I’ve just had to return this book to the library so I thought it would be fitting that I review it, since I think it is a very good book….
Title: Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals
Author: Lew Olson
Copyright Date: 2010
Publisher: North Atlantic Books, Berkeley California
Available through bookstores. If your bookstore doesn’t have it, it can be ordered, or you can order it yourself from an online bookseller.
Also, chances are you’ll be able to find the book in your local library, especially if the library has access to other libraries through InterLibrary Loan.
I found out about this book by painstakingly going through the zillions of “how to make your own dog food” and “dog food recipe” and “dog nutrition” books on Amazon, and reading the reviews.
A word of caution on online reviews: Amazon’s reviews have been infiltrated with “fake” reviews, that is, reviews that appear to be by everyday readers, but are not. Many of the reviews written by real readers have been inundated with comments from folks accusing them of being fakes. A lot of the reviewers don’t understand that they’re supposed to be reviewing the book, not how fast the book arrived at their doorstep. For books that have accompanying online message boards and information websites, reviewers tend to review these sites and forget that they are supposed to be reviewing the book. And you always get the occasional person with their own agenda putting up crap that has nothing to do with the book and is not helpful for those of us deciding whether to purchase.
Despite this, I do read reviews, but I read between the lines. People have whatever reasons they have for giving a book a star rating…read between the lines here, please, because a lot of people will adore a book and only give it three stars. Are they naturally stingy with stars? Heck if I know. Then you’ll get the reader who gives a book five stars, and says, “It was great, but it gave me a rash,” or whatever.
When I read book reviews, mostly what I’m looking for is:
Who found the book useful, and why?
Does it contain the material I’m looking for?
Does the book have a particular slant that may turn me on or off?
What makes this book unique?
If the book passes the test, I look it up in my library’s catalog, and get this: Chances are, your local library’s catalog is available to you right at home! Google your local library, find its website, and then find the link to your library’s catalog. At my local library, I can request books from home, see what I’ve got checked out, renew books, and even pay (ouch!) library fines. Check into your library’s available services for text or e-mail alerts reminding you when a book is due. Another thing you might want to do is to ask at the library if there is a book drop return box super handy for you so that you can return a book with ease.
Anyway, just a plug for libraries…I look the book up in the catalog and see if it’s on the shelf at the moment we speak. If it is, awesome, I go have a look and decide if the book is what I’m looking for. If not, I look over what my library’s catalog site offers for information about the book.
In regards to Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs, I found the following publisher’s description:
In the whirlwind of information about local, organic, and whole foods, it’s easy to forget that our canine companions can also benefit from–and deserve–a more natural and nurturing diet. Preparing Fido’s food at home may seem daunting, but it’s really not, says Lew Olson in Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs. Olson discusses canine nutritional needs and explains the research on how home-prepared foods, particularly raw foods, can meet pets’ needs better than commercial, processed dog food. Step-by-step instructions and recipes make preparation easy. The book includes charts with the recipes, instructions on keeping diets simple and balanced, guidelines on preparation, suggestions for finding ingredients, and how much to feed a dog by body weight. There are recipes for healthy adult dogs as well as guidelines for puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with health conditions including pancreatitis, renal problems, gastric issues, allergies, heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. Pet owners seeking to give their dogs a better coat, better skin, and healthier teeth and gums, as well as longer lives and more stable temperaments, are sure to welcome this book.
I would say that this description is completely accurate. Here’s a link to my library’s links to Table of Contents, Author notes, etc:
Lew Olson, the author, is not a vet, but holds a degree specializing in dog digestion. She is a dog breeder and dog show judge. She also is president of a couple of kennel clubs. You can bet she’s seen a lot of dogs and the ins and outs of feeding them. In case you’re curious, her specialty is Rottweilers. I trust this author.
Just reading the Table of Contents tells you that you can find a variety of choices as to how to feed your dog. This book leaves it up to you to decide what is the most practical and healthy option for you and your dog. There are also special chapters on specific health concerns and special considerations for puppies, elderly dogs, breeding females, etc.
Please note that there is no chapter on feeding your dog a vegetarian diet. There’s a reason for this. I’ve looked at seven instructional books on how to feed a dog something I make at home from scratch, and the consensus is that dogs and vegetarian diets don’t jive. Many dog recipe books do contain vegetarian recipes, but these are not meant for everyday feeding.
My two cents would be to reserve vegetarian dishes for “treat” foods. I don’t know about your dog, but Puzzle loves both raw and cooked vegetables. You can freeze a vegetarian dish in an ice cube tray (mini-cubes if you have a teensy dog like Puzzle) and then give them to your dog in nice small bits. How yummy. You can also freeze canned dog food in cube trays for treats.
If I’m going to chop veggies, Puzzle often, but not always, comes tip-toeing into the kitchen to wait for some piece of veggie to go flying off my cutting board. If I don’t want her to have what I’ve dropped, I can usually retrieve it in time, either by being quicker than she is, or by telling her it isn’t hers and keeping my fingers crossed that she actually minds me. It’s very interesting that of all the foods that have gone crashing down to my floor, the food she’s quickest and sneakiest about has always been eggshells.
There’s a reason for this: eggshells are a good source of calcium, an essential nutrient for dogs. The dog food books I borrowed all confirm that many home cooked diets require calcium supplementation. Calcium is supposedly in kibble, but I’m not really sure if the calcium is digestible and in the appropriate amount for Puzzle.
