Monday, December 30, 2013

Warning - Don't Eat That!

"Warning - Feeding these dog foods to your dog could be hazardous to his health"...when I saw this statement on a piece of my mail today, I had an internal dialogue.

Maybe that statement should have been on all the fudge, bottles of wine, gravy and mashed potatoes, cookies, pumpkin pie, and margaritas that I consumed in excess over the past two weeks? I laughed and pondered the thought for a moment then giggled and said...nope, wouldn't have helped one tiny bit. I would have enjoyed all those things in excess regardless of any silly warning statement provided.  Why? Because I LOVE and ENJOY those foods (and drinks). Key words there: ENJOY & LOVE...and consumed in the last 2 weeks, not ALL THE TIME.

So here it goes, I'm sure many of you will be shocked and dismayed to find out that on occasion, I commit the most horrible of dog-mom sins...I let my dogs indulge on crap food or treats.  I even indulge Mr. Keegan in a few M&M's every now and then.  They are to him what margaritas are to me...God's gift to the taste buds.  I've always said the best thing about having a Ph.D in nutrition is the ability to justify eating ANYTHING!

What I've never been able to justify is how did it come to be that we decided there were "certain" ways we should feed our dogs and certain foods that we should or shouldn't feed our dogs? My favorites are the statements like "you can't feed raw and kibble at the same time" and "dogs are carnivores and should only have meat" and "by-products are crap", "you should never give your dogs bones" and "you can't feed raw eggs to dogs" and "raw is the only way to go if you want a healthy dog" of course the list goes on and on. 

When did we figure there was a "right" and "wrong" way to feed an animal that evolved with us? This is where I struggle.  We know that the "right" way for a human to eat is to eat a variety of foods including proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and limit processing as much as possible.  Does it not make sense that dogs should eat that way as well? The only difference I see is that the dog is anatomically a carnivore and has a very short digestive tract compared to ours.  Dogs do need more animal protein but shouldn't be fed ONLY meat.  An "only meat" diet may be the natural history for the African Hunting Dog but certainly not that of the dog. 

When we consume a healthy and varied diet the majority of time, guess what happens when we over indulge during the holidays? NOTHING...isn't it beautiful?  I just love that! Truly nothing.  The more balanced our guts are, the greater the ability to re-balance when we decide to pig out on cookies and candy.  I have watched the same thing with my dogs.  My dogs have an extremely varied diet from day to day.  They are fed raw, kibble, cooked meat, dehydrated, canned, commercial raw frozen, and sometimes I even mix them all up at once.  I also have chickens and the dogs do eat raw eggs (and cooked eggs) regularly.

Are there products out there that our dogs should not be fed as a regular and major component of their diets? Of course.  I can't imagine what my health would be like if I ate pumpkin pie and drank margaritas every day.  Nor could I imagine what my gut would be like if I only ate grilled chicken and rice every day.  It certainly wouldn't be strong enough to allow me the enjoyment of indulging during the holidays without some pain and discomfort involved. Both scenarios are dangerous for the human and canine gut alike.

I challenge you to consider the natural history of the animal you are feeding and think about what actually does make sense for you and for your pet.  Just because your training partner feeds raw, doesn't mean that your choice to feed kibble is wrong.  Both of you can have healthy animals if you provide them the right balance and variety to support an optimal environment in the gut.