Friday, May 21, 2010

Make Homeade Dog Food! Part One

You guys may think I'm nutty, but I make homemade dog food for my three doggies.  I never ever thought I would be one of those wacko dog people take the time to make dog food, but it has been 100% worth it.

It all started when I read about what goes into store-bought dog food, even the most expensive brands.  Prepare to be totally icked out.
What's Really in Pet Food:
What most consumers don’t know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a convenient way for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered “unfit for human consumption,” and similar waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes intestines, udders, heads, hooves, and possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts.

Pet Food Ingredients:
...about 50% of every food animal does not get used in human foods. Whatever remains of the carcass — heads, feet, bones, blood, intestines, lungs, spleens, livers, ligaments, fat trimmings, unborn babies, and other parts not generally consumed by humans — is used in pet food, animal feed, fertilizer, industrial lubricants, soap, rubber, and other products. These “other parts” are known as “by-products.” 
Because of persistent rumors that rendered by-products contain dead dogs and cats, the FDA conducted a study looking for pentobarbital, the most common euthanasia drug, in pet foods. They found it. 
Industry insiders admit that rendered pets and roadkill were used in pet food some years ago. Although there are still no laws or regulations against it, the practice is uncommon today [...]. However, so-called “4D” animals (dead, dying, diseased, disabled) were only recently banned for human consumption and are still legitimate ingredients for pet food.

To make pet food nutritious, pet food manufacturers must “fortify” it with vitamins and minerals. Why? Because the ingredients they are using are not wholesome, their quality may be extremely variable, and the harsh manufacturing practices destroy many of the nutrients the food had to begin with.

There’s a unique, pungent odor to a new bag of dry pet food — what is the source of that smell? It is most often rendered animal fat, or vegetable fats and oils deemed inedible for humans.

Potential Contaminants:
Given the types of things manufacturers put in pet food, it is not surprising that bad things sometimes happen. Ingredients used in pet food are often highly contaminated with a wide variety of toxic substances. Some of these are destroyed by processing, but others are not.
Nutrition-Related Diseases:
The idea that one pet food provides all the nutrition a companion animal will ever need for its entire life is a dangerous myth.  Today, the diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the variable meat-based diets that their ancestors ate. The unpleasant results of grain-based, processed, year-in and year-out diets are common.
Animal Testing:
Another unpleasant practice exposed by this recall is pet food testing on live animals.  Videotapes reveal the animals’ lives in barren metal cages; callous treatment; invasive experiments; and careless cruelty.

Marketing Magic:
A lot of pet foods claim they contain “human grade” ingredients. This is a completely meaningless term — which is why the pet food companies get away with using it. The same applies to “USDA inspected” or similar phrases. The implication is that the food is made using ingredients that are passed by the USDA for human consumption, but there are many ways around this. For instance, a facility might be USDA-inspected during the day, but the pet food is made at night after the inspector goes home. The use of such terms should be viewed as a “Hype Alert.”

What Consumers Can Do:
Stop buying commercial pet food; or at least stop buying dry food. Dry foods have been the subject of many more recalls, and have many adverse health effects. If that is not possible, reduce the quantity of commercial pet food and supplement with fresh, organic foods, especially meat. Purchase one or more of the many books available on pet nutrition and make your own food. Be sure that a veterinarian or a nutritionist has checked the recipes to ensure that they are balanced for long-term use.
Are you shocked?  I was.  Shocked, horrified, disgusted...  The above excerpt is only the tip of the iceberg.  Read the entire article to for more detailed information.

After I learned about what goes into pet food, I knew I could never buy it again.  There are many articles that support what I've shared here, just google "pet food ingredients" to see a plethora of information. 

Once I started feeding my dogs homemade food, I saw very noticeable differences in their health.  My Scottish terrier had always been very "itchy" and would constantly scratch and lick her fur.  (She'd lick her paws so much that she'd leave slobber spots on the sofa... yuck.)  She had joint pain and would limp after laying down for too long.  After few weeks of homemade food, both issues were virtually gone.  (She is 12 years old, so sometimes she still walks stiffly, but nothing like before.)  All three of my dogs have softer, shinier fur, healthier ears and eyes, and more energy.  Sammy, my Cocker Spaniel mix, used to vomit once or twice a week, and we could never figure out why.  Now it never happens.  Liam, my West Highland terrier, would also get sick and vomit occasionally.  Again, gone.  None of the dogs have had diarrhea since I started feeding them homemade food.  They are less gassy and burpy (which we are MOST thankful for) and just all-around happier dogs.

