Pet Health

Originally posted on May 14, 2015

It was suggested to me a while ago that I should do a workshop on what to feed our pets, and the question comes up again and again.  I don't know that I would have enough knowledge to do an entire workshop, but I can certainly fill up a blog post that'll help you out!

First I must say that in this post I will focus on primarily dogs and cats, if you have other types of pets, I am not familiar with exotics, birds, or other.  I did used to have hamsters when I was a kid, but basically I just fed them scraps, I don't know if that was good or not.  I was a kid!

This is my Kreacher dog.  He's a rescue boxer mix, that I saved when he was about 6 or 7 months old and wandering around our neighbourhood lost and lonely.  I tried to find his family and couldn't so we kept him.  He's the love of my life.  

kreacher with bone 

*do NOT ever feed your dog cooked bones, they can splinter and cause internal rupture! Raw, large bones are good for gnawing on, and will not splinter.

Ok, dogs.  What should we be feeding them?  Does it matter how big or small they are?  

I feed my dog a dry kibble called Performatrin Ultra Grain Free from PetValu.  This is a Canadian company, and the food is made in Canada.  It is important to me to know where the ingredients for the food are coming from.  The past 10 years or so there have been so many pet food recalls because of ingredients made in China that I do not want to run the risk of my pets falling ill, or worse, dying because of anti-freeze in their food!  Next most important is to make sure the food is entirely grain free.  For a couple of reasons.  First to ensure that I do not get cross contaminated by gluten.  Second, because Dogs Are Not Meant To Eat Grains!  Didja get that?  Let me say it again.  Dogs Are Not Meant To Eat Grains!  Dogs are omnivores, they can, and will gladly, eat plants, but grains are not something that is beneficial to their health. 

Check the ingredients on the food you are giving your dogs right now.  Go ahead, I'll wait...

What are the first ingredients?  If the first three ingredients are NOT meat, you need to find another brand.  If the food contains any grains, you need to find another brand.  So, no wheat, no barley, no rye, no corn, no rice, no oats etc etc etc...Your dog will thank you.  And you will thank me once you switch!

Dogs also like a bit of moist food with their kibbles.  Kibble gives them that crunch, like they wold get if they were eating a whole animal, and moist food will give them the meaty texture.  I feed Kreacher a locally made brand called Darn Good Dog Food.  His favourite is the lamb and sweet potato, then beef and broccoli.  He does not like the chicken at all.  Nope nope nope!  This food is raw, sold frozen.  We just defrost a couple of patties (it comes in a large package with a bunch of hamburger like shaped patties, or in smaller packages with 2 or 3 servings that need to be separately portioned out after defrosting) and in the morning he gets half of one on his breakfast, and the other half at dinner time, served with about 1/2 scoop of the kibble.

Everyone in the neighbourhood says he is the softest most cuddliest dog on the street!  His coat is soft, glossy, with no dander flakes.  His poops are consistent, well formed, and easy for him to pass.  The only time he gets constipated or diarrhea is when one of the neighbours gives him a treat that doesn't agree with him.  I try as best I can to limit his treats from neighbours, but they all seem to walk around with them in their pockets, even if they don't have dogs themselves!  His vet also thinks he is one of the most healthy dogs that goes in to visit.  Which is only ever for his annual so we can get his heartworm and tick drops.  He's never sick.

As for treats, I mostly give him freeze dried meats, or jerky like treats.  His favourite is freeze dried beef livers.  He will drool like a Saint Bernard as soon as the package is taken out of the cupboard!  Occasionally I will buy cookie type treats, but they're always gluten free, and not given very often.  If he eats gluten, I can't let him kiss me.  And that would be horrible, because I can't live without my Kreacher kisses :)  I have not bought Milk Bones (TM) in well over a decade, since before my celiac diagnosis.  They're junk food for dogs.  And almost entirely made of grains.

On to cats.  I'm sure you know what's coming right?  Cats Are Not Meant To Eat Grains Either!  Cats are carnivores.  Let's try this again, go check the ingredients label on your cat food.  S'ok, I can wait...

Yep, you guessed it, Performatrin also makes a Grain Free Cat Food.  Cats will actually likely do better with an entirely raw, meat and bones only diet.  Most people though don't want to be tossing their cat a chicken leg, or a steak every morning for breakfast.  Though the cat will happily bring you a mouse or bird for breakfast, and be quite proud of herself doing it! :)  Your cat would very much appreciate it if you gave her/him some raw food with their kibble, and the occasional treat of some fish.  Canned or raw tuna, salmon, or sardines are just as good for them as they are for us.  

You're also not doing your cat any favours by giving it milk.  Cats are not cows.  Cats are cats.  They cannot digest bovine milk.  Like humans, they do not need to drink milk after they have been weaned.  I'm not sure how we got to feeding our cats cow's milk, but we must stop it.  They're cats.  They just need some clean water to drink.  There are products available in pet stores called "Cat Milk".  I don't know why they call it that, because it's made of cow's milk.  Don't waste your money.  

If you would like to compare your dog's food and try to find something better to feed them, try this website here.  I haven't found a similar comparison site for cats food, but the basic rules are make sure at least the first 3 ingredients are real meat and that you can identify all the rest of it, with nothing unpronounceable.  

I will mention that anything your vet will "prescribe" to your fat cat, or aging dog, is likely to be just whatever brand sponsors their clinic, and they likely won't even now what's in it.  They, like people doctors, do not learn nutrition in med school, and manufactured pet foods, just like manufactured human foods, are made by scientists for that flavourful "bliss point" and cheapness of ingredients, usually not so much for nutrition. 

I will do whatever I can to save money on food for myself, but I will not scrimp on food for the dog.  Our pet's lives are directly up to us, and as for my Kreacher dog, his life expectancy is short as it is, I don't want to shorten it further by feeding him crap food that'll give him diabetes, kidney failure, flaky itchy skin, smelly feet, and/or rotten teeth.  Though his feet do kind of stink some days more than others ;)  He's a dog!  

Following is a list of foods that are toxic to dogs and cats, do not ever feed these to your pets, I don't care how much your dog likes grapes, or your cat likes chocolate covered onions, these foods will shorten their life expectancy at best, or at worst, will kill them and they will suffer very painfully for the last minutes/hours/days of their life.  Just don't do it.  

Alcoholic beverages 
Apple seeds 
Apricot pits 
Avocados
Cherry pits
Candy (particularly chocolate—which is toxic to dogs, cats, and ferrets—and any candy containing the toxic sweetener Xylitol) 
Coffee (grounds, beans, and chocolate-covered espresso beans)
Garlic
Grapes 
Gum (can cause blockages and sugar free gums may contain the toxic sweetener Xylitol)
Hops (used in home beer brewing) 
Macadamia nuts 
Moldy foods 
Mushroom plants 
Mustard seeds 
Onions and onion powder 
Peach pits 
Potato leaves and stems (green parts) 
Raisins 
Rhubarb leaves 
Salt 
Tea (because it contains caffeine) 
Tomato leaves and stems (green parts) 
Walnuts 
Xylitol (artificial sweetener that is toxic to pets)
Yeast dough

I hope this has been somewhat helpful to you in choosing a good food for your pet.  And honestly, if you can't afford to feed your pets a good food, you can't afford to keep a pet.  Please consider this before you bring them home.  I spend $100+ on dog food every month, and about $300 for his annual wellness visit, including anti-tick and heart worm treatments. When I had Saint Bernards, we spent even more than that.  I love having pets in my home, I would have a dozen if the township and my budget would let me!  

Comment below if you have questions about what you're feeding your pets!

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