Riddle Me This….

Can someone explain to me, in words that my simple mind can understand….

Scenario 1:

You take your dog to the vet for a regular wellness check.  He gives your dog a physical and suggests a blood draw to view the over all wellness of your dog.  You consent, blood is drawn, and the results come back.  Some values aren’t exactly within the range of normal, but they’re pretty close and your vet tells you there’s nothing to worry about.  Your dog passes his wellness check and the angels sing.  You wrote on your intake form that your dog is fed a commercial dog food.

Scenario 2:

You home-make your dog food, and indicate as much on your intake form.  You run the same blood tests as would be done in a ‘regular’ wellness screen, but request the addition of other values to be tested as well.  Your results come back, and every single value falls within normal range.  Even your sporadic elevated eosinophils are within normal range.  Rather than receive the same passing grade on the wellness check, you are warned that continued feeding of a home made diet is a recipe for disaster (the word ‘recipe’ was used), even though the vet has never even asked what it is you feed your dogs.  That this was the 3rd blood draw, the 3rd showing gold stars across the board, irrelevant.   This was the first time the vet saw the dog, but he was made aware of the results of the prior blood tests, and their results at the original consultation.

What am I missing here?

 

 

images

 

 

 

The Effects of Home Made Diet on the Run A Muck Ranch Dogs: Gracie at 15 Months

902909_513812165323379_1391796870_o

A freak first ask forgiveness later incident happened involving Gracie Friday night, and we spent some time at the vet.  Gracie was and remains fine.

I on the other hand really need to stop seeing fatal diseases around every corner.  As long as we were at the vet, may as well make it worth it, so a blood test was ordered to see how Gracie is doing on the home made diet plan.  Gracie has been on the plan for 15 months and this is her second blood test.  This time, we ran a urinalysis as well.

   [Gracie’s Blood Results]

Humor me!  Actually click on the link to see what we found!

The elevated Creatinine doesn’t concern me since everything else was within normal limits.  Gracie was gassy – probably from scarfing her way late dinner – possibly from eating something that didn’t agree with her in the back yard that morning – who knows.  If she was bloated with gas most of the day, she might not have drunk as much as she should have, especially when the temperature had risen to the un-holy measure of 88 degrees.  Remember, none of the Run A Muck Ranch dogs can survive in temperatures above 82 degrees, and we have the electric bills to prove it!  Nothing like a little dehydration to elevate the Creatinine levels from time to time.

Other than that one measure, Gracie is straight A’s within normal ranges for everything.

DSC_0212

To date, no vet, not even the “nutritional specialists” I have actively sought out and paid for consultations, has asked me what I feed my dogs.    The constant recommendation from the ‘specialists’ is that I change all the dogs back to a commercial diet.  Any commercial diet, they say, would be better than a home made diet.

Am I stupid?  You be the judge:

AAFCO, which writes the guidelines on commercial dog food, has 3 ways to bring a dog food to market  (overly simplified descriptions):

1.   The proposed food may be analyzed by a laboratory.  If the nutrient content meets the minimum requirements set forth by AAFCO, the food is considered adequate.   Digestibility or useability of the nutrients are not guaranteed.  As long as the correct molecules are present, you’re good to go.

2.  A list of ingredients for the proposed food is imputed into a computer program. If the combination of ingredients meet the minimum requirements set forth by AAFCO, the food is considered adequate.  It is possible this way to produce food that has little or no nutritional value, i.e. it is possible to meet the ‘protein requirement’ with plant material alone and be considered adequate.  However, there is no guarantee that all essential amino acids are provided.  The food does not have to be analyzed in a laboratory, or fed to a single dog, to pass muster.

3.  8 dogs start, but only 6 need finish, a 26 week feeding trial.  At the end of the feeding trial, hemoglobin, packed cell volume, Alk Phos and serum albumin are tested.  If those blood parameters are within normal range, and the dogs in the trial have not lost more than 15% body weight since the beginning of the trial, the food is declared adequate.

There is actually a 4th way available to manufacturers of several foods, but isn’t relevant since the original food had to pass one of the 3 tests described.

Gracie's desert find is NOT on the diet plan!
Gracie’s desert find is NOT on the diet plan!

