Why do you feed the food you do?

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AllisonPitbullLvr
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Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby AllisonPitbullLvr » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:24 pm

What do you feed? Why do you feed that brand/type? What is your main concern with food? What wouldn't you feed to your dog and why?

I've been meaning to start this thread since I got back from my trip to the Hills research facility and manufacturing plant in Kansas but my computer died and then I got sick.

I'm curious to know, after everything I learned, and after listening to dozens of lectures by veterinary nutritionists, what the anecdotal evidence is out there for dog food and what misconceptions there may be?

I'll start.

Buddy eats Hills j/d. Between her chronic torn cruciate, spondylosis and a possible nerve root tumor in her shoulder, I want to make her as comfortable as possible. Part of her pain management plan, along with Gabapentin, is her diet. The extreme levels of EPA in her food help to actually repair the damage done to the cartilage. It's also helped her skin issues, I am assuming because of the high levels of omega fatty acids, and her poops are solid. But the best part? No more gas.

Obi eats Medi-cal Preventive. He is a 4 yr old boxer mix with no health issues. He does better on this food than he ever did on Wellness Core, Orijen, california naturals or prarie. The high protein foods gave him room-clearing gas and his stools were hit and miss. We never ran bloodwork on him while he was on the high-protein foods (other than his heartworm test) so I don't know if there were any elevations in his enzymes but there were in my other two dogs. The preventive has all the urban myths of horrifying ingredients in there. Corn, chicken by-products, etc but he does wonderfully on it. I feel more comfortable feeding him by-products now that I know the AAFCO definition (chicken necks and backs, under-developed eggs, intestines and feet). Not that I assumed the other diets were chock full of breast meat but there you go. In another couple of years, I will be switching him to the j/d as well.

Anyways. I clearly work at a vet clinic and get these foods at a reduced cost. But that's not what it's about. It took me a LONG time to get the corn-is-the-root-of-all-evil idea out of my head and switch to these brands. Now that I can see that the evidence of proper nutrition is there (proven by actual feeding trials, not just by AAFCO guidelines) and my anecdotal evidence of thinking my dog was dying of renal failure on the Orijen, I am content with what I am feeding.

Opening up the floor. Please be nice :)

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby patty » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:40 pm

Our boy Huggybear is eating Natural Balance Original Ultra Reduced Calorie Formula. He has put on a few pounds :oops: and is now 11 years old with moderate hip dsyplasia. After your post about Hills j/d and the good results you have had, I now will consider that.

Really interested in your thoughts on Gabapentin. Is it true that you can not give Gabapentin that is prescribed for humans to dogs. Is there something toxic in it? Just wondering because my SO has diabetes and takes Gabapentin for his nerve pain.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby AllisonPitbullLvr » Tue Oct 05, 2010 8:45 pm

patty wrote:Our boy Huggybear is eating Natural Balance Original Ultra Reduced Calorie Formula. He has put on a few pounds :oops: and is now 11 years old with moderate hip dsyplasia. After your post about Hills j/d and the good results you have had, I now will consider that.

Really interested in your thoughts on Gabapentin. Is it true that you can not give Gabapentin that is prescribed for humans to dogs. Is there something toxic in it? Just wondering because my SO has diabetes and takes Gabapentin for his nerve pain.


Buddy is on Gabapentin after she came up lame on her shoulder and we couldn't find ANYTHING on xrays. After trying Metacam, the Rimadyl+tramadol, none of which touched the pain, the gabapentin has made a WORLD of difference. We think she has a nerve root/sheath tumor. There isn't really any studies that prove that gabapentin works for dogs but vets have been using it for some time to control nerve pain. The dane that I dog-sit is on it as well for Wobblers. I would imagine that it's the same as the type humans get since I get mine from the human pharmacy. But it only works for nerve pain, not joint pain, and of course you know, but I feel obligated to say, to not use it without vet supervision.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby mtlu » Tue Oct 05, 2010 9:18 pm

When I first got Molly and started researching foods, I wasn't anti-corn/grain – I switched her from the regular Science Diet (what she ate at the shelter) to Canidae. She had some skin issues even after 6+ months on Canidae but her overall condition and coat looked much better than when we first got her. I did kind of an abbreviated food trial and kept a food journal for her and was able to narrow down that the dehydrated beef heart treats we were giving her made her yeasty. So beef is a known no-no for her.

