Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I'll have the meatloaf. No, the shrimp! No, wait...

[WARNING: Long-winded, rambly, and sometimes pointless flow-of-consciousness writing below. It's aimless and ranty in places and probably hella annoying in others. Read at your own risk.]

Have you ever been to one of those restaurants where they present you with the menu equivalent of War and Peace? Where you can get anything from spaghetti and meatballs to liver & onions to quesadillas to prime rib? And then there's the two pages of appetizers, page of desserts, and three pages of beverages in addition to the five or six pages of entrees.

I hate those places. Making these life-or-death kind of decisions isn't easy for me. What if I order the quesadilla but then see the prime rib the lady at the next table ordered and want that instead? Do I save room for dessert or add that Caesar salad to my steak dinner? Do I get an appetizer sampler and eschew the entree? It's all very stressful. Give me a restaurant that serves one nationality of food, or has a short, one-page rundown of the evenings offerings any day.

You'd think that deciding what to feed my dogs would be easier. But I'm finding that's not really the case. I've been giving the matter a lot of thought recently, doing a lot of research, and trying to decide which of the "absolute bestest of the best" claims out there to pay attention to. Feeding raw is alternately the best, most natural thing ever, or a terribly dangerous cat-and-mouse game played with deadly bacteria, depending on what sites you read and who you listen to. Kibble A is proclaimed over Kibble B -- unless you go to someone else's post out of the 3,291,845,921,396 on the topic, wherein Kibble B's shining virtues are touted. Feed kibble but top-dress. Never feed kibble and raw combined. Give bones, they're great! Don't give bones, your dog will get an intestinal blockage! The kibble kompanies have invested millions of dollars in canine nutrition and are the foremost authorities on the subject. No, wait -- the kibble kompanies are a right-wing conspiracy out to make profit and kill your dogs through the use of chicken lips and cow tails and dangerous chemicals.

It seems that, no matter where I look, everyone has an opinion on the topic, and some attach a great deal of emotion to their personal choice. Others are very scientific in approach. Horror stories abound regarding every diet, every feeding method, as do claims of drastically increased vitality and overall health. Vets say feed raw. Vets say don't feed raw. It's healthy, it's not healthy.

Gah! It's exhausting.

So to spare my sanity (what's left of it) and come to some decision that I can live with, I guess I'm going to let my gut be my guide here. Which I guess makes some sense. I mean, guts are kind of food experts, right?

*ahem*. Anyway. Until now, I've been feeding kibble (Wysong Optimal Performance or Taste of the Wild, to be precise). I've been mixing that kibble with some yogurt or vegetables, the occasional fruits or eggs, a little raw beef or cooked chicken here and there. The dogs have a steady supply of bones which they chew fairly religiously, and they get string cheese, carrots, apples, and/or hot dogs as training treats.

But I sort of feel like I want my dogs to have a little more variety than that. Hence all of the Doggy Diets Daily reading. I've been reading about raw feeding -- the rationale, the frozen vs. fresh debate, the various sources for quality meat that doesn't cost a right arm and a leg. I've paid particular attention to sites that give a sample menu, since that's what is most useful to me and my non-biology-degree-possessing self. General consensus points to a preponderance of raw meaty bones (RMBs) with occasional veggie slush, organ meat, etc. Chicken backs, chicken thighs, turkey necks, pork necks, ribs, etc.

Many people have had wonderful success feeding this type of raw diet to their dogs. I'm certainly not going to argue with their results. And since I do understand basic shit like washing my hands and the counter, utensils, etc. after handling raw meat, I'm not terribly paranoid about bacteria. I would worry a little about the dogs consuming bigger sections of bone than they can handle and ending up with a blockage, but neither of my dogs are gulpers. They chew fairly thoroughly and take their time with their food. Vastly different from the vacumm as soon as possible mantra of the retrievers I grew up with. ("It's edible! It's all edible!! Always assume it's edible! You can throw it up later if it turns out not to be!") So it would be a small risk with my corgis. There's a local butcher known for quality meat that I'm sure would be a good food source, or a number of other sources listed in New England that could work as suppliers.

But I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to go with this kind of diet. It won't work for me. Why? Because it Grosses. Me. The hell. Out!!

I know, I know: dogs are not people, people are not dogs, the same aesthetics don't apply, yada yada yada. I know! But my sadly human brain just will NOT tell my hand to plop a cold, slimy, bone-in chicken thigh in my dogs' bowls for them to chow down on. I'm sure it has great nutritional value for them. I'm even moderately sure they'd love it. I just can't do it.

