It's become commonplace to feed dogs the same food for years on end. Unsurprisingly, dogs are becoming intolerant to certain food types and there is growing evidence that Adverse Food Reaction (AFR) or Food Intolerance is on the rise.
This is particularly true in the case of chicken, as it's practically the only protein modern dogs ever get their jaws around. I used to feed my Labradors the same brand of kibble for years, changing occasionally to another brand in my quest to find either a more cost effective way to feed them or maybe some of the boys would not be maintaining condition so maybe it was the food or I was dissatisfied with the poo consistency, thinking something has to change. But I just went back to the same brand of kibble and the same formula, until I started feeding them a RAW meat diet.
Although, a food intolerance or AFR rarely leads to a full blown allergy, it can cause chronic itchy and dry skin, flea allergic dermatitis, inconsistent stools, and colitis. When these conditions persist they compromise the dog's immune system and then wear them down. Not to mention causing the owner worry and incurring a small fortune in treatments.
Thankfully, they're the kind of problems that can be easily cleared up with a varied diet...
Not sure whether to feed Stavordale RAW meat working dog food to your dog? There is an awful lot of information and misinformation out there as far as raw feeding goes. Myths abound and one of the most persistent ones is the one about chicken bones.
...but I've always been told not to feed chicken bones to dogs, they might splinter and perforate the stomach...!
The origin of this myth can probably be found back in the time when old laying hens were converted to soup. They were around 3 years old and had quite solid, brittle bones which, after cooking - yes, you've guessed- splintered.
First and foremost: do not feed cooked bones. Ever. They are not digestible and can and do cause problems.
Second: chickens now are around 8-10 weeks old at slaughter. The bones are still very soft and pliable and full of red marrow. They will not splinter dangerously and are fully digestible in the canine alimentary tract when fed RAW and not cooked.
Next myth, also common: I can't feed my dog raw meat, he will start eating the bird instead of retrieving it.
If you can teach your gundog fairly complicated chains of command, you will be able to get him to distinguish between work and feeding times. Raw feeding does not mean you present the dog with a fully feathered or furred carcass - they are quite capable of making the distinction, certainly with training.
What about the balanced diet, I hear you cry.
Pause for a moment and think how you devise your own and your children's diet: there is absolutely no need to have the perfect balance of nutrients each and every day; as long as you feed a varied diet that balances out over the course of a couple of weeks or even a month, the body will cope and cope well.
All you need to do is feed them a different kind of meat at least 4 times a fortnight, incorporate some oily fish like mackerel and make sure they get some offal, be it liver, kidney, heart or tripe. I know, I know, tripe smells indescribably bad, that's why I feed my own dog outside. Always. No exceptions.
Vegetables? If you want, yes. Small quantities, preferably green and leafy minced or pulped to break up the fibre as much as possible enabling the dog to extract nutrients more easily - they do not have the ability to break fibre down slowly.
Don't be afraid of a high fat content - it is a much better source of energy than carbohydrates, especially for the hard working dog.
The icing on the cake is some proper bone to chew on. You will be amazed how clean the teeth stay with a weekly chunk of lamb neck. Introduce bone gradually, starting with soft bones like lamb ribs and you won't get a dog that breaks his teeth on a big marrow bone because he has not learned to gauge how much pressure he can apply safely.
Next time: Why carbohydrates are not suitable for canine diets.