Dog Food: What’s the Best Canine Diet Choice?

February 4, 2010 · Posted in Service Dogs · 3 Comments 
doggie chef

Nutrition is such an important issue for us and our dogs. I have been reading Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live and as I contemplate my own dietary choices, I can’t help but be concerned with Whistle’s diet. Whistle has been eating the same commercial, traditional dog food that he’s eaten his whole life. And although I don’t think it’s the worst food in the world, I also don’t think it is necessarily the best food that he should be eating.

As I’ve shared before, I’ve tried all kinds of diets with my retired service dog, Morgan. But due to his severe allergies, the only food he has been able to tolerate is a prescriptive rabbit and potato dry food. I can also give him potatoes as treats. He gets low salt potato chips, French fries, sweet potato fries, tater tots, etc. And, boy does he love them.

Whistle, on the other hand, has not exhibited any dietary restrictions. But Whistle will be turning five on April 1. From my experiences, age five has always been a big turning point for my service dogs. It’s when they have really reached their peaks as adult dogs. And, it is after age five that they started developing some minor health concerns.

I want to be as proactive and preventative as I possibly can for Whistle’s health. And I feel the first step toward preventive health care is his diet.

There are so many foods out there that claim to be healthy and/or organic but I am so nervous about switching his food. I am afraid he will develop digestive issues like my previous service dogs.

I guess I just need to study about the nutrients that Whistle requires to be a healthy canine. Years ago I took Morgan to a holistic vet who put him on a raw diet. Although he loved the food, I honestly felt like it was not a good choice for him. His allergies escalated and his digestive problems seemed to worsen.

Every time I purchase another bag of Whistle’s traditional dog food, I tell myself, “This is the last bag I am buying because I am going to change his diet.” Whistle and I have been together for three years now and I am sorry to say, he’s still on that same food!

I recently bought another bag of that dog food and this time, I bought an even larger bag. I consciously purchased the larger bag and I said to myself, “I am getting the larger bag because it will give me a few more weeks to figure out Whistle’s new diet strategy.”

Help! I would love to hear what you are feeding your dog and how you switched his or her diet in the past. Whistle and I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and/or suggestions!

Dog Treats and Service Dogs

January 20, 2010 · Posted in Dog Food/Nutrition, Doggie Healthcare, Training · Comment 
dog treats

I have to say that I was so strict with my first dog, Ramona, regarding treats. The agency that trained her really frowned upon treats and instructed me that she needed to work for me based on praise rather than treats. It made sense because they argued that if her working was dependent on treats and let’s say, for example, that I had fallen out of my wheelchair and was not able to reach any treats and I needed her to get the phone. What would I do?

Therefore, I gave Ramona very few treats. When Morgan came along, he was trained by another agency with a different philosophy about treats. They felt treats could and should be used as a reward when appropriate. Morgan loved the treats but he was not as much of a “chow hound” as I lovingly referred to Ramona. She was a complete maniac for treats; but Morgan, although he loved them, was not as possessed and obsessed by the thought of a treat.

So, here I am with service dog number three, Whistle, still debating about how to effectively use treats. I keep pondering how often and exactly when should I reward him with a treat? Whistle loves treats more than Morgan, but he is not quite as obsessed with treats as Ramona.

Another big issue for Ramona and treats was her weight. Whenever I would give her treats, she had an almost immediate and noticeable weight gain.

Whistle, on the other hand, is very lean and muscular. I monitor his weight closely and although I have been giving him regular treats, he has maintained a healthy weight. However, the dilemma continues. How often should I give my service dog treats and when? I adore all of my service dogs and I want to be good to them, but is giving them treats being good to them or am I negatively impacting their overall nutrition? And second, what kinds of treats should I be giving them? Organic, meat, veggies, fruit, etc.?

I was trained to give Ramona minimal treats for a variety of reasons and I always felt guilty after she was gone for not lavishing more treats on her. As a result, I have been much more lenient with Morgan and even more so with Whistle. My philosophy is, if it doesn’t interfere with their work performance or their health, then it should be okay.

What do you think? How do you dispense treats and what kinds of treats do you give your service dog?

Should I be feeding my service dog organic dog food?

July 9, 2009 · Posted in Dog Food/Nutrition, Service Dogs · 6 Comments 

organic dog food

Throughout the years, I have continually strived to give my service dogs the best possible care that I can provide for them both physically and financially. As I hear more and more about the importance of eating a healthy diet, I have tried to share that philosophy with my service dogs. I know we are buying more and more products at the grocery store that are labeled as “organic”. But are dog foods really organic or is it just another marketing ploy?

From what I can gather, organic means no artificial preservatives, flavorings or fillers. Should I be buying “organic” dog food for my service dog, Whistle? I have heard that there are lots of benefits of feeding him an organic diet such as: it is more natural and contains less additives thus providing him with a higher quality of food that can work to reduce skin ailments and allergies, the food should be able to help him maintain a healthier weight, and organic food should ultimately help him live and work longer. But, is that true? When it comes to “organic” food, which foods are the best? Which ones are the highest quality and the most economical? Are they 100% organic or partially organic?

When I think of organic, I typically see dollar signs. Most organic foods are significantly higher in price than non-organic foods. And, when shopping for organic dog food, I have had the same experience. The foods are higher priced and usually must be purchased from a specialty dog store. That is changing and chain stores are stocking organic foods as the demand for “organic” dog foods increases from consumers.

Whistle is my third service dog and he has been eating a traditional type dog food since his birth. As I see the brand that he eats on the grocery store shelf, I question its contents. Should I be feeding him a higher quality “organic” dog food? And, if so, which one? And what does “organic” really mean? Does it mean raw-food?

I actually tried a raw-food diet on my second service dog, Morgan. He loved the fresh meat and eggs and other natural vegetables; however; he began developing severe gas which turned into serious intestinal and allergy issues. He was on the raw diet for about a year and I don’t know if the raw diet played into his particular medical situation but I do know that there were some drawbacks from feeding my service dog a raw diet.

It was difficult to travel and maintain his raw diet plus the cost of the raw food was taxing on my household budget. I was forced to discontinue the raw diet because of the escalation of Morgan’s debilitating allergies. Now, he can only eat an expensive, prescription rabbit and potato dry food that must be ordered through an online vet pharmacy with a prescription. I even tried giving him the rabbit and potato wet food and he reacted very negatively to it. I immediately had to go back to the rabbit and potato dry food diet only.

Whistle, on the other hand, is a healthy four year old. He’s been on a traditional dog food his entire life. I feel like I should be feeding him a higher quality food but I just don’t know where to turn. The market is inundated with different brands of dog foods at multiple dog specialty stores in town. As a long time dog handler, I am overwhelmed with the choices and perplexed at which brand is really the best for Whistle’s long-term health.

I asked my vet what he would recommend and he didn’t have any clear recommendations. He seemed to be as overwhelmed by that question as I have been. So, every time I purchase a bag of Whistle’s traditional dog food, I get a small bag with the hope that I will discover the perfectly formulated organic dog food thus transitioning him to a new food that will carry him long into a healthy retirement. I bought another small bag of his traditional dog food yesterday with the same hope of finding that perfect dog food before he consumes this latest bag. I will let you know if he finishes the bag or if I finally find an organic replacement.