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Anytime you get two or more dog fanciers together the subject of diet is sure to come up. There are so many commercial foods and supplements on the market that it is hard to make sense of it all. There is no one food or feeding regimen that is right for all dogs at all stages of their lives.
About 10 years ago we decided we wanted to do more for our dogs than just feed commercial kibble. We began by adding REAL foods such as small amounts of raw meat, pureed raw vegetables, cottage cheese, yogurt, soft cooked eggs, rice, pasta, etc. to their commercial diet. We were so pleased with the results that we began to read everything we could find on natural or raw diets. After much reading and researching we came up with a feeding program that worked for our dogs. The program consisted of small amounts of about 20% protein commercial kibble made with human grade ingredients and all the rest natural, real foods. After reading "Give Your Dog a Bone", I began to decrease the kibble and grains. After I attended a seminar by Dr. Billinghurst I removed all commercial kibble and most grain products from the diet.
So what do I feed? Breakfast is usually a turkey neck and fruit smoothie. It doesn't take any longer to toss a turkey neck and some fruit smoothie in a bowl than it does to measure out kibble. Dinner is raw ground meat or meat chunks or more raw, meaty bones served with pureed raw vegetables. We like a lot of variety in the vegetable puree so we may select from carrots, celery, green beans, cabbage, turnip greens, romaine, zucchini, squash, garlic, etc. We don't use corn as one of the dogs seems to get a little gassy from it. Fresh, over ripe fruits such as bananas, apples, mangoes, cantaloupe, etc. are also good additions. Occasionally I add some baked sweet potato which is a real favorite. The ground meat or meat chunks can be beef, turkey, chicken, or lamb. I may also add yogurt or kefir for the probiotics, a little cottage or ricotta cheese, a very small amount of leftover rice or pasta, or maybe a little overcooked oatmeal. Grains are fed in very small quantities and only once or twice over a 2 week period. I usually travel to shows and trials in a motor home so that makes taking the diet on the road pretty easy. However, I have also used it when I was staying in a motel with no problems. I packaged enough for each dog's meal in freezer containers which I kept in my cooler and thawed as needed. I have been gone for a week with no problems.
I would also like to emphasize that since I am feeding Dalmatians who, as a breed, are predisposed to forming urate stones, I dipstick the urine with pH test strips on a regular basis and also have the vet do a routine urinalysis on a regular basis. I also try to limit the high purine foods. If you have a Dalmatian that is a stone-former I suggest you work with a knowledgeable veterinary nutritionist for recommendations about feeding.
One question that always comes up is cost. Initially I think it did cost more to feed this way. Now that I have found good sources for my meat and bones I find it no more expensive than the premium grade kibble I was feeding. I buy the necks in 40 lb boxes and then repackage into freezer containers that hold enough for one meal for all the dogs. I buy vegetables every two weeks and puree them and freeze them in containers that hold about a three day supply. I do have a separate refrigerator for the dogs as well as a freezer so I can really stock up when things are on sale. I purchased a meat grinder so I can grind chicken wings , bone and all, for puppies and can grind legs, thighs etc. if they are on sale. I have also appropriated two shelves in the freezer section of our refrigerator for storing dog food.
We feel it is beneficial to any dog to have natural, raw foods added to the diet. Owners who do not wish to go all the way with a raw diet can still improve the diet by switching to a naturally preserved kibble (no BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin) made with human grade ingredients and adding some raw meat, pureed vegetables and fruit, raw or soft cooked eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. to it. If you do decide to add some raw foods to your dog's diet, do it gradually. Switching all at once can cause digestive disturbances. Vegetables should be pureed to break down the cellulose and make the vegetables more digestible. It is advisable to consult a veterinarian before making drastic changes to the dog's diet. Many proponents of raw diet find that holistic vets are more amenable to natural diets than are allopathic vets. You should definitely consult your veterinarian before making changes to the diet of dogs who have medical problems such as forming stones or compromised immune systems.
I can just imagine what you are thinking. "But", you say, "Everything I have read says not to feed table scraps to dogs." As I researched diet I read some dog books from 20 to 50 years ago. These books advocated raw meat, grains and vegetables for the dogs. Of course, people ate healthier foods then too. It has only been in recent years that we have altered our diet to include so many high fat, high sugar foods. So, yes, if you eat fried foods, high fat foods, and lots of sweets, your table scraps are not good for your dog. However, leftovers of lean meat, steamed vegetables, and very small amounts of well-cooked grains are fine.
There are several books available about natural diet including The BARF Diet by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, "Reigning Cats and Dogs" by Pat McKay, "The Ultimate Diet" by Kymythy Schultz, "Switching to Raw" by Johnson and "Natural Healthcare for Dogs and Cats" by Pitcairn.
If you choose to feed a home prepared diet you cannot do it halfheartedly. You must read the books (I suggest reading all of them) and follow the guidelines or you can do more harm than good. I feel this is a wonderful way to feed my dogs but it may not be right for every person.
Take a look at my pictorial explanation of preparing BARF meals. You an also do a web search for more information. I had numerous links to other raw feeding sites but it became too time consuming to constantly update them as people change their hosting providers.
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