What is long, thick, rock hard........... OH, not that! I am talking about frozen turkey necks. All I can say is Reagan better be something special. In my efforts to deal with her tummy woes, I have had to find her a replacement for chicken backs. This ails me because in my opinion chicken backs are an excellent raw meaty bone for greyhounds. They are large enough to require chewing, a nice combination of meat, bone, skin, fat, and organs all in one little package, inexpensive, and sold fresh in bulk.
An obvious low-fat option for Reagan is turkey necks. For the last several weeks, I have found myself frequenting several local grocery stores hoping to score a package of turkey necks. Turkey necks, once plentiful, have all but disappeared from Kroger shelves. Is there a crazy new flu going around causing neck-less birth defects in turkeys?...... I bet the real reason is that there are a bunch of crazy people out there feeding their dogs raw meat and bones, popularizing those less popular cuts of meat. Freaks!
At the grocery store, turkey necks are chopped in half and neatly packaged in groups of 3 or 4. Grocery store turkey necks are rarely more than about 6 inches long. Until the other day, I have avoided buying turkey necks in bulk. Why? I will tell you why.
1. Bulk turkey necks come frozen together in a 30 pound block. How am I suppose to divide that up for storage?..... .... with a hammer, an ice pick, and time to partially thaw in a bath tub. 2. Bulk turkey necks are ginormous. Huge! They make women blush and grown men cry. I had to buy larger plastic containers and the turkey necks still barely fit! 3. A foot long and so thick you can barely get your hand around..... get your mind out of the gutter..... turkey necks frozen together in a 30 pound block all for a cost of 2 1/2 times the price of chicken backs. Fantastic!
From a digestive standpoint, Reagan is doing great on turkey necks, veggie mix, Kefir, probiotics, organ meat, and brown rice. She is still on Metronidazole, so coming off of that will be the true test. Her coat still looks awful if not worse. Small intestine bacterial overgrowth is one cause of malabsorption, but there are other causes as well. It is always possible that her coat and her gut problems are not related at all, but two separate problems. Happy Friday! Brought to you by Never Say Never Greyhounds
The latest veggie mix contains turnip greens, spinach, baby romaine, green bell pepper, ginger, celery, sweet potato, and "on sale" blueberries and asparagus. And for taste, canned salmon.
I also grilled some hamburgers, turkey burgers, and chicken. "No, Snookums. Its not for you. Its for the dogs." Even though I am a vegetarian, I have skills. Okay the burgers are a little burned, but I was trying to over cook them on purpose so they would dry out and be easy to use as training treats. Meat off the grill is an excellent high value training treat for man or beast.
In the last 10 years, I have fed a raw food diet to my greyhounds. I have also assisted countless others in switching their dogs, mostly greyhounds. Many of my dog agility and obedience friends have switched their dogs. Although I am certain that some dogs do not do well on raw food, I cannot think of any at this moment that I personally know. However, Reagan's digestive problem does make me review what I am feeding. Is her problem a raw food problem? I don't know.
One of my vets is more mainstream than the other and he is the vet I have been using with Reagan's problem. I doubt he would ever recommend feeding raw food to a client, but I think he has seen enough benefits to not discourage someone from it. He is open minded. Since we are messing with Reagan's diet, he has been assisting me with some research about raw diets. Its interesting to read what is said about "us" (the raw diet feeders) on vet forums. "These people have a religious conviction that feeding raw is best and if you shriek too much, they will simply find another vet or lie to you about what they feed." And "You can reduce the likelihood of alienating these clients by discussing the alternative of having bone completely ground into the meat." It makes us sound like crazy cult members. :-)
Time and time again, the idea of a balanced diet appears. My vet asked how I determine that I am feeding a balanced diet. So I asked him how he determined he was feeding his children a balanced diet. To his credit, he gave a fantastic answer. I think he puts a lot more thought into what his kids eat than most parents today. My approach to feeding my hounds is virtually the same as his except that my kids (the greyhounds) never eat any junk food. I never have to counter a meal at McDonald's like a parent does. This weekend I am going to eat pizza, enjoy Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and drink lots of Dr. Pepper with my sister. The only vegetable I might consume is mushrooms on the pizza.... but the hounds will still be eating their fresh, healthy foods. So why is it that people are so hung up about a balanced diet for pets? Yes, it is important, but nature never intended for anyone to eat a balanced diet on a daily basis. The balance comes over time. I have been asked many times for a recipe. Recipes scare me. As soon as you adhere yourself to a strict plan, I believe you subject your dog to possible deficiencies. This is why I post my S.L.O.P. or veggie mixes each time. I want to inspire you to reach for a wide variety of foodstuff. Feeding a wide variety of foods, provides all of the nutrients over time. It gives your dog lots of whole food sources in which to pull nutrients from. My dogs eat a wider variety of vegetables than I do and I am a vegetarian.
