This past week I have gotten multiple questions about food. I do feed my dogs dry commercial dog food. We feed Eukanuba Adult Maintenance. They also get a A LOT of fresh food. Just over a decade ago I read the book Foods Pets Die For: Shocking Facts about Pet Food, by Ann N. Martin (NewSage Press). I was appalled. When I was done reading that book, I went and bought every book I could get my hands on about nutrition. I went the homemade diet routine, but (and I hate to admit it) it became too labor intensive and I went back to my ‘ol standby commercial dog food. I still don’t think it is the best thing for them, but when time is tight, I know that at least they have eaten. We feed them twice a day- ½ cup each feeding. We are not consistant about any of the other things I am going to say. When I say "a lot"- I don't mean daily or even weekly. We tend to be just like the seasonal harvest- a lot- all at once- then- nothing. At least for a while, and something will happen and the bounty starts again.
As you know, we live on a farm. One of the benefits of farms- fresh, real food. This year when I accidently left the peas in the fridge, past the point of dealing with them, I cooked them all at once and fed them to the dogs (but not all at once). The yard the dogs play in has an orchard. The dogs LOVE the fallen apples and pears. One year I made a mistake of checking on the ripeness of the peaches when the dogs were out playing and the next day all of the peaches on the lower branches were GONE. I know the “word on the street” is that grapes (and also raisins) are toxic to dogs- but try telling that to Tucket. She LOVED to eat the grapes off the arbor and was never sick a day in her life. They eat as much ripe fruit as they would like. Mid fall their stools look like "apple mash".
We had pigs (don’t anymore) and I had made arrangements with our local grocery store to pick up the produce they would be throwing away each day to feed to the pigs. One day there were boxes of bananas that were just at the PERFECT ripeness. The dogs seemed interested so I offered a few to the dogs and was extremely surprised at how veraciously they ate them- peel and all. I fed them bananas for a few days- it was like they just couldn’t get enough and then one day, they said, they had had enough and weren’t interested anymore. I attribute that to a nutrient deficiency that the bananas were satisfying and when that deficiency had been satisfied, their body told them they didn’t need to eat the bananas anymore.
Fruits and vegetables are very good for the dogs. Don’t be afraid to share.
Meats and BONES
Of course our dogs get a lot of lamb meat. We direct market meat for human consumption. When we have an animal butchered we keep all the organ meats unless the buyer asks for them. We don’t advertise the organ meat as part of what you get when you buy “whole lamb”. Our dogs get the organ meat. We feed this to them raw. We give them the liver, kidney and heart. Organ meat is an important component to feeding dogs a raw diet, but giving ONLY organ meats can be just as bad. Each year it is time for a few adult sheep to leave our farm. Rather than getting paid pennies on the pound, we have them butchered for the dogs. This gives us plenty of muscle meat too. They also get bones. Bones are very, very, very good for dogs.
The benefits of bones (RAW – NEVER COOKED)
Before we start on bones, I have to reemphasize that bones should ONLY be given to your dog when they are RAW. Cooked bones can be DANGEROUS. Cooked bones are potentially fatal. They become brittle and can splinter and a whole host of other really bad things. So- only feed RAW bones and we are set to move on.
Really, bones have it all. Not only are they exceptionally nutritious, dogs enjoy the process of eating them. I think of bones in two categories. Food supplemental bones and recreational bones. Food supplemental bones are things like rib bones, or other smaller bones the dogs can actually eat all of. Recreational bones are things like cow femurs and other very large bones. Luckily, lambs provide mostly food supplemental bones. The marrow in bones provides all the important blood forming nutrients a dog needs. They also contain protein, all the minerals a dog needs, vitamins and essential fatty acids.
Feeding bones also provides a dog with “something to do” and while they are at it, they are cleaning their teeth. I like to give bones to the dogs in the late fall and on winter days when the ground is frozen , but without snow. I don’t need to worry about ants, flies, or meat bees bothering the dogs. They get bones other times of the year, but I just like the "no bugs" part of late fall/winter.
Meat, bones, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, cheese- all YES. Feed them as much fresh raw food as you would like. As they say, variety is the spice of life. I think the dogs appreciate a varied diet too- and I am SURE they are healthier for it. One word of caution- when you feed them a lot of protein, they might have runny stools. I love the stools they have following bones- they are white and chalky and fully formed. Bones are good.