Really Natural Canine Nutrition

From the monthly colum "On The Line". Originally appearing in ShowSight's January 2016 Issue.  SUBSCRIBE HERE

The best advice is always based on common sense and personal experience. First, I am not a veterinarian. I have no degrees because there’s no college that comes close to teaching what over fifty years of practical application is worth. Through both personal and consulting experience, workable ideas come together and feedback from other breeders sorts out what works and what doesn’t.


General Nutrition: Eavesdrop on any conversation between breeders and sooner or later nutrition comes up. Thumb through any magazine and note the number of advertisements for food and supplements, all of which are guaranteed to make your dog healthier and better than the competition. Indeed, top quality food and supplements will build a better, stronger, healthier, more competitive dog.


The problem is that most dog food manufacturers allocate more money to marketing and advertising than to research. Yep, it’s a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to the food industry. If you follow the Nutrition Sections in you know that lot of myths are manufactured right along with the artsy packaging and sugar-laden foodstuffs. One of them has to do with this…


Table Scraps: Remember when you were warned “never change your dog’s diet” and the dog-food selling vets intoned “no table scraps.” We’re told any variation will surely upset the canine digestive system and cause dire consequences. Excuse me, my dogs never get upset over a fast-food burger “all the way.” Except that is, when they see the last bite disappear.


It’s only natural for manufacturers to worry about the millions of pounds of table scraps with which we surreptitiously supplement the canine diet. Many vets are well programmed (and supplemented) by pet food companies. Expect a recent graduate to carefully arrange a concerned expression as he offers what is obviously pre-packaged advice. Sad that such highly trained people know as little about a dog’s digestive system as they do about a dog’s preferences.


Now I ask you, if Fido was getting total nutrition from a bag, why would he want your filet of haddock? Is there some inherent code in his genes which causes him to turn up his nose at all that red dye and ethoxyquin and instead, follow the delicious scent of aged meat straight to the nearest garbage can?


Why in the world would he turn down leftover meatloaf when he could be eating a can of chicken feet and beet pulp? OK, I admit that most premium pet foods are better balanced than what you or I could cook, even if we had the time. But “complete”? No way. One simple question for you and then, having convinced you of the irrationality of what you’ve been told, we’ll move on. You watch TV. Would you raise your child on Total brand cereal and nothing else?


Well, we don’t give our dogs much choice. They can’t trot down to the grocery store and select that which their bodies so desperately need. Thanks to slick promotion, about the only place dogs are able to obtain a little freshness nowadays is from your yard.


Eating Grass: Does your dog become deaf when he finds a delectable patch of green vegetation? Mine do. No longer carnivores, they become fanged herbivores! Like a herd of cows, they graze here, nibble there, upchuck on the patio, and then eat some more. With intense concentration, they pluck tender green sprouts, snuffle up seeds, sneeze them out again, and then determinedly gobble up rough, saw-tooth grasses to cleanse that delicate digestive system everyone is so worried about!

Eyes glazed with happiness, they amble past me with that “gimme a break” look which so eloquently conveys says that strawberry ice cream doesn’t compare to the backyard buffet. Having satisfied their baser instincts, they are the epitome of the blue blooded canine as I serve their “complete and balanced diet” in their shiny stainless steel bowls.


Kenneled and apartment dwelling dogs are often literally starved for green vegetation. Fasting (see below) also stimulates the desire to browse on grasses. At least they make kitty grass for cats that know what they need. Too bad all high-rise apartment dwellers don’t know…


So here’s the deal. Share it with your puppy buyers. All dogs should have access to a yard free of pesticides. Roof-top gardens are the new rage in Manhattan and they are fairly free of pollution because exhaust emissions settle. You can purchase a mixed seed preparation for cats and plant a little grass-garden in your rooftop garden, a sheltered patio or even by a sunny window. Large white gravel on top of the soil is attractive and will prevent him from dropping so much dirt on the floor. House cats crave the tender grasses and trust me, so do dogs.


Don’t be alarmed when he regurgitates. It doesn’t mean he thinks less of your thoughtfulness in providing him savory grasses. It’s perfectly normal, it cleans the system, which is exactly why he ate it! 

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