I felt like she could still benefit from a food change though so we tried Nature's Variety instinct and TOTW. We settled on the Pacific Stream formula of TOTW and saw dramatic improvement with her coat; far smaller stools and almost no gas. While she was on Canidae, she pooped at least six times a day and had room-clearing gas.

We tried Wellness Core Ocean a few months ago as I posted in the other current thread and it didn't work out so well for Molly so we're back to TOTW. However, I am concerned about accumulation of heavy metals from a solely fish-based diet as well a potential decrease in ability to digest other proteins so I have her on the Wetlands formula right now and plan on rotating through the various formulas.

I also just picked up a small bag of Orijen Regional Red Meat because the owner at my neighborhood pet store gave me a discount. Despite the name, it doesn't contain beef but other proteins like pork, wild boar, lamb. etc so I am willing to give it a try. It's 38% crude protein, unlike the 6-Fish which is somewhere around 44% crude protein. I've also had Molly on a good probiotic for several months now and she did fine with a no-transition switch to TOTW Wetlands.

I'm not entirely convinced that grain is evil but I admit that I can only comprehend so much info as a consumer with a non-vet/medical/nutritional background. What I do know is that Molly has done better on grain-free food; and done better with foods with a higher level of fat in relation to protein. There was a recent article from a e-newsletter that another forum member introduced me to that kind of explained the importance of fat in a dog's diet and how they metabolize it differently and use it for energy.

One of the things I am more focused on now is the sourcing of the ingredients which is what leads me to a brand like Orijen/Acana. I'm not so concerned with the "cutting room floor" aspect of meat rendered for dog food but were the animals given hormones and fed with genetically modified grain? I recently sent an email inquiry to ZiwiPeak as I've seen that on the shelves of "better" pet stores lately but I was leery about the non-specific response I received. From the info on their website, the ingredients sourced and the food made in New Zealand sounds wonderful but they were completely unspecific about source of ingredients and manufacturing locations of their food for North America.

I consider TOTW a decent, mid-range food but it's certainly NOT on par with Orijen. However, it is really affordable and as I've said before, Molly does really really well on it but I will switch when we can afford better. Oh, and I'm also not that enthused about super-high protein levels just because I don't think Molly needs it and higher protein foods tend to have more ash content which I read somewhere was more of a contributor to kidney issues than the actual amount of protein.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby AllisonPitbullLvr » Tue Oct 05, 2010 9:31 pm

Great posting mtlu.

My other problem with Orijen is that I think they spend far too much money on marketing the products to pet owners instead of actually putting money into their product. With ingredients like "sun-cured alfalfa" who wouldn't feed this to their pets?? Also, Orijen has pretty much been caught in a lie about the source of some of their meats, particularly fish. On the kansas trip with me as a veterinarian from Alberta who explained that some of the particular fish they claimed either didn't exist anymore in areas where the company claims to have "fresh-caught" them or it was illegal for them to fish for particular species. So I'm still iffy on whether the quality of ingredients from Orijen is actually as good as they make it sound.

I'm happy to hear your story with grains and Molly. My guys did so poorly on the no-grain diets, I'm glad to have perspective from someone who has had success.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby mtlu » Tue Oct 05, 2010 10:07 pm

I remember seeing something about the fish sourcing for Orijen before. I also found some discrepancies with Wellness' claim that their fish is ethoxyquin-free. TOTW never said one way or the other that their fish was e-free when I first started buying it (pre-Diamond buyout) but their food also averages $20 less per 30lb bag compared to Wellness and I wasn't too happy about paying a premium for Wellness with their foggy disclosure.