Morty, Willy and Slugger are only on a taste of home made with the bulk of their meals being commercial due to cost and cooking time issues.  That leaves 11 Run A Muck Ranch dogs being fed the diet plan solely.  9 have been maintained for longer than AAFCO’s 26 weeks (Pablo and Gertie are recent residents and not included in the dog count which exceeds AAFCO protocols – at least for now).  Blood tests are ongoing, and I check a whole lot more than the 4 parameters required and accepted by the experts.  OK, so I don’t test every dog each time, but every dog is tested and tests are repeated for each dog.

To date, there have been no health issues that can be linked to nutrition.  Remember, when Vito started having his seizures, I immediately bared my wrists, both to the regular vet and to the ultrasound vet, offering up diet as a cause.  Neither would bite.  Ultimately, it was verified diet was not a factor.

Will I convert back to commercial, any commercial?  Nope!  Until I have a veterinary nutritional expert, heck, just any vet for that matter, actually ask me what I feed (none have, believe it or not), and tells me specifically what is wrong with it, I will stay with what I’m doing, with the ultimate goal of getting the ‘neglected 3’ (Morty, Willy and Slugger) on the plan as well.

Kitchen Nightmares at Run A Muck Ranch

You might find this hard to believe, but spending hours every week cooking for the kids is not as fun as it sounds.  Not to mention what the house smells like during, and for an extended time after, each cook.

I decided to attempt a marathon cook.  My mission: To prepare an entire month’s worth of food as quickly as possible.  By quickly, we’re talking about the 4 Day plan, every day, after work.

I guess I got a little tired on Day 3 because it all went to Hell in a hand basket.  This is the result:

 

 

Making it up to Morty While Clearing Some Freezer Space

Poor Morty, Crabby hasn’t taken him hiking or camping as much as usual this summer. It sucks to have an aging Pa.

Due not to expense, but time, Morty, Slugger and Willy were put back on (gasp!) commercial dog food.   The 3 of them eat as much as most of the others combined, and I already spend hours cooking just to keep up with the other 10.  Return to home made would be based on seniority (arrival at The Ranch), Slugger, then Willy, with Morty last.  Not good for Morty.

Worse still, with the addition of 2 more  K9’s to Run A Muck Ranch, Morty lost even his promised one day a week homemade meals.  His 1 day feeds Pablo for a week!  While it was hoped Pablo and Gertie would be temporary, with each passing day, we are all surrendering just a little more to our fate of having to find a place to put  2 more stickers on the Waggin’ Wagon.

To add insult to injury, Pablo is yet one more Chihuahua mix who picks on Morty.   Morty’s feelings get hurt very easily.

All in all, Morty World sucks right now.

 

Poor Morty :(  He's feeling low.
Poor Morty.  He’s feeling low.

 

In an attempt to keep costs down with the home made dog food, I’ve started buying in bulk.  My grocery store meat manager scored me, what we thought was 30 pounds of chicken hearts and gizzards, at a smoking price, if I would buy it in restaurant packaging rather than grocery packs.

It was a smoking price, it was restaraunt packaging, but it was 40 pounds.  Do you have any idea what 40 pounds of chicken hearts and gizards looks like?  Now you do:

 

DSC_2938

 

With the offal I got in last week, plus the food already made, there wasn’t enough room in the freezer to store it!

What to do, what to do…

Refer back to pitiful Morty.

 

I need a little extra love, please!
I need a little extra love, please!

 

It seemed there was only one way to solve both problems:

 

 

The first ever batch of Chicken Hearts and Gizzards Run A Munchies Dog Treats.
The first ever batch of Chicken Hearts and Gizzards Run A Munchies Dog Treats.

 

5 pounds of hearts and gizzards were converted into several sheets of the newest flavor of Run A Munchies.  I haven’t made treats for the kids in ages – I spend too much time cooking their food!  But that wasn’t the best part.

 

DSC_2962

 

All of them belong to Morty.

All is better in Morty World now.  At least until his treats run out.

