Monday, 26 March 2012

Say no to carbs

So, why no carbs?

Dogs simply don't need them apart from the small amount that's in vegetables and fruit. There's nothing wrong with giving your dog the odd biscuit or to mix a bit of pasta in with their dinner but they really don't need them on a day to day basis.

In dried dog food there can be up to 75% carbohydrate - why?  Quite simple, cost.

Carbohydrates such as corn, wheat and rice are all used in dry dog food because they are much cheaper than good quality animal protein and for the manufacturer they have the added bonus of using ingredients that have a very long shelf life and are essential in the manufacturing process of dried, kibble type product.

All those bulking out carbohydrates are good for profit margins but aren't in any way based on the dietary requirements of dogs. Of course dogs can and do manage to live on kibble but their bodies really have to work hard to extract nutritional benefit and it's now thought that many diet related conditions such as skin complaints, allergies, liver and kidney disease and diabetes could all be linked with that high carbohydrate diet.

It can be very hard to decipher the list of ingredients on the side of the box too, so the only way of knowing exactly what you're feeding your dog is to prepare it yourself.

Even if you just want to make the smallest of changes, try mixing some mince or chicken in with the dried food so at least they are getting something fresh and you're upping the protein proportion.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A sense of proportion

Getting the basic proportions right is key to a homemade diet. With dogs it's all about the protein - think Atkins!

It should really break down like this:

60 - 70% protein including:
Red meat
Oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines
Dairy including cottage cheese and yogurt

(Plant based proteins such as corn,oats and beans are much less digestible - in fact only about half as digestible as animal proteins)

The protein can be fed raw or cooked - there is much debate that raw is better but I think even cooked it's still going to be much better than commercial dog food.

15 - 25% vegetables and fruit including:
Sweet Potato
And just about any other regular vegetable or fruit you can think of - no onions or grapes though as they can be toxic.

The fruit and veg needs to be made digestible by either cooking or crushing it raw in a juicer.

5 - 10% organ meat including:
Lambs liver and kidneys
Beef liver and kidneys
Chicken liver and kidneys

Again they can be raw or cooked.

If you are itching to add carbohydrates like rice and pasta keep it to an absolute minimum - no more than about 10% of the overall meal. Dogs really don't need these carbohydrates and no canine ancestor has ever been known to eat them.

Add Calcium

The easiest way of doing that is to feed raw bones. Otherwise use ground up egg shells sprinkled onto the food.

Ultimately variety is the key to a homemade diet - keep mixing it up with different proteins and vegetables but stay with the same basic proportions.

By the way, commercial dry dog food is normally around 45 - 75% carbohydrate. On the next blog I'll explain why.

Monday, 12 March 2012

I really love your tiger feet

The combination of Ruben having his hair clipped into a rather unusual style and watching the huge assortment of dogs on Crufts last night, means I have decided to come up with a more unusual breed name for him. Instead of just a plain old cocker spaniel, he's going to become a rare Turkish Slipper spaniel. A friend has also suggested he looks like an Australian Uggfoot dog..............any other suggestions welcome.

As Ruben is rather hairless at the moment I been thinking about the supplements that help hair growth and the richness of the colour when it does grow back.

One of the best is a seaweed, kelp. It's packed full of iodine and it's known to be very good for pigmentation and growing a lustrous coat.

Dorwest make it tablet form and also as a powder in their Keepers Mix. Go to:

So hopefully Ruben should be back to his usual woolly self in no time.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Oh Ruby.....

After a couple of months of trying to get to the bottom of what was causing Ruben's lameness and reluctance to go on walks we finally got things sorted this week. After X rays, a MRI scan and a CT scan (thank goodness for insurance) Ruben had an arthroscopy on both his front elbows where fragments of bone were removed and he also had a couple of tendons cut. It sounds a bit dramatic but he should much happier and pain free very soon and I have to keep reminding myself how amazing it is that a little cocker spaniel can have such specialist and precise treatment. The surgery was carried out at Fitzpatrick Referrals - home of the 'bionic vet' Noel Fitzpatrick who recently had a series on the BBC.

It's the most fantastic place and they took enormous care of him - Alan, the surgeon, even showed us a video of the arthroscopy which I have to say made me feel a bit icky!  He is back home now, resting and looking much like a poodle with shaved legs and big fluffy feet. He also had a rather fetching soft collar (much comfier than those hard plastic lampshade things) which has since been taken off when I realised he couldn't reach his dressings. This really is one of those times when you wished you spoke dog and could tell him that he'll feel much better soon!

As for post operative food he is on four small meals a day. A breakfast of oats cooked in water with some honey and natural yogurt and the other meals are full of easily digested muscle building protein so a combination of cottage cheese, raw mince beef and eggs but tonight he's having his favourite roast chicken as I think he's in need of a some special TLC.

To find out more about Fitzpatrick Referrals, go to:

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Water, water, everywhere

I'll never forget the look on a friend's face when, after a long, hot walk with our dogs, I pulled out a white china bowl from Habitat and a bottle of mineral water from the car and poured Ruben a drink. In my defence, the bowl was old, chipped and always kept in the car as a dog bowl and the water was left over from an all too rare visit to the gym.

However it did get me thinking about water. It goes without saying that you refresh a water bowl throughout the day but every dog I know would much rather drink out of a puddle or stream than his own bowl. It's obviously the natural way for them to drink and I always think tap water must taste and smell even more chemically to a dog than it does to us. So I've now got into the habit of refilling Ruben's bowl with filtered water from the jug in the kitchen as well as setting down a few bowls here and there in the garden to catch rainwater.

Some dogs are very odd though. I used to own a florist shop and every day Jasmine, a very sweet staffie, would come racing in to drink out of one the flower buckets. Her owner said it was her favourite.

Then there was a cocker spaniel called Libby, who would only ever drink out of the glass of water I took to bed. Still makes me feel a bit queasy when I think about how long she'd been doing it before I noticed.......

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The bitterest pill

Dogs seem have a remarkable sixth sense for knowing when you're trying to slip them a pill and immediately become suspicious of a normally well received treat.

I've tried most things including hiding them in food (carefully ignored and left in the bowl), wrapping them in tiny bits of ham (ham sucked off, pill spat on floor) and griding them up and adding to food which kind of works but often feel there might be powder left in the bowl and it can make for a very dry dinner.

Ruben has eight tablets a day made up of various supplements including fish oil as well as antibiotics at the moment for a bad paw. So my search for a suitable way of slipping a Mickey Finn continued but I think I've found the answer. Chicken livers.

If you cook them very lightly and then whizz them up in a blender you have a very basic liver pâté. Keep it in the fridge obviously and just coat the tablet with a little of the sticky mixture. You can of course just buy a liver pâté but it's going to have ingredients that aren't so good like onion and even brandy, so this is a really pure doggie version.

I think because the mixture is so sticky the dog just swallows the whole thing without trying to lick off the coating. Anyway it seems to be working and I haven't found any tablets spat out in his bed so I think this might be the winner.