We all have our stories.
There are many ways to feed dogs, and I’ve fed them all. When I was a kid we fed our dogs the latest and greatest food (?) that was advertised on TV. Over the years the diet included Gains Burgers, Gravy Train, canned food, kibble, etc., and those poor dogs suffered the results of that diet… skin problems, over weight, poor teeth and gums. You name it they had it. Oh, the power of advertising and multi-national pet food companies!
Fast forward a couple of decades…
When we picked up our little Jack Russell Terrier (JRT) puppy back in 1995 I was surprised that the breeder hadn’t suggested a special diet, because after all, this was a very special puppy. Pet store kibble, a step above grocery store kibble, was what she was feeding and so we continued. Having studied cell biology and human nutrition at university, I had an inkling that there must be something better to feed her. Every time I picked up food I would ask the sales person for the best food they had, but I would always come away with a bag of food that was grain based and unknowingly made with meat that wasn’t fit for human consumption. That was before I had any distinctions.
Over time I began to shop at specialty pet stores and bought “designer” dog kibble, but it was still cooked and grain based. I call this “moving up the ladder”.
I’d really fallen in love with our lovely Jack Russell Terrier, and we (my husband, two kids and I) decided to add another one to our family. Because we’d heard how it can be difficult to bring another dog into a Jack Russell household without having the “ruling” dog out of sorts, we decided to have a litter with our breeding stock JRT. Our plan was to keep a male puppy and have both dogs “fixed”… our family would be complete.
However, working with our breeder, I became really hooked on improving our line by breeding to champion stock. We began showing our dogs and doing pretty well in the show ring. And our dogs were awesome hunters, doing what they were bred to do… hunt.
We had just delivered our third litter, and had produced a couple of potentially great show dogs. We were vaccinating back in those days, and we religiously took our dogs to a nearby vet to have them done. Our male puppy was the perfect little show dog. After receiving his 2nd vaccination he began scratching and biting at himself. His ears were itchy and raw; he licked his paws incessantly until they were raw too. I applied creams that didn’t make any difference and finally took him back to the vet when it was time for his booster. I suggested to the vet that perhaps we shouldn’t be vaccinating him because of these issues. His response was “this is not a problem” and he vaccinated the little fellow, in spite of the fact (as I learned later) that it went against veterinary protocol to vaccinate an animal that didn’t have perfect health. Of course, his condition worsened.
I’d lost faith in the vet at this point and was very fortunate that the owner of one of the designer pet food stores suggested I book an appointment with a homeopathic vet… which of course I did.
Dr. Gail Jewel was an amazing vet! She suggested we start homeopathic remedies to help with the “vaccinosis” from which our puppy was suffering, and that we switch to a raw food diet, as his health would not be the best it could be without the switch.
I’d heard of dogs eating raw food before, but I thought my husband would never go for it, even though I’d never discussed it with him.
Now with the endorsement of a vet, and recipes she’d given me, I headed off to read and discover what I could about the diet. Back in the day it was a grain based diet – one that included soaked rolled oats to which we would add raw ground meat, along with finely chopped veggies, bone meal powder and a few supplements. It was time consuming and a lot of work. The dogs loved it!
Over time I continued to learn and discovered that a prey style diet made the most sense to me. A prey style includes a variety of animals, and as many of the animal parts as is possible. Our dogs thrived and the vaccinosis disappeared. Amen.
At one of our dog shows I won a raffle prize, a free dog nutrition course with someone who became a mentor to me – Mr. Mogens Eliasen. That man knows way more about dogs than I will ever know! I couldn’t wait to hear everything Mogens had to say. I learned the real why and how to feeds dogs raw food from physiology to psychology.
Sometime later a woman I knew who was passionate about raw feeding, opened a raw dog and cat food store. She was shouting from the rooftops that kibble kills and that the only responsible way to feed dogs and cats, is to feed them raw food. Her partner became ill and I stepped in to help out at the store. I learned lots from both of them, from the thousands of customers who switched their animals to raw, and from the vets and animal homeopaths I got to know. Dr. Peter Dobias who owned The Healing Place, Dr. Ruish who is now a fixture at The Healing Place with Julie Ann Lee a well known and celebrated Homeopath, Dr. Susan Krakauer among others, all agree that raw food is the best way to feed dogs and cats. Everyone was getting healthier (even the customers as they learned more about their own diets), and everyone was thriving.
I was fortunate to meet the famous Dr. Ian Billinghurst and discuss the Bone and Raw Food Diet (BARF) with him. Dr.Billinghurst was one of the first people to connect the dots. As an Australian vet he observed the increase in dog degenerative diseases when processed food was introduced in Australia, which was somewhat later than in North America. He became passionate at sharing that insight, and wrote several books on the subject, including Give Your Dog a Bone, Grow Your Pups with Bones, and a condensed and updated version of the diet called The BARF Diet.
Around this time we bred our first raw litter. Of course there was special consideration for our pregnant dam, and then came the 6 healthy boys! And man, you should have seen how they took to raw food! By 5 weeks they were eating chicken wing tips and still nursing. Their mother had tons of milk for them and hardly looked like she’d given birth with her shiny coat and streamline body. I joined a Raw Breeder’s Forum on the Internet to supplement my knowledge during the brooding and weaning time, and to know how to feed young puppies. I have continued to read and post to the forum for years.
After three years as manager at the store, I left that position and started my own raw dog and cat food business called “Prey for Dinner”, where I mentor and coach newbies and veterans alike on the nuances of a healthy way to feed our companion animals. My company offers a full array of appropriate foods for dogs and cats at very good prices.
We are now in our 16th year of feeding raw, and not a morsel of commercial pet food has crossed our dog’s lips since the beginning. Our vaccine free happy dogs have amazing health, including clean teeth, and great coats, and in all these years they have had virtually no fleas. It has been easy to maintain the appropriate weight on them.
I am thankful to those people who shared their knowledge along the way, for without that knowledge we may never have discovered the road to a fabulous, healthy way of feeding our faithful little four legged friends! We continue to live a vaccine free lifestyle and use homeopathy in support of having a very vital family of naturally reared canines.
Post script: All of the pups went to homes that would continue to feed raw food. We kept one of those little puppies who grew up to be a handsome lad named “Fuzzy”, who continues to display all of the benefits of the species appropriate diet along with his mother Terra and his grandmother Cinderella (Cindy) who, although they didn’t come from raw breeding, have been fortunate to spent most of their lifetimes eating raw food.