Dog food is a highly-charged topic among dog owners. Dog food is downright political. You get factions; you get tribes. There are those who only feed their dog a single, carefully selected brand of dry dog food (or “kibble” as it is known here in England) because their vets have told them that dogs have to eat the same food every day.
If you tell these owners they do not have to feed their dogs the very same thing everyday, they insist that the delicate canine intestine becomes inflamed by even small changes in diet. And guess what? These dog owners really do experience this problem. After years of only eating Iams or Simply or Wagg, any alternative to the same kibble, day and night, night and day, makes their dogs sick.
You get those who buy the cheapest dog food at the grocery store. If you tell these owners that the food was made from condemned meat or that the fat is rancid or that the “poultry meal” was made by putting cage-born baby chicks through a giant shredder, they shrug their shoulders. “He likes it,” they say. “Look how fat he is.”
Then there are the people who cook for their dogs. I had a friend who made rice with peas, carrots and strips of chicken breast for her three dogs, keeping the food in Tuperware in the freezer, then microwaving it to a nice warm temperature at mealtimes. This wasn’t such a bad idea—homemade meals are as good for dogs as they are for the rest of us—but the meals were nutritionally unbalanced and I am not sure she even added a vitamin pill to make up for it. But guess what? Her dogs lived.
There are people who feed table scraps, believing rightly that dogs evolved as scavengers. There are people who feed their dog Royal Canin because their vets stock it. There are people who insanely feed their dogs rancid meat, because they have some stupid notion that dogs were meant to eat rancid meat, that they evolved eating rotten food from dumps (not necessarily untrue) and should be fed rotten food now. These people are deluded, but they exist among the rest of us in the dog food debate, so I may as well mention them.
And then there are the whack-Os like me who feed their dogs raw food. We have this idea that dogs should eat raw meat along with a small portion of raw or steamed (and pureed) vegetables and fruit for roughage, and bones. There is a lot of science to why raw meat is good for dogs, how it prolongs their lives and how the bones, if fed carefully, prevent the canine dental decay seen in most dogs by the time they are only five years old. But with some cooked food, like Forthglade, being cooked at low temperatures that retain the goodness, the best cooked foods are giving raw a run for their money.
We take this raw food thing very seriously. Some order “complete” raw food from commercial estalishments like Nature’s Menu. Others buy straight minced chicken or beef or lamb or the smelliest and most disgusting meat in the world called “tripe” which is intestines. Some even insist on throwing their dogs whole prey. That is, they chuck a raw chicken or rabbit, even with fur attached, to their dog and let it rip the carcass to pieces.
I don’t do that.
But I don’t participate in the long, heated fights among the raw-fooders about “whole prey” vs. “Raw and Meaty bones” vs. commercial raw complete diets. That isn’t to say I don’t have opinions about these matters, just that I don’t like to fight with dog owners. After all, in Thailand there is a dog eating festival—that is, dogs themselves are on the menu—so if I am worried about the health of dogs, it would be more useful to focus my efforts there.
I think people can’t stand the idea they haven’t done the right thing for their dog 100% of the time. They’d rather you said they neglected their children’s diets than failed on that of their dogs. If you tell someone that Asda Dog Food isn’t good for their dogs, they tell you the dog is perfectly fine on the Asda food. And maybe it is.
It’s tough here among the raw dog food nutcases. We fight among ourselves in our strange little enclave that no one cares about, not even the dogs, who will apparently eat anything. Even shoes. We worry about the sizes of bones, the fat and marrow content, the threat of pancreatitis. We talk about whether there is a salmonella risk in our dog’s food (there is, which is why I don’t feed raw poultry) that may not hurt our dogs but will definitely hurt us. We talk about pH of dog saliva and the emptying of anal glands and the acid of dogs’ stomachs…yes we do all that.
I will write more about this, though few people want to know about the raw meat I feed my pets. The weird thing isn’t that I feed them raw meat; it’s that I am a vegan and feed them raw meat. I am a person who asks for the vegan menu at a Thai restaurant, then comes home and feeds her dogs raw beef. I don’t take milk in my coffee but I admire the dehydrated pigs’ lungs my friend made for her dogs with her new food dehydrator. I won’t eat an egg, but I will happily give some pressure-cooked chicken bones to my dogs. They crumble so nicely into the minced lamb.
Yes, I see the cognitive dissonance. I’m a case study in that. Yes, I know that handling raw meat is vile. But my dogs need it…I think they need it. It’s disgusting. I’m not proud. But the dogs…I got to say…the dogs look fantastic. You should to see the 13 year old’s clean, white, perfect teeth. You should see my friend’s 15-year old, strutting her stuff in the woods.
And the dogs don’t fight—not about food anyway. It’s just us, the owners.