 

DSC_8849

 

The Effects of Homemade Diets on the Run A Muck Ranch Dogs: Revisiting an Old Post

With worked ramped up to beyond what a middle-aged Crazy Dog Lady can do, I find the brain too tired to write anything of value of late.   So let’s play THEN and NOW.  It doesn’t take much brain power.

This video was posted in July of  2013.

That was THEN.

This is NOW:

Angus and Emmi are negative for Valley Fever titers.  An accident with Angus’ Fluconazole dosage, coupled with the conversion to 1/2 homemade, 1/2 commercial lead to the first decrease in his titers – ever.  He was removed from Fluconazole and given 100% homemade when the decrease was reported.  Angus was negative for Valley Fever titers 3 months later.

 

Sexy Angus
Sexy Angus

 

When the decrease in Angus’ titers was discovered, Emmi was titer tested, then converted to 100% homemade.  Emmi’s titers bounced back and forth between 1:8 and 1:16 since she was diagnosed in 2011.  5 months after converting to homemade, she tested negative for Valley Fever.  Oh, and I forgot to mention; when I converted Emmi, I took her completely off Fluconazole.

 

Tiwrly Emmi
Twirly Emmi

 

Both Angus and Emmi were symptomatic for Valley Fever, more particularly, they both hurt a lot.  Angus has not needed pain killers since before November 2013 (when titer reduction was first reported).  Emmi has not needed pain killers since December 2013, about a month after her conversion to homemade.

At the time of Sarah’s conversion, she was on prednisone, amantadine, and tramadol.   When Sarah was converted to homemade, she was immediately taken off of her amantadine. She had to be weaned from the prednisone. Tramadol was still given if she had pain. Though Sarah has not improved, as far as her choppy gate and clumsiness, she has not gotten worse without her medications.  Twice since her conversion, I’ve had to give her tramadol, exponentially less than usual, and the last time was over a month ago.

 

Sarah's smile can light up a room.
Sarah’s smile can light up a room.

 

In full disclosure, Sarah had a near four-month period of time in 2013 where she did not express her symptoms as badly as she usually does.  During that time, though Sarah did not need prednisone, she did need Tramadol regularly.  We are only 2 months into her conversion to homemade. It would be unwise for me to claim ‘cure’ this early in the game.

Something we have noticed is that the constant regurgitation/dehydration episodes appear to have stopped.  I don’t think we’ve ever gone two months without having to sop up the floors and re-hydrate Sarah since she came to live with us.  With respect to Sarah’s regurgitation issues, I’m confident in making the claim that homemade dog food has helped, much to the disappointment of paper towel manufacturers everywhere.

Our hearts are still broken over the loss of our Maude, one of the glucosamine kids.   Unfortunately all the wishing in the world can’t make someone we love live longer when they’re very old.

Maude is forver loved.
Maude is forever loved.

 

Mortimer and Sarah have been removed from glucosamine. I have already discussed Sarah’s non-regression when taken off of her medications, glucosamine technically being one of them.

In Morty’s case, he was also removed from glucosamine when he was converted to homemade.  He came back from a particularly hard camping trip last weekend, and rather than curling into a painful little ball (pre-glucosamine state), he stretched out comfortably.  Additionally his gimpy swagger which showed itself if he played too hard is gone. Both the soreness after hiking and the gimpy swagger are the reasons he was put on glucosamine to begin with, and he did improve on the supplement.  Conversion to homemade didn’t make Morty ‘better’, but it appears to negate the need for glucosamine.

 

Morty finds a bone.
Morty finds a bone.

To be fair and balanced here:

Slugger and Sarah were taken off Valley Fever treatment when the Fluconazole price increased 1800%.   Neither has suffered negative effects as a result.   Fact is, some dogs can have titers, and never show a symptom.  Slugger and Sarah, from their lack of negative effects from being removed from the Fluconazole, are apparently two such dogs.

Work, not nutrition, was the reason Willy was weaned off his fluoxedine in January 2014.  Actually, he reacted badly (behavioral) when first converted to homemade. That negative effect was fixed by adjusting the protein in his diet.

