How It Started
From Little Acorns…..
When it came to feeding our fabulous new German Shepherd puppy, Marco, we wanted only the best. He’d come from great stock. His mother was a therapy dog, a rare thing for a Shepherd, and we’d spent a long time looking for just the right young pup to fit in with our lifestyle.
Like so many, we believed the marketing hype of the commercial dog food manufacturers. We opted for the same premium brand of dried dog biscuit (kibble) on which he’d been reared as a pup. Only when he started to develop a number of allergies did we seriously consider a change.
That’s when we first began to think that our best friend deserved something more than what was currently on offer in the way of food. We began thinking about how we could improve his rather bland diet. We also began to question what was in his kibble that might be causing his skin problems and be compelling him to constantly rub his nose on the ground as if trying to relieve an itch he couldn’t quite reach.
We took him to the vet. It’s what you do, isn’t it, when your young pup is ill and you’re worried sick. But several weeks, numerous tests and fourteen hundred pound later, we were no further forward. We decided it was unfair to continue putting such a young dog through test after test. The final straw came one night when our boy nearly didn’t come round after an anaesthetic.
Since environmental allergies had been ruled out as the cause of his discomfort, it seemed logical that the problem had to be food related. After all, weeks and weeks of exhaustive research had highlighted the fact that so many of the illness that befall our dogs today come about as a result of the chemicals used in commercial dog food.
While we were still trying to digest all that we’d learned and to find the best way forward, we switched to a wet food on the recommendation of his trainer. It was even more expensive than his kibble, which itself was not cheap, but at least it looked and smelled a little more like real food. Marco was a little better. Certain of his allergies seemed marginally less concerning. But he was still not as lively and as happy as we thought he should be, and he was still rubbing his face on the ground causing him to lose much of the hair on his muzzle and even making his nose bleed on occasion.
It was around this time that we began supplementing his premium brand wet – apparently ‘sensitive’ – food with lightly cooked fruit and vegetables, to which we added an increasing array of natural herbs and spices as we learned more and more about holistic health for dogs. Marco seemed to enjoy his new diet. Not only was he excited over food for the first time in his young life, his allergies improved. So much in fact that we were convinced we’d found the answer and within weeks we’d ditched the commercial dog food and began making homemade dog food for him full time!
From the outset, we felt it important that we used only ingredients inspected and approved for human consumption for Marco’s meals. As people, we like to know where our food has come from, for which reason we only buy the likes of our meat, fish, fruit and vegetables from local farm shops. We felt that Marco deserved the same consideration. We regularly walk through and around fields owned by our local farm shops, fields where they are raising their own animals for later sale. It’s tremendously satisfying seeing that they have good lives, are well looked after, and, when their time comes, will not have far to travel to land on our plates. Ours or Marco’s!
We could also see no reason why Marco’s food – or any dog’s food for that matter – should not look, taste and smell just as good as the food that we ate. Speaking to friends with dogs, it became evident that a major point of concern was that they could not recognise the ingredients in the food they were feeding their dogs. How can anyone be certain they’re doing their best for their best friends when they can’t recognise the food they’re putting in front of them? So we made Marco’s meals in our own kitchen alongside our own meals. And, importantly, we also tried them ourselves. Aside from the fact that every ingredient was inspected and approved for human consumption, how else were we going to know exactly how Marco’s meals tasted?
As time went on and we did more research, we learned that dogs can actually enjoy and benefit from a huge range of fruits, vegetables and grains as well as their more traditional protein. We researched, we experimented, Marco enjoyed, so we added new things to his diet and created more and more meals. Marco became more interested in food, he became healthier, livelier, fitter, and his allergies disappeared. Far from suffering as a result of the variety of foods he was being offered which is what the commercial dog food manufacturers will tell you will happen, he actually thrived on it!
At the same time as we were experimenting with Marco’s meals, we were learning more and more about the difference between his and our digestive systems. Dogs have shorter digestive tracts for one thing. Because of that, they are unable to access all the nutrients in the likes of vegetables when the vegetables are in their raw state. He actually preferred his veggies cooked in any case so that wasn’t an issue.
We also learned that dogs have need of certain nutrients that they can’t provide for themselves. For example, they cannot themselves produce all the amino acids they require. As humans, our bodies create all the amino acids we need for survival. Dogs are not so lucky. Ten vitally important amino acids have to come from their food so we had to allow for those in the meals we created.
Similarly, dogs need more calcium than do we humans. Many dogs are lactose intolerant so, by and large, milk is not good for our canine friends. We had to look for another solution. For this we turned to nature – something you’ll find we’ve done rather a lot in creating our recipes. We keep our own free range chickens. They provide the eggs we use in some of our recipes. Eggs come in shells, shells which just happen to be the best natural source of calcium after raw meaty bones. So we keep them, wash them, bake and grind them to add calcium to Marco’s meals. Now we sell our essential Eggshell Powder so other dogs can benefit from it too. As far as we know, we’re the only ones in the UK who make it, although we believe some might be available in China!
All in all, it’s been a steep learning curve, but an enjoyable one. And the one who’s enjoyed it more than anyone is the one we set out to make happy in the first place – our best friend, Marco. The one who rewards us every day with his love, his loyalty, his zest for life, and now, the enthusiasm with which he looks forward to meal times.
If you are one of the millions of people concerned about the way you’re feeding your dog, please join us and let’s make the lives of all our dogs happier, healthier, and, just importantly, much, much longer by feeding them healthy homemade food. It worked for Marco. He hasn’t been near a vet for five years. We even manage his worming and flea treatments holistically. It can work for your dog too!
The Canine Nutritionist
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