Thursday, December 27, 2012

On food, fretulness, and fact-less-ness

From the day we brought Penny home, she was quite literally a chow hound. She had such a voracious appetite that I'm pretty sure we could have dropped her in a large bag of dog food and she would've just eaten her way out. At the insistence of two vets from two very different practices, we had Penny on Purina ProPlan Large Breed since the end of this past May.

Now, before I go on, I want to reassure everyone that we have been talking to Penny's vet and weigh her every other day to make sure she isn't losing weight. As soon as she does, we'll bring her in to check for underlying causes. We want to do that anyway, if this continues much longer.

Back to the matter at hand. We love the vet we eventually chose after her string of new-puppy-from-a-not-so-clean-background illnesses, and she's given us a lot of great advice. Truth be told, I was willing to blindly follow her advice to feed big brand name food without looking into it much as long as Penny kept eating it, even though the kind folks at Dog Forum have been warning against the supposed "quality".

Penny ate her ProPlan voraciously, to the point where we had to buy an interactive food bowl to slow her down (her doggie cousin's mom died from bloat, so we're extra careful about that over here).

Aikiou Interactive Pet Food Bowl

Suddenly, Penny just stopped eating. There was no gradual slowing down--she just stopped like she switched off a light. We tried adding wet food (also ProPlan) to every meal. Wet food used to be a once in a while treat. Where she once inhaled it, she begrudgingly ate what she needed and left it. Watching your puppy eat about a cup of food a day when she needs almost 4 is just  heartbreaking.

I once read an article written by a veterinarian that mentioned how brands like Eukanuba, Pedigree, Iams, Purina, and Science Diet give vet students free supplies for their pets, swag for humans, and sponsorships so the students become extremely loyal and trusting of the brand when they graduate and become full-fledged vets. This article kept nagging at me in the back of my mind, so I talked to a well-respected holistic vet in the area to see if it was true. She said that the article I had read was unfortunately true, and that we should probably start doing some deeper research into food matters.

More confused than ever, John and I headed over to one of our favorite pet supply stores in the area, Whole Pet Central. The owner was there that day and told us his sister had 15 Great Pyrenees, so he sent us home with a few food samples his sister's Pyrs did well with. We were amazed when we tried Canine Caviar Chicken an Pearl Millet--Penny loved it! The reviews for Canine Caviar were absolutely glowing, and what caught my eye was that many of the positive reviewers' dogs had sensitive stomachs or were very fussy eaters.

Of course she stopped eating it as soon as we invested in a larger bag!

Sadly, that love was short-lived. After two days on the diet, she grew tired of the food and stopped eating again. This occurred on the day we bought a 12-pound bag of the food, so we had to try to make it exciting. We tried wetting it (ew) with a tiny bit of success, and then adding chopped apples and other fruit to some more success. 

Right now, we're adding some of the Canine Caviar wet food to Penny's food and she's eating like she used to. She's been on it for four days now and shows no sign of slowing (the longest so far since this all began) so we're keeping our fingers crossed.

Has anyone experienced anything similar? Is anyone as confused by all the vet advice and conflicting literature out there? We're still not totally sold on one food regimen over another yet, but are hoping Penny will stick to her diet and we will see if we see any other improvements as well. The bonus is that a lot of people with itchy-skinned dogs seem to see big changes with Canine Caviar. Penny can get itchy, so I'm hoping it'll help that little problem out.


  1. Sorry you're having such trouble figuring out what Penny should eat for her best health.

    I will say that many people no longer think it's reasonable for dogs to eat the exact same food every day. If you find few different quality foods that she likes, maybe you can switch between them. It can give her a good chance at filling in her nutrition and maybe keep her from getting bored.

    I find that when I switch Honey's food gradually and use good quality food, she does not get sick when we switch things up.

    I've also found this website helpful for reviewing foods:

    Good luck!

  2. Thank you for the link, and the story about your experience! We thought about switching up her diet with different brands, but were afraid of stomach troubles. I'm glad to hear a positive vote for this method!

  3. Gizmo had major "itchie" problems and hair loss and was never an enthusiatic eater... After doing some research and speaking with the owner of our local pet store {not a chain) we chose to go grain-free...we looked up our chosen brand and saw that Dog Food Advisor had given it 5 stars and an enthusiastic recommendation...We've been feeding it for 2 years now, switching up the "flavors" with each purchase...Gizmmo's itchies are gone, his coat is full and fluffy and he eats enthusiastically...I agree with Pamela that doing some research then trying some small bags of your choices and letting Penny try them out you'll figure out what works best for you and her

    1. I'm so glad to hear that Gizmo's itchy skin and hair loss problems were resolved, and that he really enjoys his food! Penny's been on her Canine Caviar Dry/Wet mix now and is eating like she used to again. I'm still wary, but feeling a little more hopeful. If she suddenly stops eating again, I'll try some other high quality samples to see what works best for her.

      Dog Food Advisor rates the kibble at 4.5, which I am feeling relieved about. The canned food is rated 3-5. I've been thinking of switching it up and adding some homemade pureed sweet potatoes since she loves that, just to see how it goes. One of our local pet food stores recommended it, so I'm curious to see how she likes it.

  4. It may be the GP in Penny coming out, Fenris will go days without eating if he hasn't burned many calories. Daddy's full blooded Great Pyrenees do the same thing. Fenris also likes variety in his dog food. I change up flavors and he always chows down the first few days of a new food.

    1. I buy the large bags of food and once he gets bored with it I add stuff to it. We eat a heart healthy diet so most of our leftovers are OK for him, I mix them in and he chows down.

      I also change up brands. I had a chance to tour the Iams and Eukanuba factory and was very impressed with their dedication, so they are top of my list but I cycle through different brands and flavors.

    2. Penny's vet said that GPs are really good at regulating their calories, and hinted that they may stop eating altogether if they aren't burning enough. I'm glad to hear it again from you though, since it seemed so weird to my food-loving human self the first time I heard it!

      Thank you also for the vote in confidence about the Iams and Eukanuba factory. How did you get a tour? John and I love factory tours in general, and it'd be neat to see a dog food factory at work.

  5. It sounds like Penny may be more inclined toward wet food than kibble. Have you looked at The Honest Kitchen? It's a raw, dehydrated diet that's human grade and comes in several formulas. You just mix it with hot water and stir until it's the consistency of oatmeal. My dogs have been eating it for three years now, and absolutely love it! Buster still makes a puddle of drool while I'm mixing it up and I'm able to change between the formulas without any stomach upset, which gives them a little variety. I highly recommend it and you can request samples on their website or Facebook page. Good luck!

    1. She definitely is a wet food girl! She will only eat the high end brands though, go figure! We used to give it to her once a week as a treat, to liven up her diet, but it's so expensive. If it's the only thing that'll work though, it's worth the price.

      I've heard of Honest Kitchen but haven't looked into it much. Thanks for the recommendation and the sample tip!