Category Archives: Nutrition

Naturediet Complete Dog Food

Our search for good quality complete dog food that we can feed George (without feeling guilty about it) when we’re camping away continues. This time, we tested the Naturediet range of products, which promise to provide all dogs with “the finest food – naturally!”. The key company statement – displayed on every pack and all over their website – is “We care what goes into our food, because you care what goes into your pet”. Since I completely agree with the second half of this statement, I was very keen to check out if the first half is supported by the product itself, or is just another empty promise.

We found 4 different Naturediet products – all bearing the Certified Holistic Product stamp – available on our shelves: Lamb with Vegetables & Rice, Rabbit & Turkey with Vegetables & Rice, Chicken with Vegetables & Rice and Fish with  Potato & Rice. A puppy/junior, a senior/lite and a sensitive version are also available, but these are of no interest to us. Because George’s previous experience with minced chicken hasn’t been that great and because he gets plenty of fish every week, we only purchased the first two products, the lamb and rabbit & turkey-based ones. Then we asked George to test them and tell us what he thinks.

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Well, there were no problems with the fussy whippet. He showed a significant amount of interest and emptied his bowl within minutes. He even licked his lips and asked for more, which is always a good sign. In case you can’t read the small print in the photo above, here is what the label says about the ingredients used in this food:

“Turkey min 40%, Rabbit min 20%, Brown rice min 5%, Vegetables min 5%, Natural Ground Bone, Kelp, Herbs (Rosemary & Rubbed Sage), Omega 3 & 6 (provided by Flax, Fish Oil & Meat) min 0.25% & 0.75%, Vitamins and Minerals, Vit A 1250 iu/kg, Vit D3 150 iu/kg, Vit E 20 mg/kg.”

The lamb-based food incorporates exactly the same ingredients, with lamb meat representing at least 60% of the total composition. The meat content is lower than the one found in the tripe and rice food we reviewed last month, but the addition of ground bone is more than welcome and, in my view, compensates for the 5-10% less meat this food contains.

It might also be worth adding that this is a product manufactured in the UK by a British company, which matches our preference for local produce. However, I was unable to identify – on the product label or the company website – whether the meat, especially the lamb, comes from animals raised in the UK, which to me would make a world of difference.

Overall, a good product that we will most likely buy again, when planning our trips away from home.

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Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Others

 My last post in the Barf series is dedicated to the bits and bobs that come to supplement George’s diet. Although these little extras only account for a small percentage of his weekly food intake, they do play an important role in keeping him healthy and happy. So here are the last secrets of my little boy’s diet:

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1) Mixer. One of the best wholemeal natural biscuits I found on the market is the Laughing Dog Traditional Mixer Meal Puppy & Small Dog Kibble. I purchase it off the Internet in 15 kg bags and store it in the garage. The puppy and small dog kibble pictured above is just the right size for George, but a bigger version – ideal for large dogs – is also available. I add one handful of this mixer to each of his meat meals. The irony is that we live only 3 miles down the road from where the Laughing Dog factory was, but never bought George’s mixer from their shop because it was a lot more expensive there than online. The company closed down about a year ago, but this product was taken over by another company who are still selling it under its original label. If you want to check them out, click on the name of the product above.

2) Dietary herbal supplements. I am always happy to recommend the wonderful supplements produced by the small and enthusiastic Dorwest team. My favourite product is Keepers Mix, a “herbal conditioning supplement for dogs and cats” (from the label). It is ethically produced and contains kelp for coat growth and pigmentation, celery seeds for free movement and suppleness, alfalfa for vitamins A, C, E and K, nettle for vitamin C, rosemary for digestion, flatulence and a healthy heart, Psyllium husks for the bowel and digestion, Clivers for the skin, kidneys and bladder function, and Wild Yam root for a healthy intestine. A complete product, which can prove particularly helpful for dogs who do not eat vegetables. If you’d like to read more about this product, click on its name.

3) Eggs. This is a tricky and slightly controversial subject. I know people who give their dogs raw egg, shell including. They literally take their dog out in the garden and give them a whole egg to play with and, eventually, eat. Some people cringe at the thought of this practice, mainly because of the risk of salmonella that we’ve been educated to expect to find in raw eggs. Although I personally don’t think the risk is that great – as long as you make sure your eggs come from high-quality, healthy chickens – I don’t feed raw egg because George hates it. The only part he’d eat is the shell, which he likes so much that he’ll try to fish it out of the compost bin. But, since eggs are a great source of protein, riboflavin, selenium and calcium, I was keen to find a way to feed it to George, and I found it in the form of scrambled egg. Although George won’t eat scrambled egg on its own, he’s happy to give it a go when it is mixed with his normal food. I feed George scrambled egg once a week, as I think it is enough for him, especially since he also gets bones on a regular basis. If you don’t like scraping pans, hard-boiled eggs are a good alternative to scrambled egg.