At this point, feeding something like kibble is completely illogical to me. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not trying to be insulting. Kibble is widely accepted and plenty of dogs live long healthy lives eating it. The availability of quality kibble has grown enormously. If Reagan ends up doing best on kibble, I too will feed kibble. But imagine if people ate Total cereal mixed with a little Ensure and a multi-vitamin three times a day. It does not sound so healthy does it? So I am disappointed when I still hear a vet talking about "us" like we are crazy when a diet similar to kibble for a human would be considered insane.
I am sure that some folks do a poor job feeding raw food. Some vets mentioned seeing some vitamin deficiencies not seen in a very long time. For example, someone feeding a recipe with raw meat and no bones could easily create a calcium deficiency if there is no calcium supplement. However, one client doing it wrong isn't a good enough reason to chastise the rest of us.
So I concluded that I still love feeding raw food. I have kicked up the veggies a notch. I am committed to making sure my hounds are getting a dollop of SLOP (among many other things) each day now. I am not ready to try something as extreme as kibble with Reagan yet. We will just have to wait and see how she does.
I wanted to share a few suggestions made to me by a holistic vet. If you are one of these folks that swear by yogurt for dogs (kibble or raw food feeders), you may want to investigate Kefir. Kefir is similar to yogurt, but it has far more probiotics per serving than yogurt does. My local-nothing-special-grocery store carries it in the dairy, health food section. Some Kefir is flavored so make sure you get plain, unsweetened.
For raw diet feeders, there is a particular digestive enzyme that thrives on fiber. You may want to add a small serving of fiber rich food to the raw meaty bones on the days you are not feeding any vegetables. I have been adding approximately 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin.
I have added Kefir and fiber to everyone's daily raw food diet. The four oldsters were already doing fine. Riley was doing good, but now she is doing great and I attribute it to the Kefir and fiber since that is the only change I have made.
In addition to Kefir and fiber, Reagan has also been getting a capsule of Culturelle daily. It is expensive, but when you compare it to other probiotics, you get way more bang per capsule.
These are just a couple of things you may want to try if your hounds are not quite right digestively.
Reagan did much better during the drug therapy and was able to eat all sorts of food. Unfortunately, the results do not appear to be lasting. She appears to be especially sensitive to fat, so we are going to try a high fiber, low fat diet. Generally, I seek a balanced diet by feeding a wide variety of foods. However, when I am restricted or having to follow a recipe, I fear that meals will be deficient in something.
S.L.O.P. (Superior Life Optimizing Pudding) Here is the latest S.L.O.P. (Superior Life Optimizing Pudding) or veggie mix recipe. Because I am keeping a food diary for Reagan, I wanted the mix to contain vegetables and fruits only. Normally, I will add meat, yogurt, eggs, or cottage cheese, for example, to improve the taste. However, this time I wanted it to be purely vegetarian so I would have less variables to contend with. Garlic is always a great additive. The dogs seem to love the taste and smell. I also avoided items like radishes and bell peppers and added more fruits. This mix is also a great example of using what you already have. I had frozen green beans and peas that were leftover from making vegetable soup this winter. I am also on a strawberry kick, so I generously cut the tops off for the hounds. In addition, I added carrots, parsley, kale, spinach, tomatoes, apples, a kiwi, and a garlic clove.
