For most of Nola’s life, she’s been a kibble dog. Now I’ve always tried to do right by her, in a dry dog food sort of way, by feeding her what I presumed to be the best available products on the market. Organic food. No additives. No fillers. Just pure, unadulterated kibble. And, for the most part, Nola has done just fine.
But that didn’t stop me from tinkering. I had heard about feeding dogs raw (aka the BARF diet), and so I did that with Nola, for a stretch. She seemed to thrive, and I enjoyed the little white pooplets she produced (essentially pieces of digested bone passing through the system) because they were a little easier to deal with in an urban environment. In the end, as far as raw was concerned, I didn’t notice enough of a difference in Nola’s health and energy to merit sticking with it, so it was back to the top-shelf (and very convenient) kibble for us.
Time for a change
However, somewhat recently Nola became noticeably less interested in eating her kibble. I tried changing to different flavors, different brands – but to no avail. Then I tried going back to a raw diet – figuring that ultimately fresh was best - but, again, Nola didn’t seem all that interested. After the obligatory vet check to make sure everything was ok (it was), I decided to try a cooked diet for Nola. A friend of mine had mentioned to me that his dogs had gone through a similar pattern of rejecting previously-loved foods (raw and kibble), but that they had loved a cooked diet.
And that reminded me of Dr. Harvey’s.
As I mentioned in my review of the Dr. Harvey’s Freeze-dried Tripe Power Patties (aka my secret weapon), they had sent me some samples of their products to try out. And I remembered that one of those things was a pre-mix called “Canine Health” that you could use with either a raw or a cooked diet. The premise of Canine Health is simple – it helps you balance out the protein portion of your dog’s diet with healthy grains, vegetables, and herbs. And preparation is simple – you add boiling water, wait 8 minutes, add your protein, add some healthy oil (flax, borage, fish, etc.), mix it up, and serve to your dog.
It's easy to cook meals for your dog (or to add some healthy goodness to a raw diet)
Whenever I had thought about a “cooked diet” for my dog before, I wondered how I could possibly fit that into my schedule. As it turns out, with a small amount of planning, it’s really quite simple to prepare these gourmet meals for Nola. And it does seem gourmet – especially when you read the ingredients: peas, broccoli, beets, organic oats, organic spelt, peppermint, spirulina, etc. As you can see, I also get plenty of help in preparing the food - mealtime is a team effort in the Sattin household.
Honestly there have been a few times where I add water and think “that smells good enough to eat”. Dr. Harvey’s does use human-consumption-grade ingredients – so I suppose that I could indulge one of these days. FYI - I frequently macerate the mix in my blender before adding water, just to aid in the digestibility.
For protein, I usually add some ground-up chicken necks and backs (which have organ meat mixed in as well), although I also use other sources of protein (eggs, cow kidneys, chicken breasts). Although I am cooking the food, I cook it lightly – as I don’t want any of the ground-in bone content to become brittle and hazardous to Nola’s health. The heat clearly makes a difference, though, in her desire to eat the food.
Nola loves it!
And desire it she does. Nola has been wolfing the food down with abandon. So she loves it. Also, she seems much more energetic than she had been for the past year or so. I had attributed it to her simply slowing down (she is, as of this writing, nearly fourteen years old!), but clearly the right diet has had a positive impact on her energy levels.
Her coat has also gotten shinier and healthier, and we’ve noticed much less dander and shedding. I have just started adding the Dr. Harvey’s Health and Shine supplement as well – and will report back on that after I’ve been able to use it for a couple of months.
At this point Nola has been enjoying this cooked diet for over 2 months, and we have no plans to go back. If we went by enjoyment alone, we’ve found a sure winner – and when you couple that with her improved health and energy levels, then it cements the deal. I recognize that she’s definitely in her senior years, and so far feeding her this way seems like the best way to ensure they’ll be as pleasurable for her as possible.
What about training?