4) Natural, probiotic yoghurt. This is natural source of calcium and bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is beneficial for the digestive tract and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria. Yogurt helps with conditions like diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel movement, skin rashes and scratching, hair loss and constipation. It also produces folic acid and niacin which are important vitamins in pregnancy, enhances the immune system, reduces cholesterol levels and changes the microflora in the gut. A very beneficial addition to a dog’s diet, which is not required in large quantities. I simply add one spoonful of plain yoghurt to George’s dish (or let him lick it from a saucer) a few times a week.

5) Cottage cheese. It’s benefits are very similar to yoghurt, with a plus for texture. George is not a big fan of cottage cheese, but will eat it once in a while. Many people feed it as an add-on to scrambled egg.

6) Garlic. We give George garlic tablets from Dorwest as a food supplement. Although it appears that some people are not big fans of giving garlic to dogs, I couldn’t find any convincing arguments against it, but I did find a lot of reasons to give it to my dog. Garlic is a good anti-infectious agent, creating an environment hostile to parasites. This is a great advantage for us, since George is a very keen sniffer and ‘taster’, being therefore exposed to the risk of picking up nasty germs during his walks. Garlic also aids blood circulation, helps keep a healthy heart, can be used to treat coughs and helps maintain general health. Garlic powder is also available, from various suppliers, if you find it difficult to give tablets to your dog. George likes to chew on his, although I sometimes crush and sprinkle them on his food.

This brings the current series of posts about dog nutrition to its conclusion. I will be touching upon this subject again in the future as my knowledge on the subject increases. There is still so much to learn, and I will make sure to share any new ‘discovery’ with all of you who are interested. In the meantime, I leave you with the hope that my personal interpretation of the Barf diet and its principles has managed to provide some help and inspiration.

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Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Fish

It’s Friday again and, as promised, I return with the penultimate instalment of our guide to the Barf diet. After previously concentrating on meat, offal, bones, fruit and vegetables as the main components of raw feeding, it is time to discuss an ingredient that could be included in the meat category, but I prefer to deal with separately: fish.

Fish is a healthy, vital ingredient to a healthy human or canine diet alike. It is low in saturated fat and high in protein but, more importantly, it contains omega-3 fatty acids.  These are essential ingredients for leading a healthy life and have proved extremely beneficial in reducing heart disease and the risk of developing cardiovascular problems, preserving brain health and fighting depression and cancer. However, the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (or fish oil) are so many that volumes can be written on this subject alone. If you’d like to read more about why you should feed yourselves, your family and your dogs fish, here’s a website I found extremely helpful in my research on the subject.

The fish we feed George includes: mackerel, tuna, sardines, salmon and any other type of fish we choose for our own dinner. Mackerel is by far our favourite choice, as it is very oily (i.e. rich in omega-3 acids), has smooth flesh and a sweet taste, does not have too many bones, lives in the sea (i.e. is not farmed), is locally sourced and hardly costs anything. If you reduce it all down to only one type of fish to feed your dog, I’d go for mackerel.

Salmon is George’s other big favourite, but is too expensive to feed on a regular basis, as least in the form of fillets. However, my friend at littledogsonlongleashes has come up with the great idea of buying salmon bones, cooking them and scraping off the meat. A great and much cheaper option if you insist on making salmon part of your dog’s diet.  

George’s tuna and sardines come from a tin and are not always a big success. For some reason, sometimes he can’t have enough of them, whilst at other times they end up in the bin. For this reason, they don’t always find their place in our shopping trolley and we choose to rely on the fresh fish we regularly buy. If you’re asking which type of tinned sardines are best, all I can tell you is that there are dogs who prefer them in spring water (like George), dogs who like theirs in olive oil and dogs who will only eat them in a tomato sauce. It’s just a matter of asking your fur babies what they prefer.

There is one last type of fish I’d like to mention: sprats. They’re small, they’re oily, they’re super tasty, they’re very cheap and they’re very often overlooked. Sprats find their way on our table and in George’s food bowl in the summer, as there’s a holiday feel about them roasting away on the barbecue. George gets them whole, as little finger treats to munch on in the garden. If your dog is a fan of ice-cream and you’re feeling experimental, you could offer him a little sprat icicle fresh from the freezer to cool him down. I’ve heard of a few people who use this rather successfully, and I’ve got it on my list to try it with George this summer.

