Why Make Your Own Pet Food?
This is Kodiak, my 6 year old husky mix. He was born on January 12, 2006, six months after I found out I had Celiac. Our choice for dog food when he was a puppy? Eukanuba. It was a premium dog food highly recommended by our vet but of course, one of the main ingredients in the formula back then was wheat. I didn't think twice about the possibility of my own cross contamination - I was told to get it for him by an extremely reputable vet, so I got it for him.
Kodiak was so incredibly easy - the best way to describe his personality was aloof. He would go to doggy day care and seem to have a blast with all of his canine friends but at home, he was just kind of - ehhhh! Looking back on it, why would we want a family pet who was just aloof? He was easy enough except for those occasional times when he would get out of the house and run for hours (he is a husky and we think greyhound - what do you expect?) Starting fairly soon after we got him, I had to take Kodiak to the veterinarian every couple of months for what seemed extremely random issues. He started to get black dry itchy patches all over his skin. He caught every virus that went through the kennel including viral warts in his mouth. He would get bladder and kidney infections very frequently. And then, he started having unexplained episodes where he would hide in a dark corner of the closet and shake. Those symptoms seemed to get more frequent and turned very scary. We found out later that he was having seizures. Soon, poor Kodiak was being pumped up with tons of medications and slathered with creams and ointments. Sound familiar?
This is my baby girl, Keona, born on September 13,2007. We got her to keep Kodiak company while we were away but she has become my doggy soul mate. Though my husband and I had dogs while growing up, Keona showed us how a true family dog was supposed to act. I understand that all dogs have different personalities and huskys have a tendancy of being on the aloof side, but we soon started to realize that Kodiak's disposition was well, rather odd. Even the girls at doggy day care made comments.
I decided to take Kodiak to a holistic vet who preformed acupuncture on him - she never explained why and charged me ton - but nothing she did helped. All of the meds and salves from the other vet seemed to do nothing. I calculated the amount of money I had been spending on vet bills and meds and almost passed out. Kodiak's symptoms continued to get worse and I was paying a heck of a lot of money on a lot of things that just didn't work. By this time, I was doing research in regards to my own health and my son's focus issues, so I started to research Kodiak's symptoms against humans with the same symptoms. Of course, one of the major flags that popped up was - Gluten Sensitivity. I then found tons of information about gluten sensitivity and soon grain sensitivity in both cats and dogs. I met the owner of a holistic pet food store who helped me tremendously. I purchased the most expensive, grain free food I could find. It became my mission to get Kodiak healthy and amazingly, there was an dramatic difference. Though his rashes did not immediately go away (they actually took several years to completely go away) they stopped getting worse. Kodiak's seizures started to lessen and when he would have them, they wouldn't be so scary. (I don't even remember when he had his last seizure) And then, one day, Kodiak walked up to me and gave me a huge, slobbery kiss right on the mouth. That had never happened before. He had never given me a kiss or truly acknowledged my existance besides being the person who fed him, walked him and took him to doggy day care. The moment reminded me of when you have a new born baby who does nothing but eat, poop and vomit and then, one day, around three months old, their eyes really focus on your face for the first time and they smile. A couple of weeks later, my mom came over, and Kodiak stood up on his hind legs, placed his paws on her chest and just looked at her. I think he had always really liked her but was never able to really see her. You could tell he was happy to see her. Today, Kodiak's disposition is still to be aloof a good part of the day but now, he lets us know that we are "his" humans. He loves us and he has become much more lovable.
Unfortunately, Kodiak's bladder and kidney infections continued. By then, I was working at the health food store and knew of some products to give him. Pau d' arco, uva ursi and good quality probiotics quickly fixed him right up. Since the day I started giving my dogs grain free food which was about four years ago (I went through several different brands before I finally found the perfect and most cost effective dry brand for my dogs - Earthborn) we have not had to go to the vet for any health related issues. My dogs are in excellent health - shiny coats, good tempers and only have tummy issues if they get cross contaminated or when they used to sneak the cat food. Oh, and yes, my cat is also grain free.
So, back to the question - Why make your pet's food?
- It is so much less expensive to make the food myself. With the type of wet food I feed my dogs, I was spending over $3 per can per day, not including the cost of the dry food. Now, my total comes out to about $2 per day.
- Even in the healthy and holistic wet foods, there are negative ingredients that I wanted to stay away from especially since Kodiak already has a history with bad kidneys. Carrageenan is one of the worst ingredients you can feed anyone and yet it's in most holistic pet foods.
- Keona is a labrador retriever and like most labradors has a tendency of getting very yeasty - which accounts for the bad odor, the yucky ears and the ability to get really fat. I want to be able to monitor the amount of starchy root vegetables that go into her food. Most pet foods are loaded with potatoes, sweet potatoes or tapioca in order to keep the cost down which raises the yeast count.
- Cats really shouldn't eat starchy foods and the only way to buy cat food without starch is to spend a ton of money - not at all good on your wallet.
- I was adding so much stuff to the canned products as it was. I do not use chemical flea and tick control on my dogs - instead, I put garlic in their food and it was a pain chopping up a tiny bit of garlic every day to put in their dinner (I do not give garlic to the cat). Since adding garlic to their daily diets, I have not had one issue with fleas or ticks and we live in Florida. I also add chlorophyll, grapefruit seed extract, probiotics and sometimes fish oil. I'll explain why later.
- I know the exact source of vitamins and minerals that are in the pet food. Unfortunately, if you get vitamins and minerals from a bad source (I hate anything that is a carbonate) you have the probability of creating worse issues for your pets (and even for yourself) than what you intended.
- Cans can be lined with BPA.
This is Jojo - our twelve year old rescue kitty. Unfortunately, he isn't doing very well right now. First, he was having kidney issues - he lost a lot of weight and started losing his hair. It took me longer to decided to make him completely grain free- though he's been wheat and corn free for years. After giving him chlorophyll, uva ursi and pau d' arco for his kidneys and after completely taking him off of dry food, he has gained some weight back and his bald patches are growing in. Now, he has to deal with wheezing, coughing and sneezing. We think he is asthmatic. When he eats, I hurt for him because it is so hard for him to get air down to his lungs. Eleven years of grain food has really affected him. I took him to the vet two months ago with no positive results. I will take him to another next week to see if there is any possibility of getting him some relief.
Guido - My Lego Kitty - died over a year ago from throat and jaw cancer. We got him in 2000 when he was already a year old and in extremely bad shape. He was filled with ear mites and mange and for a one year old, he already had horrible breath and teeth. Like me, all of his symptoms were visible, we just didn't know what they meant. I question whether or not the vaccines were the partial cause of the cancer.
My parents' cat, Mr. Fritz, died a couple of years before Guido from throat and tongue cancer. I worry that Jojo might be on the same track.