About 3 years ago, I rescued Stella, my Treeing Walker Coonhound at 6 months old. Right away, I started giving her Blue Buffalo, having heard from other friends and family that it was one of the best brands out there to give to your pet. I wanted high quality food, trying duck, lamb, and salmon to get something she would really enjoy.
Stella never seemed to love her food, though. I eventually told myself it wasn’t the food, she was just a grazer and ate when she wanted to. My dog growing up was a bit of a grazer, so I didn’t think it was too strange, though most other dogs I knew ate their meals in seconds and zoomed around the house inhaling food particles like a Dyson.
Still, Stella gained some healthy weight (she was a little underweight) after I rescued her and she was perfectly healthy. I hadn’t taken her to the vet for so much as an ear infection, just her yearly checkups were all she needed, until this past January, when we had big scare.
One night, she was laying on the bed and it looked like she was trying to sniff something pretty seriously – I even said, “whatcha smell, girl?” But then I noticed her head-shaking was uncontrollable. I jumped to action, held her head in my hands and tried to get her to look at me. Jon held her body assuming she was having a seizure, but the rest of her was still. She shook her head in a “no” shaking back and forth, eyes totally alert, perhaps looking frightened, but not in pain. I had never experienced anything like that before… and it lasted about a minute. Then, ten minutes later, it happened again.
That’s when it was time for the emergency vet. They ran all sorts of tests on her, and $300 later, I still didn’t know what was wrong with her. The vet said it could have been a toxin, a neurological issue, or early onset seizures. It was puzzling because since she was aware of her surroundings and the shaking was centrally located, it wasn’t a full seizure. We couldn’t point to any toxins that could have been around her, and what the heck kind of a neurological issue would cause this?
It happened again several times over the course of the next few weeks, all at different times of day. After some Google searching, we found other dog owners posting about these idiopathic head tremors… which basically means they can’t figure out the cause of it. One owner posted that they changed their dog food to grain-free and it helped their pet… so I thought I’d upgrade the already grain-free food for limited-ingredient grain free.
Months had passed without incident, and I wondered if maybe it was a food allergen after all. Jon, however, kept insisting we stop giving her traditional kibble, especially after watching the documentary Pet Fooled on Netflix, which advocated for a raw food diet.
This past week, the tremors began again, and I was finally ready to make the change. After helping others change to a real food lifestyle free of processed foods, how could I not do the same for my own pet?
I wanted to feed Stella biologically appropriate food, which would mean raw, but go-figure, Stella is still kind of a picky eater (keep reading for my struggles so far!). As I write this, we’re on Day 4 of her lifestyle change, From my research, since she’s just under 50lbs, she’s getting 1/2 lb of food each meal (2x per day.)
Here’s how it’s gone so far:
Her first meal was cooked ground turkey with an egg — she loved it and gobbled it up! For dinner, she had a cooked beef liver, which by the way smells disgusting like a musty, mineral-y morgue, with an egg, which she also ate like lightening. I noticed that day her stool was very dark and liquidy, but really just due to the quick adjustment. I did not ween her to her new diet.
Day 2: ground turkey and egg for breakfast, and this time her dinner was raw liver. (Raw liver also smells gross, but she loved it still!) That was her first raw food meal, and she enjoyed it… so I thought we were smooth sailing.
Day 3 is when things got tough. Stella was not a fan of the raw chicken liver (wouldn’t touch it) nor the gizzards. So I left for work frustrated and ready to dig into more research on what else the heck dogs could (and would) eat! From my research, it seemed like there was a ton more information about consuming raw foods than cooked, so did my homework on how much of what type of items she should be getting.
It seemed like muscle meats would be about half of her meals, with the other half being raw meaty bones. Raw bones = good because they’re softer and easier to digest, like chicken wings or neck bones of various animals, while cooked bones are dangerous for dogs. About once per week, you can feed them liver. (Oops a bit since I gave Stella liver two days in a row, and attempted to give her chicken livers for breakfast day 3!) So that day, I went to the store and got some chicken wings, ready to make up for what she needed in her diet. Go figure, Stella wouldn’t eat the chicken wing. She would grab it, bite it a bit, and then place it in the corner of the room as if to hide it and save it for later… except she never ate it later. She’s officially a picky eater, since it seems like most dogs enjoy it!
Jon insisted the food didn’t have to be raw… the food she’s eating now (mostly cooked muscle meats and eggs) was without question better than what she was eating before. I protested and disagreed with him, then figured that was true. So instead she ate lots of eggs on day 3 plus ground chicken.
Her day 4 (today) both meals were ground beef and eggs (cooked) which she loved!
I still need to figure out what variety I should give her to ensure she’s getting a balanced diet, especially since she won’t eat the raw bones (though I have yet to see how she takes with neck bones.) I do plan on expanding to different kinds of meats like venison, veal, lamb, fish, etc. rather than keep her one one set type of food. Still, I am happy that we’re making this change for Stella’s health… by the way, she’s had no tremors since we’ve made the change!
Stay tuned for more adventures with Stella!