Paleo Pets

IMG_1455When we first went Paleo, my husband and I had a discussion about what we were feeding our dogs (premium dry dog food).  If eating grain was bad for humans, it couldn’t be good for dogs and we talked about feeding them a raw meat diet.  However, the idea of storing separate frozen meat for them, thawing it and serving them raw food seemed daunting and costly at a time when we were just figuring out this whole paleo thing.  My husband’s nephew recommended Evo* dog food which was a grain free, low carb, ancestral diet in convenient dry form.  Our dogs seemed to do quite well on this food for a number of years.  Our vet visits consisted only of the usual vaccinations and they seemed to be in great health with plenty of energy.  On occasion they would vomit or have diarrhea, have horrendously smelly dog farts and would eat grass fairly often (which was often followed by vomiting) but this all seemed pretty normal for a couple of dogs living in the country.

A couple of months ago, our German Shorthaired Pointer began having chronic diarrhea.  When it didn’t subside, my husband searched the internet for information and found the following common causes of diarrhea in dogs.  Quite a list!

  • Systemic illness
  • Eating garbage, nonfood material or spoiled food
  • Changes in diet
  • Food intolerance
  • Hypersensitive digestive tract
  • Addison’s disease – less active than normal adrenal glands
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Ingesting foreign bodies
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Infection
  • Viral
  • Bacterial
  • Parasitic
  • Rickettsial – bacterial infection typically acquired through parasites such as fleas, ticks, etc.
  • Fungal
  • Drugs and Toxins
  • Stress
  • Ingestion of foreign body

Suggested solutions included taking the dog off food for 12-24 hours, giving plenty of water, feeding them pumpkin, boiled hamburger and rice and probiotics.  When none of that worked we called the vet who took a fecal sample (which was negative for any issues) and prescribed two medications – pills to be taken twice daily.  None of this gave the poor dog any relief.  When the medication didn’t work, the vet said next steps would involve scoping the dog’s colon and various other tests and procedures, but we had little faith those procedures would provide any answers.

In a classic, why didn’t we do this before, move, I went back to the internet looking for a paleo solution.  I found several testimonials on how a raw meat paleo diet had helped numerous dogs including those with chronic diarrhea.  Then I found this book:  Paleopet:  The real reason your dog or cat eats grass, The dangers of starch in commercial pet food and how to safely prepare healthy dog or cat food at home by James Coghlan DVM.  As Dr. Coghlan states, “The problem with commercial pet food isn’t just grains, by-products, gluten or preservatives, it’s starch.  While these foods are nutritionally complete on paper, they are missing raw fats, fiber, uncooked protein and enzymes that every dog or cat evolved to thrive on.  Both the dog and the cat evolved as predators during an era where prolific grasslands nurtured a cornucopia of well-fed herbivorous prey animals. The quintessential dog and cat ancestor never consumed high-carb starch sugars. They never had corn, wheat, sweet potatoes , peas, nor rendered lamb with rice.  They ate meat protein, raw fat and partially digested vegetable fiber laced with herbivorous intestinal probiotic bacteria.”

What struck me most was the idea of feeding our dogs not just raw meat, but the significant vegetable component – just like the paleo diet for people.  By fixing the food at home, you eliminate all preservatives and can rotate the vegetables (and protein) so that your dog can have variety.  What’s crazy is here we were paying $90 a bag for food that was making our dogs sick and then incurring expensive vet bills which didn’t resolve the issues.  Dr. Coghlan states that premium dog food is more expensive than buying fresh ground meat at the supermarket.  I did the math and determined that for us it’s slightly more expensive to feed raw meat/veggies/yogurt but that’s not including vet bills or the value of quality of life for pet and owner.  We also aren’t purchasing rawhide bones or expensive “treats” either so overall we are saving money.  Dr. Coghlan suggested doing a gradual change to this new diet, but given the state our dog was in we started the full program right away.

It was much easier than I thought it would be and this is now just our regular feeding routine.  Like the weekly prep idea laid out in Well Fed, we cook up a big bowl of vegetables and store it in the refrigerator for a week of meals.  Zucchini, asparagus, acorn squash, spaghetti squash , butternut squash , green beans, celery, broccoli, carrots , collards, bok choy, okra, cucumbers, jicama, cauliflower, chayote, lettuce, kholrabi, brussel sprouts, and cabbage are all acceptable inexpensive and common vegetables.  We purchase veggies at Costco along with big packages of hormone free ground beef (already in convenient half pound patties) and a big tub of Greek yogurt.  We store the ground beef in the freezer, keeping a regular rotation of thawed meat in the fridge.  The book gives suggested quantities for cats and dogs based on weight and activity level and suggests feeding twice a day.  Each 1/2 pound patty makes one meal for a 55-75 lb dog along with 3/4 cup of veggies and a big spoonful of yogurt.  Our Pointer is more active than our Pointer/Lab mix so he gets an extra quarter portion at each meal.

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Our dogs absolutely LOVE this food (especially spaghetti squash) and within a couple of days our Pointer’s diarrhea issues were gone!  As we know, the quality of bowel movements says a lot about health and I am convinced we are now giving our dogs the best food for a long, healthy life.

I am grateful each day for wellness, happiness and the opportunity to share with you.

 

* After the Procter & Gamble buy out of Natura Pet Products (maker of Evo) there were issues with salmonella recalls and they changed the ingredients (likely to increase profits).  The moral of that story is that unless you are purchasing the ingredients yourself, you can’t control what is in your pet’s food.