In case you are wondering, the brands of packaged dog food I bought before the switch were everything from specialty food from my vet to the "quality" food from the grocery store.  (You know, the ones that are $28.99 for a 20lb bag and claim to be the "best" for your dogs.)  I always thought that avoiding the "cheap" stuff meant I was doing the right thing.  After my research, I know I was in the dark. 

Pet food companies are a multi-billion dollar industry, with little to no oversight, horrible production processes, and questionable integrity.  Then cheaper the ingredients, the more profit.  Perhaps I am making a blanket statement, perhaps there is a company out there that doesn't use by-products, doesn't have poor quality nutrition, and isn't full of chemicals.  I just haven't found one.  And frankly, I don't know that I'd trust their claims to quality, since I know that they can spin their slogans around weak laws.  When I make my own food, I KNOW what goes into it.  I KNOW it doesn't contain rendered bones and diseased meats.  I control the quality, and my dogs benefit from that control.

I know this has been a long post, but I hope it hasn't been preachy.  That is certainly not my intention.  I believe that knowledge is power, and I share this with you because I feel strongly about it.  I love my dogs, and want to take care of them the best I can.  I am by no means perfect; I don't walk my dogs like I should, they bark and jump on the couch and have been known to pee pee where they shouldn't.  But I take care of them, (try to) train them a bit, don't let them eat the cat, and don't shoot them when they dig up (all) my rosebushes.  Feeding them homemade food, and seeing noticeable differences in their health, lets me know that at least I've done one thing right.

They certainly line up every morning and evening for momma's homemade yummies.  And scarf it all down.

nom nom nom nom nom

Are you interested in a tutorial on how I make my homemade dog food?  Since this post is already a mile long, I will share it with you in "Make Homemade Dog Food! Part Two".

I'd truly love to hear your thoughts on this issue!


Gast Family Recipes said...

Thanks! I'm excited to try this out!

AnnetteK said...

My husband and I just started discussing how to nutritionally make dog food. What I've found is not one single scientific study to back up the dangers of processed dog food. Even if we called our vet, she'd say to feed them their endorsed, high quality, dog food. Amother thing is, animal organs aee extremely nutritious for dogs; the reason why dogs in the wild choose to go for the stomach and organs first. My concern was flea collars, antibiotics, plastic body bags, etc., and of course rotting, diseased animals. But of course, I couldn't find any studies that backed any of that up. Plus, let's face it, any vegetable or fruit will end up virtually nutrition free by the time the big vats of whole animals is cooked to kill off God knows what disease. That all aside-dogs stomachs are made to eat "rotten flesh." Only in the last 50 years, have dogs been fed processed dog food in a bag. Before that, they ate table scraps. Of course now we eat so much processed, "fake," potentially dangerous GMO foods! So what is the truth??! I really liked how you gave examples of your dogs' fur becoming silky, the itching stopped...etc. THAT is enough to convince me to give it a shot. I am planning on some extensive research on what exactly dogs need, nutritionally. I want to know what organs contain what nutrients, etc. Apparently steak is not the best cut of meat to give a dog! Manufacturers actually curtail to the owner's senses rather to the dog's natural attraction to foods. Of course, all this information came from opinions from websites or a book, which is all bias, to a point! So what's the truth?? And I mean, scientific studies.

AnnetteK said...

Excuse me for my misspelled words and shoddy punctuation. I am using my smartphone from bed, not on a computer. I'm a little amped up from what I've read tonight, about dog food companies, and am really just rambling, looking for validation or helpful opinions...anything really. Calling local butchers tomorrow! The research begins! Thanks all and goodnight.

Footsteps in New Zealand said...

Very good reading, thank you very much :) I am just starting out and finding out about all these horrible things that we feed our dogs!!! I also will be making my own :)

Footsteps in New Zealand said...

Very good reading, thank you very much :) I am just starting out and finding out about all these horrible things that we feed our dogs!!! I also will be making my own :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I have been doing research on this topic because my 8 month boxer has almost all of these issues that you discussed! I am definitely going to start making his food myself.

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