How Do My Dogs Look On Their Low Carb Diet?

Long-time reader and low carber Paul Abrinko asks: Re: dogs, Dana, I'm curious: how trim do your dogs look on their low-carb diet? How's their health? What about their teeth? I see so many obese dogs here in SF, and although I don't have dogs anymore, I cringe to think of all the fancy, "scientific formula" dog food I used to feed them, filled with rice meal. It made them hungry all the time and led to to very poor dental health, even though the vet told me that kibble was good for their teeth.

My dogs look wonderful, thanks! I'm too technically illiterate to know how to get photos from my phone to my blog -- I can do photos to FB, but not here -- but when TNBIM gets home I'll post photos if you like.

* Jed the Hero Dog is nearly 12, and still has a waist and shiny, clean, strong teeth. He does have some arthritis, but aspirin, cod liver oil, bromelain, curcumin, and DLPA seem to be helping with that.

* It's Dexter the Pug's birthday today. I believe he's turning 7. He is possibly the only 7 year old pug in the world with a waist, and still athletic enough to leap up on the couch and climb up to the back -- his favorite perch -- and to climb up to graze on the dining room table. (:-/)

* Gracie the Beagle was already old when she showed up in the yard a year ago. Her bad diet showed in her generally poor condition, and in particular her incredibly rotten teeth and foul breath. A year of real food has certainly given her more energy and a shinier coat, and while it hasn't fixed her teeth, her breath is now okay, indicating that her gums are good, and nothing's rotting anymore. She was actually too thin when she wandered in; she's now a healthy weight.

They get cottage cheese and raw eggs for breakfast most mornings, and this time of year they get raw venison bones for dinner. (Hard on the carpets, but very good for the dogs.) Out of deer season, I buy chicken backs in 40 lb case lots, usually three cases at a time, and freeze them in one or two day quantities. I have a helluva lot of freezer space.

Yes, we feed whole chicken backs, bones, skin, marrow and all. I know you've been told that chicken bones are dangerous, but according to veterinarian Ian Billinghurst, epicenter of the BARF movement (Bones and Raw Food), it's cooked chicken bones that are dangerous. Because chickens are slaughtered at about 3 months, the raw ones are actually pretty soft, and dogs can eat them. Certainly my dogs have had no trouble.

We do whack the chicken backs up for the two small dogs. It's not that they can't chew them up, it's that they don't want to take the time, and having done the Heimlich Maneuver on a dog -- it worked -- I don't care to have to do it again. So I use a big, scary, serial-killer meat cleaver to whack 'em up. Jed just gets a few backs, whole; never has a problem.

If I'm having a handful of nuts they often get a few, and Dexter is downright kinky for cauliflower; I can't cut it up without sharing. He also loves asparagus and canned pumpkin. But our favorite dog treat is pork rinds -- cheap, nutritious, loaded with gelatin for their joints, no additives, and they adore them. Beats the heck out of Pupperoni, Beggin' Strips, or Snausages.

Except for the cost of buying and running freezers, I believe I spend less on dog food than most people, especially people who buy "good" dog food at the pet store or the vet. The chicken backs run me something like 20-25c/pound at the poultry processor -- I do have to drive up to Indianapolis -- and I get deer bones for free at the deer processor. Since we have chickens, we get ridiculous numbers of eggs in the summer -- when we don't have to pay much to feed the birds, 'cause they're eating grass and bugs.

I know I pay less than most people in vet bills, because I pay almost nothing -- shots now and then, and that's about it. I've been adding powdered, unflavored gelatin to their food, and recently started adding brewers yeast, too. Oh, and Jed gets Cosequin every morning, again, for his joints.

As for kibble being good for the teeth, you know what dogs' teeth evolved to chew on? Bones. Raw, meaty bones.