Jetta is now ten and a half and it is time my parents put her on a more suitable diet for a Senior dog. In the last year I have watched Jetta's once slim waist line grow and been disturbed by this. I think I'm a bit more anal about her nutrition since she was a working dog and I feel she deserves the best. One of the stipulations to my parents taking Jetta for her retirement was that they would not allow her to gain weight. Well, that has gone out the window and I'm concerned for Jetta's health and eventually her length of life. She is still "Jetta the Jitter Bug," full of energy and life, but carrying that extra weight around will take its toll and I'm afraid that I'll get a call while I'm in Scotland to tell me Jetta's crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
I also know that she needs a better food because her eyes are incredibly goopy and we are constantly cleaning them. Her ears thankfully are healthy, but her coat is a bit greasy. The food she is on now is an "all life" stages food, but the fat percentage is extremely high at 18 percent. Jetta is only getting one cup of food a day and the reduction in food is hardly helping. With that in mind, I set myself up with a cup of coffee and my Laptop and began the tedious task of trying to find her a more suitable food.
The first problem I ran into is that most of the Senior formulas have chicken in them. Jetta became allergic to chicken back when she was still working and a switch to a fish based food fixed her ear infection problem. The first food I looked at was Orijen, which is what Glacier is eating. It is made in Canada and the quality of the food is quite good. I would venture to say that it's one of the better commercial, dry foods out on the market. Glacier eats the Six Fish blend and let me tell you, that stuff stinks! At least I know it's real fish. He has done quite well on it, with his poop being normal sized for him, healthy coat, not so stinky dog breath and clean eyes and ears. So naturally, Orijen was my "go to" food, but I was disappointed to see that their Senior's formula had chicken in it. It wasn't the only source of meat, but it was there. I moved on.
I cannot tell you how many dog foods I read the ingredients of and how many times I found chicken. It wasn't the chicken that was a problem anymore though. All of the Senior's foods that I looked at were full of grains like pearled barley, brown rice and one was labeled just rice or wheat. I was glad to see that none of them had corn or corn meal, but Pearled Barley?! Where in the world do dogs naturally get pearled barley from?
It's a common misconception that dogs need a high percentage of carbohydrates to function. This is not so. Dogs are primarily carnivores and although they do need some fibre to clean out their systems, rice does not have any real benefit. Now, this is my personal opinion and it comes from years of researching, but I am not a dog nutritionist and nor have I attended a dog nutrition seminar, but that doesn't mean that my opinion is any less valid. I once had a pet store clerk try to convince me that since Jetta was a senior that we needed to decrease her protein intake and increase her carbohydrate portions. She stated that she had taken a dog nutrition seminar and when I asked her who sponsored it, it was the three dog food companies that she was promoting. Need I say more?
Back to my pearled barley and chicken problems.
The other thing that bothered me was that a lot of these foods had some sort of meat as the first ingredient, but then after there were five or six different kinds of grains listed. What does this mean? Some of us believe, me included, that dog food companies list each grain individually so that it looks like meat is the primary ingredient. If the grains were to be listed as one grain, then they would be number one, thus making your dog's diet completely carbohydrate/grain driven. Not good.
It's also important to look at the percentage of ingredients; just because it's listed it doesn't mean there is a whole lot of it there. I saw in two of the Senior formulas, including Orijen, that there were probiotics in the food. These are natural organisms that live in the intestine of dogs and humans alike that assist with digestion. They kill bad bacteria and are your friend. That said, the one food that claimed to have this very helpful probiotic only contained 0.000600 percent of it or something ridiculous like that. I lost track of the zeros that came after the decimal point. Basically that means, the amount of it is so low that it really has no benefit for your dog's digestive tract and you better supplement if you want your dog to have that particular probiotic.
This all brings me back to my chicken dilemma. I have ruled out all of the other Senior dog foods on the market that I read about-eight in total-due to lack of nutritional value and chicken ingredients. I could put Jetta on Orijen as it is far superior to anything else I read about, but there is chicken in it like every other one. I could resume my search and compare the fat content in fish based foods and then pick the one that is lower in fat. I could also just try her on Orijen and see how she does since chicken is not the only protein source. My final option would be to pick a "so so" food for her because it is a Senior formula, but then I am feeding her an "okay" food complete with chicken. So, basically my options are:
1. Good food + chicken = see how she does, but risk aggravating allergies.
2. Don't feed her Senior food = find fish based food with lower fat content. Do Senior dogs really need a Senior formula? Continue researching.
3. Feed her Senior formula from "okay" food = may aggravate her allergies and not be any better than what she is on now.
I guess since technically Jetta is no longer in my care, I'll have to pass this by my parents and see what they say. The only problem with that is I feel like I am talking over their heads when I start yammering on about dog health. Well, maybe not over their heads; I just don't think they are interested or think it's as important as I do.
Regardless of what food switch is made, Jetta must lose weight and her exercise regiment must be increased as well. I told my mom yesterday that if Jetta's weight situation doesn't improve soon, I will be finding a way to get her to Scotland because her lack of exercise and over weight issues will inevitably cut her life short.