I would be interested in hearing what else you learned about Orijen's meat sourcing aside from their fish. That puts a damper on things for me.

It's anecdotal evidence like yours that makes me not think grains are such a big no-no in dog's diets. As I mentioned before, I don't have the best understanding of nutrition but I would imagine certain grains are much better at providing dietary fiber than potatoes.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby Savage Destiny » Wed Oct 06, 2010 12:41 am

I don't think grains are the devil in pet food, provided that they are whole grains and not grain fractions or glutens. I don't like to see cast-offs going into dog food. Grain doesn't work for every dog, and grain free doesn't work for every dog. I still don't like seeing junky ingredients going into food- like by products. Yes, I know its only supposed to be "good" stuff, but I personally don't really buy it. If the by-products are supposedly liver, label it as liver! I hate seeing companies skimp to save a few bucks and not let us know exactly what is going in the food. I want to know that what is in each bag is the same, not different every time- which the anonymous "by-products" label lets companies get away with. I sell dog food. I want to be able to tell my customers that the formula won't be different depending on what leftovers the company had that day.

I'm very leery of Hill's after reading through their vet tech nutritional training guide online, so many horrible contradictions. They literally say that dogs are meant to eat meat, then turn around later and insist carbs like corn are a better energy source than protein. They claim that ingredients do not matter at all, only "nutrition"... so protein derived from wheat gluten is every bit as valuable as protein derived from meat. I don't buy that- if ingredients didn't matter, I could eat McDonald's every day and not worry about my health, so long as I made sure I got adequate protein, fat, carb, etc. to meet my nutritional needs. Ingredients do matter, that's why we try to balance our diets and eat healthy foods. Why would a company think it is different for animals?

I'd be interested to see actual proof from Hill's that Orijen's fish sources are sketchy- again, my friend who is taking a vet tech course (that gave me the training info in the first place), tells me that her Hill's-sponsored nutrition teacher makes sure to mention how awful Orijen is in every class. She apparently claimed that Orijen has a dangerously high glycemic index, when the food was awarded best pet food by the glycemic research institute. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't even feed Orijen right now- however it makes me itch that Hill's targets the food so specifically for bashing, it makes me think they may be scared or threatened by it. As a side note, alfalfa IS really good for dogs (and people), lol. I supplement with it a couple times a week.

Moving on from that whole debate, I feed raw because of Riddle. When I got her she was being fed Science Diet at the shelter, and she was hairless, stinky, bloated, and had the biggest runniest poops I have ever seen. I switched her to Innova puppy when we got home, and her skin got a little better, but she still had chronic diarrhea, hair loss, and major itchiness. We switched from brand to brand, grain free and not, and never saw any improvement. I finally switched to the Nature's Variety pre made raw, and... hair grew back, stool got solid, itchiness reduced. We still battle allergies with her, but switching her to raw was the best thing I ever did for her. After tons of research, I make all the dog food now, because it is sooo much cheaper than buying pre made.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby GSDBulldog » Wed Oct 06, 2010 1:12 am

Isaac eats Nature's Recipe because it's cheap, honestly. It's a good mid-range food, and he does well on it. Also, being a Chihuahua... His dietary needs are a bit simpler than my over-active bulldogs.

I feed Jack and Howie Life's Abundance because it's affordable and the company ships directly to my door. Except for the show season, when I switch Jack to a raw diet (I'm too lazy to do a raw diet year round). Last year, I experimented and fed Orijen instead of raw and the only difference I noticed was in my wallet. So...

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby AllisonPitbullLvr » Wed Oct 06, 2010 6:11 am

Savage Destiny wrote:I want to know that what is in each bag is the same, not different every time- which the anonymous "by-products" label lets companies get away with. I sell dog food. I want to be able to tell my customers that the formula won't be different depending on what leftovers the company had that day.

What helped me alot with this was the actual AAFCO definitions for by-products which you can find here: http://www.aafco.org/Publications/tabid/75/Default.aspx but only with alot of difficulty. So that makes me think that pet food companies as a whole are a little shady.

