And now, for Dr. Mallei's advice column****.
So, I feed Mallei a raw diet. He doesn't get dry dog food, and he certainly doesn't get tinned/wet dog food. I'll admit, I'm probably a little more slack about 'varying' his diet than I'd like to be: he tends to get one chicken carcass a day (ie, the breastbone, back, spine, ribs etc of the chicken, sometimes a bit of innards left in, and most of the meat stripped off), sometimes fish, sometimes red meat/bones, and scraps sometimes when we're cooking. I'm a big believer that if nature has taken a couple of thousand years to evolve something, nature has made sure that that thing will survive best in its environment. That is to say: A dogs' digestive system is set up to hunt and eat animals. And maybe occasionally graze on some grass. But I figure rabbits, deer, ducks... fair game. Chickens are about as close as I can get usually (rabbits are too expensive). I don't believe that we can necessarily improve on something that has been set up to 'survive best' under these conditions. This is why I don't believe in commercial dog-food.
I know a lot of people don't, and won't agree with what I'm saying. I know a lot of vets are suss, but then I've also read that vet's nutritional training classes are sponsored by pet-food companies, plus their clinics get commissions for food they sell to customers. Unbiased opinions, anyone? But here's the thing: I don't think that commercial dog foods (or cat, possibly) are designed with the dog in mind. I'll get to that.
Awww, look at the unrelated picture of my baby-boy. Yes, this photo has nothing to do with the text on either side of it. Deal.
Mum's dog, Biscay, is now 14. When he was about 7, we used to take him to the park and run him hard- get him to chase tennis balls. When he came home after the run and laid down for a while, he would develop a limp in his right shoulder. By morning, the limp had gone, but it happened every time he did a big run. After I had decided raw food was a good way to go, we switched him and Mallei to this diet. A week later and I haven't seen the limp since. Biscay's brothers have all died, a lot of them from cancer. Some died several years ago. Until last year, Biscay was still fit and happy, although losing his eyesight and starting to slow down. He, too, now has cancer in his jaw, but he's 14, and a 25kg dog. A border collie's (Biscay is an Australian shepherd- they don't seem to be listed) expected lifespan is 13*. Ok, so he isn't ancient, but he's doing pretty damn well. Mum has, in recent years, begun to mix dry food in with his raw diet, but he's still ok.
So. Why don't I believe in dog food?
Most of it comes down to ingredients. Despite vets' insistance that you should buy 'premium' quality foods, I've noticed that when it comes to the main ingredients, at least, there aren't a lot of differences. The problem of course is that the packets never say what percentage of the food is that primary ingredient. Eg: there could be 40% meat, 39%corn, 10% other grains, and then the rest as fats and vitamins and stuff. Which means essentially, your dog is getting 49% crap.
Because here's the thing... most of the foods are made of wheat, corn, and rice. Sometimes people even tell me, with my raw diet, that I should cook him some rice.
If my dog were in the wild, he couldn't cook rice. He wouldn't eat rice, he wouldn't eat corn, and he wouldn't eat wheat. Sometimes he eats a couple of strands of grass in the front yard, but he doesn't, and wouldn't, eat grains. My dog has predator teeth. Meat teeth. Not vegetable teeth, and not grain teeth. This is why I don't think dog foods are good for dogs. I have found, though, that cat foods seem to be much better. With cat foods, the first four ingredients are often meat, or meat-based, or meat by-products (yuck)... but with dogs, you're lucky if the first ingredient is meat.
Back in the agility days. Mallei managed to be awesome even without your 'balanced diet', dog food companies.
This was all spurred on by finding a new food in the supermarket that got a spot on a trashy 7.30pm news show one night. In this food, the first ingredient is meat, and then a whole lot of other crap. I was reading the 'testimonials' they'd put up, and found it amusing that people were amazed at the changes in their dogs, and I wonder if it's because their previous food, which I bet they would have found in the supermarket, was 80% grains, instead of this one which would have more meat. They're talking about how the stools are smaller, less smelly, and less squishy (sorry y'all)(And btw, Mal's are small, firm and don't smell. Raw food wins again)... probably because they don't have to 'get rid' of 80% of what they can't digest (grains), and can actually ingest stuff for once.
Anyway, that's my dog-food rant. I feel cats fare a bit better, although Reya is getting parts of Mallei's chicken chopped up in her bowl (she gets the small bones like the ribs, and the wishbone which is usually meaty, he gets the breast-bone and back which she can't eat), and also raw pieces of roo meat. She hates her kibble biscuits (I reckon that's cos she knows what's good for her!!). If I wasn't concerned about her getting all the bits and pieces she needs, I'd probably feed her more raw as well, but I think cats are more likely to eat all of their kill (ie: a whole mouse, whole bird, whole fish, etc), where as dogs might gnaw the leg of a deer, or get a leftover salmon head, or whatever, so not have that 'whole animal' makeup to their meal.
Also my dog has awesomely white teeth for a middle-aged man, so, another win for raw food.
I can't wait for winter, to have so much more of this.
*Interesting fact. Just found a study on dog lifespans, and this was listed for the Australian Shepherd: Born pre-1980, average lifespan: 13. Born 1980-1998, average lifespan: 11.8. Despite all the 'advances' in foods and balanced diets, etc, the lifespan has dropped.
**This website, although good, basically rules out every single food except for a natural, raw diet.***
***I realize this last footnote didn't link up with anything, but I thought it was worthwhile putting, anyway.
****Seriously. Can I please have a Dr. Mallei's advice column? Can somebody write me a comment with a question? It doesn't even have to be animal related. Mallei can help with everything. Questions answered by a goofball shepherd. I promise not to put on any 'voices' or accents, just straight up advice from a nonsense dog who figures he's been around long enough to know how the world works (and if not, he'll ask the kitten).
Also, I realize the asterisks have gone out of order, with 4 of them at the start of the post and one further down, but I added the four as an afterthought.