Monday, February 15, 2010

To discuss Dog Food Nation

Rather than inundate you with another sappy/romantic/depressing/sexygoodtime Valentine's Day post, I'll let the other, more capable bloggers take care of that.

Instead, let's take a look at a far more important topic: Motherf****** dog nutrition.

Why was I worried about this on a lover's weekend? Let me recap (apologies for the length). Quick note: None of the following is meant to give anyone a guilt trip about what you feed your dog. Feed them whatever you want. Except kittens. That would be double-sad.

I took Bailey (my chiweenie, for new readers), to the vet last week for his booster shots, which, if you think about it, are kind of a sham because you have no idea what they are injecting. They could be injecting H1N1 for all I know and charging me $90. At that point, the vet pointed out Bailey's teeth look how Keith Richards feels. Rotting. Discolored. Diseased.* (* Clarification: Bailey's disease is probably gingivitis; Richards is probably chlamydia).

As this is one of the rare times in a vet visit in which the owner can physically see that yes, there's a problem and yes, it makes sense to fix it, I've made a follow-up appointment for Bailey to get dental work. Do they do doggie veneers? I can make him a Bailey Seacrest.

That all coincided with Capricorn coming across a blog post on one of her favorite fashion bloggers, LoveMaegan, whose pug had 13 (!) teeth pulled recently (feel better Bebop). She also saw a related, older post Maegan had about the lack of nutrition in most commercial dog food (it's akin to reading Fast Food Nation, basically, without the Super Size Me movie spinoff)

That led to Capricorn and I thinking about what we feed Bailey and Leo (also a chihuahua, unless you ask Capricorn, who believes Leo is a dog version of Jesus Christ, as he is sinless).

Like most people, we beat our dogs senseless want the best for our dogs, but have a limited budget. So, for many months we have fed the dogs Pedigree dry food. According to the package, Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition offers essential vitamins, is flavorful, offers all types of quality ingredients, gives dogs the ability to do it all night long, and prevents forest fires. And Pedigree also got Comet from Full House as a spokesdog, judging by the package. For about $27 for a 40-pound bag, it's a deal, too. I'd practically eat it for that price (it's a recession, after all).

Have you ever had someone who owns a dog talk to you about what you're feeding your dog in that condescending manner? "Oh... so you're feeding them (fill in the blank basic store brand)? I feed MY dog only the best- fresh chicken, organic vegetables, recently beheaded cows..."

Usually I see this coming ahead of time, and I just say I can't remember what brand it is, but that I'm about to get a better brand soon because otherwise I must hate my dog. Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition"Ha ha, right-o, jolly good!" they reply (in these scenarios, the people sound British in my head). But I never did switch, because I figured I wasn't feeding the dogs Ol' Roy like I'm Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation. How bad could it be? Bailey hadn't yet appeared emaciated and in need of sponsorship for just 10 cents a day, and Leo never filed any complaints in the complaint box located next to the food dish.

For the first time, I decided to take a look at the ingredients on the Pedigree bag. It was kind of like seeing how they make hot dogs- once you know, you're not sure you could feed one to somebody again. Here are some of the top ingredients in Pedigree:

Ground Whole Corn, Meat And Bone Meal, Ground Whole Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Animal Fat (preserved With BHA and Citric Acid), Wheat Mill Run, Chicken By-product Meal.

So as not to gross everyone out, I won't detail here what "meat and bone meal" is, but let's just say it's not a euphemism for oral sex. And, from what I learned during extensive research (when I research something, I research the shit out of it), dogs can't process corn, so having corn as some of the primary ingredients is as silly as a subprime mortgage. Chicken by-product may be good enough for my chicken nuggets (I kid), but common sense is that doesn't sound too great, either. Hmm. (Learn all about this stuff at dogfoodchat.com and dogfoodanalysis.com, where pretty much every brand you could get at Wal-mart receives the worst score possible. It was so eye opening my eyelids are a scarf now).

That's when Capricorn and I decided we're going to be "those" dog owners. The kind that feed their dogs the good stuff, except we aren't going to be pretentious about it. We just want our dogs to live until they are 113 (in human years, or 729 in dog years).

Armed with a list and a Google-plex amount of knowledge, I went to a small pet store chain to check out a few specific brands. You can't find the really good stuff at big chains like PetSmart, PetCo or the like, evidently, because they are the devil, according to the manufacturers.

It so happened a representative from one of the dog food brands was there giving samples and chatted me up/tried to coerce me. After a good talk about the benefits of found-in-nature food sources and having meat be the primary source of protein in a dog's diet, she told me how one of her dogs eats her other dog's feces. I'm not sure if that's what she meant by found-in-nature food.

So I left that store, having only bought some all-natural, berry-tasting doggie snacks that tastedsmelled edible. I went to a locally-owned pet shop, and found a 28-pound bag of the top stuff on my list, Innova Evo.

Beside being a highly-rated brand, here are some of the top ingredients:

Turkey, chicken, turkey meal, chicken meal, potatoes, herring meal, chicken fat, natural flavors, egg, apples, tomatoes

That's basically better than I eat. WTH. It's got so much protein The Situation might eat it before he does his Gym-Tanning-Laundry.

Downside: It costs about twice as much as Pedigree. But then I remembered that the serving size is about half as much, since there's much less filler, so the cost will eventually even out. And, as another bonus, it's name is Evo, which sounds awesome and makes me think of the name of some Fast & Furious character-to-come.

