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Why I’m feeding my dog real food

  • Flora loves her raw dog bones, even the big ones; the better to chew on and get needed calcium. Carole Soule / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 6/3/2021 6:05:15 PM

For more than 15,000 years, your dog’s ancestors, the wolves, have been dining on raw meat they kill themselves. Wolves didn’t have kibble as an option, and if your dog could talk, he would tell you he prefers chicken, stolen from the kitchen counter, over dry dog food.

Canine digestion systems evolved on a diet of uncooked meat and occasionally undigested vegetables from the stomachs of their prey. The digestive systems of wolves, coyotes, and dogs kill bacteria better than human systems, which means canines don’t need their food cooked. So what happened? Why are we feeding dry, cooked, processed food to our pets?

In 1860, the first dry pet food was invented, and in the 1950s, it became popular as kibble. Even the premium kibble is overheated, commercially processed, and made from meat that’s unfit for human consumption. And that’s what most pet owners serve. Processing lengthens shelf-life and kills bacteria but also destroys nutrients. So vitamins are added. Unfortunately, these are often hard for the animal to digest, and they pass right through the dog to create piles of you-know-what. Watch your step!

So why do we feed kibble? Is it just for convenience, or is it because house pets are “civilized” and should eat food that has also been subdued?

When Flora, my mixed-breed rescue dog, wiggled into my life, I decided to challenge the kibble theory of convenience and nutrition. She is on a primarily raw food diet. The organ meat, liver, I feed is cooked; it’s too slimy to handle otherwise and is a treat for good behavior. She gets raw ground beef, cooked rice, ginger, and berries three times a day. (She is a growing puppy, after all.)

You might ask:

How safe is her diet?

Although dozens of dogs died last year after eating a particular brand of dried food, the issue isn’t safety; it’s health. Flora is thriving on real, unprocessed food, and who wouldn’t? She’s eating better than most dogs. One indication that her diet is working is somewhat indelicate. Her poops are infrequent, which indicates that her digestion is making full use of what she eats. (Less for me to clean up!)

Isn’t it time-consuming to make dog food at home?

Not very. It’s almost as easy as scooping a cup of kibble and mixing it with water. Additional advance prep time is minimal. Once a week, I cook four cups of brown rice in my Instant-Pot and make sure I have a thawed five-pound bag of ground beef. It takes three minutes to put a handful of meat with a half-cup of cooked rice, add ginger, and a few squashed blueberries at each feeding. I mix it with my hands, so my scent is in the food, and Flora, just like wild dogs, is reminded I’m the pack leader who provides her food.

Isn’t this diet expensive?

More expensive than kibble, but it’s comparable to premium, freeze-dried dog food.

Before you switch your dog to a new diet, please consult a veterinarian. I’m not a vet or a dietitian, just someone with a common-sense notion of what to feed my dog. Flora is not a wolf, but she eats like one.

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, in Loudon, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products.)

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