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The Dog Food Wars

I’ve written about what I feed my two rescue greyhounds, Violet Rays and Charles Hobson Booger, III, more times than seems reasonable. But anyone who has a dog–and particularly a vegan who has a dog–is likely to spend an inordinate number of hours and dollars trying to provide the best food for their canine friend.

Ah, but what is "best?" Does "best" mean "most like my diet, because I don’t want any animal products in my house?" Does "best" mean "my pooch thrives on it, loves it, and I don’t care who died for it?"

I get about a dozen e-mails a week just about what to feed dogs. Pay attention: this is for all of you. I can’t tell you what is best for you dog. You have to experiment for yourself, enlist the help of a homeopath, and keep really good notes.

Here’s what you’re looking for:

  • weight (loss, gain, anything dramatic after changing food. You have to wait a couple of weeks to tell for sure. Almost all companies suggest a gradual changing of food to reduce intestinal distress and gooey poops, but I have found that cold turkey works better–for my dogs).
  • breath
  • coat
  • energy
  • poop (e.g., no matter how long I waited, the poop of my dogs didn’t firm up with vegan food. Sorry. From what I hear, it might be a greyhound thing, although I’m skeptical.)
  • do they like it? (I have yet to experience my dogs not liking food, but some of my friends with greyhounds have yet to find food their dogs DO like.)
  • personality (it does appear that my dogs’ personalities change a bit with certain foods.)

As far as dog food companies go, buying from a company that tests on animals is unnecessary as there are oodles of companies, offering all kinds of fabulous food, available to everyone (you can get many by mail), that don’t test on animals. Here’s
the list of companies. This is the bonus, all-questions-answered-list, with companion animal food companies at the end. Keep it. Treasure it.

The only remaining issue is the protein source in the food. I’m not a fan of corn, wheat, or soy as primary ingredients. But that’s me. And what makes vegetarian food vegetarian instead of vegan, is eggs, and sometimes cheese. The problem with that, for me, is that there’s more cruelty in an egg than in a bison steak. I try to avoid eggs and dairy at all costs.

A nice compromise, for my dogs, was to add fish. Timberwolf Organics has a grain-free product called Ocean Blue, which has an ingredient list that is fabulous, has more protein than vegetarian foods yet not too much protein (like most dog foods that don’t have grains). Because fish, pound for pound, is less cruel than eggs, I settled with Ocean Blue. Timberwolf has a helpful list of Myths & Misconceptions about dog food that everyone should read.

To recap, here’s your plan:
1.    Decide if your optimal food is vegan. If it is, you have very few choices (look on this page for some).
2.   If it isn’t are you open to anything? Are you excluding anything? (I exclude chicken and turkey always, but that’s me.)
3.   What other ingredients or sources are non-negotiable? (e.g., dairy, eggs)
4.   Don’t even bother going to the grocery store. I have everything I’d ever need within 5 miles, so I can browse ingredient lists all day. But for most people, websites will be important.
5.  Remember to figure out how much protein your dog needs. I intuitively figured it out, but didn’t act on it. My homeopath confirmed that, yes, one of my dogs needed more protein, but not a ton more, and nothing really dense.

My heart is warmed that so many people read Animal Person and are interested in the care and feeding of canines. Thank you all for writing, and I’ll refer everyone to this post hereafter when inquiring about dog food. And if I have any kind of future epiphany about the topic, I promise to let you know.

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