What do you feed your dogs?

by Liz Beavis
As I've lately been thinking about what I eat and about real food for humans, naturally the next question was how to feed real food to Taz, and what is real food for dogs?

eight acres: real food for dogs
Taz pondering the question of real food for dogs

I have gradually been paying more attention to the ingredients in dog food over the last few years.  We used to buy the big cans of dog food when they were on special at the supermarket and that's all Cheryl ate until I read Pat Coleby's "Natural Pet Care", which recommended a plain kibble, with minimum additives.  I couldn't find the particular one that she mentioned, but I did switch Cheryl and Chime to a plain kibble.  I got the "old fat dog" version because they were both a little overweight.  Strangely they never lost any weight on this high carb, low fat diet (I can't believe I didn't work that one out earlier).

When we got puppy Taz, she ate puppy nuts (as Pete calls dog kibble) for her first 12 months and then when it was time for adult dog nuts, the penny finally dropped, and I got "working dog" for both Taz and Cheryl.  This mix is high fat, low carb, and this did seem to help with Cheryl's weight.

Then as I started reading more about paleo and the reasons why it might be more healthy for humans to eat closer to their ancestral diet, I started thinking about what we were feeding the dogs.  Even the working dog nuts were full of various grains.  For example a typical composition of a high-end dog kibble, note that its only 23% meat:
Dried Chicken And Turkey (23%, A Natural Source Of Taurine), Maize, Wheat, Sorghum, Barley, Animal Fat, Dried Beet Pulp (2.8%), Hydrolysed Animal Proteins, Dried Whole Egg, Potassium Chloride, Fish Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Fructooligosaccharides (0.28%), Linseed, Glucosamine (432mg/Kg), Chondroitin Sulphate (43mg/Kg)

We know that a high carbohydrate diet in humans causes diabetes in the longer term, and yet we feed this to dogs and wonder why they get sick.  Cheryl almost certainly had diabetes and kidney problems as she got older, resulting finally in cataracts.  It makes sense to me that a diet high in grains is not natural or healthy for humans or dogs, in both cases they are just cheap fillers.

Then I started to look at grain-free options for dried dog kibble, and this was the best I could do, still lots of ingredients that I would rather avoid, including canola, peas (legumes are as bad as grains) and beets (high sugar):
Salmon, Anchovy & Sardine Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Dried Ground Potatoes, Canola Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Menhaden Fish Meal, Tomato Pomace, Flaxseed, Pea Fibre, Pumpkin, Natural Fish Flavor, Cranberries, Apples, Minerals [Zinc Polysaccharide Complex, Iron Polysaccharide Complex, Copper Polysaccharide Complex, Manganese Polysaccharide Complex, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Carbonate, Potassium Iodide], Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid], Choline Chloride, Papaya, Inulin, Salt, Blueberries, Pomegranate, Potassium Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (added to preserve freshness), DL-Methionine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Ground Cinnamon, Ground Fennel, Ground Peppermint, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus subtilis Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus licheniformis Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus oryzae Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus niger Fermentation Product, Lecithin, Rosemary Extract.  This is a naturally preserved product.

While this kibble did avoid grains, it seemed to maintain the same carbohydrate content and therefore present the same issues.  When I posted some of this on the Eight Acres facebook page, a few people recommended BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) and I also found K9 Natural, which is a freeze-dried raw product.  I stopped in at the local big-box pet food store and got a bag of the grain-free kibble, a box of BARF and a bag of K9.  These were not cheap and I was also hoping to find a homemade option, with these as back-up for when we didn't have time to make something.  I was also interested to see if the dogs would even eat them.  Here's a good post about feeding dogs dried food vs raw food.

BARF (Chicken for Dogs)
Chicken, finely ground chicken bone, beef liver, whole egg, cultured kefir, seasonal vegetables selected from broccoli, celery, spinach, carrot, ground flax seed, bok choy, dried alfalfa leaf powder, beef kidney, beef heart, unbleached beef tripe, seasonal fruit selected from apple, pear, grapefruit, orange, dried kelp powder, garlic, capsicum.
eight acres: real food for dogs

K9 Natural (Beef Feast) 
Beef meat, beef blood, beef bone, beef green tripe, beef liver, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, spinach (chard), cabbage, apple, pear, beef hearts, beef kidneys, eggs, green lipped mussel and garlic
eight acres: real food for dogs

I got these before Cheryl died, and I can report that Cheryl taste-tested all the options and 100% approved (but then she would almost eat anything, except for green beans).  It turned out that Taz does not like raw meat.  While Cheryl was happy to help Taz finish her BARF patties, it did make it difficult to make sure Taz was getting some food.  In particular Taz does not like raw offal and will pick that out of minced up food.  She will eat the kibble and K9 Natural though.  The problem was that BARF is about the easiest of the options for me to make at home!

eight acres: real food for dogs
Taz with the grain-free kibble (and gravy), she likes those, doggy junk food

In fact we had found that our local supermarket makes a product called "fiedo's friend", and when I asked the butcher, he said it contains only trimmings and offal (trimmings are the fatty bits of meat, some go into sausages, but this must be the excess), which is perfect mixed with some eggs, yoghurt, kelp, and at $2.99/kg, its more reasonable than anything from the pet food store.  Only problem was that Taz picked out the offal.
Eventually I gave up on Taz ever eating this raw and cooked it for her.  Delicious!  She has no problem eating the offal if it is cooked (like people food? sometimes I think that Taz thinks she's a people too).  I like this product because it is trimmings from meat that was intended for humans.  We have had the misfortune of sending a bull with eye cancer to the meatworks for dog meat (to the "doggers"), and I don't like to buy "dog mince" knowing that its probably minced up sick animals, if its not for human consumption, it shouldn't be for dogs either.

eight acres: real food for dogs
The past couple of weeks I have used about 1 kg of "fiedo's friend" minced trimmings and offal, with 2 eggs, a grated carrot and grated choko, and a sprinkle of kelp powder, cooked this in our largest frying pan (I tried to do meat balls, but the offal makes it too messy, so now just one large chunk works better).  I then make gravy from what's left in the pan.  Taz has a scoop of cooked mince and a splash of gravy and that seems to suit her.
It doesn't take long to cook this for her, but it is an extra chore, so when we don't have time, she can have the grain-free kibble.  I'm afraid I will have to cook the remaining BARF patties!  What a waste!  I think the raw diet is surely more natural and Taz still has a raw bone daily, but if she doesn't want to eat the raw offal, its probably better she has this cooked mixture than any of the dried food options.  I would love to feed her the K9 Natural, but being made in NZ, its very expensive and has excessive food miles.
What do you think?  What do you feed your dogs and why?

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