What Silas Learned At Thanksgiving

A substantial portion of Silas’s diet is raw turkey. So, obviously, this time of year I stock up. This year I was efficient, determined not to suffer from last year’s problem, where I had whole turkeys taking up my valuable freezer space all year. Plus, the ones I bought on Sunday were alarmingly defrosted already, so refreezing them seemed silly. That means I spent all afternoon yesterday jointing turkeys. Yay.

I turn the turkey bones that Silas can’t eat raw into very basic broth, which I mix with his dried food. In the past I’ve just left the little cooked meat scraps that result from this process in the broth, so he gets a bite or two per rehydrated meal. As far as I can tell, he’s never noticed them one way or the other.

Last night, I taking the broth off the stove when Silas walked by, sniffing the air. I knew he hadn’t eaten a lot yesterday, so I fished him out a little cooked bite of turkey and handed it to him.

Silas: WHY DID YOU NOT TELL ME YOU COULD COOK IT? THIS IS AMAZING.

Oops.

 

In the dog food debate, I’m a hopeless moderate

Can I confess something?

I don’t like reading internet discussions about dog food.

I feed Silas mostly raw. I’m not the most diehard advocate for the cause, but I see the benefits. I agree that it can be a miracle for dogs with food allergies, which is why we do it. I enjoy being (mostly) in control of my dog’s diet. But I think raw feeding attracts a lot of very intense, very controlling people. And those people tend to butt in everywhere, even when they aren’t wanted. “What kind of kibble should I feed?” “Kibble is poison! Why did you even get a dog?!” I don’t like to watch it.

When we first switched to raw, I spent a lot of time looking for the “perfect” nutritional supplement and mix of foods to make his diet (you guessed it) “perfect.” I worried about the fact that one expert wanted X amount of vitamin E and another felt that Y was better.  I doodled little lists. I was in charge, dammit, and I was going to be great at this.

When our food allergy diet was finally far enough along for me to start adding in supplements, I tried a few. This is when I got hit by the ugly fact:

Silas is not going to eat that stuff.

There was a brief, shining moment where it looked like he might (finally) be okay with one multivitamin, and then that, too, fell flat. Salmon oil is the only thing he will take consistently.

At the same time, I’ve had to accept that we have a moderate but very real food availability problem. I am blessed with a year-round source of at least some turkey parts, including heart and liver. I can get pork, if I’m willing to pay for it (nobody in my house is eating factory-farmed pork unless it’s a serious emergency), but not organs. Venison is similar–for a price I can get plain ground, with or without bone, but no organs unless I wheedle them out of hunting family members.

Because we rotate proteins, this lack of liver is worrisome. I add slightly more during the times Silas is eating turkey, but too much liver at once is hard to digest. I couldn’t quite balance it out. This combination of fewer nutrient-rich organs and an inability to give supplements drove me back to (gasp! shock! horror!) feeding Silas some commercial dog food including (gasp! shock! horror!) one with grains. I don’t know that my mixed bag of foods will really save me from long-term nutritional issues, but it’s the best I can do.*

The long and the short of it is, though, that Silas’s allergies are inconvenient but apparently limited to proteins. I can’t see any clear reason why I shouldn’t let some commercial food into his diet.

And that’s why I don’t like listening to people go on and on about their elaborate supplement regimens and the twelve hours a month they spend pre-packaging ideally blended meals to put in the deep freezer. I just don’t see the benefit, except for the extreme minority of dogs who have more extensive allergies than Silas does. Neither the science nor my own experiences with a delicate flower of a dog support the hysteria.


*This is not to say that Silas’s diet is anything wild. I find it vaguely hilarious that I am half-expecting to get scolded for what is, in fact, still a very solid raw diet. On a typical day, he has Honest Kitchen (either Keen or Preference)+ground meat for breakfast, with some kind of plain bone-in meat at dinner. (Venison is ground+mix for both meals.) Once or twice a week he gets canned or freeze-dried food. There are actually a few kibbles out there now that Silas isn’t allergic to, but after all this time away he doesn’t seem to digest them very well in large amounts.

Our Favorite Treats

Last week I talked about tug toys. But what about cookies!? We use play as a big training reward, but we also use a lot of cookies.

