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A Dog Food Perspective from this Dog's Old Mom

Dog food. Yikes! That's what I used to think many decades ago. I didn't even want to think in detail about what I eat, why would I ever put much thought into what I feed my dog? And so I went to the grocery store, plunked down my eight bucks (I did say decades ago) and brought home my twenty pound bag of food.

I never gave it another thought. I put the recommended number of cups in the food bowl, put it on the floor and walked away. By the time my Lucky was three years old he had what we all thought was classic German Shepherd digestive system problems. He was a very finicky eater, rarely if ever finishing a bowl of food. He was under weight and he often had fits of diarrhea and vomiting.

There was nothing to be done about it and so we just continued on doing the same thing. Day after day and year after year. I paid the same amount of attention to my diet. I was experiencing many of the same problems but I never thought it was my food. My doctor said I had a weak stomach and I was the nervous type. Yep my Lucky and me, we would commiserate together.

By the time my beloved Lucky was fifteen, we were a wreck. Neither one of us could keep a meal down or in for any length of time. My dear sweet beautiful boy passed away at age fifteen and a half. I was still here and I was still having all kinds of trouble with my digestive system. I was finally diagnosed with an ulcer, severe reflux, gastritis and an irritable bowel. It took me years to regain some semblance of my health. After years of different medicines I was still not much better. It was only after I started looking at what I ate that I start making progress.

Food. Yikes! Food. It was time I started paying attention to food. We had a new puppy and I figured I should feed this one better to start and then he would not have the problems my first boy did. So I went out and bought a "premium brand". Problem solved I thought.

Our new puppy Noble was doing great. He was food motivated and he ate without problems. We started puppy classes and the instructor did a five-minute talk on dog food. BOOM. Like a bolt out of the blue the five minutes Beth spent talking about food changed our lives forever. She kept it simple, backed it up with the most current research and a preponderance of evidence and had us looking at dog food and our food from a whole new perspective.

We completely changed the way we eat and the way we feed our dogs. We ask questions and we research our food choices. Mostly though what we do is keep it simple, both for our dogs and ourselves. Keeping it simple means we keep our costs down and it's easy.

And here is what we learned:

1.) Digestive enzymes are extremely important. If you do nothing else, add them!
2.) Feed human quality grade ingredients.
3.) Add some raw meat.

That is the whole thing distilled down to the three basic steps. Here is why:

Digestive enzymes are extremely important because dogs do not produce enough enzymes on their own to digest their food.* In the wild what do all canid species eat first? They eat the GI tract and the intestines. The carnivorous pancreas can not secrete all of the enzymes needed for proper digestion. For thousands of years the enzymes from the kill in the wild provided what the dogs needed. Today, even most completely raw food diets do not provide enough raw enzymes for proper digestion. Because we are not feeding our dogs partially digested stomach, intestines and pancreas from prey animals in the wild.

So if you do only one thing. Add a digestive enzyme to your dog's food. There are many digestive enzymes available. Go to your local health food store and take a look. There are many brands. Barlean's products, DigestiveRelief by Great American Products, Pat McKay products, Prozyme and many more. They all contain the enzymes needed to aid your dog's digestion. Check out your local pet food retailer, they might be carrying a line of digestive enzymes. Most dog product catalogs carry enzymes. Look at the J & B catalog, the Foster's and Smith catalog and the Care-a-lot catalog, digestive enzymes are in them all.

The enzymes help the dog digest the food. The better the food is digested, the better the food is absorbed and the more available the nutrients are for use in the body. It is that simple. The dogs digest it better, more of the food is used, less comes out as stool and the digestive tract stays healthier. Simple, easy and by feeding less you save money on whatever dog food you are feeding!

Why feed human quality grade food? Contrary to popular opinion there is no federal agency like the USDA or FDA over seeing and regulating the pet food industry. They only regulate the human food industry. The pet food industry itself formed the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). They are not government regulated or controlled. There is no enforcement agency affiliated with AAFCO. The pet food industry makes up the rules they do not enforce them and AAFCO's main responsibility is to regulate label text and product names.

Okay, does all of the above confuse you? When I first learned it, it sure confused me. Here is what it means. AAFCO sets minimum standards, not optimums. AAFFCO does not police the industry and any manufacturer can opt out and not follow the standards.

What the pet food industry uses is the food deemed not acceptable for human consumption. Meat and poultry by products come from all the left over parts. What is left over you ask? The head, including ear tags, and hormone implants, skin, fat, feet, mammary glands, tumors/diseased tissues, beaks and feathers.

Where else do they get their food source? Out dated meat packages from the grocery store, packaging, plastic wrap, cardboard and Styrofoam included in the rendering process. Animals that never made it to the human plant because they died in transit from disease or were euthanized. Included in those animals are the drugs used to euthanize them.

Grains make up the rest of the ingredients of dog food. What grains are used? Why the grains that are not fit for human consumption of course. The moldy grains, the ones that contain endotoxins, mycotoxins, fungal spores and vomitoxins. Corn and wheat are the two most prevalent grains used and dogs do not digest either one of those two very well. The wheat includes the inedible chaff and stalks. Again all the pieces and parts that will not pass the test for human consumption are what the dog food companies are using.

