Well, now that I feel like I have my family's diet on track and humming along without too much stress and work, I thought I would tackle our dog's diet.
Suki, out 8 year old labradoodle is literally THE BEST DOG in the WORLD! No bad habits (we can't stand), the perfect size, non-shedding, friendly towards everyone (except squirrels)...just perfect. We love her dearly and would do anything for her, so I figure, even though she's been on a good dog food her whole life and seems healthy, I think we can do better.
Currently, Suki eats a high end food that still has brown rice, barley (darn - I thought it was gluten free), millet, rice bran, oatmeal, and canola oil. The other ingredients seem good plus lots of supplements. It's the diet we put her on as a puppy after she started getting lots of ear infections, and it seemed to clear those up so we stuck with it.
Suki isn't over weight, and seems healthy but she isn't very active around the house and she has pretty bad teeth (they need cleaning yearly) and she even lost a couple from cracking. She also pulled her back leg tendon a year ago and she occasionally re-injures it, so I've thought about a joint or fish oil supplement.
Good news - I can definitely do better, even if we don't switch to a full raw food diet. Given my time and energy to devote to changing her diet, I decided to start by finding a healthier dry food, can food, and to look at supplementing with raw food (maybe the pre-made kind, as well as leftovers and scraps from the kitchen).
Since we do not have young children who play in the yard where she poops, I'm not worried about bacteria contamination from a raw diet, but I've heard that can be an issue. When we first got Suki as a puppy, I considered a raw diet but decided not to pursue because our kids were young. I am also not going to feed her large bones because she has a propensity to chew too hard and crack her teeth.
I went to one of our local high end dog stores and looked at lots of healthy food and treat and supplement options. The employees there were super helpful but also non-judgemental, both about my choice of diet for my dog, but also about the foods they offer. In general, the store tries to only offer healthy options, but still, lots of them didn't meet my Paleo requirements of no grains, dairy or beans. We basically read ingredients and figured it out together. Luckily there were a couple options and three different raw food options (all pretty pricey).
I decided on Merrick Grain Free Buffalo and Sweet Potato dry food, Merrick Grain Free can food, Primal Formula for Dogs, Beef, raw food (in the freezer), and Grizzly Salmon oil supplement. I also picked up some chicken wings.
It's been about a week now since I introduced her new diet. I kind of mixed in her old dry food with the new one (about 1/4 old to 3/4 new) but in general, I decided to just switch over right away even if it gave her some loose stools.
So far, she has LOVED her new food - I really haven't seen her so excited about eating in years. She's eating more than usual, too. I think she's had a little tummy upset since she's been eating more grass and threw up once, but it may have also been too much fat on the chicken wing which I gave her a couple days in a row.
Her energy level has had the most dramatic change - she is much more energetic in the mornings and evenings, playing more and wanting to run outside and explore every time we open the door. This is in contrast to days when we could barely get her out of bed to go potty because she wanted to sleep in until 10 am or later. Instead of getting excited only if someone came over or we took her for a walk, she seems happy and excited all the time. Instead of seeming lazy and despondent, she is perky and playful - and this is only after one week!
My next goal is to ask around at all the places I shop for raw meats to supplement. Costco is the only one I asked so far and they use basically everything except fat and some bones. I plan to ask HEB, Whole Foods, Central Market, and a Grass-Fed butcher shop in the area.
Here are some of the websites I consulted about a Paleo dog diet and good raw foods to feed dogs:
And here's a list of dangerous foods for dogs:
As always, read with a critical eye anything you find on the Internet. I'm still doing my research and will definitely update this blog if anything proves false. I really came across a large variety of recommendations regarding dog diets and the efficacy of a raw diet vs. commercial one. I even found a reputable source which included raw meat and eggs on the dangerous foods for dogs list! Raw meats do have bacteria that wouldn't be safe for humans to digest but dogs have much stronger stomach acid and do not typically get sick from it, but people (and young kids) need to be safer around the feces of animals fed a raw diet than a non-raw one.