The good news is that fish comes in a great variety of species, textures and sizes which gives you choice. There’s bound to be one type of fish to suit every dog’s taste.  The even better news is that, whichever you go for, it will be packed with goodness that will work wonders for your pets, regardless of whether you are ‘risky’ enough to feed it raw or would rather cook it first. There’s no excuse for denying our dogs the benefits of fine dining!

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Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Fruit and Vegetables

Today’s post is about a small, but very important part of a dog’s diet: fruit and vegetables. We’ll start with a general discussion about what vegetables are good for dogs and why, and end with our step-by-step photo guide on how to prepare a veggie mix for your dog.

Dogs are mainly carnivorous but, as discussed in one of my previous posts, a meat-only diet is unbalanced and, in the long run, detrimental to a dog’s health. Some vegetables – like broccoli – contain vital nutrients that cannot be found in meats and animal food products and should be part of a healthy canine diet. The advice seems to be that raw vegetables should represent up to 20% of a dog’s diet, whereas cooked vegetables, due to the fact that they’re easier to digest, can form up to 40% of the daily intake. It’s up to you to choose which way to feed them.

Our selection of vegetables often includes: broccoli, cucumber, carrots, parsnip, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and spinach. These form the base of George’s vegetable diet mainly because he loves them and are rich in nutrients. Broccoli is full of phytonutrients, helps protect against carcinogens, is a good source of B-vitamins and minerals and is also high in fiber. Cucumbers are low-glycemic (non-starchy) and contain trace amounts of important vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B6, B12, A, E, K, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc, most of which can also be found in cabbage. Carrots are famous for their beta-carotene (vitamin A) content, but should not be fed in excess, as they are also quite sweet. They can be a good alternative to chewy sticks, though, and George loves munching on them – or a broccoli/cabbage stalk – whilst out in the garden. 

There are a other ‘good’ vegetables that dogs can safely eat – like celery or green beans – but mine is not too keen on them and prefers to stick to his limited selection. He will, however, top up his diet with the odd pea pod or corn leaf from the garden when he gets the chance. 

As far as fruit is concerned, George loves bananas, apples, pears and blackberries, and that’s about it. He tried a few others, such as mango, orange and tomatoes, but did not like them very much. Again, he’s hard to shift from his favourites, so we only add those to his veggie mix. If your dogs eat vegetables, fruits are not even necessary, so it’s fine to leave them out entirely.

There are a number of plants, fruits and vegetables that are toxic for dogs and could have harmful, even lethal effects. Raisins, grapes, onions, flower bulbs, apple seeds and apricot kernels are just a few that I know of. Whenever I contemplate giving George anything that he hasn’t tried before, I first go and research whether it is harmful or not. I think everybody should do the same to ensure that they dogs do not ingest anything that could make them very ill or even kill them. You’ll find a useful list of toxic plants on the Dog’s Trust website, at this link:  http://www.dogstrust.org.uk/_resources/resources/factsheets09/factsheetpoisonoussubstances09.pdf .  

Apart from general toxicity, potential allergies that individual dogs may have to certain plants should also be taken into consideration.

If you’re willing to give feeding vegetables a go, here is or step-by-step photo guide to how you can make a raw veggie mix.

1) Put together a mixture of vegetables (and fruits) of your choice. If you’ve never fed vegetables before, start with only a few in order to identify what your dog likes or doesn’t like.

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2)  Dogs can have difficulties in digesting raw vegetables, therefore it is important that you make it easier for them. Chop the fruit and vegetables into chunks large enough to fit in a food processor.

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3) Add a sprinkle of olive oil and process until finely chopped. You could process the mixture even further by pulping or liquidising it in a blender (a bit of water may be required). It all depends on how your dog likes it, the rule of thumb being ‘the smaller the better’. Here is how George likes his vegetable mix:

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This is it! Simple really, and the better part is that it freezes well, so you could make a large amount in one go and then freeze it in small portions for further use. All is left to do is defrost the mix and add it to the meat, together with the mixer and supplements (if used).

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Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Bones

 After our previous posts dedicated to meat and offal, this week it’s all about a dog’s all time favourite: bones. A ‘hot’ and controversial subject which has split the crowd into two battling sides for decades. To feed or not to feed bones, this seems to be the tricky question, and I found myself struggling with it when we first started feeding George raw food.

