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If you’re my facebook friend, then you know that we were shocked a while back when we tried to buy some bones for the dogs at the local grocery store and they told us no.  Well, we were in another town to run some errands and stopped by their grocery store and guess what… they were more than happy to sell us a product in exchange for money.  How strange is that?

I asked the butcher if he had some large bones for my dogs.  He said, “Sure.” and disappeared for a while.  He came back holding something out of a caveman movie.  He asked if I wanted it whole, and I told him to cut it into thirds.  He packaged it up for us and off we went.

Duchess was most pleased with our offering.

We headed outside to get some sun and let the dogs gnaw on their new present for the rest of the day.

Only problem was that Duchess thought all three pieces belonged to her.  Here she is planning her attack on the anti social corgi.

So I had to split everyone up.  Good thing our backyard is pretty big.

I don’t think Jake moved from that spot for about four hours.  Duchess finally settled in and went to work.

Only problem was that around 5:00 the next morning, she started whining and whimpering and wouldn’t stop.  I finally got up and let her out and she bolted across the yard and proceeded to shoot a poop rainbow across the yard.  I’m surprised she didn’t wake up the whole neighborhood with her little concert.

Good thing I keep medicine on hand for occasions like this.  So… we learned a valuable lesson here:  If your local butcher refuses to sell you giant dinosaur bones for your dogs, you should listen to him.

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To make up for the uber dry and boring dog food lesson two days ago. So here it goes.

I’m in Tractor Supply the other day picking up a bag of 4health for Jake and Duchess (Oliver is eating a different blend of 4health and it’s going to take him forever to finish it… if the Mayans were right, this might be the only bag we buy him) and I make eye contact with this older gentleman.

I wasn’t able to take a picture of him – but he looked a LOT like Jack Nance who played Pete Martell in Twin Peaks.

I gave him the “hey wassup now leave me alone and move right along” nod that men give each other and continued through the store to the pet area.  I grabbed the bag and went right back to the front to pay.  The gentleman continued to eye me warily and started to sort of circle around me all the time sizing me up.

I thought – oh great, I’m gonna get in a throwdown with an old dude in Tractor Supply?  Seriously?  Or perhaps he’s a huge fan of the blog and I’m going to be asked for my first autograph?

Well he finally got a little braver and slowly moved in.  I locked eyes with the guy and gave him the “you’re totally in my space” look as he leaned in.  He looked to his left, looked to his right, looked behind him, then looked over my shoulder.  I thought he was about to ask me if I wanted some weed or something.

He leaned in a little closer and began to whisper just barely loud enough for me to hear him.  He said, “Ya know… the dog food down at Gebo’s is cheaper.”  I jumped back and gave him a very entertaining gasp, complete with raised eyebrows (which mine are quite bushy so it was even more impressive) and let my jaw drop a little.

He seemed pleased with himself.  I shifted the giant bag of dog food in my arms so I could block the view of the checkout girl (since we’re discussing top secret stuff here apparently… because you know, those high school clerks are huge on price checking and store loyalty) and began to repeat the shifty eyed routine that he had done moments earlier.

After making sure the coast was clear – I whispered oh so quietly… “I know.”  Then I paused for dramatic effect – much like a bad TV evangelist – and continued “I buy this food because of what’s in it.”

I patted Twin Peaks dude on the shoulder, smiled, and turned back to the checkout clerk/dog food espionage expert to pay.  When I left he was still standing in the same general area, and had this bewildered look on his face.  I’m not sure why – he’s the one that was acting like we were conducting some sort of illegal arms deal with a terrorist sleeper cell.  I guess it was sort of fitting since Twin Peaks was such a strange (and completely awesome) series and he bore an uncanny resemblance to Pete.  I think as I look back on this encounter from now on I’ll play the Twin Peaks theme in the background in my head… but from now on Sherilyn Fenn from the show is going to be there too.

P.S. – funny quote from the boy the other day.  His job was to poop scoop the yard and put it all in the trash can outside while I got the garden ready for planting.  He spent the entire afternoon working on it and when he was done he said, “Daddy, that trash can stinks.  It’s really, reeeeeeally bad.  It’s like, I dunno, like the devil pooped in it.”

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I know everyone’s been chomping at the bit – dying to find out exactly what it is that we feed Duchess (it’s all the talk at the coffee shops around here) so I’m finally going to get around to discussing it.  When we first got her, we were feeding a grain-free diet called Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream.