And to disclaim further:

I’m not so full of myself that I would put the health and happiness of my kids in front of my desire to be right.  All meds are still in the freezer.  Angus and Emmi will still get titer checks for Valley Fever from time to time.  All kids are watched like a hawk for any negative effect or reaction, be they real or imagined, and immediate action will be taken if such an effect or reaction is noted, vet/meds being the first course of action.  And finally, a soft shiny coat is not the measuring stick for whether a homemade diet works.  For that reason, I do regular blood work on The Hoard to make sure the diet plan works.

All in all, homemade food has been a success here at The Ranch.   Bummer is, the time spent giving all those pills of the past was so much shorter than the time I spend washing dishes now…

 

 

How Dog Food Should Be Served

The Run A Muck Ranch dogs have it way too good.

Some came from holes in the ground, a few from the streets, one from a war zone, a couple from the desert.

They should be happy just to have a roof over their heads, shouldn’t they?

But no, they kick us off the couch.  They kick Crabby off the people bed. If we’re home, we have no other priority than to amuse them.  They won’t let me sleep until daylight, even when I get a day off.  They’ve even decided commercial dog food is below them, so I spend hours and hours preparing their food from scratch just so.

I have no idea how the kids have learned to expect only the best, but I have a hunch….

Take a look at Vito’s dinner as served this evening.  Do you think I might have something to do with the kids’ sense of self entitlement?

 

DSC_2509

Thank goodness Crabby has no expectations and is happy with TV dinners!

 

 

 

We Need Your Thoughts and Prayers….

It is with a heavy heart that I have to report the Cuisinart is in a bad way.

This is the very same Cuisinart that brought you Run A Munchies Home Made Dog Treats.

The same Cuisinart that has been with me every step of the way as I converted the kids from commercial dog food to home made, and began my obsession with canine nutrition.

I had just loaded him and he was ready to grind, when suddenly and without warning, a spark, a smell, and then nothing.  He wouldn’t’ start again.

 

The food processor EXPLODED at one point.
My Beloved Cuisinart, after an argument we had over putting too many ingredients in at one time.  I think it safe to assume, the little guy won.

 

 

Please light a candle for us that after a good night’s rest, my beloved Cuisinart will re-start in the morning.   I have approximately 40 pounds of prepped meats and organs and no way to finish them.

The Effects of Home Prepared Diets on the Run A Muck Ranch Kids: Franky

When Franky followed us out of the desert that day, what, 4?  5? years ago, he was perfectly healthy. Other than a rather profound under bite, and a burn scar down his back, there was nothing remarkable about him.  He’s never been sick, never taken so much as a bad step, never so much as sneezed that I can remember,

 

053

 

Unlike the low maintenance Hector, who has a mind his own sometimes, Franky is both low maintenance and voluntarily obedient, the latter being quite unusual, since we make no demands on any of the kids.

Franky is one of the luckier Run A Muck Ranch kids.  Because he comes in under 20 pounds, like the other small dogs, he is now approaching one year without ever having a molecule of commercial dog food pass his lips.

Subjectively, there has only been one improvement we’ve noticed: his coat is silky.  Franky was never go-getter to begin with, and the new and improved Franky appears not one over exert himself either.

The only other thing we’ve noticed is that Franky’s hair has grown. It’s not that he had bald spots which now have hair, it that his existing hair is longer.  No, he has not grown Fabian locks, but he has fluffed enough to cover a pretty good chunk of the burn scar on his back.  I have no explanation for the hair growth.  Some breeds of dogs do experience coat changes as they get older and maybe this was something that would’ve naturally happened to Franky despite his diet.

I never got baseline blood work prior to converting Franky to the home prepared diet, but if you click the link below, I provided the reader with his blood results from April 12, 2014.

Franky blood work results

 

DSC_0855

 

At the time Franky’s blood was drawn he had been on a home prepared diet for approximately 11 months.  As you can see, (if you actually click the link, that is) Franky has no worries.

 

 

DSC_0603

 

Given the short narrative of Hector’s conversion, I sincerely hoped I would have more to write about Franky. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. Franky is still Franky but with great organ function.

In an attempt to make this blog post a smidge bit longer, and as an excuse to display more pictures of Franky, I shall digress here:

In the United States, pet foods are ‘regulated’ by the organization AAFCO, and to a lesser extent the NRC.  In order for a pet food manufacturer to put the words “Complete and balanced”, or “Complete and balanced for all life stages”, on its label, the food must be a) analyzed in a laboratory, OR b) have feeding trials performed.