For a long time, I’ve been in allergy dog treat mode. That is, if I read the label and Silas can actually eat it, I buy it. Finally I decided that enough is enough. I’m tired of going all over town to buy Silas’s treats. I’m tired of always feeling like we’re running out of treats, because there are five open bags with two cookies left in each one. So, I’ve started keeping bulk quantities of his favorites. I keep a large variety of treats because 1) I can and 2) I need to match any protein-based treat to Silas’s rotational diet.

In reality, we use two kinds of cookies. I like training treats to be extremely small. A wise dog trainer once told me that dogs do not care how big the bite is; they care how many they get. Also, a fast-paced training session could easily use up the majority of Silas’s daily calorie allotment if I’m using big treats. That’s why so many people use their dog’s kibble to train, but that isn’t really a luxury we have. Because tiny training cookies are more of a “gulp and move on” item, I also keep some bigger snack-sized cookies. Silas gets a snack cookie when we leave him home alone, and he usually gets a few snack cookies around 5:00. His stomach seems a little better if he gets some “filler” in the afternoon.

These are what I’m keeping on hand right now:

Silas's favorite dog treats. Honest Kitchen, Ziwipeak, Cloudstar, Orijen, Smiling Dog

Small Training Cookies: 

Honest Kitchen Quickies.

Cloud Star Itty Bitty Buddy Biscuits, Peanut Butter or Cheese & Bacon flavors. (I break these in half for training.) These are not grain free, but Silas doesn’t seem to have a problem with grains.

Silas-approved kibble, usually something I’ve gotten as a sample-sized bag. Fromm Pork and Peas, Zignature Turkey (not pictured), or Pure Vita Turkey. Because Silas doesn’t get kibble, he thinks it’s pretty good stuff.

Ziwipeak Daily Dog Venison and Fish. Doubles as higher-value training treats and the occasional backup meal.

I also dehydrate turkey liver and turkey heart into small training treats. (not pictured)

Snack-Sized Cookies: 

Primal Venison Lung Puffs.

Cloud Star Grain Free Original Buddy Biscuits, Peanut Butter or Cheddar flavor.

Honest Kitchen Beams. (not pictured)

In Betweeners: 

Orijen Wild Boar freeze dried treats. These can be broken up in a limited way for training treats, but mostly I use them for tempting Silas to eat when he’s in one of his phases or for delivering tablet-style medications.

Smiling Dog Freeze Dried Pork treats are really high value for Silas. They are simultaneously too large and too apt to reduce themselves to dust, but I keep them for special situations, like training at the park.

 

What are the best treats at your house? How many do you keep on hand?

Kong Time

In the infancy of the blog I published a recipe for Kong filling that I still really like. However, these days I’m a lot lazier less concerned about the finer points of dog nutrition.

My Kong recipe has settled down to something of a halfway point between the two options I mentioned there.

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This is a very unscientific process:
1 can pumpkin
a few dollops of plain yogurt
A spoonful of peanut butter
A drizzle of molasses (Silas doesn’t like too much, but he likes some.)
A handful of frozen raspberries. I particularly like them, because they break up as you stir. If you’re using bigger fruit, you might want to puree or chop it.

Stir together, scoop into Kongs.

I gave away my 6-hole muffin tin in a fit of downsizing, so I’ve had to adopt this bread pan instead:

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I probably should have washed the frozen bits of Kong filling off before I photographed it. Keeping it real.

Some of these are obviously not Kongs. The blobby orange one is a West Paw Tux. I really love the Tux for freezing, but it’s quite easy to empty non-frozen. The long orange one is a Bionic Urban Stick. It’s a great sturdy option, but difficult to wash. Don’t pack tightly is my advice. You can see in my bottom picture that I put a cookie in before the filling.

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Freeze.

(I could swear I published a version of this already. I can’t find it, so I’m doing it again.)

Product Review: I and Love and You Super Power Powder

What a product name!

A few months back my local Whole Foods picked up the I and Love and You product line. As one does, I cruised through all of their offerings, which include a variety of supplements, remedies, and food. They only have a few things Silas can eat, and I’ve been slowly trying the most appealing of them.

We started with their Salmon Sauce, which is a pretty typical salmon oil supplement. Even though Silas is allergic to salmon, salmon oil seems to help more with his itchiness than any of the other fish oils. We’ve now officially switched to this one from our old pump-top bottle, because the dispenser is the only 100% mess free fish oil we’ve used. Not one drip!

