With all the research I’ve been doing regarding ingredients, content ratio (fat-to-protein-to-vegetable, etc), benefits of certain foods and which foods to avoid, combinations of each, etc… the list goes on, I’ve noticed a rather prominent common factor when it comes to appropriate diets and menu creation: all dogs are not created equal; all breeds are different, as are their natural dietary needs. If you’re not already aware of breed specific diets, is it something you’d ever considered before? I’ll be honest, it was maybe a fleeting thought in my history of dog rearing and rescuing. Does that make me naive? Possibly. Ignorant? Mmmmmeeehhh that’s not such a nice way to put it, but I’d definitely say I was grossly uneducated on the subject of pet food and labeling. Growing up, we always bought bags of kibble for our little menagerie of dogs and breeds without so much as a second thought as to whether or not it mattered. It was dog food. It seems so strange now, especially with all the recalls and knowing what randomly horrible “ingredients” they throw in there. But in the 80s and 90s when I was still a kid, I automatically assumed dog food was dog food was dog food was dog food, and why in the world would these people lie or not have my pets’ best interests at heart. Right? Well, I’ve since learned that MANY of these companies (not all!) do not, in fact, have our pets’ best interests at heart. In fact, most of these foods are not only bad for their heart, but their liver, kidneys, skin, brain… should I go on? Of course, not all dog foods are created equal… and thank God for that! There are many brands that aren’t mainstream (or cheap for that matter) who actually DO put our pets’ health at the forefront. With that in mind, one dog food does not fit all. Did you know Chihuahuas shouldn’t be eating the same things as a Boxer mix, or a Bichon Frise, or a Pug? Because before this year… I did not.
I hope I’m building a strong case against those nasty store brand bags of kibble, and for introducing your fur kids to the wonderful, and healthful, benefits of homemade meals designed to fit their specific needs. Making the switch will mean a world of difference not only to pet’s mind, body, and soul, but to your pocketbook when you save on vet visits for pesky issues like hot spots or… I dunno… cancer.
It all makes perfect sense when you think about it.
Now that my eyes have been widely opened (is widely a word?) on the questionable intentions of these dog food companies, I’ve thought good and hard on what I will feed my own two not-so-little mutts; and here’s where my Breed Specific Diet plans come into play. I’m lucky, though, in this instance. Both of my dogs are “northern” breeds, meaning they both hail from the far northern hemisphere and have adapted to and been bred for work, cold environments, scarce and varied food supplies including both land and sea plants and animals. And while I don’t have a steady flow of whale meat, kelp, or caribou, I can focus on and substitute other readily available proteins, grains, and vegetables with ingredients I can find locally or order at a reasonable cost; as well as supplement vitamins and minerals as needed. In looking at my girls, a Husky mix and a Labrador mix (these are their very dominant breed traits I’m going on), I can narrow the field and look where these particular breeds come from and what their “ancestors” ate and how they’d adapted as a breed and why.
Let’s start with Baby, my foster Husky mix. I can muster an educated guess she’s also mixed with Pitbull, but I’m going with her obvious breed here. Huskies and other sled dogs were bred over generations to be workhorses in cold northern regions along the Arctic Circle; think Siberia, Scandinavia, and Alaska where conditions are harsh and food sources scarce. Both domesticated and “wild” huskies adapted to and learned to thrive on limited food and thus have a very efficient metabolism and require less food than other breeds (and also developed a strong natural prey drive so watch out kitty owners- I learned the hard, scary way). They absorb a higher level of energy and vital nutrients from their food and are able to survive on smaller amounts of food in times of scarcity when other animals requiring more food would have struggled to do so (note: do NOT starve a Husky intentionally because of this! It’s simply key point to note when considering a healthy, sufficient, and appropriate diet). Let’s then consider what their natural diet would have consisted of: fish (oily fish like Salmon), whale and seal meat, perhaps scavenge the occasional caribou, birds, small game, and, by default through the stomach contents of their prey (or meals) kelp, grasses, berries, and roots. Huskies are also quite hyper and active and require lots of excercise and can expend lots of energy for a long time. Are you getting a good idea of what some of their meals should consist of in your house? Allow me to cover the other mutt’s breed before I get into what dinner was today.
Ellie is my giant 10 month old black Labrador puppy who wants to be a teeny lap dog. Don’t they all? Anyway, for her case, I’m going with her dominant breed, the obvious breed, when researching her natural diet. Now, to keep things kosher with the millions of Lab people out there, we’ll keep this simple and assume Ellie is more American Lab than English. She’s longer, taller, and leaner than the shorter, stockier “work” lab. Labrador Retrievers, as with Huskies, come from way up north around Newfoundland and theLabrador Sea. They are believed to be directly related to the St. John’s Dog (or lesser Newfoundland) and cross-bred with other English and European breeds such as spaniels and possibly terriers to hone in and create the highly trainable working dogs they were bred to be. Used on fishing boats in icy waters to retreive loose fish and nets, and brought along on hunting trips to (here’s that word again) retreive water fowl, Labradors have adapted to a variety of foods similar to Huskies. One thing worth mentioning with Labs, however, is that they are almost predisposed to be overweight regardless of their activity level. Simply put, they are walking stomachs. They will eat almost anything if left to their own devices so it is important to monitor their intake. Having said all that, let’s consider where these pups are orginally from: Newfoundland and points north and west (and east for those English bred Labs). And what sources of food were readily available up there? Why, whale meat, fish, caribou, and small game and fowl, of course.
What luck! They can share and benefit from the same foods!
Now, just to clarify, I know these girls each have their own issues and needs according to their breeds and individual doggy pasts, so I will generally include supplements based on their individual needs with their meals. I yet decided on a brand or exact combo, but I will report back when I finish researching the best recommendations and balance for my dogs. This, I hope, will add years and bounce to the girls’ lives and, in return, add love and affection into my family’s.
So what are they having for dinner tonight? Ground Turkey cooked in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Garlic with Grated Carrots, Blueberries, and Spinach on top of Brown Rice cooked with Whole Oats. YUM! I’ve also added a preventative joint wear supplement with Glucosamine and Chondroitin.
*Just a note: I’m not a veterinarian nor am I claiming anyone should forego seeking the advice and wisdom of your pets’ doctor. I’m simply providing information based on personal research and consultations with select few holistic veterinarians.