According to science, domestication of dogs happened some 20 to 30 thousand years ago. Were the hunter-gatherers sitting there, racking their brains with what to feed and how to train their new companions?
And yet everything worked itself out naturally.
But then, hunter-gatherers didn’t have McDonalds or dog Chow, nor did they have pesticides, herbicides or Monsanto … among other things.
Is that significant?
I am a little Czech woman who found her port in Canada about 20 years ago.
Where I come from, dogs were fed left-overs and, if they were really lucky, some meat, bones or risotto type of mixtures. Rural dogs would live on combination of that and fending for themselves. Nobody ever heard of commercial kibble and when it eventually got introduced it was a luxury item normal people couldn’t afford.
The dogs seemed to have lived happy and healthy long lives.
My mom has a friend whose dog is of a ripe age and lives on boiled out chicken carcasses, milk and bread. And only when the cat leaves some. Does that make your hair stand up? Mine too. And yet, the dog survived all these years.
When I came to Canada and met my husband, he had a little rescued Rottie girl. I was new to the country and he had gone through a nasty divorce. We were very broke. We fed her grocery store Chow because that’s all we could afford.
While I would NEVER feed my dog that stuff unless I couldn’t help it, she too survived on that.
A few years after her passing, we got a new puppy, Jasmine. At first we fed her based on her breeder’s recommendation. Because of her constant stool problems, she ended up long term on Hill’s i/d. Not that it made any difference.
It actually wasn’t her food but her treats that got me thinking harder about nutrition.
She used to get Begging Strips, which she liked a lot. It used to be crispy and smell like bacon. Then they changed the formulation. It became gooey and suddenly it smelled sour and mostly like chemicals more than anything else.
Perhaps just because they sell something for dogs doesn’t mean that it’s good for them …
So I started looking closer at the ingredients. We started making home-made beef jerky treats and I decided to exchange the i/d for California Natural Fish and Potato.
Jasmine’s appetite was also dwindling and stools continued to be bad but frequent vet visits didn’t bring any answers or solutions.
It wasn’t until Jasmine was five years of age, when problems started piling up.
She was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She busted her knee ligament. And then, finally, after finding yet another new vet, she was diagnosed with IBD. The cause was determined to be food allergies, which none of the vets ever caught before. (This was about six years ago)
With everything as it was, it meant a major change in her diet and we decided to go with home-cooking.
We involved a veterinary nutritionist but even then we had to change the recipe a couple of times because some of the nutrients weren’t getting assimilated from some of the ingredients.
The fact is, that once we got it figured out, Jasmine thrived on that.
Looking at the big picture, I was wondering how much of the later problems could have been avoided if her allergies were diagnosed earlier. The new vet said, based on his findings, that she likely had the IBD all along.
How many of the later issues might have been avoided if that had been diagnosed and addressed at the beginning?
I started seriously researching what could I do, in terms of nutrition, to help Jasmine’s body. And that was when dog nutrition became a big part of my learning curve.
I read a long list of books on dog nutrition. I learned about food therapy in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. I felt I didn’t know enough. I took a course on integrative dog nutrition and decided to study dog physiology and biochemistry to really get to understand things.
Do I feel that I know it all now?
Mostly what I learned is that there are more questions to be asking.
Should it be this complicated?
These days, everybody will give you an opinion on what you should feed your dog. Everybody has a strong conviction and the beliefs vary greatly. And most of them believe (and are happy to let you know) that if you choose to feed something else, you’re killing your dog.
I remember meeting my husband’s colleague for a dog play date for the first time. As our conversation went on, I innocently asked what she was feeding her dog. She refused to tell me. When I asked why, she said that I wouldn’t agree with it.
How many judgmental responses did it take for her to simply refuse to disclose what she was feeding her dog?
You get bombarded from all sides. From your breeder, your vet, your friends, your neighbors, the media, and the clerk at the pet store … There are people who use the term “food Nazi” and then there are people who’d likely be best described by this term.
For some, feeding a certain type of diet being the answer to everything.
“I think my dog just broke a leg, what should I do?”
“Switch him to raw.”
Am I exaggerating? Yes, but not that much.
Extruded kibble, baked kibble, canned, semi-moist, freeze-dried, raw, premium, gourmet, all-natural, grain-free, gluten-free, holistic, organic, human-grade, biologically appropriate, ancestral, cooked, home-cooked … those are just some of the terms to contend with.
And all that before you even turn the package to take a look at the back.
Beside the processing method, what the label says on the back actually matters the most.
Back to my husband’s colleague’s feeding choice.
Her dog is doing great. Isn’t that all that matters?
One of the big arguments going on is which is more important, ingredients or nutrients? Are nutrients all that matters and ingredients are irrelevant?
What do you think?
|Photo Cavalier Health|
Nutrients ARE important. It is nutrients that carry the needed energy, building blocks of tissues and functional elements. Fatty acids, amino acids, minerals, vitamins … those are the things a dog’s body needs to function.
Does it or does it not matter where the nutrients come from, though?
And more importantly, if we're counting nutrients, are we counting ALL of them? And what about food substances that don't qualify as nutrients and yet might be just as important?
Remember the times when baby formula was deemed the be superior to breast milk?
Just today I came across an article on how decoding breast milk secret reveals clues to lasting health.
"Evidence shows that breast-feeding is good for babies, boosting immunity and protecting them from a wide range of health issues such as obesity, diabetes, liver problems and cardiovascular disease."
“Mother’s milk is the Rosetta Stone for all food,” said Professor Bruce German, director of the UC Davis Foods for Health Institute. “It’s a complete diet, shaped over 200 million years of evolution, to keep healthy babies healthy.”
Shaped over 200 million years of evolution ...
So what does breast milk have that formula does not? It has nutrients, of course. But third most abundant to lactose and lipids is a biomolecule that the babies cannot digest. It goes in just to end up in the diapers.
Nobody ever counted that.
Heck, nobody even knew it was there.
"Turns out, the indigestible matter is a slew of complex sugars called oligosaccharides that are extremely difficult to detect and analyze."
If they don't get digested, how could they be important? They don't feed the baby, they feed Bifidobacterium infantis bacteria in the baby's gut. If you're into probiotics, you know what these are. As it turns out, breast milk is loaded with prebiotics.
What does this have to do with dog nutrition?
Perhaps ingredients, and what happens to them in the process, matter after all. Perhaps we should not just count nutrients and think that is all there is to nutrition. Perhaps natural ingredients offer more than meets the eye.
|Image: indrja, fotoalba by Centrum.ca|
Perhaps we lost sight of what dogs evolved to eat. Perhaps nutrition isn't rocket science after all, just common sense.
What do you think?
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