Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Daily (Doggy) Grind: It's a Dog Eat Dog World Part 1 - Taste Test

When I felt Nikka has recovered enough to be put on a real carnivore's diet, we dove in head-first. Well, she did anyway. It was into a meal of raw meaty bones (equivalent to 2% of her ideal body weight (not a very active dog to begin with - strange for a Beagle).

We started off with a quarter chicken - also her humans' favorite chicken part - the thigh and leg. The meat was ribboned and the skin scored. The leg was frozen for 24 hours then thawed in the chiller overnight and put on the counter for the ten minutes it took me to scrub her food bowl clean, sanitize her eating space, and put the whole(!) chicken slab in her dish.

At first, she gave me a look that said "Mom, have you gone insane? Where's my kibble with wet dog food?" before walking away (her siblings had all finished their kibble meals so she had nowhere to forage). A few minutes later, she came back and licked at the skin. A few more licks later, she took the first bite.

She bit, chewed and chewed and chewed then swallowed. It took her thirty whole minutes to finish her meal - she had plenty of leftovers. I was so proud of her.

I still am!

I am happier still that Deedee the Basset Girl and Hunter the Cocker Spaniel lil man have gone the Nikka way and are on RMBs now. The proud momma (yours truly) has started giving them bits of liver with their chicken. Douglas and Lilly have followed suit and I am ecstatic! Soon we're going into the uncharted territory of pork ribs, beef heart and bull pen*ses. Oh yes, you read that right!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Daily (Doggy) Grind: How I Rue About The Chew(ies)!

Because our canines are fed a kibble-based diet (this will change soon - that's a separate post altogether), they need to brush their teeth and chew on various "teeth-cleaning" chewies. And such expensive things they are!

Two "bones" made of compressed rawhide will keep two dogs busy for about half an hour - just enough to alleviate boredom. It costs 80Php or about 2USD. A dollar for each dog for half an hour of teeth-cleaning fun. Ouch.

A 6-pack of 3-inch edible chewbones costs 70Php or about 1.80USD. One pack keeps all five canines (Deedee is a chewing machine) busy for another half hour. Double ouch.

If I went to Chatuchak (a huge outdoor market in Central Bangkok), I could get both of these things for less than 1USD.

On second thought, if my canines were eating as a wild dog does, they need none of these highly-processed things! What wolf in the wild needs chewthings made with tapioca starch, guar/xantham gum, and possibly even artificial coloring? How do all these contribute to strong, shiny teeth? Heck, I even brush their teeth with enzymatic veterinary toothpaste and their breath is still "doggy"...

I really think it's time for a change!

*** Edit: All five canines - Douglas, Nikka, Hunter, Deedee and Lilly - are now on raw meat (chicken like manna from heaven!), and virtually all the deposits on their teeth are gone - except for the little bits on Nikka's and Hunter's back teeth. I still brush them to get them off.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Daily (Doggy) Grind: Who Let The Dogs Out?

I did. I have to. Twice a day. Everyday - rain or shine, come hell or high water.

(Well, maybe not high water. In that event, I'd have five dogs on leashes and life vests and we'll all be swimming for our lives!)

I need to let them out into the fresh air twice a day for their twice-daily P&P session (poo and pee, excuse me, readers who are eating as they read) plus their daily dose of R&R (romp and roam). The consequences of missing this are drastic: imagine five hyperactive dogs pissed off and bored being cooped up in a 30sqm, one-bedroom apartment.

Last weekend, the Fantastic Five were due for their afternoon walk when the rain fell hard and fast. What can two puny humans (J and I) do against the forces of nature? Nothing! So the leashes were put on and all seven of us went for a romp in the rain. I wish I had a water-proof camera to capture the moments of canine bliss.

Dogs (mine, at least), need to see the outdoors and gulp fresh air for their well-being and their humans' peace of mind. The skylight in the living room can only do so much.

So go ahead and let the dogs out... and burn a few calories in the process. Just don't forget your poop scooper!

*** update: all five dogs now eating raw! Tomorrow is their first time eating pork! Keeping fingers and toes crossed!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Daily (Doggy) Grind: A Food Matter

Who knew the subject of food would bring me, a canine Mommy, so much heartbreak and frustration? Much as any mother in any species would, I want the best nutrition for my children. I want to make sure their chow is made from wholesome ingredients that give them the nutrition they need while making sure it's free of stuff that canines can very much do without. Allergens, sub-standard materials, inferior protein sources (euthanized dogs, dead/diseased/dying/disabled animals, infected sheep placenta and stillborn calves - any takers?), unnecessary carbohydrates - these are things I do not want in my dogs' food.

So imagine my chagrin when switching my Bea-gurl Nikka (there were only two canines in our home, then) to a grain-free formula with 40% mcp (min crude protein) brought about a spike in her BUN and liver enzymes and seizures that shook the hell out of me and was misdiagnosed as distemper by another vet (NOT Doc Rommel of Pet Cradle Veterinary Clinic - the main man in our canine girls' lives hehehehe)!

