Friday, May 29, 2009

Food Trial : Acana Pacifica

I understand that not everyone can, or will, feed raw. I am sometimes asked for food recommendations, and the only true way to give a recommendation is to have my dogs try the food and pan the results (stool, digestibility, coat, skin, etc).

Before starting a new food, it is desired that you go through a transition period to ensure that there will be no severe GI upsets.

My dogs' food trials are set up such that a true outcome can be seen without GI upset due to lack of transition. My dogs will eat a total raw diet for up to 2-3 weeks, then after 12-16 hours of their last raw meal, they are given their first kibble meal. In this way, we get to see immediate results from their consumption of the food. After two weeks, we truly see what effects, if any, a particular food has on their entire system.

Our first kibble review: ACANA PACIFICA

- Absolutely free of chicken, beef or grains. Passed the allergen test with my female!

- We choose kibbles that are grain free, or have low-allergen grains.
ACANA PACIFICA is a grain free food [ingredients here].

- This food is also moderately low in carbohydrates with a moderately high protein level.
I try to stick with foods with a protein level between 28-34%.
ACANA PACIFICA has a 33% protein level.

- This food has a nice variety of fish proteins (salmon, herring, flounder) all fresh caught, regional, fit for human consumption and are ETHOXYQUIN FREE per manufacturer statement.

- ACANA PACIFICA boasts an ALL LIFE STAGES feeding regimen. Levels of protein, calcium, phosphorous, and calories should always be considered before giving to just any dog at any life stage.

- Zero GI upset and maintained a nice coat/skin without supplementation (fish oils, etc).

I would recommend this food.

"eat the ducky moss"

Because I have two shiba inu, a lesson in meal thanksgiving, Japanese style.

Before a meal, say "Itadakimasu"
Which means :
I receive this food with thanks

After the meal, say "
gochisousama deshita"
Which means :
That was a feast

Thanks Kristin!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Foods for Joint Health

Joint health and healthy mobility are important factors to always keep tabs of for the life of your dog. There are many avenues to ensure joint health and function, but I will only focus on foods and formulas that promote healthy cartilage, synovial fluid and joint function.

Diet is a major factor in solidifying continuous joint health.

Natural resources for joint health [click links for info]:

Chicken feet

Omega 3's (fish oil)

Shark Cartilage

Perna canaliculus (green-lipped mussel)
[an easy source of green-lipped mussel are some varities of Ziwi Peak]

Sea Cucumber

Elk Velvet Antler
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Most commercial treats utilize the proven benefits of Glucosamine HCL and Chondroitin. It is also important to look for a treat that contains the following vitamins that are key for metabolizing Glucosamine/Chondroitin : Maganese, Zinc, Selenium. Recent studies have shown Glucosamine HCL to be as effective alone as it is in combination with Chondroitin. So low-to-no level of Chrondroitin is thought to be okay.

Some treats that utilize the above criteria are:
Zuke's Hip Action
Dogswell Happy Hips
Ark Natural's Sea Mobility
Get Naked Joint Health

Other joint health products:

The Honest Kitchen's Lithe Tea an herbal tea that promotes healthy mobility, bone and joint function.

The Missing Link supplement

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pre-made Raw Diets

So you're considering raw, but the research of preparing a home based prey model or BARF diet seems a bit too much right now. Then you find that some companies have already done the work of creating a balanced raw diet for you.

Enter Pre-Made Raw Diets.

There are benefits to these diets, especially when first starting out on raw (research!) before you have a solid plan for availability of protein and bone sources, and subsequent diet balances.. you can rely on the "Complete and Balanced" claims on the bags of *most* pre-made raw. Though, to create a "Complete and Balanced" diet, many pre-made raw diets rely on BARF methodology and include things like vegetables, fruit, yogurt, honey and herbs into their formulas. Read a BARF rebuttal here.

The downside? Premades tend to be high in bone content (if not supplemented with raw meaty meats), the expense, the lack of dental health promotion, and no physical/mental stimulation (if not supplemented with whole raw meaty bones).

Some companies that offer Pre-Made Raw Diets:
Nature's Variety
Primal Pet Foods
Oma's Pride
Northwest Naturals Dog Food

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


In addition to their regular twice-daily meals, we use treats for both training, snacks and simple rewards (you know... just for being good!)

At most, treats should only cover about a tenth of your dog's total diet.

We've tried many treats, and over time have narrowed it down to only the most healthful, tasty, readily available treats that have never had any adverse reactions (tummy upset/allergies). While it is best to treat dogs with something as close to a single ingredient as possible, this is a list of things we have found to be healthful and helpful:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Raw Chicken

Salmonella! and E Coli! and Intestinal Punctures! Oh my!