I had initially bypassed their daily supplement. It’s a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none kind of mix. It has some glucosamine and chondroitin. It has some digestive enzymes. It has some vitamins. It has some micronutrients. It doesn’t have a lot of any of those things, though. To pull a random example, the product has 150mg of glucosamine in two teaspoons, which is the recommended serving for a 50-100 pound dog. I’ve seen glucosamine recommendations as high as 1000mg for a dog that size. Another example at random: Super Power Powder has 7.5 IU of vitamin E. Mary Straus at Dog Aware suggests 1-2 IU of vitamine E per pound for dogs who eat raw diets.

To be fair, I and Love and You does not market this food as a supplement to homemade raw diets. Their copy quite clearly states that they’re hoping to compensate for the natural loss of nutrients as prepared food is cooked and stored. Adding 100% of the RDA for all the key vitamins on top of a prepared food that is intended to be nutritionally complete would be too much. This same premise that makes it safe for kibble-feeders makes it a less than perfect vitamin for people who feed homemade raw.

Even though the vitamin amounts are not ideal for our needs, this supplement absolutely wins where it counts:

Silas will eat it.

The I and Love and You vitamin powder stinks (literally). But apparently one of the things it stinks of is its natural peanut butter flavor. After his initial new-food skepticism, Silas has been eating it just fine. (Although, writing this review, I’ve realized that we still aren’t up to the full daily amount.)

We have rejected a lot of vitamins over the years. The Pet-Tabs the vet prescribed when he was a puppy have failed several lead contamination tests. Ian Billinghurst’s E-Barf Plus seems to bother Silas’s stomach, even though Silas didn’t mind the taste. It also doesn’t list vitamin quantities one way or another. Silas would rather starve than eat the Animal Essentials Herbal Multi-Vitamin I bought after I exhaustively researched the most perfect supplement Silas could eat. The nice, basic-but-solid blend from B-Naturals has chicken liver, as do many of the others on the market. We used a powdered greens mix for a while, but Silas wasn’t wild about it. Many raw-feeders recommend using a human multivitamin, but Silas is too small.

The bottom line: we’re happily accepting that a less-than-ideal supplement is better than none at all. Since Silas does eat some prepared “complete and balanced” food, I’m comfortable with the compromise.

 

Fine print: I bought this myself.

 

Food Review: Ziwipeak Daily Dog

We know now that one of Silas’s safe foods is venison. The problem with venison is that it’s not the easiest thing to come by, which is what motivated me to post yesterday’s list. I can’t cobble together enough components to make a complete raw venison diet in-house, and what raw venison I can get is so expensive that I might as well buy pre-made foods and save the hassle.

My go-tos for prepared raw food are always Primal and Stella and Chewy’s. Now that Silas can eat venison, there’s also Ziwipeak.

The first thing I bought by Ziwipeak was their venison treats. These are handy little flakes of dried venison, and Silas loves them. One day I did the math, though, and realized that the Ziwipeak Air-Dried Venison food was the same texture and probably the same taste, but much cheaper per ounce. (For my allergy peeps: do note that while Ziwipeak’s jerky treats are pure venison, the food also contains green-lipped mussel.)

Then we went on vacation. Prepared food is the easiest thing to travel with, so I grabbed all his venison foods. In a total rookie move, though, I grabbed the nearly-empty bag of Stella and Chewy’s instead of the full one, AND the bag of frozen Primal turned out to be almost empty. Fortunately the Ziwipeak was almost brand new. With a dog like Silas you do NOT do trial-by-fire with new food, but we didn’t have much choice.

Fortunately, Ziwipeak saved the day.

I first realized its magic while we were still driving. We were still driving at dinner time. I scooped out his scoop of Ziwipeak, and he dove in nose-first and ate it straight from the measuring cup while sitting in a moving car. He also ate every bite when my husband and I left him with my parents over night, which is unusual. Remember, this is my dog who doesn’t really like food, especially not when he’s stressed.

Travel, in my opinion, is where this food really shines. It’s apparently delicious, and it’s basically like feeding kibble. Scoop, dish, go. Unlike regular raw food, or even the frozen stuff, I would have no qualms at all leaving this food with a dog in boarding, with a house sitter, etc.

There are a few drawbacks. First, this food stinks. When you open the bag, you get a blast of really strong meaty smell, like sticking your head inside a bag of beef jerky. I don’t think it’s terrible, just strong. My mother said she almost gagged. It also seems a little hard for Silas to digest. Visibly everything was okay, but let’s just say that he was not the most pleasant companion for the 12 hour drive back home. I think our next bag will be the venison and fish. Maybe since it’s a white fish it will make the food a little easier on him to process.