S.L.O.P. The latest S.L.O.P. contains lots of turnip greens (on sale this week), strawberries (also on sale), a handful of blueberries that tasted bad, so I saved for the dogs, garlic, celery, carrots, red cabbage, and avocados. I'm not sure if I have ever used red cabbage before and its been awhile since we have used avocados.
*Avocados contain a toxin called persin that is poisonous to dogs. I'm really not concerned about 2 small avocados divided amongst 5 dogs over a period of 6 weeks. I probably would not put an avocado in a Chihuahua's veggie mix for the week. Please use common sense.
Brought to you by Never Say Never Greyhounds SLOP & SECRETS I made S.L.O.P. (Superior Life Optimizing Pudding) or veggie mix this weekend. The mix included turnip, mustard, and collard greens, parsley, kale, cucumbers, yellow squash, carrots, ginger, garlic, and liver.
Last time, someone thought I was able to puree a large volume of vegetables without making a mess. I assure you that I cannot. But I do have some help with cleaning the kitchen. Brought to you by Never Say Never Greyhounds HOLIDAY S.L.O.P. I have been a bad raw-food-diet-feeding mother. I ran out of SLOP (Superior Life Optimizing Pudding) or veggie mix a few weeks ago. With a few days off, I found the time to whip up a new batch. The mix included cranberries, blackberries, garlic, a pear, collard greens, celery, carrots, brussell sprouts, and for flavor..... turkey liver and cottage cheese.
I also did something new this time. I will often add water to the mix because it helps the food processor puree the mix smoothly. This time I added some caffeine free green tea. I have started drinking hot green tea and I have been intrigued by the health benefits. So I heated a pot of water with a couple of tea bags and included some nettles and dandelion leaf along with it. I added the anti-oxidant and vitamin rich water to the mix as needed.
SATURDAY S.L.O.P. This Saturday was S.L.O.P. night. Time for more veggie mix for the hounds. The tasty, but healthy ingredients included chicken liver, eggs, and goats milk.
The less exciting, but healthy ingredients included turnip greens, carrots, yellow squash, parsley, cucumber, garlic, and a pear.
S.L.O.P. I have been neglecting the veggie needs of my greyhounds' raw diet lately. I decided that making S.L.O.P. was the perfect way to spend a Friday night.... I must be getting old. S.L.O.P. stands for Superior Life Optimizing Pudding. I coined it at a boring Tom Lonsdale seminar about raw food. The seminar was less about how to feed raw food and more about propaganda and those "horrible" commercial dog food companies.
I found some great veggies on sale. Three tubs of organic arugala, spring mix, and baby romaine, green beans, and a package of snap peas and carrots for $5. All of it was washed and ready to go. The token fruit of the mix was a red plum. I also added raw beef to keep the hounds interested and pureed it all together in a food processor.
Feeding the greens to the dogs always makes me feel like a good Mom again.
Here is a fine example produced by Reagan earlier today. I placed a sweet gum ball next to the pile so you would have a size reference. I think Dr. Susan Wynn (known for her advanced training in herbal medicine) said it best. She believes that one diet does not fit all. For example, if a particular line of dogs is often fed ABC food, the breeder is most likely going to breed dogs that thrived and did well on that particular diet.
Raw diet advocates will often point out that commercial pet food has been around for less than a century.... hardly enough time for dogs to have gone through any evolutionary change in their digestive systems. OK, that makes sense, but Susan's point is that people probably have selectively bred dogs to do well on the type of food they wish to feed. I think that makes sense also. If the breeder feeds kibble, her line of dogs are being selectively bred (probably without thinking about it) to thrive on kibble.
I think this might explain why racing greyhounds seem to do best on a raw food diet, in my opinion. For one, they are fed raw meat prior to being adopted. It would make sense that the racing industry probably breeds greyhounds that thrive and do best with some raw meat in their diets.