For nearly one year I have been feeding raw chicken, safely. No bacterias. No injuries. No digestive upset. Just happy dogs with the cleanest teeth and firmest poops.

*NEVER feed COOKED bones!

Tsuki and her chicken leg:

Raw chicken parts are the easiest way to transition into a raw diet. Chicken bones are phenomenal - they are soft enough so that they bend easily, and break well for the dog to digest.
The bone itself is a nutritious stool firmer. The inside of a chicken bone (marrow) is rich in nutrients and surprisingly porous.

(click to enlarge)

Most of the horror stories surrounding chicken bones are caused by COOKED chicken bones. When fed RAW, the bones are a lot softer and can easily be crushed and digested. Raw meaty bones (RMB) are not only great for maintaining oral health, it also provides essential nutrients such as essential fatty acids (EFA's), fat soluble vitamins, enzymes, and the mineral content is in perfect balance (ie, Calcium to Phosphorous ratio).

According to Dr. Billinghurst, raw chicken bones contain the highest essential fatty acid content out of all animal bones and is considered to carry the most nutritional value. He recommends raw chicken necks and wings for puppies or beginners as they are soft and safe, and the meat to bone ratio are perfect. (Read: Give Your Dog a Bone)

Cooking the bones on the other hand changes the entire chemical composition of the bone making it hard and brittle, and can easily splinter and kill a dog (especially chicken bones). Not only are cooked bones dangerous, they are also of very little nutritional value as the essential nutrients mentioned above are lost through the cooking process. Further more, minerals in bones are made unavailable through cooking, and can actually cause calcium deposits in joints (arthritis), and calcification of soft tissues & organs. Same thing goes for calcium supplements and calcium added in commercial diets.

I personally believe feeding your dog is management of risk. Doesn't matter what kind of diet you choose to feed your dog, there are always risks (be it from choking, nutrient imbalance, cancer causing preservatives, and so on). Can a dog die from eating raw chicken bones? I guess anything is possible, but dogs have also chocked and suffocated to death due to inhaling kibbles. There is no one way of feeding your dog, and as long as you have done your research and is comfortable feeding what you're feeding, you are doing the best to your ability and for your dog.
Tsuki, my 18lb female Shiba Inu, is also comfortable with our feeding system:

(a note on safe handling: Bones will maintain optimum freshness for 2-3 days under refrigeration after completely thawed. Always monitor your pet when feeding raw bones. Keep raw bones frozen until ready to use. Keep raw bones separate from other foods. Wash all work surfaces including cutting boards, utensils and hands after handling raw bones. Keep raw meats and poultry away from children. Chicken Raw Meaty Bones should always be fed under the supervision of a human being so as to ensure your pet does not consume their bone(s) too quickly.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Surf and Turf Europa

(per 24lb dog)
1/2 cup of Sojourner's Europa (aka 'the green bag'), rehydrated
1/2 cup of chicken hearts, raw
1/2 cup of fresh sardines (or canned in water)
2 chicken necks, raw
1 tbsp plain organic yogurt

And serve.

If your dog is anything like mine, s/he will eat all the chicken first and pick at the rest.

Ingredient analysis per
Ingredients: Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Broccoli, Celery, Apples, Whole Egg, Flax Meal, Parsley Leaf, Calcium Carbonate, Carob Powder, Kelp Powder, Alfalfa, Ginger Root, Garlic. Chicken hearts. Chicken necks. Sardines. Yogurt. Water.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thoughts on Beef Marrow Bones

Most dog owners have come across the beef marrow (aka soup) bone dilemma... to feed or not to feed?

Following the "know thy dog" mantra, there is no way I could safely answer the beef marrow bone dilemma for you, but I will share what I know and let you make the educated decision for your dog. Again, my two dogs are both under 25lbs. Also, please keep in mind I am only discussing RAW beef marrow bones.

Shown below is a great example of a decent, raw, frozen, beef marrow bone. A better example would be a slightly longer marrow bone covered in globs of tissue and meat filled with marrow:

To most exclusive raw feeders (esp. prey model raw), beef marrow bones are given three names:
1. Wreck Bones
2. Rec Bones
3. No

The first represents the major risk factor associated with this type of bone - they are weight bearing bones from the originating animal and therefore are designed to withstand a great deal of pressure and trauma. If your dog is a power chewer (goes through anything and tries to go through anything) than using this type of bone will make the risk of tooth breakage that much higher because "jaws of steel" doesn't mean "teeth of steel."