Some dogs can get calcium from raw bones that they chew on. The awesome thing about this is that the dog can use his or her natural body sense to know when to chew on the bone to get the calcium. The not-so-good thing is that some dogs are heavy-duty chewers and will break the bones into nasty pieces that can mess up their insides and cause all kinds of grief. Be forewarned that puppies and adolescent dogs often end up with some kind of digestive woe from swallowing contraband and this can include bones.
This happened to Puzzle once. My vet explained that a dog’s digestive system is very cleverly made to handle bones just fine. The problem was that Puzzle had ingested a lot, lot, lot of chicken bones from devouring someone’s discarded cooked chicken that she found while we were out on a walk. Cooked or not, the sheer number of bones she wolfed down while I stood there like an idiot, helpless to get them away from her, was too much at once for her little tummy. Yes, there were a bunch of vet bills and lots of doggie throw-up on my floor to clean up, as well as special “bland” diets to keep Puzzle’s tummy soothed while she recovered. If your dog throws up a lot and has diarrhea, you definitely should take your dog to the vet to get an injection of fluids to treat dehydration. You also want to stop the diarrhea in its tracks. Whether to give anti-emetic medication or other tummy medications such as antacids varies from vet to vet. Your dog’s stomach needs acids to digest the bones, but too much acid can irritate the dog. I actually had two vets disagree on what to do about the antacids. Needless to say, I, Puzzle, and my credit card eventually recovered, and I caught up on lost sleep.
Well, lesson learned I guess. I must say that ever since then, Puzzle has picked up bones off the street now and then, and it seems that her digestive system is much, much stronger than it ever was before the mishap. Very weird. I really should have taught her to “give up” stuff she’s got in her mouth, but I neglected to teach her this. So if she steals your grandma’s statue of Baby Jesus and chomps on it and carries it around town while we’re on a walk, well, that’s just tough. This has never happened, anyway.
I studied and studied dog nutrition and what would be right for us, Puzzle and I, as a team, given every factor you can think of. This includes availability of food, cost of food, nutritional benefits of various foods, where I can get the food, in what form, how much home cooking effort is required and whether I have the cooking equipment, how much I’m going to concoct at a time, and how I’m going to store leftovers. And…will Puzzle eat it? Of course she will. My dog eats any crap you put in front of her, especially if it’s in her bowl. I’ve seen her turn up her nose at food only once. Rice saturated with Pepto Bismol. She grumbled about it for a while, took little bites and (as far as I could interpret) gave me a questioning look, and then went and ate it anyway.
So I decided on a cooked meat diet for Puzzle. Yes, there’s a wonderful chapter in Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs on feeding a cooked diet. Nothing fancy, just a basic how-to. Of all the dog food books I took out of the library, this one has the most down-to-earth and practical guide for doing exactly what I wanted to do. The chapter is short, to-the-point, and sensible. Nothing fancy.
You won’ t find delicious stews, meatloaves, and birthday cakes in this book. Go elsewhere for those. What you will find are guidelines and how-to instructions. The book will tell you how to transition your dog to the new diet, how much to feed your dog (it’s not the same as kibble) and much more.
The introduction to this book is awesome. It’s called, “The Untold History of Dog Food.” Set aside some time to read this. It’s well-written and as a matter of fact, I’d say this chapter is rather profound, or at least I found it to be. Why? There’s a little message in it for the dog owner: Be aware, be informed, be skeptical, dig deep. By digging deep I mean looking at dog food from a political and economic standpoint as well.
“Why is all this questioning necessary, when all I want to do is feed my dog?” you may ask. Trust me, it pays to learn what went on with the economics of dog food to understand what is behind the kibble in fancy colorful eye-catching bags you see in the supermarket aisles. It pays to understand what the “dog food industry” is doing to our heads with all their advertising. It affects how we spend our money. If you buy a product, you are saying “yes” to that company and all its practices, including the practice of deceiving us and lying to us. Every purchase you make is a political statement. Who are these companies, what else do they do, and who is behind them? This chapter goes into that. It’s what it says it is, a history, an evolution of how we went from feeding our dogs scraps of meat we had on hand to opening a can of god-knows-what and giving the contents to our dogs just because a big business making lots of money told us that this was how to love our pets.
Advertising is just that. It tries to tell us how to become more loved in a love-starved society.
Anyway, this is a good book. I read the chapter on skin conditions because Puzzle occasionally has dry skin, but didn’t read the one on, say, how to feed a lactating dog or the chapter on kidney issues or other issues because these do not apply. I will not hesitate to borrow the book again should I need it, especially when Puzzle graduates from “adult” to “senior.”
Puzzle will be six in November, on the 26th. Since I switched her to a cooked meat diet, she has picked up stuff off of the ground less while we’ve been on walks. This may or may not be an indication that perhaps she is less driven scavenge to acquire nutrients while we’re out. Still, I often think of her as the Trash Queen. She still finds a discarded wrapper full of a half-eaten delicacy such as a bagel or cupcake or pizza crust hard to resist. The object for her is to scrunch it around as much as she can and then extract the goodies. If some of the paper gets eaten, well, so be it. Lately, though, Puzzle has eaten less paper, if any, so there must be something I’m doing right, don’t you think?
Have a nice night. Happy doggie dreams.