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Hippo Watch: Tuesday

That muhammara post is coming later today; sorry, but I have been swamped with classwork, coupled with taking Hippo to the vet twice in the last two days.  The animal control vet wanted him examined in a full-facility clinic to check for Valley Fever and glaucoma, so we took him to a wonderful new vet today.  The doctor gave him a clean bill of health, with the stipulation that he needs to eat more to put on some weight and chew some bones to clean up his teeth.  Not a bad check-up!  It turns out the redness in his left eye isn’t an infection, but rather a fairly common phenomenon called “cherry eye” where the tear duct on a dog’s third eyelid pops out a little bit from where it’s supposed to be.  We’re going to try massaging it back into place later today.  If that doesn’t work, we’ll look into other options and decide what we want to do.

You will note that in the picture above, Mr Hippo is wearing a very stylish and becoming personalized scarf to help keep him warm in the daytime.  He got an exciting gift box from Grandmasaurus yesterday, and this was tucked inside. I think he wears it well.

Being completely responsible for the health and welfare of a dog, even if it is only temporary, has been an interesting experience.  I am used to dogs, as I grew up with them (as in, my family had some, not as in “I was raised by wolves”), but I have never been the primary caregiver.  One of the things I’ve found very overwhelming in the last couple days is trying to sort out what exactly to feed him.  Since this is, after all, a blog about making strong food choices, I thought I should take advantage of Hippo Watch and talk about something a little better suited to the usual content here.

So, what does one feed a dog?

Duh.  Dog food, right?

Here’s the thing.  We both struggle with the idea of just giving him kibble or canned food.  Seeing as how the Unicyclist and I think highly processed food, even when it’s purportedly “healthy,” isn’t a good idea for people, we are not overly eager to feed it to Hippo.  Add to that the recent melamine scares and pet deaths from contaminated foods, and it’s even less appealing.

Then there’s the BARF diet, which advocates bones and raw foods (meat, eggs, vegetables, and fruit) for the dog, a diet intended to mimic what wild dogs would eat.  While it has a number of fervent advocates who sing the praises of how it has changed the lives of their dogs, a chorus of detractors warns of parasites, salmonella, and E-coli, not to mention fractured teeth and perforated intestines from eating raw bones.

Perhaps we go with a vegetarian diet?  But…but…while the Unicyclist and I are perfectly happy to share our food with Hippo, we know that he needs some hard things to gnaw on to keep his tartar down and his teeth healthy.  Plus, for as many people as there are claiming that dogs can be perfectly healthy on a well-planned and varied vegetarian diet, there seem to be just as many convinced that they can’t.

The process of reading the different lines of thought on the topic was sadly amusing to me, as it was just a wee bit too similar to all the hype and hoopla and debate about what humans should be eating for optimum health: low-carb/high protein, low-fat, vegetarian, vegan, all juice all the time, plenty of fish (omega-3s)/no fish (mercury), no snacks/frequent snacks or mini-meals, no caffeine/plenty of black and green tea….and on and on and on.

But this is the Simple Spoonful, right?  Feeding a dog shouldn’t be any more complicated than feeding a human.  Although to be fair, it probably shouldn’t be any less complicated, either.

The Unicyclist and I are going to keep things simple.  Since it’s hard to know how to sort all this out, with the vast majority of the “evidence” being anecdotal or incomplete, our goal is to offer a reasonable, varied, whole diet to the dog that we feel comfortable providing.  We plan to feed Hippo mostly the things we eat, like beans, vegetables, eggs, some cheese, and some brown rice and fruits. This should work well for him, as he’s proven to be an adventurous eater and enthusiastic devourer of every fruit, veggie, or legume we’ve offered him thus far.  We’ll also give him some organic, humanely-raised meat every now and again, some bones to gnaw on, and a supply of homemade doggie biscuits.  Of course, we’ll keep an eye on his health and get him checked out regularly, but I have a good feeling that he’ll be just fine.

Here’s to your health, Hippo.

4 comments

4 Comments so far

  1. Andrea December 30th, 2008 4:36 pm

    Be careful with the variety though. Sometimes this doesn’t agree with doggie tummies and produces a few too many household accidents (of the soupy variety). Sorry for the crude detail there, but it can happen. :-)

    When we made a switch from a popular, commercial bagged kibble to a homemade diet of brown rice, mixed vegetables and ground turkey, Emma went through a “detox” phase where her tummy was upset for a few days. She also shed a TON of fur for about a month, but what came back in was like spun silk.

    When we got Buford, it became too much work to make enough of this homemade diet to feed both dogs (would be much easier with small dogs though). The homemade diet we used required a lot of supplements (omega 3 and 6, bone meal, etc.), so the cost of these was also a factor. We switched to a higher-end dry dog kibble, but we still use supplements (just not as many). It costs us $52 per 40 lb bag of food but has given both dogs a result almost equal to that of the homemade diet.

    With both the homemade and highend kibble, we saw drastically lower vet bills in the way of Emma’s allergy and skin issues. The allergies almost completely went away after a year on the new diet. Both dogs’coats are radiant and soft as well. Emma is 10 and has never gotten the coarse coat that Labs develop in adulthood. I firmly believe this is related to the quality of food she has been fed. It might cost more to feed a dog this way, but it’s well worth the savings in vet bills and the stress of the vet visits.

    I feel as though the choice in water for pets is as important as the choice of food. When ours are home, they have filtered, chlorine-free water—NO TAP WATER. Emma can actually tell if it’s tap water and turns up her nose to it. I figure if the chlorine in the tap water isn’t good for me, it can’t be good for my dogs.

    Good luck with the food.

  2. Mangochild December 31st, 2008 2:36 am

    One of my father’s closest friends fed his dog pretty much what you are thinking of (i.e. the types of food you eat yourself) and it worked out well…. it was vegetarian and the dog didn’t seem to have a problem. There seems like there is so much to think about though – especially for such a sweetie like Hippo.
    The vet appointment sounds like it went really well, I’m so happy for you all…. keep us updated?

  3. Laurel December 31st, 2008 5:40 pm

    Thanks for all the food tips, people. Hippo appreciates your input.

    He ALSO appreciated his second! ever! box-o-presents! He is napping right now with his purple stuffed Hippo from Bufie and Emma after tuckering himself out chewing on some rawhide. Thanks so much, Andrea! He was sniffing the hippo like crazy…we could even see some Bufie hairs on it, so he was definitely intrigued. It’s nice to have dog people in the family at times like these. :) Hugs to Buf and Emma!

  4. Becca January 3rd, 2009 4:42 pm

    Laurie–he’s adorable!!! And I think he’s hippomatumasing himself into your heart. He looks like a darling little puppy.

    I’ve got nothing for you on dog food. Never had a dog. The only thing I know is that cat food makes some dogs gassy, or so said the lady at the shelter when George and I brought a dog in that was following us around.

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