With that said, you just have to do what you feel is best. There is no way for us to know the exact nutritional needs of each individual dog......... and I don't think nature really intended on perfectly balanced meals.
I would encourage everyone feeding kibble to add some variety in the form of some fresh, raw food occasionally. You can save a small portion of the vegetables and fruits you purchase for yourself..... carrot or strawberry tops, a chunk of your banana, a bit of broccoli, or a handful of spinach. Check your fridge regularly for the fruits and vegetables getting close to losing their freshness. Throw it into a food processor and puree it as much as possible to maximize the nutritional value. Add the mixture to your dog's regular food. If there is not enough to mess with, start a collection in your freezer. Once you have enough fruits and vegetables stored up, thaw it out, and grind it up. Also a turkey neck once a week is great for the teeth.
***WARNING*** This is a poop post. And no that is not a picture of poop below. Its no secret that many people who feed raw food are proud of their dogs' poop..... myself included. I do not know much about the other breeds, but poop from many kibble-fed greyhounds is foul. In my experience, most greyhound-kibble-output stinks from quite a distance, the pile is huge, and it often has the consistency of pudding. One of the biggest benefits to feeding raw food, is the poop quality. Stools are firm, small, and far less foul, in my opinion. Without fail, Jessie, Teresa, Katie, Travis, Stacker, Julie, and Allie made the switch to raw food with no complications and have produced poop to be proud of for years.
Much to my dismay, Reagan and Riley did not follow suit. From the beginning, both have had pudding poop. Both have been thoroughly wormed and treated with a round of metronidazole with no lasting results. I blamed it on the wide variety of training treats I use. I figured I was causing digestive issues from the constant switching.
Finally.... I took my own advice and remembered that fat loosens up the stools. I feed chicken backs primarily and the backs have huge chunks of fat on them. Fat that, up until now, all of my greyhounds have needed otherwise they are constipated (I warned you this was a poop post :-). Being a creature of habit, I assumed Reagan and Riley needed the same.
So I began trimming the fat off Reagan and Riley's chicken backs (pictured at the top) and PRESTO... they immediately have perfect poops. I just wish I had tried that months sooner. Brought to you by Never Say Never Greyhounds
I have started drinking green tea lately. I'll be honest. I don't think it tastes very good. I would much prefer to drink Dr. Pepper, but Dr. Pepper is not healthy. I am also just not a water drinker, so tea has been a good way to get me drink more water. After learning about the healthy properties of green tea, I started thinking that green tea might be good for dogs too.
I have always heard that alfalfa is an excellent clean source of vitamins and powdered alfalfa is one of the few supplements I "sometimes" add to the raw food diet. Well, I found an alfalfa tea and not surprisingly, it tastes a little like hay. I also found a tea made from Rooibos Leaf that is high in anti-oxidants and also caffeine free. I have been creating a mixture of 50% tea and 50% water and so far my greyhounds have found it to be very drinkable. Allie and Reagan seem to like it especially and have to be chased away from the punch bowl once they have had more than enough.
Riley eating her first chicken back. (2008) A few of you had some comments or questions that I wanted to address. Seven won't eat rabbit, but goes cross eyed for bitter "No Chew" bandaging.
If you feed commercial dog food and would like to add a little raw food to your dog's diet, I really feel that the turkey neck is your best choice. The turkey neck seems to be easy to digest for many dogs. The bones are small and easy to chew, but the neck itself gives the teeth and jaws quite a workout. I would feed the turkey neck as a meal substitute. Jessie (1995)
Also regarding turkey necks, your commercial dog food should have a balanced calcium/phosphorus ratio. Meat contains phosphorus and bone contains calcium. Feeding a turkey neck is not going to grossly effect your ratio because it has both meat (phosphorus) and bone (calcium). But just feeding raw meat without bone on a regular basis might do that. At the track, greyhounds are often fed a mixture of raw meat and a commercial food. I am not sure how they address the calcium/phosphorus ratio, but I would not recommend recreating such a mixture unless you are addressing those nutrients specifically. Katie (2002?)