When you feed something other than kibble, the question of how to use food in training becomes more prominent. There’s nothing quite as easy as grabbing a bagful of kibble and heading out to do your training. That being said, once you choose to transition your dog to a diet that’s more healthy, nutritious, and vibrant than kibble, what’s the best way to use your food? If you feed raw, for instance, you’re going to have a tough time if you’re pushing with your dog for chicken necks.
There are actually many people who use the techniques of Natural Dog Training with a raw diet for their dogs. Generally I see them choosing to use cut-up pieces of raw steak or chicken just as they would use kibble – doling out generously-portioned morsels as you work with your dog. But if you want the nutritional balance of a pre-mix, is that something you can also work into your training?
I have a few suggestions for you.
- If you’re feeding raw, then I would suggest keeping some of your protein aside – say, two-thirds of it - for training. Use the balance with the Dr. Harvey’s Canine Health pre-mix.
- You can do the same if you’re feeding cooked.
- Another option is to use something really tasty (like the aforementioned freeze-dried tripe) for training. Do your training BEFORE you feed meals, so your dog will still be hungry enough.
- Best for last – make a meatloaf. I still need to experiment with this idea (my vet, Kate Steinhacker, came up with it) – but this seems like it could be really good for you if you’re cooking meals. I think the easiest way to do it would be to prepare a few days’ worth of food ahead of time, mix in some egg (extra protein, ultra-digestible), and then bake the whole thing in loaf pans in the oven. The meatloaf will keep just fine in the fridge, and you can take it out with you in your pouch just as you would kibble. As soon as I have a good meatloaf recipe, I’ll share it with you.
Dr. Harvey's is a new Natural Dog Blog sponsor
You might have also noticed that there’s a new “badge” in the sidebar on this website. I’m pleased to announce that Dr. Harvey’s has also become the first official sponsor of the Naturaldogblog. I want you to know that this sponsorship is something that I thought a lot about – because I take our relationship (you and me) seriously. I have turned down MANY requests by other people for promotion, sponsorship, or advertising space here on the Natural Dog Blog.
I am happy to promote Dr. Harvey’s because I believe strongly that they not only care sincerely about the health of our dogs, but that they also back up this caring with products that clearly demonstrate that care. I’ve spoken with Dr. Harvey himself, at great length, and he has answered a multitude of questions about canine diets, wellness, and nutrition. Plus, the proof is in the pudding (or meatloaf), as Nola is thriving on their Canine Health pre-mix as part of her new cooked diet.
I encourage you to give their Power Patties and Canine Health pre-mix a try. Your dog will wonder if you have been secretly taking night classes at the local culinary institute. And you'll love the extra spring in their step.
So do you believe that "Canine Health" provides the dog with all the vitamins and nutrients he needs assuming you mix in the right amount of protein? I want to feed my dog a raw diet, but so far I've been feeding him top quality kibble mostly because I don't trust myself to come up with a properly nutritious diet for my dog when buying the ingredients myself. Do you understand my concerns, and do you think Canine Health would be a good route for a newbie like me?
Do you ever add anything other than meat to the mix? Any extra supplements/vitamins other than the health and shine?
I think that the best guide to how well it's working for your dog is to simply observe and make adjustments if necessary. For instance, I've started blending the Canine Health to ensure that the nutrients are that much more available to Nola. I actually might start adding one of their natural multi-vitamins, and Dr. Harvey, in a recent conversation, was telling me about the importance of CoQ10 in an older dog's diet. I've also just started making Nola "meatloafs" - minus the ketchup.
Essentially, I did a 30-day trial with Canine Health (and a cooked diet, although it'd be the same for raw). I would suggest the same for you - Canine Health (pulverized in a blender), Flax Oil (though rotating oils is good, like rotating protein), your choice of protein - and then pay attention to how your dog is doing. It will help you get into a rhythm, grow comfortable with the switch to raw, and have a clear picture of how well your dog does on the new diet. Then you can make adjustments from there. Mommy knows best!
Happy Thanksgiving! (Keep me posted.)
I'm thinking of switching Ace over to raw (have been thinking about this for about two years now!) I'll let you know how it goes when I finally make the switch or do a trial. I've been thinking about doing a 30- or 60-day trial and writing about it.