What kind of bones? How much? When? Won’t he choke? What if they splinter? Should I try ground bone instead? All of these tormented me for weeks while I was trying to make the right decision,  and I’m sure there are other people out there who are asking or have asked themselves the same questions. Hopefully, my (limited) experience on the subject will help answer some of them.

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First of all, if you’re thinking that maybe there’s no need for bones at all, think again. Bones – which are a living tissue – are a vital ingredient to a healthy dog’s diet, since they contain calcium and all the other minerals that are important in growing healthy bones,  plus enzymes, amino acids, copper and iron, all of which are essential for a dog’s body to operate properly.

In the wild, before dogs were domesticated, they used to hunt and eat other, smaller animals in order to survive. Their teeth are designed to tear, crunch and chew meat and bones – not little meat-flavoured pellets – and their body is designed to cope with that.  Moreover, it is a proven fact that, nutrition aside, dogs have a psychological need to gnaw on bones. If you want to keep your dog happy, give him a bone. Otherwise, do not be surprised to find teeth marks on some of your prized possessions or antique furniture.

Also, bones provide mental stimulation and exercise the dogs’ neck and jaw muscles. They can also be useful in cleaning the teeth and reducing tartar, whilst the chewing action slows down the eating process and makes it harder for a dog to over-eat.

For those of you who are willing to give bones a try, here is what we do. We feed George chicken wings and lamb ribs all year around, because they are softer and less likely to splinter and are easily available for not much money. I like the fact that I can feed him these indoors in the winter, by simply holding one end whilst he munches on the other. This prevents the bones from being dragged around the house and is a good safeguard measure that stops greedy dogs from swallowing large pieces of bone and potentially choking on them. Turkey necks are also recommended, but I have so far been unable to find a good local source.

In the warmer months, when George can spend a lot of time in the garden, we add bigger lamb bones as well as the occasional marrow bone and knucklebones, which keep him entertained for hours. All dogs love marrow bones, but marrow has a high fat content which could cause diarrhoea if fed too often, so these tend to be more of a once in a while treat rather than a menu fixture.

Knucklebones are one of the best types of bones to feed a dog, since they contain cartilage and soft tissue that do not pose the risk of splinters or tooth damage (if the dog’s a ‘hard chewer’),  and even the bony part tends to be softer than regular bones. Because of their large size, there’s also no risk that the dog will swallow them whole and choke on them. Overall, a wonderful choice, providing that you can find a reliable source for them.

There are a few aspects to take into consideration if you want to make feeding raw bones a success:

1) Never ever feed cooked bones, because they are much more likely to splinter and cause internal damage. The same applies for raw pork bones, as these are also prone to splintering and any meat that may be on them could contain harmful bacteria.

2)  Always be around when your dog is eating bones, just in case they choke and you have to intervene.

3) It is not a bad idea to feed bones after a meal, rather than as a meal, since dogs are more likely to not chew them properly and try to swallow them whole when they are hungry. Make bones an after-meal treat and your furry friends should be savouring them without any problems.  

If you are still worrying about your dog potentially choking on a bone and are not willing to take the chance, don’t worry, there’s still a solution. You could choose to feed ground bone, which still retains all its nutritional value and can be easily mixed with the rest of the food. You do lose the chewing factor, but you remove the risk entirely. It’s worth a thought, and there are quite a few online companies that supply raw pet food consisting of meat and ground bone mixed together.

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Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Offal

Another Friday is here and it is time to continue our series of posts dedicated to the Barf diet with a third one about offal and the role this plays in George’s diet.

 The term “offal” refers to those parts of an animal which are used as food but are not skeletal muscle:  internal organs such as heart, liver and lungs, as well as all abdominal organs and extremities, such as tails, feet and head, including brains and tongue. Blood and tripe are also classed as offal, but I will not touch upon them in this post, as there is no way I am feeding George blood (apart from what’s in his raw food) and I’ve already mentioned tripe in my meat post . Alternative expressions such as “organ meats” or “variety meats” are also available for people who, for whatever reason, do not like to use the term “offal”.

 Regardless of the animals that offal comes from, it should be part of any dog’s diet. In the wild, dogs ate the stomach content and organ meat from the animals they hunted, internal organs forming a vital part of their diet. Since modern dogs have similar requirements, offal should be part of their diet, too.