Laboratory analysis can be problematic in that even plants have protein. However, the many plant proteins  are not very digestible, and therefore, useful, in dogs.  More importantly is the incomplete amino acid profile contained in many plant protiens.  Additionally, even wood chips contain vitamins and minerals.  Show of hands out there:  how many of your dog food labels contain “lignin”?   Lignin comes from wood.  Imagine my chagrin when I researched prior dog foods fed to the Run a Muck Ranch kids and found one that contained lignin.   Remember, gluten, a component of grains, was added in massive amounts by virtually all pet food companies to boost the protein content claim on their labels.  It would probably be the same today if not for the contaminated gluten that killed so many dogs back in 2007.

Laboratory analysis only guarantees the presence of nutrients but does not guarantee whether or not those nutrients can actually be digested and therefore used by dogs.  It is possible to have a great nutritional analysis listed on the label, with no guarantee as to the nutritional value for dogs.  It is equally possible that a commercial pet food can reach the market bearing the label “Complete and balanced” without ever having been fed to a dog at all.  Shall we all ponder this for a while?

 

DSC_2089

 

Using b), a pet food manufacturer must feed a group of dogs for a period of not less than 26 weeks (that’s 6.5 months).   [As an aside, sad but true, this same short time period, per the FDA, is all that is required for the prescription and therapeutic diets you pay extra for at your vet!] At  least 8 dogs must be fed the diet but only 6 need finish the feeding trial. At the end of the feeding trial, necessary blood work is drawn, and if all is well, Shablam!  you have a dog food that can claim it is “Complete and balanced’ or “Complete and balanced for all life stages”.  That the dogs in the study, even today, were “laboratory animals”, kept in laboratory conditions, irrelevant.

The Lilliputians of Run a Muck Ranch (the little ones for those who never read Gulliver’s Travels) are approaching one year on home prepared diets.   The mid-range kids (Angus and Gracie) , and then Emmi, followed not long  behind.  That they have done so well, both subjectively and objectively (blood analyses)  in real life circumstances tells me I am doing the right thing.

We got some happy, but frustrating, news the same day Franky’s blood work came back. Our reaction to that news was that as of then, all Run a Muck Ranch dogs (except Slugger) have been converted to home prepared diets.   Technically speaking, based on the ones converted already, once I get organ function blood work done on Angus and Gracie, my food qualifies under the AAFCO guidelines, to bear the claim “Complete and balanced”.   That the Run A Muck Ranch kids vary in ages, I can claim “Complete and balanced for all life stages”.

Oh, wait, no I can’t – the dogs in the study must be purebreds and kept in cages for the duration of the study.  My test subjects are family members living in a healthy, happy, real life world.  Laboratory setting clearly give a better indication as to the quality of a food for the rest of the population.

When I compare commercial foods that bear the “Complete and Balanced” claim to  mine, well, with mine, I know exactly what’s in the food.   From here on in, I choose home made.

 

DSC_0078

 

For those who are wondering why Slugger has not been converted, it is with a heavy heavy sigh that I will respond:

Slugger must chew every kibble 32 times before swallowing.   A marching band can stomp to and fro in front of  Slugger while he’s eating and he will show no reaction as he is too busy concentrating on proper mastication.  It’s not that Slugger doesn’t like the homemade food, it’s that its texture causes him mental dilemmas.

 

10265399_10201796628659389_5985515564847620458_o

 

Puréed food which doesn’t really require chewing all, causes Slugger to go into brain meltdown.  Proper digestion requires proper chewing after all and if he can’t chew it properly, it can’t be safe to swallow.

Whole pieces of food items provide a similar quandary. Where kibble breaks down into crumbs, pieces of meat don’t. Slugger doesn’t know when to stop chewing and just swallow.   He would die of starvation with a steak in his mouth.

There will come a day when Slugger too will be converted over to homemade food, but we have to go slow to avoid intellectual upset.  He doesn’t have much higher brain activity as is, and we would like to keep what little he has.