I'm very leery of Hill's after reading through their vet tech nutritional training guide online, so many horrible contradictions. Why would a company think it is different for animals?

I'm taking that course in the next little while so that's an interesting point. I didn't get that vibe at all from the trip but I will definitely keep that in the back of my mind when I'm doing the modules.

I'd be interested to see actual proof from Hill's that Orijen's fish sources are sketchy-

It wassn't info from a Hill's person, it was from a veterinarian who lives in Alberta where these fish are supposedly caught fresh.

As a side note, alfalfa IS really good for dogs (and people), lol. I supplement with it a couple times a week.

It wasn't the alfafa as an ingredient I had a problem with, it was the wording of it. "Sun-cured"? Really? Yeah, I believe that. My dogs don't get alfafa meal but they DO however get kelp. Which may be sun-dried from how it smells. lol


At this point, I don't think I'll feed anything that hasn't had a food trial. If Orijen ran a trial, with x number of pets eating this food for 6 months +, I wonder how many would find abnormalities on blood screens compared to the control group? Sadly, I'd bet it would be quite a high percentage. Perhaps high protein diets are okay for some dogs, but any of them who are pre-disposed to kidney or liver disease? These foods make me cringe.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby Sarah » Wed Oct 06, 2010 9:15 am

I went through a change in the way I feed based on results I was seeing. 10 + years ago, when I got my Elmo, I wanted to feed him something I could get at Petco, so I fed Nutromax. His coat started thinning, so we started a food odyssey. I did some research, and decided to get corn & wheat out of his diet, so I started by switching him to Nutro Natural, which didn't have those ingredients. Big plus... he no longer had gas, which I had just assumed was normal. I thus have avoided those ingredients in foods I've fed since.

Still wasn't getting the results I wanted, so I switched him to Wellness (Super 5 mix chicken). In very short order, I was amazed at the difference in the quality of his coat, he was much shinier and healthy looking. Still had thinning coat, but he seemed so healthy I decided to stay on that food.

When I added Tully, almost 9 years ago, her breeder was feeding Canidae, and sent her home with some. I decided that if this food was doing well for other dogs of the breed, I would try that with both of mine. Bonus: it was cheaper. My dogs did well on it. Though Elmo's coat was still doing a seasonal thinning thing. I continued to research.

At an agility trial, a rep was there for a brand of food called Dog Lover's Gold. It seemed fairly similar in formula to the Canidae, but was a bit higher in fat percentage. My research had indicated to me that fat content is good, dogs burn it for energy, so a little higher fat percentage seemed like a good thing. The food was also very palatable to the dogs. I put my dogs on that food, they did well, and I've fed it for several years. I buy it directly from the rep at dog shows & agility trials, and it is affordable.

When I bred Tess last December, though, I wasn't going to shows, since I wanted to avoid contagion. I therefore couldn't pick up my usual food. The stores I could buy it at in town are all a bit of a drive, and I'd have to pay somewhat more than from the rep. So, I went to a local shop to pick an alternative. After looking at their options, considering price etc, I settled on the TOTW. I purchased and fed that for several months as Tess produced her litter.

What I noticed after several months of this food, during which Tess whelped and raised a litter, was that she was in ripped condition, far more muscular in appearance than I would expect from a dog who was getting less than her usual exercise. Also, her stool was firmer. She'd always had occasional soft stool, not bad enough to worry about, and not something I'd really given any consideration, until it wasn't happening. I decided to keep her on the TOTW. Her dam, Tully, OTOH, was getting chubby, and I had already cut her meals back to a pittance, hard on a dog who loves to eat! Once I was able to go out to the shows and get some, I put Tully back on the Dog Lover's Gold.

The puppy I kept, Pirate, I had on the DLG, because it's cheaper. However, his ears kept getting mucky. He never had an infection, but the ears would be dirty a lot and we did have a bit of yeast building up in the pinnae some of the time. I decided about a month ago to see if feeding the grain free food would help with this. So, I put him on the TOTW too. So far, his ears do seem more clear, though that could be coincidental, and after he's been eating grain free for a while longer, and assuming his ears stay clean on this, I may try switching back to the DLG as an experiment.