I choose to feed the chicken backs and other raw food in the morning and the kibble at night. I do not mix the two meals as a rule, but I have and no one died... or even got sick. I have heard that dogs are able to digest raw meat without getting sick because they have short digestive tracts and any bacteria on the meat is dealt with quickly and is not inside their bodies very long. There is a theory that kibble takes longer to digest and therefore if mixed with raw food will slow the entire digestive process down making the bacteria on the meat more likely to do harm. I am not aware of any science behind that and cannot say for sure if that is true or not true. Racing greyhounds are successfully fed a mixture (and the raw meat they eat is often not fit for human consumption) so I learn towards not true. But it also depends on the dog and how they handle it individually. Travis (2002)
I have no experience with freeze-dried, grain free dog food so I do not have an opinion about it. But at this point, I am open to all foods. Reagan taught me that raw food is not ideal for everyone. But I have also seen it go the other way. One of my first greyhounds, Teresa, ate commercial dog food the first year I had her. She visited the vet frequently for all sorts of things like urinary tract infections, skin infections, horrible teeth and gums, and anal gland problems. She had none of those problems once she was switched to raw food. So commercial dog food is not ideal for all dogs either.
All in all, I think it is best to be open to all sorts of different foods. You might think feeding raw is expensive and complicated, but it might be a lot easier than cleaning up diarrhea or taking your dog to the vet frequently for chronic problems. If you love feeding raw food already, just keep in mind you may one day have a dog that does not thrive on raw. If you feed commercial food, your dog might do better on grain-free... or not. Interesting, we recently switched one of our old ladies (Julie, nearly 13) to a medium quality chicken and rice food. Her stools were just too firm on grain-free food we use. Never thought I would see that happen in a greyhound. Brought to you by Never Say Never Greyhounds
After two months of what appeared to be calm and effortless digestion, Reagan still looks terrible. She continues to have bald patches and thinning areas of fur on places that used to be thickly covered. She always appears to be slightly underweight despite the volume of food she consumes. Her skin is dry and her coat is brittle.
Dr. Toby strongly suggested that I try cooking what I was feeding to see if she would improve. Maybe she simply cannot break through the cell walls and absorb the nutrients in raw food. Cooking might make the nutrients more accessible.
In the past, I have cooked for older, sick dogs. It was time consuming and my primary concern was simply getting calories into failing bodies. I was not concerned with providing a balanced diet geared for long-term health. Reagan is only 2 years old, so cooking her food was going to be a huge commitment and required some education.
Balancing a raw diet seems very easy to me, but balancing a cooked diet does not. Do you cook the bones until they are soft and if so, is the calcium any good? And if you cook for so long that the bones are soft, have I changed the nutrients in the meat? Should I just forget the bones and supplement calcium? How much? My head was spinning. I decided to seek the assistance of a holistic vet hoping she could guide me through cooked diets.
Ironically, the holistic vet, Dr. Julia, suggested feeding Reagan a high quality, commercial dog food. So for the first time in a decade, I am feeding one of my greyhounds dog food. Yes, you heard that right. I am feeding Reagan kibble.
So far I am stunned with how smooth the switch to kibble and even some canned food has been. From a digestive standpoint, everything is coming out perfectly. I could not be happier. I felt a little pang when Reagan looked at me with "where's my chicken?" eyes. But she still eats her meals with lots of enthusiasm and is the only hound in our house that eats twice a day.... lucky Reagan. Only time will tell if kibble will bring Reagan back to the healthy state seen below. I am hopeful. I will tell you more about the holistic vet in the next post.
I have a confession to make. Reagan is not my only kibble eater. Riley is also a full-time kibble consumer. As you know, Reagan suffered coat problems over the summer and I finally concluded that she simply was not extracting nutrients from raw food. For some unknown reason, Reagan simply requires that her food be cooked. She now eats a very high quality kibble and is doing very well on it.
