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By Matt Stone

In the comments on a recent post the topic of dog nutrition surfaced. Several people mentioned switching their dogs to new diets or even applying my methods of “rest and refeeding” to a sick pet. TW writes…

When I came home from college my dog was really sick and frail with obvious signs of Cushing’s. She had lost a ton of weight, collapsed often, peed in the house, was losing her hair, etc. She is a 17 year old beagle-Rottweiler mix so I figured it was just old age. She wouldn’t eat her dog food anymore. I decided to feed her some freezer burnt hamburger. She ate ?people food? just fine. It has been a few months since I started feeding her chicken, hamburger, expensive moist dog food and graham crackers. She is spoiled I know. It is like she went back in time 10 years. Her hair is growing back, her bladder control is back to normal, she has plenty of energy and is able to run again. She still has a bit of arthritis but rarely collapses these days. She is a completely different animal. If refeeding reverse-aged my dog it certainly could do the same for my grandmother. Calories really are wonderful.

Nira writes…

I did?[rest and refeeding]?with my dog almost 9 months ago. She had arthritis and a bladder infection that would not clear up. She got a little pudgy, but has started to slim down on her own. I actually have to give her organ meat or some fat to get her appetite going now, or else she won’t eat and her stomach makes terrible noises. Her coat looks amazing, her arthritis is gone and the infection cleared up.

I have had my own?experiences here as well with a dog I babysat for a couple weeks several years ago. He was practically on his deathbed when he arrived, and was hyper and wagging with a huge increase in mobility by the time the owner returned, who was convinced that his dog might die while gone. They went on and on about how?frisky and silky-shiny the old pooch was for quite some time. I fed him at least double if not’triple the amount of calories they suggestedI feed him, although I was very much into high-fat nutrition at the time, and I?was lucky I didn’t give’the thing pancreatitis with the whole sticks of butter I put in his doggie dish.

Canine nutrition is just as much up for debate as human nutrition. Nobody really knows for sure and everybody has their own firm, hardheaded beliefs. If I currently had a dog, or a sick dog in my care, this is what I would do considering all the factors…

  1. I would stress function first, and be flexible in my feeding practices. A dog should have energy, be able to self-regulate its food intake, be warm and energetic, have normal bowel movements and yellow urine, white, clean teeth and very pink tongue and gums, a shiny, soft coat, no noticeable health problems, and so on. In other words, I would assess’the dog’s health carefully to see the results of?its nutrition and lifestyle and make revisions when necessary.
  2. I would give it unadulterated access to its food, allowing the dog’s biological mechanisms’to regulate food intake rather than the clock or a measuring cup. Same with water of course.
  3. I would give the dog a variety of foods – not just the same thing over and over again. This stimulates?a healthy appetite and metabolism?and also lessens a dog’s desire to binge on anything it can find that is NOT its dog food. Can you imagine how good pizza would taste, and how much of it you would eat if you were forced to eat nothing but dry cereal out of box every day for years on end?? And how crappy and inflexible your digestive tract would be”
  4. I would feed it?a diet with very little linoleic acid or arachidonic acid. This means no corn oil or soy oil (and thus very little commercial dog food), but instead feeding butter, ghee,?coconut oil, and tallow from beef and lamb. This means no pork, poultry, or commercial eggs?-?instead I would give it mostly?beef, lamb, and game. That is even more important when it comes to feeding organ meats, as organ meats from pigs and chickens?are often the richest sources of arachidonic acid. And I wouldn’t give it any fish oil either, or very little if I did in the form of vitamin-rich?cod liver oil.
  5. I would give it raw bones and very tough meats, hides, ears, feet, and skin?for gelatin, marrow, minerals,?and to have something hard to chew on – important for’teeth.
  6. I would give it?well-cooked rice and a few vegetables.
  7. I wouldn’t give it too much protein, but give it more “fuels” from carbohydrates and fats. Any meat it did receive would be more energy-dense,?fattier cuts of meat. 30% protein by percentage of calories’seems to be a pretty good?amount. I?often?look to the milk?of certain species?for clues. Human milk is about 6-7% protein?whereas canine milk is 31% protein. That says a lot.

In terms of lifestyle, it wouldn’t even know what it looks like inside of a house. It would sleep outdoors on the ground in an area with overhead protection?with maybe some wood chips or hay to soften the bed. I would take that thing hiking unleashed in remote areas?and on as many adventures as possible to give it the appropriate amount of stimulation. Ideally it would have a little 4-legged buddy to play with too.

That’s 180D Doggy-Style.

For more interesting canine commentary, read the old post Pets and Western Disease.