As of yesterday, Tess & Pirate aren't eating the TOTW, though, we are trying a bag of the Acana. It was only a few dollars more than the TOTW, and I wanted to give it a try. I didn't do a gradual food shift, I rarely do, and the foods are similar enough in composition I didn't see a need. I don't have any opinion on the Acana yet, and don't know if I'll decide I want to feed that, or go back to the TOTW. Tully will stay on the DLG, she does really well on it. An interesting note there is that I decided to try the grain free on Pirate to see if it would clear his ears, and it may have. But another claim made for grain free is that it is a cure for spay incontinence, which has not been my experience. Tully is incontinent, and being grain free made no difference in that. In fact, we haven't had a leaking episode since I switched her off of the grain free food. (she is on DES for the incontinence)

So, that's the whole saga. What I feed, and why. You did ask. ;)

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby KittyNyanNyan » Wed Oct 06, 2010 11:06 am

For Cody, I switched him to Blue Wilderness. I did it because I LOVE Blue, and I was just experimenting around due to his kidneys. I know this sounds odd, but his kidneys have actually gotten BETTER on the high protein food. I have no idea why, but I continue to do blood workups on him to monitor his condition. Until I see otherwise, I'll keep him on it. It's a little expensive, because I have him solely on wet, but it's definitely made a difference for my baby boy.

For Maybelle, I had her on raw. Before, she was on Nutro Light, which she hated. Then she was on Nature's Recipe because it was a decent food for the price. However, she always smelled sour and a little yeasty. She chronically had ear infections and yeast infections. When I switched her to raw, her coat looked better, her ears looked better, her ears were better, and not only that but she pooped less and shed less. But with school and work, I had to switch her to commercial food, since it was harder for me to shop around and prepare her food :oops: I can definitely tell the difference with her now. She has ear infections again, she smells SOUR and her coat is dull. I took this weekend off so hopefully I can prepare her meals in bulk so it'll be a little better. I definitely stand by raw as much as possible.

Walt and Izzy are on Orijen, because they're both a healthy weight, active and look nice. The gas is gone as well.

Elli is on Nature's Recipe because he can't handle higher quality food. We tried Orijen, Wellness, Blue etc. His poops never firmed up and he was always having diarrhea for months. So we just had to switch. His poops are firm now, and he seems happy.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby Savage Destiny » Wed Oct 06, 2010 11:18 am

AllisonPibbleLvr wrote:What helped me alot with this was the actual AAFCO definitions for by-products which you can find here: http://www.aafco.org/Publications/tabid/75/Default.aspx but only with alot of difficulty. So that makes me think that pet food companies as a whole are a little shady.


I know the AAFCO definitions. Still, by-products can mean a number of different things under that definition, and I hate the thought of companies being able to add liver to this batch, intestines to the next, and not have to note the difference because its all "by-product".

I'm taking that course in the next little while so that's an interesting point. I didn't get that vibe at all from the trip but I will definitely keep that in the back of my mind when I'm doing the modules.


I and my friend both are weirded out by the whole course. Every update she gives me makes me shiver, because their entire course is centering around how awesome Hill's is and how everything else is horrible for your pets.

It wassn't info from a Hill's person, it was from a veterinarian who lives in Alberta where these fish are supposedly caught fresh.


Ah, misunderstood that part. I'd still like to see some actual proof, rather than one person's opinion. Maybe I'll call Champion when I'm back at work.

It wasn't the alfafa as an ingredient I had a problem with, it was the wording of it. "Sun-cured"? Really? Yeah, I believe that. My dogs don't get alfafa meal but they DO however get kelp. Which may be sun-dried from how it smells. lol


I do kelp too. :) I think the "sun dried" part is definitely catering to their consumer base. The people that want to feed Orijen and pay the price know there's something extra going into the food. Technically, sun drying is gentler on the alfalfa and destroys less nutrients, so I can kind of see that one.

