Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dog food Diatribe
the following is from an email i sent out to my friends and family tonight. I thought i'd share it here too, in case i forgot anyone. & because it's what i've been thinking and writing about lately....
And enjoy!

Anyone who has talked to me face to face lately knows that i've been prostelisizing about how we feed our dogs and how that needs to change. I've been on this particular soapbox even before the widespread petfood recall started a few weeks ago.

I've undergone my conversion experience because i've been listening to a pod-cast called Dog Talk. The woman who does this show is Tracie Hotchner-- she's the author of The Dog Bible, and she has very strong views on how we should feed our dogs & why.

What follows here is alot of information that you might or might not agree with, but both my mom and sister have been asking me about this & especially about what brands of dog food they can use. I'm sending it to you because i thought you might find it interesting &/or helpful, as you wonder what the hell you should feed your dog now that seemingly every brand on the planet is being recalled. Feel free to read further or delete now as you see fit.

Tracie's view is that the majority of dog kibble is basically fried corn product. It is low on protein & high on fat & carbs. We wouldn't feed our kids exclusively on Fritos and expect them to remain healthy, so why do we do this to our dogs?

Tracie has a website with some useful links about nutrition on this page, about halfway down: http://www.thedogbible.com/links.html
but the most useful information i've gotten from her was listening to a pod-cast of Dog Talk: The Radio Show where she talks to Sabine Contreras.
This is episode #14 which aired on March 10 2007 and you can download it for free here: http://www.dogtalktheradioshow.com/podcast.htm
Tracie doesn't get to Sabine till about halfway through the show, but keep with it, or fast forward to about the 30 minute mark, it's worth it, i promise.

If you are too busy to manage this, here's my very abridged version of what i've learned:
Your dog needs protein, lots of it, to be healthy.
The ideal diet for a dog is one with 60% protein or more.
Most kibble (esp. the kibble sold in grocery stores) is about 20% protein & alot of that 20% isn't in a form that's easily digestible for dogs.
As Tracie says (i'm paraphrasing here) 'When we feed kibble, we're feeding our dog as if she were a feedlot animal; a cow, pig or chicken. That type of highly processed grain based diet just doesn't work for dogs'
Kibble should be a side dish, not the main meal.
The less processed the protein source, the better.
You CAN feed your dog human food. In fact, your dog would be much healthier if you did feed her human food.
Good unprocessed protein sources include chicken, fish, beef, lamb, venison, cottage cheese, raw or cooked eggs.
I'm not going into the whole cooked vs raw debate, that's for you to decide. But never feed your dogs cooked bones of any kind & be careful when feeding them raw bones.
Avoid feeding organ meats too often-- once a week is a good rule of thumb, for people as well as dogs.

If, like me, you don't have time enough to feed yourself a healthy whole food based diet, let alone produce one for your dogs, there are brands of dog food that Tracie and Sabine recommend, though they are adamant that you should NEVER feed "lite" or diet kibble to your dog, even if one of the following companies make them.
A partial list of brands:
Flint River
Newmans Own
Merrick (Tracie is especially excited about Merrick, who apparently have a new kibble that's 40% protein- a big leap in the right direction as far as she's concerned)

Check out Sabine's website: http://www.dogfoodproject.com/index.php?page=main
She's great about teaching you how to read dog food labels. Look for whole grains, ingredients like brown rice or white rice. Avoid kibble with lots of "rice flour" (which is basically rice with the protein stripped out) or wheat gluten. Again, the less processed the food, the healthier it is for both you and your dogs.

As for me personally? Well, we're extra special "just before the start of the spring show season" broke right now, so we can't afford to switch over to a kibble free diet. These days, my dogs are getting a reduced amount of high quality kibble, one that has 26% protein, lots of chicken and brown rice in it. This is about 50% of their bowl, the rest is Merrick canned dog food (we're getting it for about $1.50 a can & we're going through 2 cans a day between 3 dogs) and supplementing with cottage cheese, eggs and occasionally cheap meat that D. finds on sale & cooks up for the gang.

In closing, i thought i'd share some quotes from a letter Tracie Hotchner sent out to her mailing list this evening regarding the whole Menu foods recall situation:

"I was particularly disturbed and distrustful of my fellow journalists, who were silent across-the-board on this story - and apparently lacking any interest in doing investigating into what was really going on. The blatant muddling of facts, switch-and-bait excuses and stories, and lack of logic about many aspects of the situation should have had all of their ears perked up to get to the bottom of it.

And then I figured it out: Procter and Gamble OWNS both Iams and Eukanuba. P&G spends an awful lot of money advertising all of its products on television and in the print media. We’d like to think that their financial support of the media empires would not put a sort of gag order on the editors and writers –we’d like to believe we have a free press, not influenced by advertising dollars. It would be so reassuring to be able to think that is the case."


"There are still many more questions than answers in this debacle but some things seem sure. It is not just those styles of foods made on those dates that pose risk. If tainted wheat and/or wheat gluten entered the food chain at Menu Foods, then it makes more sense to assume that any of their foods – dry or wet – could have been tainted. Especially given the resounding silence and refusal to step up and take responsibility and be pro-active, you can safely bet that the cover-up, keep-your-cards-close-to-the-vest mentality is still functioning. However, now they have finally told the public to avoid all of the “cuts and slices in nasty gravy” (my addition of “nasty,” sorry, I couldn’t resist) no matter when it was made."


"Why aren’t more people asking questions like:

"How can it be that we were subjected to more press about Anna Nicole Smith than the death of any head of state – but the media machine does not think that 90 million cat owners and 68 million dog families need to know about this? "


"Why haven’t real numbers of the losses been ferreted out and published? Why has the press swallowed this magic “only 13 animals” number – which is the test animals who died within days? (emphasis mine ~Va) Why did the media single out only one afflicted cat, belonging to a woman who was suing the food companies with a case that sounded shaky – she had a 9 year old cat who had never been to the vet and she waited through four days of dire illness resulting in the cat’s blindness and then death. Why has the media only shown a few Yorkies feeling poorly instead of what has got to be the thousands of aggrieved and enraged citizens whose animal family members suffered fast or slow deaths that might even have been avoided?"


"How can it be that NONE of the companies involved have yet to take responsibility… say they are sorry… explain how much we and our pets matter to them (oh yeah)… and how they will be looking at compensating losses?

"How is it conceivable that the companies involved have made no attempt to even try to reassure us that they want to revamp their system of food production to avoid such a horrific tragedy in the future? But wait – they hadn’t yet even acknowledged there was a tragedy, had they? "

This is Virginia again. Not that Tracie's angry or upset or anything!
You can see her complete letter here: http://www.dogtalktheradioshow.com/Newsletter_pdf/March_27_2007_FoodRecallThoughts.html

Now, go hug your dog & give her some better quality food. You'll both feel better!

With love and respect for all beings