Well, during all of this I started to notice that Riley's coat got very dull and dry. The red stripes in her coat looked bleached out and yellow (see below). At first I couldn't believe that I would actually have a 2nd dog that did not do well on raw food. What are the chances? I had fed raw food for 10 years happily and with no problems with seven greyhounds. I started to feed Riley half kibble and half raw and the improvement was almost immediate. Also, like Reagan, Riley never produced the kind of poop that raw diet feeders rave about. She was actually better on kibble as well. I finally switched Riley to a full time kibble diet. Now she is a picture of health (except her trademark ears... we can't do anything about those :-). Reagan and Riley's issues really threw me for a loop. With 2 young dogs eating kibble, what would I feed future dogs? I am happy with how my four seniors are doing on raw food, so I was not about to switch them too.
I decided that I was not really comfortable with my veggie mixes. Dogs have a hard time digesting fruits and vegetables. The availability of the nutrients depends on my ability to tear up the cell walls of the plant material. You can do this by using a juicer or a food processor, but I was not confident that I was doing a good job or providing enough quantity. So my seniors all get 1/2 a cup of kibble instead of veggie mix now. In the future, I think I will continue with a modified half and half diet and adjust accordingly if I have a hound that clearly does best on one or the other.
I have not posted about feeding raw food in a long time.... nothing serious or educational in over two years. I used to feel more like an expert. After all, I had successfully fed numerous greyhounds for ten years on nothing but chicken backs, necks, and leg quarters, turkey necks, beef, vegetable and fruit mixes, and different organ meats. My hounds looked and felt great. My old dogs aged well. Their mouths were healthy and teeth were clean despite no dental cleanings. Katie's teeth at age 10.
A friend joked once that greyhounds poop more than they eat. That was my experience before raw food. Stools were gross, enormous, and soft. If poop can ever be called great, my raw fed greyhounds' poop was great. Great on the left. Not Great on the right. But then Reagan came. On the farm, she ate a typical mixture of commercial dog food and raw meat. Once in my home, she was switched to the raw diet I was feeding. As long time readers know, she lost weight and her coat was terrible. Her stools were always a little icky and nothing like my other greyhounds.
Reagan's bloodwork showed she was vitamin B12 deficient. Well, it was not her diet. You have to be a strict vegetarian to eat a diet deficient in B12 and she was definitely not a vegetarian. Eventually, we concluded that Reagan was simply unable to pull the nutrients she needed from raw food for whatever reason. I put her on a high quality, grain-free, lamb based food (Acana Grasslands) and she has been fine ever since. That all happened in the spring and summer of 2009.
So with kibble back in my house, I have morphed into a half and half diet for all of my dogs. Most of them eat raw food in the morning (Reagan still gets a chicken back twice a week) and they all eat Acana Grasslands or Ranchlands in the evening. The half and half diet has advantages and flexibility. Kibble is easier to feed when traveling or leaving the greyhounds with sitters. Kongs can be stuffed with raw meat, veggie mixes, or kibble mixtures. I feel good to be feeding my dogs a variety of fresh, whole foods and not something that looks like cereal (even if it is grain-free). Plus, the raw food definitely helps keep their teeth clean too. But chicken backs come in all different sizes so feeding a little kibble at the end of the day makes it easier to round out the portions to an appropriate calorie count. I also feel less compelled to do elaborate veggie mixes when I know that the Acana dog food fits someone's idea of "balanced" and should contain all of the needed nutrients. So that is what I am feeding now. The best of both worlds I think. I am not advocating one, the other, or both. It just depends on the dogs and what works best for them.
If you feed kibble, but wish to add a little raw food periodically, I think turkey necks are a good choice (at least for greyhounds). They usually do not have a lot of skin or fat attached so it is easier on the digestive tract. It is also an excellent raw meaty bone for teeth and takes some work for the dog (greyhounds) to consume. But OMG! Sometimes they are huge! Brought to you by Never Say Never Greyhounds