Sunday, June 6, 2010

What Do You Feed Your Dog?

A recent New York Times article indicates that "premium" dog and cat kibble contain essentially the same ingredients as non premium kibble and that none of it is actually "human grade". So just buy cheap kibble, I guess.

I'll admit it, I'm a bit of a dog food snob. I hate kibble. With a passion. I don't look down upon people who feed it, but I've always felt it was the lazy way out. Don't get me wrong - I have fed kibble. My previous dogs and foster dogs were fed kibble. Mina was fed kibble for the first four years I had her.

When she nearly died from kibble that caused internal bleeding, I had to re-evaluate what and how I wanted to feed my dog.

I switched her to an all raw meat diet. When I adopted Celeste, she went on a raw meat diet as well. They have been on this diet for the past four years (three for Miss Celeste). They've been happy and healthy.

A month ago, I found it ever more difficult feeding meat to my dogs. I'm vegan. I work for a farmed animal sanctuary. I literally rescue animals who I am feeding to my dogs. There is no difference. It has been an ethical dilemma for the past years, but it's started to wear on me emotionally.

So I decided to try a cooked diet that contained limited amounts of animal products. I read Monica Segal's books and was quite surprised by the suggestion to "start a spreadsheet" and literally map out every single nutrient that went into my dogs' bodies.

I don't do that for myself and unless there is evidence of dietary deficiencies, I'm certainly not going to do that for my dogs. No wonder people feel a home-made diet is overwhelming - almost all the information out there makes feeding dogs akin to performing brain surgery. Great if you're a brain surgeon, not so much if you're like the rest of us.

Now the dynamic duo still get meat, dairy and eggs (from the sanctuary chickens), but they get more grains and veggies - barley, rice, rolled oats, cereal grains soaked, beans, potatoes, lentils, split peas. They do get some meat and yogurt, but I'm spending a lot less money and feeling a smidgen less guilty. Celeste refuses food without animal products in it, Mina does a lot better on a more grain based diet.

So far, they are doing great. Mina had an upset tummy from a raw chicken bone that she won't be getting again, but other than that, both are looking shiny and healthy.

Do I spend more time making food for my dogs? Not really. I eat a lot of what they eat, so I'm cooking for the both of us minus any animal products. I use a rice cooker which cuts down on time. And I soak a lot of the stuff, which breaks it down, makes it more digestible, and then just needs a light cooking.

I like knowing the ingredients of my dogs' food. I like knowing where it came from. I like keeping it simple, because my dogs like simple diets (like I don't feed everything I listed at once, I usually pick a grain for the week and add some other stuff to it).

To my kibble feeding friends - do what works for your dog. If you want to try a home-made diet, go for it. If not, stick with what works for your dogs. I may hate kibble, but I don't hate you! :)

(Only quibble with the article is the notion we have 472 million dogs and cats in this country. I do not believe that is accurate. Perhaps it is a typo.)


slave2tehtink said...

I've seen the article linked all over the place; my take-away from it was slightly different. Reading this: "She and Dr. Nesheim compared 10 premium chicken dinners for dogs and found that all contained basically the same ingredients: All start with chicken or chicken broth, followed by grains and vegetables. The nonpremium brands use more grains and poultry, meat and fish byproducts." I interpreted it as "It does not matter what you buy within premium foods, for they are all the same, or within non-premium foods, for they are all the same."

YesBiscuit! said...

As with any article, it's just one person's opinion. I like to read most any opinion on pet feeding simply because I'm a food geek. I didn't particularly agree with the author's angle and, having read Marion Nestle's pet food books, I can't help wondering if she might feel her words were mischaracterized.

Jennie said...

I also didn't particularly agree with it, especially since when you factor in all the hidden costs of kibble, it seems like home cooking for dogs doesn't really cost more, not in the long run.

I feed my dogs kibble + homemade stuffs. Our kibble is vegan, and thus premium. We have yet to have a dog do poorly on this. I love my dogs, and believe me, have put a lot of thought into what they eat. I would like to incorporate more home cooking for them, but first I have to figure out how to do anything else while working full time. Or hire a chef.

Two Pitties in the City said...

This is interesting to read as we will have to switch the kibble portion of their diet because it was just bought out by P&G. We've been doing a pre-prepared raw food at night, and kibble in the morning for time and convenience issues. Now we just have to figure out which one to switch to.

Rinalia said...

@slave2tehtink: That makes a little more sense.

@YesBiscuit!: Agreed. I didn't like the implication (perhaps a misread) that people shouldn't bother giving much thought to their dogs' food, because hey! it's all the same.

@Jennie: The hidden costs of dog/cat food are more likely higher than on a home-made diet, I agree.

I wish I could convince Celeste she can have an all vegan meal. Mina is sold, but Celeste literally goes 4-5 days without eating. I know dogs won't starve themselves, but I just cannot bring myself to let her go that many days without eating. I will try to phase it out, though.

As to cooking - you might consider getting a rice cooker. It's been my favorite cooking device and makes cooking for the dogs so much easier.

@Two Pitties in the City: Pre-made raw is definitely more convenient and less icky, I would think. Mina never did well on it because a lot of them add other ingredients that upset her tummy. Good luck!

CyborgSuzy said...

At least you know your eggs are humanely sourced. ;)

I wasn't impressed with the article. I didn't feel I got much out of it that would effect decisions I already make. I do home-cooked because I also hate kibble (or did up until a month ago when I temporarily switched back to kibble for convenience during a stressful transition period in my life).