Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yummy In Her Tummy

Gone are the days of grocery bought dog foods; at least in my house. I had a Yellow Lab named Sasha growing up and I have no idea what my parents fed him, but when Jetta my first Leader Dog was issued to me on July 03 2002 I became a dog nutrition nut. I can't say I was very good at it almost nine years ago and I wouldn't claim that I know everything there is to know about dog nutrition now, but I have learned a thing or two along the way and take every opportunity possible to educate other pet owners about the benefits of feeding your animals a well balanced diet. I love the idea of a "raw" diet, but it's not exactly feasible at my life stage right now, so I try very hard to make sure I am buying my dogs a nutritionally sound commercial dry food. The reason I am on this tangent this morning is because I've been looking around for a new dog food for Miss Jetta.
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.


browndogcbr said...

Hi Y'all,

I have severe allergies. I'm on a special food my Human gets from my vet and I get monthly allergy shots. Since I'm allergic to grass, I get benedryl spray or gel to ease the itches. I also take an allergy pill, Loratadine, twice a day.

No treats, no human goodies. :(

My Human worries, now that I am 5, what she'll do if or when I need to go on a weight control food.

In the heat here in the Low Country, I don't exercise as much outdoors so I use the treadmill, just like the Humans.

Let us know what food y'all decide on and how it works out for Jetta's allergies.

Y'all come by now,
Hawk aka BrownDog

Kolchak Puggle said...

EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT POST! We give it four pars and two thumbs up! We totally agree with the senior food, the carbs and grains and everything! YOU ROCK!

Kolchak Puggle said...

PS - the Orijen Fresh 6 fish doesn't have chicken in it? I just checked the label of our open bag. Great food & chicken free. It's a win- win. Another thing you can try is reducing Ms. Jetta's kibble by 20 - 25% and replacing it with a few cups of green beans. Low calories, but you get a lot so they help fill her up!

Jess and Glacier said...

Hawk: You use the treadmill?! No way. How did your Mama teach you how to do that. I know at some guide dog schools they do this to teach dogs to put pressure on the harness handle, but I have no idea how one would go about training for that. I love it! You have a lot of meds to take. You poor guy. Where you live do they have indoor swimming pools for dogs? I've only heard of one of those once and it was for senior dogs that needed more exercise.
Kole: Thanks. :) I really love that food and the bag comes vaccuumed sealed! Does your Mama have to wash her hands after dishing it out? I sure do: it smells so strongly of fish. I guess I was so focused on Senior food that I didn't even bother rereading the Six Fish one. I'll look at it again. Green beans you say? I did not know that. Another little factoid I shall store away. Thanks for sharing. :)

L^2 said...

I had some of the same issues when I was looking for senior formula food for Willow, but thankfully she's not allergic to chicken so it made things a bit easier for me. I started her on a senior food about a year or so before she retired, but I highly doubt her new family still feeds her that.

If the food Jetta is on now is an all life-stages formula, she can probably continue to eat that. Just reduce the amount and add in some low-calorie fruits and veggies to supplement the kibble decrease. (Sorry to repeat if someone already suggested this. I'm not reading all the comments, because I'm on a borrowed laptop right now and it's not so friendly on my eyes and doesn't have a screen reader.)

Kolchak Puggle said...

Isn't it...*fishy*?? Smells horrible, but the dogs LOVE it. My vote (if I got one, since Jetta is your fur baby and all the votes belong to YOU!) would definitely be a reduced portion of the Origen.