Food has played a very major role in the lives of our two Labradors: Maggie and Henry. Food usually plays a massive role in the life of any Labrador – they would eat until they popped if given the chance – but for our two, we had a life changing experience in March 2010.
Maggie had been ill for some time and seemed to be getting worse. She was diagnosed with Arthritis at the age of one year, and with allergies at the age of two – and according to the test results, there seemed to be little she wasn’t allergic to! Her allergy manifested itself in the form of ulcerated ears – severe ear infections and sore eyes, but mainly the ears. We were often to be found in the Vet’s waiting room – at least once a week – we thought they might get us our own comfy chairs soon we were there that often!!
In January 2010 Maggie seemed particularly poorly, really struggling with her arthritis and bad ears. We had tried Hydrotherapy to help with her arthritis which she really enjoyed, but had to stop this due to the ear infections. The vet suggested we contact Balanced Being who offered Acupuncture which the Vet suggested Maggie might benefit from. We made an appointment to see Sue Armstrong at Balanced Being in Wetherby.
Before this appointment came round, Maggie seemed to take a turn for the worst and we really thought we were going to lose her – at the age of three! We took her back to the Vet who prescribed a further course of steroids to help her. The steroids seemed to take away our dog. She lost her whole spirit and just lay! One evening we were sat with her watching television and she was just laid down looking at us with such a maudling expression. We decided that we just had to do something as we could see her dying in front of us. She was completely lifeless, almost devoid of any spirit at all and was so obviously suffering.
We went to Balanced Being, Sandbeck Industrial Estate, Wetherby.
Our first consultation was a real eye-opener. The vets at Balanced Being are fully trained vets as with all other Vets, but they have an ‘extension’ to their knowledge with the homeopathic side of things – natural remedies rather than the ‘antibiotics, penicillin or steroids’ choice that is usually available for all ailments!! I have to say though I was a little cynical.
The first lady we saw – Jane – started our journey with a full discussion of Maggie’s life history, from birth to where we were – they wanted to treat the full picture rather than just the ‘current’ symptoms. This is where we had our first ‘Eureka’ moment! Jane asked us what we were feeding Maggie with, and we responded proudly, thinking that we were very good ‘parents’ and were feeding our dog on the very best commercial dog food that money can buy. I’ll never forget her response – in a ‘oh that’s a shame’ kind of tone, Jane said ‘oh’. I asked for clarification of what the ‘oh’ meant and Jane went on to explain – again, I remember the exact phrase: ‘well it’s all just shades of grey isn’t it?’ We were given a synopsis of the history of commercial dog food, and an overview of the kind of diet a wild dog or wolf would eat in comparison. The domestic dog has the same physiology of a wolf and therefore needs a similar diet. Some of the points that were made that really stick out in my mind include:
- Most commercial dog foods contain ‘animal derivatives’ – this can include chicken feet and feathers – the parts of an animal that dogs wouldn’t naturally eat.
- Commercial dog food started in America in the saw mills – with sawdust being a key ingredient – the main purpose of commercial dog food seems to be to ‘bulk up’ with anything!
- Commercial dog food manufacturers do not have to produce food that is designed to improve the health and well-being of dogs – or cats.
- There is no legislation governing the maximum levels of ingredients which can be included in dog food – eg salt, sugar, other chemicals.
- Dogs traditionally need a protein rich diet – and many of the commercial dog foods are high in carbohydrates.
Jane recommended we read the book: ‘Give Your Dog a Bone’ by Ian Billinghurst which outlines the history of commercial dog food – and general pet food, dog health, associated health symptoms, and the basis of the raw food diet, commonly referred to as ‘BARF’ – biologically appropriate raw food. The book is written by an Australian Vet who describes how commercial dog food was introduced in America and very quickly American Vets became very skilled with different illnesses, diseases and symptoms which far exceeded those of Australian vets. Australian dogs continued to be fed with the leftovers of meals and bones! Australian dogs were not presenting with the symptoms of American dogs. As commercial dog food became popular throughout the world, so did the presentation of the symptoms.
As I read this book, I could clearly see that we had actually created the disease in Maggie – with the best of intentions thinking we were feeding her the best – we weren’t!