There's also the travelling and the time element involved. I'm not always able to get hotel rooms with refrigerators when I travel to shows, and my little cooler is just not up to a five-day show circuit. Mornings are already a blur as I try to get everyone tended to, lunch made, phone/keys/purse in hand, coffeecoffeeCOFFEE, and - oh yeah! -- I should probably put some clothes on before I go out the door. If that's not enough crazy, my second job requires me to work three evenings a week, which means the hubby gets to feed the dogs on those nights, and I don't even have to imagine the "Oh hells no!" that's going to come out of him about the time I tell him to toss a neck and a liver in each bowl. It's not going to happen.

And THEN there's the supplements that are presumably already incorporated into premium kibble but are not present in such abundance in raw meats. Did I mention the no-biology-degree thing? How about the no-nutrition-degree thing? And BOY is that "D" in chemistry coming back to haunt me. I majored in History, people. Medieval history. Also known as a Bachelors in "Would you like fries with that?" I am in no way clever or, if I'm honest, dedicated enough to figure out what to supplement when and by how much. So, yeah. Not going to happen.

But I DO believe that a diet of straight kibble is not nutritionally sound nor very palatable or exciting. I mean sure, I could probably survive on a diet of cereal or granola bars, but I sure as hell don't want to. And I'm sure my corgis don't want to eat two meals of kibble day in and day out for however long I'm graced with them. So, here's my compromise:

Breakfast: Kibble (either their current Taste of the Wild or another high-quality food that I may try that they do well on)
Training treats: cooked chicken strips, carrot or apple slices, string cheese, venison strips.
Dinner: Alternating meals that include, at various times: raw beef, chicken that's a least slightly cooked, liver, occasional fish, eggs with shells ground in, yogurt, cottage cheese, veggie slurry, brown rice, and anything else that I happen to have in the house that is not harmful to dogs and not empty junk calories. No kibble mixed in.
Weekly: a new marrow bone with some meat left on to: a) give them the nutrients in the meat and the marrow; and b) keep their interest in chewing fresh so the teeth stay nice and clean.

I'm sure this "diet" isn't going to make any articles or be a sterling example of canine nutrition. It won't have a fancy name or be attached to any sort of lifestyle or political outlook. It won't win me any Breeder of the Year certificates or make me look like any sort of expert.

But my gut is okay with it. And hopefully the corgis' guts will be too.


  1. Ha! Come down and visit me and we will throw chicken pieces at the dogs and you will get over the gross-out factor :).

    I would NOT cook the chicken, even slightly. The thing that makes chicken bones dangerous is when the bone is cooked it dehydrates and changes in its protein/mineral structure. It stops being digestible and becomes like concrete powder. Dogs don't generally choke on the cooked bones, contrary to every horror story you've heard, but they DO end up with concrete-powder-mixed-with-water (and you know what that makes) stool. Very difficult to pass and that's why you end up with intestinal blockages. You can SEAR the chicken in a hot pan with butter, but don't cook it past the skin or you'll be in trouble. That's why most of us, unless we're trying to switch a dog from kibble to raw and the dog doesn't know that raw chicken is food, don't even do that.

    Also, don't feed recreational bones that can't be consumed entirely. Marrow bones are commonly called "wreck"-reactional bones because they chip teeth. You want to feed something that takes them a while to get through but is not hard. I've found (of the stuff available in a typical butchery or grocery store) knuckle bones with no long bone attached to fit this bill.

    I'm kind of "feh" on TOTW. I think they put a lot of fillers in there. I have had much better results with Orijen.

    One thing you may want to look at if you don't like handling all the stuff (just so you know, in my experience that stage passes pretty fast once you see the dogs going nutso for real food) is the Sojos grain-free veggie+vitamins mix. You mix equal parts meat, Sojos, and water and soak it, and that's your raw meal for the day. I've been using it while we've been in the apartment and I am quite pleased with it. I find that one bag of Sojos mixes with 12 lb of ground beef, so I make half a bag + 6 lb at once, freeze in smaller portions, and thaw as needed. Each dog gets some Orijen in the bottom of the bowl and a few tablespoons of the Sojos+meat mix on top, dressed with salmon oil, kelp, and joint supplement. Adding the Sojos+meat FINALLY got my dogs looking less like kibble-fed dogs and more like raw-fed dogs. The muscle tone and coat change dramatically.

  2. Oops, I should have said boneless somewhat cooked chicken. I do know not to give them cooked bones. :-)

    I'll look into the Sojo's, that sounds like a good option. And I'll see who around here sells Orijen. I'm definitely up for experimenting with the kibble part.

    Throwing chicken parts around, though... o_0