Dogs Don’t Deserve A Dodgy Diet Either

Today was the first day where I had no work obligations for quite a while and so I was looking forward to visiting the garden with my bouncy dog, perhaps check on the potatoes (of the earlier post) and generally experience the world outside. But instead, it has been a cold, dark day with lots of rain and even hail, and I have been stuck inside with a dog with ‘cabin-fever’.


Soon after acquiring my gorgeous pup, Safi, I had an argument with the vet over her diet. I had been feeding her a reputable and apparently high quality dried food, but she vomited, at least once a day and often more, as well as every single time she went in the car. Fed up with this, I had been doing some research starting with the book by Vet Don Hamilton, “Homeopathic Care For Cats & Dogs”.  This book is a wonderful treasure trove of information. Hamilton describes of what is ‘normal’ and natural behaviour for these animals, as well as offering a range of practical holistic measures to take to deal with illness and achieve good health and detailed information about Homeopathic treatments that can be used.

I had already seen the fast effect of homeopathic medicine when I had used it on my previous dog for an ear infection after he fell in the pond, and later to counteract the effect of rat bait he found, and then ate, under the house. So I hoped this book would provide an answer to the vomiting problem.

I had begun with the expectation of giving Safi some treatment to stop her being sick but what I ended up with was a whole new approach to how I should be feeding her, one my vet strongly disapproved of. One of Hamilton’s recommendations for chronic vomiting was simple, “change the diet to a fresh one, as this will improve most cases and eliminate the problem in some”. Easy!

It set me wondering what exactly a fresh diet should consist of for a young pup. I also started to think about the reality of feeding a pet a diet that consists only of dried or tinned food, and about just what undesirables were contained in this type of food. After all, I try to keep the family diet loaded up with fresh whole-foods and the puppy was part of the family, so it seemed reasonable to do the same for her.

Here are just some of the things I discovered along the way:

  • Commercial dried dog foods are made up of about ⅔ grain
  • Cans and rolls can contain 70% water
  • The unpleasant results of grain-based, processed, year-in and year-out diets are common and there are many serious health problems associated with this type of diet
  • Dogs in the wild don’t just eat meat, they also eat plants and small amounts of grains
  • Much of the ingredient labeling on pet foods is very misleading (hmm…where have I seen that before?)
  • Ground up, unwanted animal parts labeled as “meat and bone meal” often contain high levels of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides.
  • No ADDED Preservatives’ doesn’t mean there aren’t any preservatives, just that the end manufacture didn’t actually add any, although the ingredients they used may have already had preservatives put in them.
  • Commercial pet foods are full of preservatives and additives
  • Ingredients used in pet food are often highly contaminated with a wide variety of toxic substances
  • Because the ingredients they are using are not wholesome, their quality may be extremely variable, and the harsh manufacturing practices destroy many of the nutrients the food may have had to begin with. In ‘top-end’ products, other ingredients, such as vitamins and other nutrients, lost in the processing, must then be added to “fortify” the nutritious wasteland that the product is.
  • Terms like ‘complete and balanced’ relate to minimum standards not optimum standards
  • Pet foods are surrounded with just as many “marketing claims” as human foods, and deserve about the same credibility.
  • Plus there were lots of other dubious and frightening facts

It set me reassessing things!

I would never accept foods that were this highly processed and full of questionable ingredients as a regular part of the family diet and it is crazy that we blindly accept it for the dogs (and cats) that are a part of our family. These diets are like feeding your dog junk food at every single meal, usually with nothing else that is wholesome in the diet.

So after more searching I eventually came across details of how to put together a diet that is similar to the diet of a dog in the wild, and it wasn’t difficult to do. The percentages of the components of this diet are 50% raw meat, 30% fruit and veg, and 20% grain. The quantity of raw meat needs to equal 3% of the dog’s weight, so a 10kg dog needs 300g each day, a 20kg dog needs 600g. I was surprised to find that they do need some plants and grains in their diet, although not nearly as much grain as what is put in commercial foods. Apparently, wild dogs get their plant and grain needs by ripping open the entrails of their prey and eating the partly digested plant and grain products they contain first.

I get roughly this 50-30-20% balance for my dog by giving her porridge and fruit or vegetables at breakfast and meat at night. As soon as we started the new diet she stopped vomiting straight away. Magic!

She absolutely loves her food, especially carrot and cabbage (is that coleslaw?) bananas and apple, broccoli as well as lots and lots of others, and whenever she hears the sound of the knife on the chopping board she races in to get her share of vege offcuts such as the ends of the carrots or the apple core. I get her a mix of different dog meats from the pet store (where it is only about $3 a kilo) which I mix up and freeze in 300g parcels (as she weighs roughly 10kg). These are so easy to just defrost each day. Plus, I also give her raw bones and add Cod Liver Oil. Dogs need variety just as we do and the variety of meats means there are different textures, flavours and fat contents. She has a huge variety of fruit and veg and porridge from a few different grains. She doesn’t get our leftovers other than the vege offcuts, just as we don’t get her leftovers (if there were any). Her needs are quite different to ours.

The BARF diet (biologically appropriate raw food) designed by an Australian vet is similar to this but contains no cooked grain at all. It may be true that dogs need no grain but I have found that Safi does well with the small amount she has.

What amazed me was how quickly changes to her health problems occurred once I switched her diet, although sadly not everyone was so lucky with their experience

The vet’s objection to changing from a commercial food to a raw food diet was that my dog would not get a “balanced diet”. In fact, what she actually did get when we changed to the raw diet was exactly what she wasn’t getting before on the dried food, a “balanced diet”. I simply do not understand how any health professional, treating either humans or animals, can advocate a permanent diet of junk food for good health although I have heard that some Vets do not recommend a diet that is solely commercial food. After what I found it seems to me that they should be recommending a diet that is not at all commercial food!

I came across this mantra in my research which seems appropriate and you might like to take on board:

“I will never again buy pre-manufactured, unnatural food for my dog. I will resolve to learn what my canine companion truly needs, in terms of healthy nutrition and feeding, and I will feed my domesticated wolf in accordance with its nature, to the best of my ability, and not in accordance with commercial advertising and exploitation.”

 Safi is now eighteen months old and a lovely, healthy dog full of joy, although still with that puppy over-exuberance. What is interesting is that we were able to turn her health around with such a simple life-style change.

Now what I really hope, for both hers and my “mental health” is that the hail eases up and we get outside tomorrow in a glorious sunny winter day.

© Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Catherine Bullard and Happy Holistic Health with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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