Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dog Food

Dog food isn't the most interesting subject in the world. It comes in bags. It crunches. Dogs eat it. That's about all there is to it. If you don't have a dog skip this post. There isn't anything here for you.

We had always fed our dogs kibble with the occasional table scrap. First it was the Alpo/Purina level. At our vet's advice we switched to the Iams/Eukanuba/Solid Gold tier. We had heard all the advertising copy about how dog food was "nutritionally balanced" and better for canines than human consumable food. But we were always a little skeptical. Dogs have spent the last fifty thousand years hanging around us because we provide garbage. In the wild their cousins mostly eat small rodents, carrion, some wild fruits and vegetables and the occasional larger game. Rice, corn and wheat are not exactly high on the list. And in the entire history of domestication no farmer has rushed out to shoot dogs that were eating his grain field.

Some time back our dogs were having training and discipline issues. So we called up Auntie Tracy and Aunti Sally to come and educate us. Part of the program was nutrition. They asked what we fed the dogs. We showed them the kibble and sheepishly allowed as how the pooches got our leftovers and table scraps. Nope, no chocolate, grapes or macadamia nuts. We already know those were toxic.

The table scraps were the only thing they were happy about. We got a lecture they could probably give in their sleep about the history of commercial dog food, what goes into it and what dogs should eat. The Aunties recommended Flint River. We tried it. The dogs ate it. But they'll also eat rotten mice, things they drag out of the garbage can and Kitty Roca fresh from the litter box. And it was very expensive. The trainer suggested a more natural diet. The vet wasn't thrilled. She said that she "wasn't sure" about feeding dogs anything but "scientifically designed" food.

We tried giving them ground turkey backs and necks from the yuppie grocery store down the way. At "Suffering Jesus, that's more expensive than what we eat!" a pound it wasn't going to last long.

The real revolution happened when Fubon Market opened up. Pork spleen and chicken feet aren't our cuppa. But they are cheap, and the dogs loved them. We started buying most of our own food in bulk from United Grocers/Cash & Carry and found boxes of turkey tails for about thirty cents a pound. Just thaw and toss. The dogs crunched them right up. Supplement once a week or so with vegetables that are past their peak ground up with organ meat.

Our experience has been wonderful. The dogs' coats got shinier. They had more energy. Their teeth haven't needed to be cleaned since. Sev stopped having accidents in the house and wasn't greasy anymore. The only downside is that they'll sometimes revert to subordinate dog behavior and take the meat out of sight to eat. When we took them out we discovered that they were using a lot more of the food. A lot less was left on the lawn, and most of that was bone meal. And all of this for less than a third of the price of the factory food.

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