The cornerstone of good health is good nutrition. The “debate” concerning what represents optimum nutrition is passionate and ongoing. On the one hand are people who see huge risks to home prepared diets– primarily these risks are nutritional imbalance, and disease from uncooked meats. On the other hand are people who perceive a value in whole, live, raw foods, and believe these benefits are well worth the risks.
At Talented Animals we prepare fresh food for our dogs. We believe many of the big name dog food companies are making a profit at the expense of our dogs’ health. We have home cooked since 1990 and have seen wonderful health and vitality in our dogs during that time. In addition to many years and many dogs fed our diet, Lauren is currently pursuing an MS in canine immunology and physiology, so the information herein is very current.
Home preparing diets is not something we casually recommend. Unless you take the time to educate yourself it is very easy to overlook essential nutrients or to provide nutrients in an inappropriate ratio. We believe this diet can be far superior to a store bought feed, but it is extremely important to ensure balance. If you cannot do this, feed a quality dog food!
Unless you are genuinely interested in taking the time to learn about nutrition, we recommend a quality dog food with a few supplements. Reasonably good foods can be found such as California Natural, Pinnacle, Innova, Evo, FarMore, etc. Whole Dog Journal lists the best foods they could find each year, and generally their list is excellent.
If you are going to home prepare, please learn everything you can! There is lots of good information available on the subject! One thing to be careful of is that home preparing has recently become something of a fad and instant experts have popped up everywhere. Some of them have excellent information, but be sure to read a wide cross section of opinions and then REACH YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS! There is no one right diet. Each dog in each situation has different requirements. Learn to look at your dog and read the telltale signs of health.
One of the challenges in pursuing a healthy lifestyle for your dogs lies in balancing their “natural” needs with the fact that they are no longer in a pristine environment. So merely mimicking a natural canid diet is not going to be ideal for a dog that rides around in your car, sits in front of the TV, drinks chlorinated water, etc. However, looking at the natural state of our dogs progenitors certainly provides essential clues to what their bodies are designed for.
What we Feed–
This is a question we are asked often, but are always a little nervous answering. What we feed may not be right for a particular dog. You need to read and learn and then watch your dog!
We generally feed our dogs twice a day. A morning meal of vegetable/fruit mix with one of the following likely added: egg, mackeral, kefir, honey, etc. The evening meal is predominately meat or meaty bones. Each meal has supplements.
We fast for 24 hours once a week. We perform a chem. screen on each dog at least once a year and compare the results to try and identify any problems. This also helps to establish baselines which will be very useful if diagnosis is ever necessary. Commonly, dogs fed a meat based diet have a different normal baseline than the references provided by the veterinarian or the diagnostic lab. The normal reference range provided by them have been developed using dogs on a cereal/grain based diet.
A typical diet consists of 65-80% meats, 10-15% fruits/veggies, 5-10% organ meats and a very small percentage of grains and supplements.
- Meats– canids are carnivores. Everything from their dentition to their gut is designed for an intake that is predominantly meat. Depending on the breed, and what was available where they originated, this may have meant cow, deer, mouse, lamb, bird, fish, etc. We try to feed a wide variety of many meats. Typically, we feed chicken wings/necks/backs, or whole turkey necks, beef and lamb. We feed whole chickens and sometimes beef tripe and fat. We avoid salmon because the rickettsial that causes salmon poisoning is very difficult to kill. We avoid pork due to trichinosis.
- Vegetables– very wide variety. Lots of leafy greens. No onions or tomatoes. Generally, juiced, lightly steamed or ground. The canine digestive system does not have the enzymes required to break down cellulose, so unless some pre-digestion occurs, most vegetables pass through undigested.
- Fruits– wide variety of fresh fruits. (Avoid grapes, raisins and use little citrus)
- Eggs– whole raw/cooked eggs are an excellent source of protein. Fed in large amounts they can deplete biotin, so do not go overboard!
- Soy– tofu, tempeh, soy milk, sparingly
- Dairy– cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir, raw goat milk, occasionally heavy cream if trying to add weight
Supplements added as needed–
- Essential Fatty Acids– Omega 3 and Omega 6 are both required. They are essential for healthy skin and coat. Their ratio is important.
- Fish oil
- Borage oil
- Evening primrose oil
- Vitamin E
- Cod liver oil
- Flax seed oil
- Bee Pollen
- Spirulina or SBGA
- A multi-vitamin
- Bone Meal
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B Complex
- Fresh herbs that are in season
- Aloe Vera
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw or Cooked? As a rule, we feed meat and bones raw, vegetable lightly cooked or juiced raw. This is not without risk! There are certainly diseases that can be present in raw meat that are killed by exposure to high temperatures.
The Bone Controversy– there are two passionate camps regarding bones for dogs. One camp says bones are very dangerous. They can splinter and tear the digestive tract. This certainly can happen and dogs have died of this. The other camp argues that bones are a natural dog food that provides calcium and keeps teeth clean. Our view is somewhere in between. We feed knuckle bones regularly– these are the large soft bones that tend to crumble rather than splinter. Even with knuckle bones there is some risk. They could splinter or carry disease since they are uncooked. This is a risk we are willing to accept because we believe our dogs are far healthier than they would be if we fed them no bones and no raw meat.