At this point, I don't think I'll feed anything that hasn't had a food trial. If Orijen ran a trial, with x number of pets eating this food for 6 months +, I wonder how many would find abnormalities on blood screens compared to the control group? Sadly, I'd bet it would be quite a high percentage. Perhaps high protein diets are okay for some dogs, but any of them who are pre-disposed to kidney or liver disease? These foods make me cringe.


Again, I think part of the problem with really "holistic" companies and food trials is that their customer base depends A LOT on, well, hoity toity sort of people. NOT that everyone who feeds it is like that, don't get me wrong, I feed that sort of thing too. But I see a different perspective selling food and seeing the sort of people that generally buy foods like Orijen... and they're the sort of people who freak out about "animal testing". Natura got a lot of backlash for their feeding trial facilities too. I'm not making excuses for companies, but I can sort of see where they're coming from, especially a small business like Champion that's having to stop further distribution of their food because they can barely source the rare ingredients they use.

And I know this is anecdotal evidence, but my male cat Puck is borderline kidney disease. He was eating half raw and half canned. Due to cost reasons, I switched him to kibble (Orijen to start with) and while he was on the Orijen we did regular blood tests, and his kidney values actually went down. We're not feeding it right now because I like to rotate foods, but it is something I like to bring up.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby Timas Mom » Wed Oct 06, 2010 2:21 pm

"My other problem with Orijen is that I think they spend far too much money on marketing the products to pet owners instead of actually putting money into their product."
I would be far more concerned with the billions Hills puts out in tv ads for science diet etc. With the ambiguity of AAFCOs guidelines, I prefer named products. If its chicken liver say liver. Hills and Medi-cal still used rendered meats and fats, use items like poultry fat, animal fat, animal by-products...all for a measly $158 bag here in canada. The quality of food is not worth the price. I wish they would apply the rigorous standards for their science and testing to the quality of ingredients that go into the food.

Actually Champion food does next to no advertising. They do brochures and have a website. Labelling on a bag costs no more with or without the words you find so questionable. So they are not putting extra money into it.

Orijen is not for every dog, Its an athletes diet. A highly active dog, working regularly. Not for your average housepet with 2x 20 min walks a day. I don''t recommend it to many. I prefer Acana.

I advocate raw or home-cooked BUT IF I fed kibble,I would feed Natures Logic, (they've done the useless feeding trials that everyone likes.) Its all food, no artificial vitamins and minerals, and uses millet at the carb source. Its not for dogs with allergies, but contains quality ingredients that I can pronounce and don't need a definition guide to figure out.
I would never feed a veterinary diet. After 7 years working with vets, and pulling the company line, I know you can play with wording all you want, but its not worth the price.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby Mya&theSiebenDackels » Wed Oct 06, 2010 4:34 pm

We feed our four dachshunds Diamond Naturals Lamb and Rice because honestly it is an inexpensive but decent food. Our dachshunds also have sensitive stomachs and it is the only food they have not had the runs on and horrible gas.

We are thinking about switching them to Blue Buffalo soon though. We decided RAW was a little to much for us right now.

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Re: Why do you feed the food you do?

Postby AllisonPitbullLvr » Wed Oct 06, 2010 7:33 pm

Great posts everyone! I'm learning a ton, trying to stay analytical and get into some one elses head when it comes to dog food.

To clarify one point I made, although Orijen doesn't spend money on advertising, they DO play the marketing game quite cleverly. When I was looking for a diet when I adopted my guys, the first thing I did was read the ingredient list. Things like "sun-cured alfalfa" would have made my little heart sing with joy to be able to feed such a wonderful food to my dogs. But all the outrageous claims out there about these new "miracle" diets just have me so darn suspicious...jaded even. (Seriously? A cure for urine incontinence? I never heard that one...)

What DOES make me so happy is that the majority of people I meet really have their pets best interest at heart. I'm of the theory that one should feed whatever diet works best for THAT dog.

Preventive and j/d are what works for my guys.


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