Offal is a good source of protein, and some organs, especially liver and kidneys, are very valuable nutritionally. It has been proven that dogs consuming these foods as part of a sensible diet have superior health to dogs that do not eat them. However, although organ meats are valuable dog food, they are not required in huge amounts, as they are very rich in nutrients.

 Three of the offal products listed above find their place in George’s weekly diet: liver, heart and kidneys.

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Liver is the most concentrated source of vitamin A and should be fed in small amounts on a regular basis. It contains significant quantities of vitamins C, D, E, K and all the B vitamins, and is an excellent source of minerals such as zinc, manganese, selenium and iron. Liver also provides a source of good quality protein and essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. For this reason, it makes a fantastic food for a dog and it is not surprising that all the dogs I’ve met have been really keen on it.

Like liver, kidney supplies good quality protein, essential fatty acids, many vitamins such as A, D, E, K and all the B vitamins, as well as iron and zinc. Heart is also an excellent source of protein, B vitamins and iron. Although its vitamin content is not as high, it does contain some essential fatty acids and significant levels of taurine which is extremely beneficial for the dog’s heart.

George loves all of these, but they do not seem to suit his system very well if fed raw, as they give him diarrhoea. For this reason, I have to cook them for him, but that is fine with me, especially since there seem to be some potential risks associated to feeding raw offal to pets, such as the risk of developing hydatid disease due to the dog tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus.

 I give George one meal of cooked heart and/or kidney per week, which he looks forward to and queues up at the kitchen door for. This way, I make sure he gets all the benefits of these wonderful organ meats without overloading his system. For some unknown reason, he is not particularly keen on cooked and chopped-up liver, but he’d do anything for liver cake, therefore liver has left the dinner menu to become the supreme treat.

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Guide to My Little Dog’s Barf Diet: Meat

As promised in last Friday’s post, I return with a guide to the raw diet we feed George on a daily and weekly basis. Naturally, the first stop must be meat.

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There are different opinions about how much meat dogs should eat and what percentage of their food intake should be represented by meat. Some people advocate a diet based on 40% meat, 30% vegetables and 30% starch. I think  these percentages are wrong and play into the commercial dog food producers’ hands. Others consider that the meat content should be as high as 70 – 75%. I tend to agree with them more.

Dogs are carnivorous, therefore meat must form the base of their diet. Meat contains protein ( i.e. essential amino acids) and fat, plus some minerals, and it’s what will give your dog energy. Besides, however much he may like fruit, vegetables, rice or wholemeal biscuits, George will not eat food that consists mainly of these ingredients and does not contain enough meat, and that to me is an indication that more meat is better than less – although we must remember that a meat-only diet is unnatural, unbalanced and harmful in the long run.

 Raw meat can be fed either in chunks – to encourage the dog to bite, tear and chew – or minced. We opted for the latter alternative for three simple reasons: 1) minced meat is widely available at more reasonable prices (an important criteria unless you keep your own livestock or money is no issue); 2) we cannot feed chunks of meat indoors in the winter without them being dragged all over the house, and 3) minced meat can easily be mixed with vegetables, kibble and supplements to form a complete meal.

George gets a variety of minced meats, his favourites being beef, lamb and green tripe. Beef is rich in iron, contains a reasonable amount of zinc and has low sodium content. Lamb is fatter and ideal if you’re trying to put a bit of weight on your dog. Green (unbleached) tripe has often been described as a wonder food for dogs because of its numerous benefits to puppies and adult dogs alike, and I cannot praise it enough. You can read about it in this article:  http://www.globaldognaturalpetproducts.com/july_2008

Chicken and turkey are also good, but George is not too keen on these if they’re minced, probably because of the sloppy, sticky texture. Although a favourite, rabbit is a once in a while treat, since we have to buy it from the market and is not in season all year around. It would be easier if our whippet did what he’s designed for and caught his own, but he’s too much of a pampered boy to do that.

Although some dogs eat pork on a regular basis, I hardly ever feed mine this type of meat, and never raw. Although pork is a good source of potassium and has a high level of essential fatty acids, I think the risk of trichinosis is too great. Some sources state that trichinosis is not dangerous to domesticated animals, but I am not willing to take any chances.

Cooked meat does, once in a while, find its way into George’s food bowl, but not too often. He loves his share of roast free-range chicken from our Sunday dinner, as well as a few homemade sausages once in a while, but I don’t make a habit of feeding cooked meat, since its benefits are much reduced. There is, however, one type of meat that I always have to cook for George because it doesn’t suit his system if fed raw: offal. I will tell you all about how, when and how much offal I feed my furry boy in next Friday’s post.

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