Recently I have changed the way I am feeding my dogs. This has come about directly because of our tragedy of losing our dog Miranda unexpectedly. It is also how I wanted to always feed them, and have done so in the past because I felt it was right for me and my dogs.
In no way am I suggesting that if you don’t feed your dog or dogs the way I do that you are a bad dog person so if you feel defensive while reading this discussion, you may need to examine your confidence in your own beliefs.
I am simply going to share with you what I do and why I do it.
When I first got a dog, I started her out on grocery store brand dog food. I knew nothing about dogs except that I knew I wanted one. After about a year, I started getting more into training and dog stuff because Shasta was fear aggressive and I needed to help her. Also, I was always interested in eating well for humans so with a lot of research started to feed my dog AND my two cats raw. For some reason this way of feeding my pets resonated with me.
The cats were a little more challenging to do this with than the dogs were and eventually I went back to dry cat food. But my dogs (by now I had two), kept getting raw fed.
I was able to feed locally raised grass fed beef and local chickens until a few years ago. I stopped because I found that I didn’t have the time to prepare everything. I was working a lot on my business grooming, training and boarding other people’s dogs. I did everything with the food myself (preparing the food) because prepackaged raw food was impossible to afford. The meat we obtained was from animals that were never taken on a truck to a feed lot or stressed out by the slaughter situation.
When I went back to feeding dry dog food, we were feeding the highest quality (in my opinion) dog food possible, but it never really felt right to me. I always had the idea of going back to feeding something other than store bought dry dog food.
Then our tragedy happened. Miranda, a seven and a half year old Australian Shepherd had her teeth cleaned in February, and one tooth with an exposed root was removed. By the middle of April, she started chewing her feet – an immune response called pemfigus. My suspicion was that she had a reaction to the anesthetic for surgery, which is the most common cause of pemfigus, but there was no proof of that. No biopsy was done to diagnose either. Australian Shepherds can be sensitive to anesthetic and other meds so it is possible.
Because of this chewing she was put on a high dose of Prednisone to put a cap on the immune system. It worked for a bit but the chewing came back when we started to wean her off. So she was immediately put on another course of meds without time off or a blood test to see if there was any issue, which is recommended. If I had been paying attention, I would have realized that she should have had a blood test before the next course of meds and demanded it.
We didn’t even know she was sick until the evening before she passed away. She crashed and we rushed her to the closest clinic while we were camping. They did what they could but it was too late. She died of septicemia from an infection – either a bladder infection she had picked up or menigitis from the infected tooth. The prednisone took out her immune system and made her susceptible to infection. The pathologists report said she likely had something brewing even before the meds were given. The infection was missed by us because she showed no symptoms until the last 12 hours for us to know she was sick.
What does this have to do with what I am feeding my dogs? Lots.
I have to do the only thing that makes any sense to help me get through this, and that is be with my dogs all the time and not working with other people’s dogs anymore. That includes feeding them the best I can, which is what I wanted to do in the first place but didn’t have the guts to do until this awful thing happened.
So now you know why. Here’s how.
Our oldest dogs McCoy and Finn started to not want to really eat dry dog food. When I started adding things to the dry food to get them to eat. It worked but only sort of. What did work was when there was no dry dog food in the bowl. This made me clue in to what they really wanted. So I changed McCoy and Finn over to whole foods.
Whole foods are those that have only one ingredient. They may be cooked or raw but are not what we would normally call processed foods. Meats like chicken, pork, beef, fish, veggies, eggs. McCoy also eats butter and milk and a little goat’s cheese. You could call these things processed but they are not full of additives/preservatives like junk food and canned and boxed foods.
I also started adding whole foods into my three other dogs dry food as two of them had a history of bad digestion with quick food changes. I used canned sardines and salmon, vegetables of all kinds – whatever we had from the garden, juice from cooked meat and small pieces of cooked meat as well as raw chicken necks and other parts that we don’t eat from chickens that we would cook for ourselves.
For now I will keep adding different foods to their dry food, and slowly change them over. They are getting used to the changes and not having digestive issues (loose stools).
In the past I have found that feeding low quality dog food is just as expensive as feeding the high quality dry. My dogs were eating twice or three times as much of the low qual. food than the high quality dog food and pooping way more. So I was spending about the same amount of money on the larger quantities of low qual. dry food as the high qual. dry food.
As I change them over to whole foods, I am keeping track of what we spend so I can do a comparison after a year or so of feeding this way.
I don’t necessarily feel that I HAVE to feed only raw food. At this point I am feeding better than before and doing what I can to change them over. I expect that I will eventually be feeding completely raw but I’m not obsessed with doing this right now. We will get there.
Because we are homesteaders, we grow all of our own vegetables and some of our fruits. We will also at some point be raising our own meat and meat and eggs for the dogs. This means that the meat will be the highest quality, raised with care and humanely treated.
So overall I am pleased with the changeover so far. It is definitely something that I’ve always wanted to do and is easy to include in your frugal, nature friendly lifestyle.
Doing all this won’t bring Miranda back. But what it will do is make me feel as though I am doing the very best I can for my dogs – and what I should have been doing for Miranda and what I believe would have helped her to begin with.