Monday, February 20, 2012

Best of Both Worlds

I have not posted about feeding raw food in a long time.... nothing serious or educational in over two years.  I used to feel more like an expert.  After all, I had successfully fed numerous greyhounds for ten years on nothing but chicken backs, necks, and leg quarters, turkey necks, beef, vegetable and fruit mixes, and different organ meats. My hounds looked and felt great.  My old dogs aged well.  Their mouths were healthy and teeth were clean despite no dental cleanings. 
Katie's teeth at age 10.

A friend joked once that greyhounds poop more than they eat.  That was my experience before raw food.  Stools were gross, enormous, and soft.  If poop can ever be called great, my raw fed greyhounds' poop was great.
Great on the left.  Not Great on the right.

But then Reagan came.  On the farm, she ate a typical mixture of commercial dog food and raw meat.  Once in my home, she was switched to the raw diet I was feeding.  As long time readers know, she lost weight and her coat was terrible.  Her stools were always a little icky and nothing like my other greyhounds.

Reagan's bloodwork showed she was vitamin B12 deficient.  Well, it was not her diet.  You have to be a strict vegetarian to eat a diet deficient in B12 and she was definitely not a vegetarian.  Eventually, we concluded that Reagan was simply unable to pull the nutrients she needed from raw food for whatever reason.  I put her on a high quality, grain-free, lamb based food (Acana Grasslands) and she has been fine ever since.  That all happened in the spring and summer of 2009.

So with kibble back in my house, I have morphed into a half and half diet for all of my dogs.  Most of them eat raw food in the morning (Reagan still gets a chicken back twice a week) and they all eat Acana Grasslands or Ranchlands in the evening. 
The half and half diet has advantages and flexibility.  Kibble is easier to feed when traveling or leaving the greyhounds with sitters.  Kongs can be stuffed with raw meat, veggie mixes, or kibble mixtures.  I feel good to be feeding my dogs a variety of fresh, whole foods and not something that looks like cereal (even if it is grain-free).  Plus, the raw food definitely helps keep their teeth clean too.  But chicken backs come in all different sizes so feeding a little kibble at the end of the day makes it easier to round out the portions to an appropriate calorie count.  I also feel less compelled to do elaborate veggie mixes when I know that the Acana dog food fits someone's idea of "balanced" and should contain all of the needed nutrients.
So that is what I am feeding now.  The best of both worlds I think.  I am not advocating one, the other, or both.  It just depends on the dogs and what works best for them. 

If you feed kibble, but wish to add a little raw food periodically, I think turkey necks are a good choice (at least for greyhounds).  They usually do not have a lot of skin or fat attached so it is easier on the digestive tract.  It is also an excellent raw meaty bone for teeth and takes some work for the dog (greyhounds) to consume. 
But OMG!  Sometimes they are huge!