Are we done yet? No unfortunately not. Now that we have all of the ingredients that goes into the dog food, the dogs need to eat it and it needs to get to the dog's owner in a form that is preserved to have a stable shelf life. First there are the preservatives added and second there are the additives used to please the customer and entice the animal to eat it. BHT and BHA are known carcinogens in human consumption, they are petroleum derivatives and accumulate in the liver causing enlargement and impairing DNA synthesis. They are used in dog food as preservatives. Also used as a preservative is ethoxyquin. Ethoxyquin was initially used in the 1950's as a rubber stabilizer today it is sold under the trade name Deccoquin and has POISON written on the label. It is listed in numerous dictionaries and handbooks as toxic by ingestion.

Artificial colors and sweeteners are added in. FD&C red # 40 a known carcinogen leads the list of colorizers used. Let's not forget corn syrup, sugar maltose, dextrose and other sweeteners. Giving our pets a big time sweet tooth, which we all know, is never a very good thing.

The final step in the process is taking all these ingredients and forcing them through an extruder at a high temperature which kills what ever remnants of digestive enzymes that are left in the food along with any omega fatty acids, then palatability enhancers are sprayed on, along with smells and flavors that animals crave to get them to eat the food. Holy Cow! The first time I heard all that I was thunder struck. It could not be true. No way. No wonder my poor dear sweet Lucky boy had trouble with his digestion. I was suddenly getting 'sick to my stomach' and I wasn't even eating the dog food on a daily basis.

I went home and read the label on the "premium quality brand" dog food I was feeding my puppy Noble. I found it all in there. I realized long term this was going to be a problem. I began reading as much as I could about dog foods. I learned what was good and what was not and I changed the food fed to Noble.

I have one simple rule. If I can put the dog food in my mouth and eat it with no problems, then it is okay for my dog to eat it too. Now I admit I got some very strange looks as I went to different dog shows. I would haunt the displays booths set up at all these events. I would go and talk to all the dog food representatives there. I would ask a thousand questions. They would give me a dog food sample. And then I would gross ninety eight percent of them out. I would take the dog food and eat it. If the rep got upset, then I knew this was not the food for my precious puppy Noble.

I also learned that many of the prepared foods for us humans had some of the same preservatives and food palatability enhancers added to them. Hmm? I thought if I decrease eating those foods would I start to feel better. You bet. Soon both Noble and I were eating food that was healthier and better for us and the results were showing. My little puppy was growing into a strong and vital adult dog and my digestive problems were beginning to get some relief.

What dog foods did I find that I thought were acceptable? Surprisingly, there were a number of them, Flint River Ranch, California Natural, Wysong and Steve's Real Food for Dogs to name just a few. Everyday, there are more products coming out that are using human quality grade ingredients and they are becoming easier to find and use. Check your pet food retailer, talk to your breeder, ask your friends and find out what local trainers are feeding. You'll be surprised by what you find. I know I was.

Okay, back to the simple concept, add a digestive enzyme, feed a food that uses human quality ingredients. That is working out pretty gosh darn good for me. The final piece of the puzzle for me was adding some raw meat. Oh boy you are thinking she's just gone way too far for my comfort level. That's what I thought too at the beginning. I was not going to be one of those whackos that is all back to mother nature for everything in her life.

Guess what? I am not a complete whacko, but there are those that might disagree with that statement. I read many different books on the subject of dog nutrition. Most written by vets and experts in their field. I went to many seminars and lectures on the subject. I spoke to hundreds of dog food company representatives and finally in the end I decided that I was not going to make an all natural diet for my dog. I don't have the time, the energy or the money to do it neither for my dog or myself. But I found that just like trying to eat an extra serving of veggies or fruit myself, I could add a bit of raw meat to my dog's diet without a lot of hassle or extra cost. I also found that there are many companies out there that commercially produce these products. I can go to the store and pick up a bag of Steve's Real Food for Dogs, toss a few cubes into the dog food bowl and accomplish my goal. I can order some Far-More brand raw meat with veggies for my dogs or pick up a package of Nature's Variety.

That's what I do. I add digestive enzymes, I feed a human quality grade ingredient kibble and I add some raw meat. Does it make a difference? Yes, it does. I feed less kibble because the dogs use more of it. They poop out less of it and they have lean muscle mass and healthy bones, teeth and good eyesight. They don't have allergies or digestive problems and they love their food. They eat it all up right away because instead of enhancers and additives to make the food enticing to dogs like a kill in the wild of raw meat, my boys are getting some raw meat right in their food bowls.

My Noble just turned six years old. Where does the time go? When he was just in for his annual check up, his blood work values came back like those of a very healthy one year old dog. His coat and eyes shine. He has stamina and vibrancy in all of his activities and the vet told us, whatever you are doing keep it up because this is one very healthy and happy boy. I agree! And now I am doing the same thing for the dear sweet newest member of the family my three and a half month old puppy Valiant. Maybe it's time for you to think about this for your puppy too!

*"Fresh and Balanced Diets for Companion Animals" by Karen Shaw Becker DVM

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