The second represents the concept of 'treat' designed for dental health (not unlike the concept of rawhides). Rec[reactional] bones are given sometimes (also depends on who you ask.. sometimes can mean nightly, weekly, monthly..) and the purpose is not to devour the entire bone, but to gnaw the tissues and meat from the outside of the bone, and to clean out the marrow from the inside of the bone. Therefore, finding the right sized raw beef marrow bone with substantial meat and tissue to gnaw off is key.
And the price! Most times, it can't be beat... I can find a pack of 6 'soup bones', raw with globs of the goodies from a local butcher for under $3. Cheaper than rawhide!

Coinciding with the 'wreck' theory, when the bones look like this:

It is safer to just throw them away.

And "No" means no means no. In a balanced raw diet, there is no need for raw beef marrow bones. Why? Because there are a plethora of SAFER non weight bearing bones available to cover the necessary 10% bone ratio (raw chicken, duck, fish, turkey, rabbit, goat, lamb bones). And while raw meaty bones are absolutely essential in a balanced raw diet, weight bearing bones of larger animals (cow, deer, lamb) are non-essential.

To answer my own question, to feed or not to feed, I do in fact choose to feed as once weekly recreational bones. The second image above is what the bones look like when I take them away. My dogs are never unattended while eating these bones and my ears are in superpower mode to hear any bone scraping or gnawing.. as that is the time to remove the bone.

Embark with Beef/mackerel

(as this is the first recipe post, any constructive criticism about the content/layout/info is greatly appreciated!)

My female shiba has food restrictions which include processed chicken and beef, corn, wheat and soy. My male is a foodie just like me who has zero restrictions and loves every minute of it!

When I prepare a meal that both will be eating that includes chicken or beef, it is always fresh and usually in raw form, unless the beef is ground.

The follow recipe is prepared for two dogs, one is 18.5lbs and the other 24lbs.

Two cups of Embark by The Honest Kitchen, rehydrated
About one pound (give or take) of beef sirloin, cut into cubes
One half can of Jack Mackeral
Two tablespoons of cottage cheese

And serve.

We do end up with leftovers that get fed at the next meal.

Ingredient analysis per (adjust to portions used):
Hormone-free USDA turkey, organic flaxseed, potatoes, celery, spinach, carrots, coconut, apples, organic kelp, eggs, sesame seeds, bananas, cranberries and rosemary. Beef sirloin. Jack Mackerel. Cottage Cheese. Water.

The Research.

Yes, it is necessary.
Yes, it seems daunting.
Yes, most dog food companies want to make you believe that you cannot figure it out on your own.
Yes, even some vets do that, too.
No, it is not impossible to learn how to feed your dog, just as you learned to feed yourself (hopefully healthfully!).

It took over 9 months of pure research while my dogs survived on kibble before I was brave enough to take the plunge into feeding raw. It took another 2 months of management and logic to realize that prey model raw wasn't going to work long term because of limited availability of protein sources and cuts of meat. However, feeding raw was much, much easier than I thought it would be (she said armed with a folder full of articles...)
I started to incorporate pre-made raw, dehydrated raw, and other feeding principles to create a balanced diet that was grain free and readily available.

It's been said that the most important mantra a dog owner can have is "KNOW THY DOG", and I do. I believe I am doing what is best for my own two dogs and their total wellbeing.

I will be creating link-lists on the side bars of this blog of all the web sites, forums, books, groups, companies, etc., that have helped form the ongoing research for the optimal canine diet for my dogs.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Philosophy and Diet

Learning about canine nutrition has been a whirlwind experience. Everyone you ask will tell you some differences in opinion. Every different opinion is based on something different... wives tales, habit, science, developing science, intuition, personal experience..

I care for two healthy, adult shiba inus. One has a stomach of steel (unless approached by a stranger!) and the other has dietary restrictions.

Commercial dog foods have had a rough road to recovery and triumph since the 2007, and subsequent, recalls. And since then - I've had a hard time trusting commercial kibbles. After the recalls, I started to search for alternative feeding styles and stumbled upon raw diets and home prepared meal plans. I learned how to read dog food labels, what the nutrients mean, how much of certain nutrients dogs need in their diet, how deficiencies are created, and how to fulfill these without solely relying on what is on the pet food shelves.

I hope to share some canine food combination's on this blog with this disclaimer: I AM NOT a professional or certified for canine nutrition. The following posts will be foods prepared and fed as part of a diet that is closely monitored by myself and a holistic veterinarian for balance lest any deficiencies are created in the short or long term. Before switching your dog to any diet, please perform the research necessary to understand WHY you will be feeding what you do, and HOW to create total wellness in your dog.. because in the end, they are what they eat.

Thank you.