan, I'll probably be too scared to try something else.... but if it doesn't... cooking would probably be my last resort.... of course, assuming her skin issue is absorption related.


BrittBeah said...

I know I've tried to send you this blog before and it didn't work, but I'll try again. This is from a vet in FL about cooking for her own pups. She even has a link to consult with a nutritionist. She cooks her meats.

greytblackdog said...

To cook or not to cook - as long as Reagan is doing well, that's all that matters, right?

It's funny, I tried to feed Blue Buffalo before and Seka couldn't eat it at all. The big D for a month! So it just goes to show that one size doesn't fit all.

Could she have some random allergy if her coat/skin doesn't improve?

Oh, I'm with Britt - dolitter's blog is great.

Katie said...

I could never manage cooked. Raw is no big deal to me, but cooked requires supplementing and math.

Good luck with the new diet, and I hope that she's looking spiff and shiny soon!

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Thanks for the link, Britt. I will check it out.

Black Dog, I actually had the Blue Buffalo already because of foster dog, Jet. He did awful on it also! :-)

Katie, I'm with you. I don't think I will be cooking long-term anytime soon.


Anonymous said...

We've been feeding Blue Buffalo to our girl since we adopted her in March. She looks more healthy and shiny every month and she has the energy level and attitude of a very happy and healthy dog.

I thought I recognized the kibble in the picture. ; )

I hope the new food agrees with Regan and that she is glowing soon.