Initially when our beloved Leo was diagnosed with epilepsy (you can read our story here), I knew I didn’t want to automatically put him on epilepsy medication without trying to figure out if there was a natural way forward. Thankfully I have a very supportive husband who (although sometimes with a raised eyebrow) totally supports me and had the same interest in Leo’s well being as I did. We couldn’t undo whatever damage to his health had been done in the first 2 years of his life when he wasn’t with us, but we could take steps to ensure the rest of his days were as healthy as we could possibly make them. And so my research and learning journey started.
I found there were several things we could tackle, one of which was what he was eating. From my research I found preservatives were strongly implicated in cases of dog epilepsy and that together with what I was learning about what went into commercial dog food and the overall quality of the “meat” at the time, I opted for a home prepared diet using fresh ingredients that I would eat myself. Afterall didn’t he deserve the same quality as we gave ourselves? I looked at the many alternatives from BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) to partially raw to fully cooked. One source of information (among many) which particularly resonated for me was Dr. Pitcairn’s book Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats (available from Amazon.ca here or Amazon.com here). I can strongly recommend having this book on hand. I have both the 3rd and 4th editions and although I don’t follow everything he recommends, I find them an invaluable resource. For me there was enough information in this book and together with what I learned from many websites I figured out the diet I felt was best for Leo, full of basic goodness and supporting his needs. A combination of bones, raw meat, & raw eggs, cooked or processed vegetables and some grains to add calories without increasing protein, an important aspect so as not to overload his kidneys. Making sure the balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates for him were critically important to me as well as ensuring he got the right vitamins and minerals.
Knowing what I wanted to feed him, I calculated the quantities to start with and put together a spreadsheet that did all the work for me calculating the number of calories, grams of fat and grams of protein based on the quantity of each food item and calculating the totals. This enabled me to compare meats, vegetables, fruits and carbohydrates and adjust quantities as needed to meet the totals he needed. Simple once it was all done! (For anyone wanting all the details please check out my post on Leo’s Loving Legacy blog here.)
But this was just a guide on quantities to feed him. I didn’t stress about us getting it perfect every day. I knew over the course of a week it would work out within a reasonably acceptable variance and his body would also tell me if he was getting too much or too little. If he had good energy and his body shape looked and felt good he was on the right amounts. Any variation from that and we needed to adjust something. In terms of his body looking and feeling good my guidelines were:
- Could I feel his ribs easily?
- Could I feel his spine easily?
- Did he have an hourglass shape when viewed from above? i.e. did he have a definite waistline?
If the answer to all three questions were yes and he had sufficient energy all day for all our activities, I was confident we were good and he was eating enough and not too much.
In all subsequent years of checkups his various vets always commented on how healthy he was physically and I definitely attribute it to his diet. He lived joyfully, full of love and energy right up to the end when his hips could no longer support him and his quality of life in getting around diminished. And when Trapper joined our family it was a no brainer to put him on this same diet. We’ve tweaked it a bit for his specific needs and he too enjoys a full and energetic life with people who meet us on walks often saying “oh he’s just a puppy” when in fact he’s a full grown adult at almost 5 years old! Partly his breed of course but we recently met another Golden of the same age who was slow, fat and looked worn out and down. His owner was very surprised to hear Trapper was the same age.
Our animal’s diet is so important and ensuring they are eating fresh, nutrient dense food with the appropriate amounts of calories made up of the right ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fats is critical to their overall health and well being. It can stave off many of the diseases so common in our furry family members and it has become a passion of mine to help any animals eat the best possible diet for their health. Just like their humans, animals are all unique Souls and have their own needs to consider when choosing what to feed them. One diet does not fit all.
And one budget does not fit all. While I aspire to feeding ourselves and our family the best and most nutritious food I can find, and avoid all pesticides and other things conventional farming uses that are detrimental to our health, my budget doesn’t always stretch that far and I accept that as ok and don’t beat myself up about it. The important thing is I keep trying, use my budget wisely and for the best of all of us whenever I can, focusing on fresh and preservative (and other chemicals) free.
Is your furry companion healthy or do you feel you want to do more to give them the vitality of life they so deserve? Are they overweight or underweight? Are they struggling with a health issue, allergies, skin/fur problems, digestive problems? I’d love to help you give your pet the best quality of life possible focusing on their needs and within your budget. I have helped family and friends evaluate their animal’s diet and make changes that improve their life. If you would like to have a diet wellness checkup please see our Products and Services page and select Animal Diet Review. I am here to support you in being the best pet parent you can be.
For vegetarians and vegans, if the idea of handling raw meat or even having it in your home is too much, please don’t despair. There is ongoing research into vegan diets for pets (both cats and dogs) that provide the same vitality and health benefits. Please reach out and ask. I understand and honour your perspective and am happy to help you.
With love always,