I’m a huge fan of keeping it simple. I’ve spent a fair amount of time ranting into this here ether about how much I hate superfoods and buzzwords, and I do stand by much of that.
But I had an interesting experience recently, which has led me to review my philosophy somewhat. And I love that. I love that I am always learning and experiencing new things and expanding my understanding of animal nutrition. If we’re not learning and experiencing new things, what’s the bloody point?
Traumatically (for me) earlier this year I spent a month apart from my main man, Tex Perkins. He was shuttled between friends and family while I found us our own little slice of paradise here in Byron Bay, and I slapped together a back-to-basics package of DIY raw food for his carers. A little too back-to-basics, as it turned out.
I was genuinely surprised to discover that after a month of eating what I thought (at the time) was a pretty OK temporary diet, Tex’s condition had noticeably deteriorated. It wasn’t like I’d put him on Pal, he was still getting a rotation of 4 proteins, including edible bone and organ meat. But some of it was pet mince (I usually feed all human grade), he didn’t get any fish and there was no plant matter or wholefood supplements, like eggs or tahini or coconut oil or any of that bizzo.
I immediately noticed that he was smelly, he had bad breath, his teeth weren’t as pearly white as I remembered, his coat was duller and he had flaky skin on his back. After A MONTH! Of eating a “pretty good” fresh food diet. Holy smokes.
And in case you have any doubt that this could be possible (because I did…), after a week of some serious food rehab, he was back to his usual shiny, smelling like roses-self. A WEEK! Christ on a bike.
I reintroduced loads of oily fish, increased organ meat content, and added organic eggs, smoothies with leafy greens and probiotic yogurt, some sea vegetables, coconut oil, kefir and hemp seeds, as well as returning to all human grade meat and closer monitoring of ratios. The turnaround and degree of improvement was quite remarkable.
I basically sold myself on my own services. Not that I had any doubt that it’s totally critical to ensure your dog is hitting all of their nutrient requirements, but I guess I sort of forgot how easy it is to not do this. A stripped back diet is fine for brief periods and I do still advocate for not unintentionally overcomplicating things, but the whole experience was a timely reminder for me that you really can’t just throw your best mate some meat and be done with it. They are a finely tuned machine and they need you to know what you’re doing.
I’ll be frank with you, I actually didn’t expect there to be so much maths involved in the career I’ve chosen. I spend most of my time writing consultations in Excel and with a calculator in hand. Because it’s important not only that your dog is meeting their nutrient requirements, but also that they’re not exceeding them. While it’s all well and good to MEET the requirements set out by the relevant authorities on these matters, what these authorities don’t mandate is an upper limit. And overfeeding certain vitamins and minerals can impact the body’s ability to absorb other ones.
So all those “complete and balanced” formulas may well technically meet the officially mandated nutrient minimums for dogs and cats (whether they actually do by the time they hit the food bowl and the quality of the nutrients they contain is another post unto itself…), they may also contain waaaaaaayyy more than is actually required.
And it’s possible to unintentionally create similar issues with a homemade diet that’s not carefully formulated. Which is not to say you can’t do it, you certainly can. Ideally in consultation with a professional and oh hey, hi *waves*.