Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dog Diet Ruminations and Ellie's Raw Experiment Begins

There's a reason the leftover bag from the restaurant is called a 'doggie bag'. It's my story (and I'm stickin' to it, at least for now), that dogs evolved with us, as our companions, and for many years what they ate was our leavings along with their occasional bunny or bird kill. I wonder, why not feed them that way today? (Although, if we eat junk, then maybe that isn't such a great idea.)

Shortly after Ellie came to our home, I was listening to NPR's Science Friday, taking place at Cornell Veterinary School. The veterinarian on the panel recommended the feeding of quality commercially prepared food because these diets were scientifically formulated to provide a complete food source. I've got to disagree with that veterinarian, if only on the grounds that dogs have the right to a little pleasure with their food along with the rest of us. My disagreement is actually more a matter of degree.

A little background is in order here. Once upon a time, I was an animal scientist, with a few degrees from Purdue University in animal and ruminant nutrition. (I used to be an expert in feeding baby lambs on milk replacer.) I also spent a fair number of years as a researcher in meat science, then in exercise physiology (humans and horses). It's been some years (that's another story), but the animal scientist in me suspects that dog food manufacturers don't conduct taste panels for dogs that include stuff that dogs really like, like road kill, horse manure, or a freshly killed rabbit.

The statistician in me recognizes the need for objective evaluation of data and also recognizes that the value of statistics lies in the ability to generalize to a population of measurements.

The yogini in me is the one that values the subjective experience. Ultimately, whether it's taking aspirin or ingesting a formulation, it comes down to the individual subjective experience.

Ellie has her own subjective experience, one that I can only guess at. However, she's demonstrated to me that she's perfectly capable of making her own decisions. All that to come to this; we are introducing raw into her diet. We are starting slow, to observe changes.

Twice this week she's had a breakfast of a raw turkey wing piece along with some stewed veggies (retrieved from the carcass brownie cookdown). I chopped the first wing up a bit, but realized that wasn't necessary, as Ellie very methodically breaks down the bones in her jaws before eating, rather than trying to wolf it down whole. She likes it, she doesn't get grabby about it, and her poops are smaller, white, more like coyote scat. So far, so good, from Ellie's preference perspective.

She still gets dinner that is commercial food (Trader Joes Bench and Field) with leftovers, her clicker treats are a mixture of what I prepare (crispy gizzard jerky, freeze dried liver, grease bread treats, carcass or meat brownies and biscuits) and treats I pick up on sale, that have the fewest ingredients.

Aside: Isn't it interesting that there is an inverse correlation of the number of ingredients to cost in commercially available dog treats? Watch the movie Food, Inc. to learn why the cheap foods are so cheap (NOT!).

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