Now, both our dogs are fed on raw meat. This ‘raw meat’ journey has actually changed over time. Originally we were trying to balance their diet ourselves, giving raw meat for breakfast and tea with the addition of Cod Liver Oil at breakfast and twice a week a raw egg. For tea they had the addition of liquidised fruit and vegetables with some natural yoghurt and once a week they got offal such as liver or some such disgusting addition! Once or twice a week the dogs also got to gnaw on natural raw bone – and they loved it and did very, very well on this new diet. We were absolutely astounded by the difference in both Maggie and Henry – just by changing the diet, their improved health was visibly astounding and almost unbelievable!
We have stayed with the raw meat diet, however, due to our concerns about ensuring a balanced diet, we’ve changed the food we feed them. We now buy and stock ‘Natural Instinct’ for sale to customers. It’s wonderful! It’s human grade meat with vegetables and Bone already included. You don’t need to add anything else. It comes in 1 kg or 500g boxes which you keep in the freezer, taking one out each evening for defrosting overnight for the dogs for the morning.
Now we have the Pups – 1 year old Labradors now, they have been fed Natural Instinct since we weaned them onto it when they first came to us at 8 weeks old. The pups get 400g (Maverick), 350g (Cookie) and Henry (200g) twice per day. It isn’t expensive and it really couldn’t be simpler and the quality of the meat is absolutely fantastic – and ‘animal derivatives’ does not feature in the ingredients!!!
Maggie looked like she had a ‘go faster’ stripe down her back – you can’t see it so well on Henry because of his colouring but the fact that he’s 16 years old and still going strong speaks for itself! Their fur is wonderful and soft, they are very healthy and have very good immunity. The pups and Henry all love their food and are really healthy and we rarely have to go to the vets for treatments. We don’t give any of the treats that you see in supermarkets, we give natural based products and home made biscuits. And now for more good news – it’s actually far cheaper!!
When we’d got the diet sorted, we had a further consultation with Sue who had obtained Maggie’s records from the previous vets and was astounded by the amount of illness Maggie and suffered, and how many drugs had been given to such a young dog – again with the best intentions. They did tests on her and discovered that she had an Underactive Thyroid which manifests with lethargy and ulceration of the ears. They traced back these symptoms to the first vaccinations.
Did you know that vaccinations haven’t been tested in terms of longevity?! Dogs have been tested over many years to see how long the vaccination lasts – a dog who was innoculated for the first time at birth but not again, was found to still have the immunity many many years later. Annual innoculations are not necessarily needed. We may be pumping our pets full of chemicals unnecessarily. Ask for a Titre Test! Many vets now do these and it tests the dog’s immunity by a simple blood test – they may not need the vaccinations!
I would strongly recommend the Ian Billinghurst book mentioned above: ‘Give Your Dog a Bone’ – it changed our life and the well-being of our dogs! There’s a further book called, ‘The Barf Diet’ by Ian Billinghurst which gives further information about the raw food way. Also, ‘Food Pets Die for: Shocking Facts about Pet Food’ by Ann N Martin which really is shocking! Ann undertook a research project into commercial pet foods after her dogs became very ill and has traced euthanised pets back into pet food! It’s almost unbelievable – but when you think the rendering factories are where animals who have died on farms, from abattoirs etc end up, processed and ground down etc, are they really going to separate the dogs and cats from it? I think you know the answer!!
Further, she has discovered that this rendered meat – called meat meal – may also be entering the human food chain. She suggests that the ‘tankage’ – which is:
“material from rendering plants that is ground, heated to release the fat and drive off the moisture, percolated to drain off the free fat, and the pressed to removed yet more fat from the solids. This tankage could contain rendered cat and dog carcasses … which are allowed to be a part of “tankage” in California rendering plants, could be destined for shrimp and fish food in China, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea.”
The Shrimps and other Fish are then sold to American and European supermarkets – we buy it – we eat it! It’s all perfectly legal!
It makes you think doesn’t it?! I strongly recommend the three books listed above, and will never buy commercial dog food, treats etc ever again – or fish from China!!
Let me know what you think!
If you would like additional information please just get in touch!
Please note, the views expressed here are my own – I am not a nutritionist or vet or specialist in pet health – I speak purely from my own experience and the reading and studying I have undertaken. I am informed that there are some commercial dog foods which are produced by ethical companies which contain only organic, natural ingredients – please read the labels. One day hopefully all pet foods will be manufactured with high quality ingredients by companies who operate ethically with natural and safe ingredients and products!!