Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dog Food

Earlier today I watched the movie Food Matters.  Much like Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, the basic idea was that the food we eating is actually poisoning us.  This movie, though, focused more on the medical side of things.  It wasn't one man's journey, but rather it was how food can affect the majority of people.  It made the assertion that the majority of chronic illnesses (i.e. depression, diabetes, heart disease, etc), which are currently being treated with drugs, could actually be treated by a change in lifestyle. 

This is not new to me.  In fact, the lifestyle changes needed are ones that I'm struggling with.  Basically, I'm fine when I'm on my own, but interaction with people who are not living that lifestyle can be quite difficult.  I'm not saying I agree with EVERYTHING they asserted, but I do think the majority of people alive today are slowly killing themselves with food, and I think that some drastic changes need to be made.  I know I'm feeling a lot happier and healthier since I made some changes.

What the movie really got me thinking about, though, was dogs.  If our food has changed so much, then dog food has gotten even worse.  I want to feed my dogs the best possible foods, and so I've done some research.  What are those things listed in the ingredients list of my dog's food?  What does it all mean?  What are the benefits of a hypoallergenic diet (no wheat, no corn, no soy, no dairy)?  How is dog food made?  What is the difference between wet food and dry food?

My conclusion: I really wish I could afford to make my own dog food.  Instead, I feed my dogs a hypoallergenic diet that is moderate to high in protein (they move a lot, so they need fuel).  I generally only feed dry food, but will give wet food if someone needs to gain weight or is having trouble eating (bad teeth, poor appetite, etc).  In dogs that have had issues, there are some substantial changes that I've noticed.

1) Merlin. Merlin has never been the perfect dog.  He will always have some issues, but when he's on a hypoallergenic diet he seems to be better.  His aggression is less, and he seems overall happier.

2) Lollie. When Lollie has non-hypoallergenic foods, she becomes much more fearful.  You can normally see a significant change within 24 hours.  On top of that, her face breaks out, and she develops sores.  In comparison, when she eats hypoallergenic foods, her skin is clearer, her attitude is better, and her coat is soft and shiny.  Hers is probably the most noticeable change.

3) CJ. CJ suffers from seizures.  When his mom switched him to a hypoallergenic food, he went from having a seizure ever 1-2 weeks to a full 17+ weeks without a single seizure.  He has had seizures since, but not nearly as often as they originally were.*

4) Kyla & Alex- This is actually a report from my mom.  After having her dogs on a hypoallergenic diet for a few months, she reported something very interesting.  She said that, while she expected the new food to be more expensive each month, her dogs ate less of it, so she didn't have to use as much.  I really think this is true for people.  The more sugar / fillers you eat, the more sugar / fillers you crave.  When you cut those from your diet, you won't crave as much food.

Now then, what kind of food you choose is a very personal decision.  I can't tell you what to buy or what will work best for your dog.  Plenty of people make their own dog food, and plenty of people are switching to a raw food diet (which is kind of creepy in my opinion), but each person is doing it for his / her own reasons and based on his / her dog's needs.  What I can tell you to do is to do your research.  Research your dog.  Assess your needs.  Talk to your vet.  Read books.  Search the internet.  Make sure you're fueling your dog as well as (or better than) you fuel yourself.

*CJ's dietary changes were done in tandem with drug therapy.  He had been on drug therapy for a few months before changes to the diet were made.  While he continues to be on medication, it is noted that seizure activity generally begins if he does not follow his strict diet.

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