Sirius Training, Serious Fun!
Sirius Training, Serious Fun!

Baby-steps toward change…

My process of changing foods was really not a fast process… it started slowly and progressed as I did more and more research–lots of baby steps.   I am not going to give the names of the brands I fed, simply the ingredients list… I don’t want to come across  as bossy or pushy or whatnot.  I want to educate people so they can make their own choices regarding dog foods, not just believe what I have to say about individual foods or brands.

When I brought Shayne home from the humane society she came with a sample bag of dog food of a brand I had fed for years and years (what my parents fed their dogs).  In the excitement of bringing home the dog I’d searched for over the course of 9 months, I had forgotten about the nutritional concerns I had about this food.  I bought a big bag and was just lost in the happiness of having a dog in my life again (and starting to discover the myriad of issues she came to me with).  Here was the ingredients list …

Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Flavor, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Potassium Chloride, Dried Egg Product, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Caramel, Flax Meal, Choline Chloride, Fructooligosaccharides, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Carbonate), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2), Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, DL-Methionine, Rosemary Extract.

Pretty great right?  Once the Chicken was dehydrated it would be probably number 4 or 5 on the list of ingredients… so the first ingredient would be corn.  Oh good.   I hadn’t really done much research into the specific brands of food I wanted to transition to… so when the bag ran out I got a “natural” version of the same brand of food.  It wasn’t much different but did have another protein (questionable as it may be) as the second ingredient and it was easily found.

Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Ground Whole Grain Barley, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dried Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor, Dried Egg Product, Potassium Chloride, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salt, Flax Meal, Monosodium Phosphate, Fish Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Calcium Carbonate, Dried Apple Pomace, Dried Carrots, Dried Peas, Choline Chloride, Fructooligosaccharides, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Carbonate), Vitamin E Supplement, Dried Spinach, Dried Tomatoes, Vitamins (Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2), Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Beta-Carotene, Citric Acid, Rosemary Extract.

At least in this food, after the chicken was dehydrated there was still a “protein source,” although the by-products are very questionable so it really wasn’t much better at all.  Up-side is that it included fruits and vegetables, even though they were pretty low on the ingredients list.

Shortly after starting this bag of food, a brand new refrigerated food showed up in our grocery store.  We got some $3 coupons and some “free trial” coupons so I decided to give it a try since the ingredients looked really good.  It was too expensive to feed alone but I used it as a supplement to the kibble (1/2 the rolled food and 1/2 the kibble).

Chicken, eggs, chicken liver, chicken broth, carrots, brown rice, peas, rice bran, carrageenan, salt, natural flavors.  Choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, niacin, biotin, riboflavin supplement, manganous oxide, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid.  Calcium carbonate, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper proteinate, copper sulfate, niacin, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, thiamine mononitrate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite.

This food had much better ingredients, no preservatives, more appropriate levels of moisture, included whole ingredients and was not as heavily processed.  I was much more pleased with this food but it was way too expensive to feed as the main food source.  It wasn’t too long before I decided on another food, this was a premium brand food that was in my price range *when including the previous refrigerated food in the budget.

Beef, Beef Meal, Cracked Pearled Barley, Brown Rice, Millet, Rice Bran, Canola Oil, Ocean Fish Meal, Tomato Pomace, Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil (source of DHA), Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, Parsley Flakes, Pumpkin Meal, Almond Oil, Sesame Oil, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Thyme, Blueberries, Cranberries, Carrots, Broccoli, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Panthothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D Supplement, Folic Acid

This food again had better sources of protein, more fruits and vegetables, and generally better ingredients.  Still lots of grains but it was still an improvement, especially with the refrigerated food.

When I moved to New York, I was unable to find the refrigerated food and I didn’t feel like the kibble was good enough without the other food supplementing so I went for a grain free kibble since without the price of the refrigerated food, I could afford an even better kibble.

Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Potatoes, Dried Ground Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato Pomace, Chicken Liver, Natural Chicken Flavor, Flaxseed, Salmon Oil, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Kale, Broccoli, Spinach, Parsley, Apples, Blueberries, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Beta-Carotene, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Biotin, Folic Acid], Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate], Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols added to preserve freshness, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Taurine, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.

This food had great protein sources at the top of the ingredients, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and has some added digestive aids.  It was a kibble that I was very confident feeding to my dogs.  I was happy with and fed this food for a little over a year (with a few different flavors of comparable grain-free foods for some added excitement).  During the course of the year, I would feed Shayne some raw snacks periodically … some boneless meats or chicken feet.

After I was laid off, I felt I had the time to devote to transitioning Shayne and Rio to a raw diet.  Many of my friends were feeding raw and I did like the idea of feeding them less processed and a more varied diet.  I researched quite a bit on my own and then with the guidance of some raw-feeding mentors, I worked my way into feeding raw.  It took about 3 months to really get  the dogs eating a variety of proteins and organs and it took about 4 months for me to really get a hang of the process of portioning up meals, mean planning, and making sure they get the appropriate amount of food each day (I started out weighing everything but now just weigh the organs).

Okay, so it may not have been 12 steps to getting to the diet I really like but it was 6 different foods over the course of about 3 years.  I took baby steps to start because it took quite a lot of personal growth to let go of foods that vets had been suggesting and my family had been feeding for years (and prior to my dog, our dogs had lived long lives).  Once I took the first steps away from that food, there was no going back and I was continually happy with the new food.

Tomorrow I will tell you how I look at ingredient lists to determine whether or not I like a given food.  To me, this is one of the most important things to learn… how do you evaluate the quality of pet food when so much of it is almost in a different language!

6 Comments
  1. Sounds like an interesting journey.

    • It really was… although I had my concerns about the food I had been feeding, it was still hard to walk away from a food that had been recommended by vets for years and years and a food we’d fed for years and years. It also was difficult because it implied just how poorly we’d fed the dogs we’d loved for years… and that made me feel pretty bad.

  2. I try to supplement Gwynn’s food with meats and veg – he gets homemade liver treats, along with chicken backs, beef stewing bones and eggs, along with some other meats that are dependent on what I’m cooking, but I feel like I’d be overwhelmed with feeding entirely raw food.

    • I think the more healthy whole foods we feed our pups the better. Even if it’s just supplemental. Though… I will tell you I started out supplementing with raw and it didn’t take too long to start feeding it as the whole diet LOL! Once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t nearly as complicated as I had expected–and for me it has been significantly cheaper than the premium kibble I had been feeding.

  3. Choosing a dog food is definitely overwhelming and confusing. Honestly, and maybe this is a bad thing I don’t know, we change it up almost every couple of months. Shiva has never been on the same brand more than once or twice. I try to look for ingredients I recognize and for varieties that are produced in Canada. Since her health is stellar and our vet thinks we are doing well, I am going to assume we are on the right track. My dog trainer once said that it doesn’t matter what brand or price the food is, it’s all about the dog. Every dog responds differently and as long as your dog is thriving on his current diet, you are probably doing well.

    There are so many factors involved, aren’t there? It’s reassuring to know I am not struggling with this alone!

    • It really is an overwhelming process I think… hence all the baby steps. I’m not sure I would say it doesn’t matter the brand or price because… regardless of how well my dog did on a certain food I would NEVER want to feed “meat” or “meat-meal” because of what that could be (more on this tomorrow) and I wouldn’t feed a food preserved with BHA/BHT/Ethoxyquin because of the potential dangers involved. BUT I wouldn’t (and never have) fed the most expensive food just to feed that food… my fosters get one of the least expensive grain-free foods out there… i like most of the ingredients and I have confidence in teh company and THAT is worth it for me… it’s not about the brand or the price-point but what is IN the food and how my dogs are doing on it.

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