Another downside is the price. Venison is expensive. According to our package, the 2.2 lb bag would last Silas, weighing in at 32 pounds, a week, and it costs (brace yourself) between $32 and $39, depending on your source. For venison, this is definitely within the range of average, which is why Silas only eats venison one week out of five. Still, if your dog doesn’t need exotic proteins, I can’t imagine that being appealing. If you do need a pure-convenience, no-refrigeration-required venison food, Ziwipeak is actually a good bit cheaper than Stella and Chewy’s Freeze Dried.

The Ziwipeak Daily Dog food comes in Beef, Lamb, Venison, and Venison & Fish flavors. Beef and Lamb are somewhat cheaper.

 

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Fine print: I bought this my own self, but I wish someone had given it to me.

Venison

From time to time I do an allergy-friendly food roundup here, mostly as a way to keep track of things for myself. Here’s what I found when I was scoping out venison foods for Silas. I’ve made some notes about ingredients that may be dodgy, but if you’re interested in this I’m sure you’re already a compulsive label reader. Silas’s allergies are exclusively protein, as far as I can tell, so I may have missed something. Please note that these foods vary wildly in quality and in price. I’ve tried to be pretty thorough, but I’m sure something escaped me. That’s especially true of the treats, where I just put things that jumped out at me. If you know a single-protein venison food that isn’t on the list, please let me know.

Kibble
Natural Balance L.I.D. Sweet Potato and Venison (note, this one contains “natural flavor,” which has bitten me in the rear before.)
California Naturals Grain-Free Venison Meal Formula
California Natural Grain-Free Venison & Green Lentils
Pioneer Naturals Grain & Potato Free Venison
Pioneer Naturals Venison (brown rice, barley)

Canned
Natural Balance L.I.D. Sweet Potato and Venison (contains salmon oil)
Wellness Complete Health Venison and Sweet Potato Canned (barley)
EVO 95% Venison Canned (herring oil, natural flavors)
Canine Caviar 95% Venison (This does not appear to be a complete diet.)
ZiwiPeak Daily-Dog Cuisine Venison Canned Dog Food (green-lipped mussel)
PetKind That’s It! Venison (Interesting–venison and quinoa.)
Addiction New Zealand Venison & Apples Entree Canned
Addiction Hunter’s Venison Stew. (contains “liver;” I’d e-mail their customer service before I fed it.)

Raw, Dehydrated, Freeze Dried, etc
Stella and Chewy’s Simply Venison Freeze Dried
Stella and Chewy’s Simply Venison Frozen
ZiwiPeak Daily Dog Venison (green lipped mussel)–review forthcoming
Grandma Lucy’s Artisan Grain-Free Venison Freeze-Dried Dog Food
Addiction Grain-Free Fig’Licious Venison Feast Dehydrated
Addiction Homestyle Venison & Cranberry Dehydrated (oats)
Primal Canine Venison Frozen
K9 Natural Venison Freeze-Dried (egg, green-lipped mussel)

I’ll also mention my “as cheap as it’s going to get” workaround, for those of you more experienced with raw food, which is to mix Blue Ridge Beef’s Ground Venison with Bone into Honest Kitchen’s Preference. Or, for that matter, so serve it plain (as part of an overall balanced raw diet)–the Preference just bulks it up a little.

Treats
Natural Balance Sweet Potato and Venison (this appears to be a very nominal amount of venison.)
Wellness Pure Rewards Venison Jerky
Ziwipeak Good Dog Venison Jerky
Bravo! Bonus Bites Venison Liver
Nature’s Recipe Venison Recipe Oven Baked Chewy Dog Treats
Primal Venison Lung Puffs
Addiction Meaty Bites Venison Dog Treats
Whole Life Pure Venison Freeze-Dried Dog Treats
Chasing Our Tails Venison & Sweet Potato

Honorable mention goes to Addiction’s Viva La Venison kibble. It does contain chicken fat, but they swear it’s protein free. Silas has historically been okay with chicken fat from reputable companies. Since it’s the best quality of the kibbles and easily available, I’d personally risk it if I really NEEDED a kibble.

First place on the walk of shame goes to Nature’s Variety, who puts one or more additional proteins in every venison food they make, including their frozen raw.