What does a concerned mother do? Why, find another food source! As puppies in their respective breeders' houses, Nikka and Deedee were fed a brand we shall call OP. It is a relatively inexpensive brand (about 60 Php or USD1.50 per kilogram) that was commonly sold in every pet food store in the city. On the package, the declared mcp is anywhere from 25% to 27% - well within the 27% mcp ceiling for maintenance for dogs with liver issues.

The girls seemed to be OK on the food, until I noticed that Nikka's coat was dull and Deedee was actually losing hair. With that, I started replacing 1/10 of their daily food with a brand we will call ALSO, which has 40% mcp. Their coat condition improved, and Deedee stopped waking up with her blinkers filled with eye boogers.

As I researched deeper into the ingredients of these dog foods, I realized that most inexpensive brands used cheap grains that no dog in its right mind would consume, let alone need: corn, brewers' rice, wheat feed and all sorts of gluten. More startling, even the more expensive dog food brands contain this stuff too. Wait a minute, aren't dogs carnivores? What are all these carbohydrate sources doing in my dogs' chow? Won't my pups just be pooping this out after the stuff travels their GI tract and probably irritating it too? Carnivores, such as dogs, need glucose as all mammals do but not necessarily from dietary carb sources, yes? They don't really need it in their diet since they can make glucose from fat and protein, right?

It disturbs me, too, that the veterinary world finds no concensus on whether or not dogs need grain (or carbohydrates from non-grain sources, for that matter) in their diet or not. We have seen generations upon generations of dogs fed grain-based dry kibble and they seem alright. But that doesn't mean these canines really NEED the grain, right?

I studied human anatomy back in college for two years. I studied vertebrate anatomy for only one year, so I never got into the nitty-gritty of animal digestion and metabolism beyond the different metabolic cycles (gluconeogenesis is a new word!) and the different types of carnivores. But this is something I have been changing and will continue to change. But I know this for a fact: dogs are carnivores and should be fed carnivore-appropriate food.

Research, especially in this day and age, can be jump-started by a few mouse clicks. This has led me to many published journal articles on this matter. Let's just say I am 100% more informed now that I was last year, when Nikka started having her seizures.

In a couple of years, I will further my knowledge in animal (and not just canine) health and nutrition by going back to school. Yes, I will be entering veterinary school in a couple of years at the ripe old age of... =) Hopefully!

But for now, with the research I have seen and absorbed, I am settling for the middle ground: feeding my dogs food that stays within the recommended 27% mcp and with a low glycemic index grain.

This will change (very soon), when I feel I have seen all the information there is out there. Only then will I be able to choose what I think is the best for my canine kids. But I will say it again: my furkids are carnivores, plain and simple. Carbs - grain or not - have no place in their diets.

** Edit: I bit the bullet and put Nikka, Deedee, and Hunter on RMB's full throttle. Just didn't feed them their usual kibble for two meals (24 hours) then scored three leg-and-thigh chicken quarters and called it breakfast. Proud momma moment once more! Hyuk hyuk hyuk...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Daily (Doggy) Grind: The Early-Morning Hours

The cellphone alarm goes off at 5:40AM. I snuggle deeper into my pillow, it's too damn early and the bed is so inviting! Alas, if I don't get up now another louder alarm will wake me up a few minutes later anyway - the sound of five canines who need to go out to pee!

So it goes every morning. Mommy K needs to get up and put on requisite outside clothing (boxer shorts and sando does not an outdoor outfit make). She then needs to struggle with getting only the chosen dogs - if the girls go first, then the boys need to be made to stay inside. Vise versa if the boys go first, which is usually the (harder) case.

After a walk around the block, a few deposits of P&P have been made - scooped up, bagged, and disposed off - and Mommy K is ready to head back to get the next batch of canines.

She then needs to measure out five portions of dog food - each of a different weight and food combination (in case of the youngest, who still eats puppy chow) - into five different food bowls, top with a dollop of warmed canned dog food and mixed like Beef Pepper Rice.

Each bowl on the floor, the struggle is an old one - how to ensure no dog eats off his brothers' or sisters' share. It's madness; it's chaos - exacerbated by times when the youngest boy or the middle girl refuse to eat - the need to hand-feed is imminent!

After the Great Chow-scapade, Mommy K washes the gravity waterer and refills with another 1.5gallons of agua . That's just enough to last these five bundles of energy about ten hours - the time between Mommies leaving for work and returning home.

While Mommy K attends to the kids' (pups' ?) nutrition, Mommy J sets about making sure the floor is clean of any drool, spilled food or misplaced pee (yes, that does NOT belong on the floor, dear canine).

This is a snapshot of our Early Morning Hours... and while we do this 7 days a week, we Mommies would never trade it for anything in the world.

*** Edit: That's just two bowls of dog food now. Nikka, Deedee and Hunter are now on RMB's (raw meaty bones) starting with chicken quarters. Yum! You should see them crunching on them chickies like it was their job! Proud momma moment!