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...

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