I have a bone to pick with some of the ideology presented on the internet. That is, not with people themselves, but with the ideology that lies behind feeding a dog what some people think is best. In order to prompt me to read what they’ve been reading, some clients point me to sites that are adamant about feeding a dog a raw diet and only a raw diet. Others point me to the dangers of the same diet, and others are so confused about who’s right and who’s wrong that they’re scared to make any decision about something as mundane as food. This isn’t new. The line in the sand had been drawn even before I started on this journey many years ago, and the heated debates about the “correct” way to feed a dog were well under way. The reason it’s worse now is because there are more chat groups with agendas due to belief systems that have become more important that the health of the dog. Does that sound harsh? It’s meant to, and I think I can back it up.
Why would anyone insist on feeding whole bones when a dog excretes pieces of bone in his/her stool? Isn’t that a clue that digestion of the whole bone is less than what it should be? Isn’t there a risk to that? And why would anyone continue feeding foods that cause a dog to have so much gas that his/her stomach extends? Why would you or I insist on feeding a specific food or supplement if not for ideology rather than what the dog is trying to tell us? And if we ignore the signals – isn’t that putting ideology before the health of that dog?
Sometimes, the body says “no”. No, I can’t handle dairy products, or no, I can’t handle green vegetables, or no, I can’t handle much fat in the diet. It’s not any different from my insisting that you eat chilli peppers because they have healthful properties despite that your gut is on fire every time you eat them. You wouldn’t have a choice if you were a dog because hunger takes over and you’d have to eat what was fed to you, but is that fair? Is it right? Is that really what we want to do to our furry friends? I’m sure it’s not, but many people seem to do it out of a belief that’s been cemented via reading what others think rather than cooling down and considering what their own dog is showing them. So, let’s decipher some of the signals.
Bones in stool: abrasion can be serious for your dog, so grind the bones.
Sloppy stool: assuming there isn’t a medical problem, consider the fat and fiber content of the diet. Try less fat, less green vegetable/fruit and/or less organ meat. If nothing helps, consider feeding a meat source the dog has never eaten before (in case you’re witnessing an allergic response or food sensitivity)
Hard stool that’s difficult to pass: reduce raw meaty bones in a raw diet (this assumes you’ll balance the diet to include sufficient calcium and phosphorus from other sources), increase green veggies. Reduce carbs that bind stool (white rice and root vegetables) and check the calcium amount in the diet because excess can bind stool.
Sloppy stool whenever raw foods are fed: feed a cooked diet.
Sloppy stool whenever cooked foods are fed: you can try a lean raw diet, keeping in mind that if your dog has a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder she/he is more likely to experience bacterial problems. I would try changing the foods and keeping to a cooked diet if GI trouble is a factor.
Gas: some gas is normal, but if it happens a lot of the time, and especially if the tummy extends, reduce or remove cruciferous vegetables and fruits. If this doesn’t help, it could be that a food or supplement is disagreeing with your dog. In the case of breeds such as Bulldogs, gas is more a part of life than for other breeds.
About supplements – some may be necessary to balance a diet. Kelp, for example, to provide iodine. Vitamin B compound when there are insufficient amounts of B vitamins in the diet itself. There are others, of course. What to add should be based on comparing what the diet provides to what your dog’s nutrient requirements are. And there are some supplements that aren’t necessary in so far as balancing a diet, but that can have a positive impact under certain circumstances. Joint support like Joint Complex comes to mind. CoQ10 and acidophilus are two others. These are very specific, though. You can go broke buying “blends” of supplements or believing every claim made for some of them. The bottom line is that a dog can react negatively to supplements almost as easily as to foods, so keeping it simple works best and gives you back the control you lost when believing every site out there. No doubt, the internet can provide useful information, but opinions aren’t facts. When the body says “no”, we need to try and accommodate it because it’s showing us the facts whether our ideology likes it or not. A diet for a dog should be all about the dog in question.