A Likely Lass

probably nothing of consequence

Corn isn’t food for dogs

Back in 2007, I was feeding my dog Purina Dog Chow. Being a fairly average consumer and half-broke to begin with, I didn’t research much into what I was giving my dog. I figured Purina was good enough for lots of dogs, and it would be fine for mine – especially considering she often received plenty of table-scraps and other supplemental ‘human-foods’.

(Picture of the silly dog)

One night, she had a seizure. And then another. And another. I rushed her to the emergency vet only to find out that she was dehydrated and her bilirubin count was through the roof. Her kidneys had low function. I was able to take her home that day, but for the next year, it was a constant touch-and-go with her symptoms. I became a sometimes thrice-monthly face at the vet’s office (and a huge thank-you to Powhatan Animal Hospital, who not only would get us in for very-last-minute appointments, but also helped keep her comfortable in her last year). Sometimes, treatment would help, sometimes it wouldn’t. A year and some later, the vets helped me make a difficult decision as my dog was wasting away, and she passed away on April 2nd, 2009.

I have no idea what exactly happened to her. She was a purebred chow, and chows have a tendency to develop renal failure. However, it was three days after I had opened up a new bag of Purina Dog Chow that she got sick, and shortly thereafter, another major recall of Purina was announced. I don’t know that it was Purina that caused her illness, or if it was hereditary, or if it was environmental. Certainly her health problems were compounded by other issues later on.

It shocked me that a dog – even of slightly-advanced age, she was 10 at the time – that had a previous blood-test a few months prior that came back fine – would become sick so quickly. Without having any other true place to begin, I began to research what was actually in dog food.

To my surprise? Hooves and intestines of slaughtered animals, grains considered unfit for human consumption, rice byproducts, sugar beet byproducts, organs of slaughtered animals that appear diseased … among other things, all appear in dog food. There are also the numerous reports of animal cruelty associated with “testing” new products at major pet food manufacturers. The more I read about it, the more disgusted I became.

I adopted a dog about six months after my chow had become sick and started feeding both a different diet. I switched around to various brands, read more about pet nutrition (more complex than I originally thought), coped with the new dog’s tendency to vomit up everything he ate. For him, we finally settled on Bil Jac, and then later after the Bil Jac was causing him to gain weight, Blue Wilderness.

After I adopted Bean, about a year after Rollo had passed away, I began making them a home-made diet adapted from Dr. Pitcairn’s Guide to Natural Health for Cats and Dogs, eventually settling on a mix of high-quality dog food and supplemental human-grade food, which they get now.

Choosing your dog’s food isn’t easy if you put thought into their nutrition, nor is it inexpensive. Let’s be honest – good quality dog food is expensive, especially if you have a large breed, and can be labor intensive if you choose to supplement human-grade food or make your own food. But the payoff is enormous – both in decreased vet bills and increased vitality for the dog. I remember tallying up the vet bills after Rollo’s death, and coming up with a $5k figure – a huge amount to someone with my salary. I don’t regret a penny of it, but did wish I had been more conscious of her nutrition before she got sick.

But too, let’s face the facts about commercial dog food: it’s mostly made of corn. Think about what happens after you eat corn – do you actually digest a lot of it? I’m thinking, if you’re an average human, probably no. Dogs are adapted from wolves, who primarily eat meat, and only in the last hundred years have we humans given our animal companions a diet consisting solely of commercial food, which is 90% corn. Is it any wonder our pets have sky-high incidences of cancer, renal failure, obesity and skin issues? Even humans have many health issues if they have a poor diet – just observe the diet of lower-class Americans, with an emphasis on cheap, pre-made food and a deemphasis on natural foods (which inevitably cost more to procure), and compare that to illness and obesity rates.

Such are the qualities of capitalism that a huge commercial pet-food manufacturer like Purina can make a profit by making a shoddy product for animals, but so to can consumers be more aware of what they buy for their pets. It’s not a difficult choice if you love your pet and have observed the health problems caused by commercial dog food.


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