My opinion on feeding my dogs has changed a lot over the years. In my younger years I used to feel that commercially-prepared food made expressly for dogs was the best way to go and anything human grade was expressly forbidden. My how times have changed! In the wake of many pet food recalls and animal deaths from tainted pet foods over the years, I have gotten a bit choosier with regard to what I feed not only my dogs, but my family as well. I do organics as much as possible and buy from local growers whenever possible. Free-range, grass-fed, hormone and pesticide-free meats are obtained whenever possible. The fact of the matter is, it is not always possible for me, so I do the best I can. I have a garden, which admittedly has not faired well the past few years, but I keep trying with it anyway. Luckily we have farmer’s markets nearby where I can obtain fresh, organic fruits and vegetables at a fair cost.
Dogs are omnivores. This means they eat both plants and meat. I consider myself a raw-feeder, even though there are those that would staunchly disagree with me since I do include dairy products and grains in my dogs’ diets. For some dogs, these ingredients can be allergens. I have had no problem with using them in moderation. I also feed my dogs a rotating schedule of raw meats (including bones) which include:
*offal (organ meats such as heart, liver, kidneys, intestines, green tripe)
Some of you may be alarmed at the bones. Don’t be. Raw bones are fine, it’s cooked bones that are dangerous. They can splinter. Raw bones are a valuable dietary staple. Trying to get the marrow from inside can keep them busy for quite a while and as an added bonus–clean teeth! Egg shells can be used as a substitute for bone meal.
Other sources of dietary protein that I utilize are:
*legumes & beans (lentils, green beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans)
*brown rice (higher in protein than regular white rice, lower in fat)
The dogs also get fresh fruits and vegetables including but not limited to:
*apples (no seeds)
*squash (several varieties)
I also add rice, bread and pasta to their diet for carbohydrates. Very frequently our local market has large loaves of french bread for $1 so I will buy several of these for the dogs. No worries if they get somewhat stale. Stale bread is fine to give them. If it bothers you you can freeze them. My Rama is a nut for bread. We have a morning ritual: While I am making lunches for the kids, she comes running when she hears me open a bag of bread. She gets the end pieces or any piece that might be going somewhat stale. She loves bread.
I try to stick to a breakdown of 50-25-25 (protein, fruits, veggies OR protein, veggies, carbs) or 60-20-20. You have to think of the meals you are giving to your dog in terms of an entire day. If I give fruits in the morning then I will give veggies at night. If I give cottage cheese in the morning on one day, I’ll give yogurt at night. It helps to have a chart handy, but it really isn’t as complicated as it may sound when you think of it in terms of what they eat meal-wise in one whole day.
Because probiotics are essential to good digestion (for us as well as our dogs), the dogs get these in the form of yogurt on a daily basis, or if I run low, sometimes every other day. I also include a powdered supplement called Missing Link. I’ve used this supplement for many years and have had very good results.
Our small dog Isy is not particularly fond of raw food, though occasionally she will partake. Isy is almost solely fed from table scraps. With 3 kids still at home as well as my husband and myself, she has no shortage of food and eats quite well considering I don’t feed many processed or boxed foods. I save everything I can from the table and have trained the family on what can be given to the dogs and what cannot. Everything that is acceptable (pieces of meat, bread, steamed veggies, fruits) gets piled into a pot or onto a plate and is placed on the counter for me to utilize in dog meals later that evening. Usually leftovers are strictly Isy’s thing, but some steamed veggies or some fruits and such will go the the big dogs, too. It all depends on what is there. Any deficiencies (not enough protein, carbs, etc) is made up as I go along. It is important to feed your dog in accordance with their age and activity level, whether or not they are pregnant and/or nursing or have a special dietary requirement. If you are not sure what they require, do some research, talk to your vet, breed experts and make sure you use a vitamin and mineral supplement.
I feed the dogs twice daily and restrict activity for an hour or more after they’ve eaten to help minimize the chance of bloat. Large, deep-chested dogs seem to be more prone to bloat, but it can and does happen in dogs of all sizes. I’ve had a front row seat to several dogs losing their lives to bloat so of course it terrifies me, as it does most owners who are aware of this condition. Feeding twice daily (splitting the dog’s daily rations in half), restricting exercise and feeding off the ground (raised feeders) are all things that I do to help avoid this fatal condition. Here is a good article on bloat.
In my next post I will take some photos around mealtime so you can see what a typical meal looks like on any given day.