Now we're down to the final part: Taste-test. You can't just switch your dog from non-organic to organic food in one move. That would be like you eating nothing but pizza and McDonalds, and then becoming a vegan overnight. So we mixed in some of the Pedigree with the Evo, and added a little rice on top.

The result:
Bailey and Leo ate around all the Pedigree like peas on a child's plate. Who knows if all of this will pay off in dogs that are healthier and happier, but I have to think this will work out. That is, unless Bailey and Leo reallllllyyy prefer the old diet of detached chicken heads and feet.

Am I crazy for trying all this out? Have you ever thought about your pet's diet? Is there a reason Bailey and Leo eat better than I do now?


L.C.T. said...

Now you see, I don't have a dog, so I don't need to worry about these things :)

Herding Cats said...

We are still trying to figure out what to feed the kittens. I am thinking it definitely needs to be more of a priority around here.

Andy said...

LCT- One less thing to worry about in life!
Cats- Feed the kittens little puppies. Just kidding. Make it bunnies.

...love Maegan said...

such a great post. ...it's really gross when you start "researching" what's in the food ...I still have my dogs on The Honest Kitchen but omg it's expensive!!! ...and I can't seem to fatten my frenchie up enough on it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this. It was very informative. I'll definitely start looking for healthy alternatives for my three dogs now.

lbluca77 said...

I have to feed my cat prescription cat food because she had stones many years ago.

It is kinda annoying though because I have to buy it from a vet and some vets require you have a prescriptions. Really? Like my cat is going to OD on cat food. And it is kinda expensive, but I do love her and want her healthy so I do it.

Ben said...

We're in a constant dog food struggle. CONSTANT. We had a good thing going on a dehydrated blend but CRAZY expensive and my boys need to put a bit of weight on. So now we're back in kibble territory and at a bit of a loss for it all. Of course the vet will only recommend vet brands, the food store will recommend ALL of their brands as good, and doggy day care only suggests a raw diet.


Andy said...

Maegan- I'll be sending the bill your way, of course- you inspired us, so it's only fair.
Dino- Put it this way- it can only help.
LBluca- Let's be honest. We all know you are a secret cat food snorter (try grinding it up to get it in your blood str... I mean...)
Ben- With small dogs, it's especially difficult, because 1 lb of weight either way makes a big difference. But at least we can feed them less. I feed Bailey once a week and tell him it'll toughen him up for street fighting.

Sam_I_am said...

When my grandfather-in-law goes away, I take care of his dogs. Here is how their meals are prepared:

In the bottom of the bowl, 2 cups of expensive all-natural dog food

next add approximately 1 1/2 chopped grilled chicken breasts.

then, 1 1/2 slices of cheese torn up on top

tear up a slice of bread on top of each bowl

Drizzle with olive oil for healthy skin and hair.

At my house, it goes like this:
two scoops of kibbles and bits per bowl. Unless you're my husband, then you just take the lid off the container and tell them "BUFFET!!"

If you're the cat, then you have to eat fast before the dogs come for your dinner.

Honestly, we've tried to feed our dogs the expensive stuff, but Chance will only eat the K&B and the expensive stuff gives Narnia wicked gas. I don't like Pedigree though, because they had a lot of problems with tainted dog food.

Kellie said...

I'm going to be honest. I couldn't read all this right now b/c I'm running late so I just skimmed it. But, Kobe is a Chihuahua and my vet told me that they are known to have bad teeth. It's just in their genes. Kobe had 3 teeth pulled about 2 years ago. He's always eaten Iams. Always. Although his grandmas spoil him w/ a lot of people food in between. :)

Jenners said...

I'm just wondering how you know Pedigree is "flavorful."

Anonymous said...

Yay! Welcome to the all-consuming world of animal food!

I feed my cats primarily Wellness Soft Food (found at PetCo) and Blue Buffalo dry food as an evening snack. I tried Ellen's Halo brand but they weren't down with it.

I have some good homemade dog treat recipes I can pass along that got the approval from friend's dogs.

Also, to Ibluca77, if you're feeding your cats the Hill's Prescription Science Diet, I would get them off of it as soon a possible. My cats were on the Z/D diet and it made my one cat on the verge of being diabetic and every other food except for Z/D has been part of a recall. Hill's is the worst. I would recommend buying "The Natural Cat" by Anitra Frazier. It's well written and it explains in detail why cats need a certain diet and what exactly is in the Commercial foods.

Good luck Andy!

FunnyGal KAT said...

*sigh* My dogs have always eaten better than I do. They are on some organic, expensive, but oh-so-good-for-them dog food. I gladly buy it because I want them to be healthy, but I try to forget how much I spent just as soon as I can.

Cadence said...

Ohhhh great. We've been feeing Hamlet Pedigree too--mostly just because I support their "Adopt a Shelter Pet" program. But now--greeeeat. Because I definitely need one more expensive fancypants thing to buy.

Where did you end up finding the food?

DSS said...

Oh. My. God.

I feel Louis Pedigree Puppy. I have never once looked at the ingredients. Shit!

I have recently "met someone" online who is very much into her pups health, and feeds them a raw food diet. I thought that perhaps was a bit much, but she also talked about the corn, soy, wheat, by-product issue..and said to have a look at some other foods.

I have, of course, been completely lazy about it all.

Thanks, seriously, for this post. I am headed to the natural foods store to get some of this food you have researched. I hope it comes in a puppy version.

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