Part 1 – What should you feed us?

dog therapy, essex

You’ve just bought your little puppy or rescued your dog and love it to bits, but there’s so many things to think about regarding it’s ongoing care and everybody has an opinion so what’s the best thing to do?

I’m going to be covering several different areas in my blogs over the coming weeks to hopefully give you a little more clarity. I will be adding examples of my own personal experiences to explain the reasons behind my advice but please remember that just like everyone else that’s telling you what to do, these are just my own personal thoughts and opinions.

This week I thought we’d cover food. Everyone you meet will tell you they feed their dogs something different, and everyone will tell you how well their dog is thriving on the food their feeding. But that’s what we expect isn’t it? Let’s be honest if someone told you their dog wasn’t thriving then you would be questioning why they’re not trying something else or possibly why they even have a dog!

Having spent 12 years of my life working for the biggest UK pet store chain i have learnt a thing or two about canine nutrition and the pet food industry, including the differences between the brands, what goes into the processed dog foods and the processes they have to go through to preserve them so they can sit on the shelves or in your cupboards for the lengths of time that they do.

However this doesn’t mean that i’m going to tell you that you shouldn’t feed certain brands or types of food, I’m not into running down the pet food industry. As far as I’m concerned you have to choose the best food that you can afford to feed your dog and it has to fit in with your lifestyle. The dog also has to want to eat it, mine are now raw fed for reasons I will explain, but if yours won’t eat raw then it’s better that you feed them a kibble they will eat rather than starve them while trying to make them eat!

When I took on my first dog I didn’t have a clue. My family always just fed a cheap kibble Mixed with tinned food. They usually soaked the kibble in gravy first, made from regular gravy granules, because they said that the dry food swelled in the dogs stomach so the gravy made it swell before they ate it. When Russell came along I just did the same thing, but I chose the prettiest looking dry food with all the colours in it because obviously that’s what a dog cares about right?

Then I started working at the pet store and learnt about the differences between the different types and brands of food. The way the stores are laid out will lead you to which brands are in each category because they are usually laid out in the following order.

You will have what they call grocery brands, these are the cheapest brands with the lowest quality ingredients and nutritional value.

Then you have premium brands, these have higher quality ingredients and higher nutritional value for your dog.

Then finally there’s what they class as their highest quality brands with the highest nutritional content. Each of the brands in these areas will then have a selection of dry kibble, wet tins or pouches and a treat range that you can choose from.

It didn’t take long for me to be told that I was buying a grocery brand, with very little nutritional value and to be upsold the best dry kibble that we sold. Yes it cost more per bag to buy but because it had the higher nutritional content I had to feed a lot less in each meal so overall I was actually using less bags per month and it was costing me less.

Russell’s poo’s were smaller and less smelly as well because The food was better for him so his body was able to use more of if when it was digested meaning there was less waste, and because he wasn’t being fed the wet food which has a higher water content there was even less waste. 

Over the next 5 years, we gained a few dogs and fed them all the best foods that the pet store sold at the time. I was constantly changing foods because there was always a better, higher priced one that they recommended and there was always another course run by another food company rep that was telling me their food was better and you should change. In short I was brainwashed by the big pet food company’s to believe I was doing the best for my dogs by buying their brand of food.

Then I took on a little Patterdale Terrier called Arthur who had stomach issues. He constantly had diarrhoea mixed with mucous and blood and was constantly on antibiotics and pastes to help him. We went through various brands and flavours of food to find one that didn’t upset him and finally found one flavour of one brand that he could manage. He could eat it for a couple of weeks without a flare up but every time we finished a bag of it and started the next one we would be back at the vets for treatment again. I knew that most food companies got their ingredients from a variety of sources so the batches weren’t necessarily consistent in their quality. Normally this doesn’t matter too much but it seemed to really affect Arthur.

One day I was discussing Arthur’s issues with a friend And they suggested I try raw food. We sold it in the store but it had always been clumped in with the low quality or wet foods and was never something that was pushed or really talked about. There were never any in house training courses run on the raw food either. 

I started to research it, how do I feed it? What did I need to add? How much did they need to eat? What was the difference between the minces, the chunks and the bones? Why were we feeding bones when I’d always been told not to?

After a few weeks of speaking to vets, suppliers, nutritionists etc I decided to give it a go. It took a lot of getting used to and wasn’t the nicest experience at first. The vets had all advised against it because they said it was too difficult to get a balanced diet and that I wouldn’t be able to cater for my dogs nutritional needs and would leave them malnourished. They also said the bones would get stuck in the gut and cause impaction so I was absolutely terrified and nearly just threw in the towel and carried on as I was!

Luckily I met some amazing people who had been feeding their dogs this way for years, they helped me to get it right and I started to really enjoy making my dogs dinners. I gave them a mix of boneless chunks, bones, complete minces containing the bone and offal that they needed, fruit and veg, raw eggs and various herbs and oils. I loved seeing them enjoy it as well, the dogs that sometimes turned their nose up at their dry kibble we’re suddenly going crazy for their dinners every day.

I slowly started to experiment with different brands of raw and eventually settled on the brand I feed (and sell) today. Over the last 9 years I have had 25 of my own dogs, another 8 foster dogs and countless clients dogs that I have successfully switched over onto raw food, and none of them have ever been malnourished or had impaction from eating the raw bones, so I must be doing something right.

I don’t claim to be an expert and more is being published every day about the best ways to raw feed but I am more than happy to advise and help, just like people did for me in the early days.

So if you’d like to find out more about anything that I have mentioned above then please get in touch and I will happily answer any of your questions.