I really wanted Duchess to be on a grain free diet because I felt it was the healthiest option for her (plus less grain filler means less poop to pick up which is awesome).  However, after two months of trying the grain free route I decided that her stomach just couldn’t handle it… it was way too rich for her it seemed and never did agree with her.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  Our options here are limited because we live in the boonies, so it’s impossible to find most brands of dog foods other than the superstore lines.
So, I moved her to the Pedigree Large Breed formula which seemed to work just fine for her.  I knew it wasn’t the best food to offer her, but after two months of constant upset tummy, I was desperate.  I kept her on this up until recently, all the while continuing to research her food options.  Whenever I’d find a food that seemed like a good fit, the nearest retailer was 300 miles away.  Not exactly an economical option.

Now, let me be clear about something – I’m not a food switcher.  In my family, you picked a food for your dog and you stayed with it for the course of your pet’s life.  I’m not really sure why we did that growing up, but it was just a cardinal rule… you didn’t mess with your dog’s food.  So of course for me to be switching foods around was a massive ordeal that would keep me up at night.  I know – I’m weird.

She rocked along on the Pedigree fine, but still had the occasional blowout (which with a dog that eats everything on the ground she can find, you can’t really blame the food).  One day I happened to look up the review for Pedigree Large Breed over at Dog Food Analysis.  I knew the food wasn’t the best, but I was utterly shocked at how bad it really was.  You can click on the link if you want to read the whole thing, but some of the highlights are things like;

The primary ingredient in this food is corn. Corn is a difficult to digest grain of limited value in dog food, and which is also commonly associated with food allergies.
In plain English, the remains of corn after most of the nutritious bits have been removed.
Meat and bone meal is an extremely low quality ingredient…. We would have greater confidence in this ingredient as fertilizer than as a dog food ingredient.
The next ingredient is byproducts. It is impossible to ascertain the quality of by-products and these are usually products that are of such low quality as to be rejected for use in the human food chain, or else are those parts that have so little value that they cannot be used elsewhere in either the human or pet food industries.
This product uses chemical preservatives. BHA and BHT are allowed in dog food products but are banned or heavily regulated in human food production due to the belief that they are carcinogenic.
The next ingredient is wheat flour. In dog food products, this is commonly a byproduct (think floorsweepings) of human food production and is a grain fragment we consider primarily filler. Wheat is believed by many to be the leading cause of food allergy problems in dog foods.
There is no excuse for adding artificial colorings to dog food products.Overall, this is one of the lowest quality products reviewed on this site. It receives a 1* rating due to the unavailability of anything lower.

Ugh.  I don’t think a food could’ve received a lower review.  Of course I went into a panic and started running through all the usual sites again trying like crazy to find a remotely acceptable food within driving distance that wouldn’t turn her booty into a poop cannon like the Taste of the Wild did.

While researching, it really got me to thinking about all the problems we’ve had with Jake… his hotspots, skin allergies, ear infections, etc.  It was decided that whatever brand we went with next – all the dogs were making the switch.  It also explained a lot about why our dogs have always smelled a little… “corny”.  If they would be asleep and got really hot, they always smelled a little like Doritos (which are made from corn).  I guess all the corn filler they were eating completely permeated through their skin.  Yuck.

Luckily, the very next day I ran across some food at our local Tractor Supply.  It was called 4Health and seemed to be a decent food.  I searched all the forums and dog food sites, but there wasn’t much information out on it… they had just released it.  The general consensus of people though was that it was a decent food at a great price so I snagged it.  The Large Breed formula for the big doggies, and the Lamb and Rice formula for Oliver.

While it does have grain in it, it’s at least a “grain of lesser evil” so to speak since it’s barley and rice… plus the first ingredient listed is chicken.  The protein content is at the right level, and it has glucosamine included in it which is great for Jake’s hips.  Also, Duchess’ stomach is able to handle it.

Here’s a pic of the kibble itself.  No bright artificial colors, no cute little shapes like bones or lucky charms… just good quality kibble (all that other stuff is to make YOU feel good about feeding it to your dog).

So it appears we’ve reached a good compromise with 4health.  She gets the grain (not corn) that helps her stomach stay happy, and I get to feed her a higher quality, locally available food that doesn’t include corn or low-quality ingredients.  Plus, it’s not expensive which is even better.

If you’d like to read more (and who wouldn’t!) about 4health, you can visit this link.

I actually have a funny story along these lines… but I think I’ve overextended everyone’s attention span here. Sorry if this was a little dry and boring – I’ll relay that story in my next blog!

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If you talk to 100 Great Dane owners, you’ll get 100 differing opinions on what and how you should feed your Great Dane.  The opinions differ greatly, and some people are very, very adamant that the way they do it is the only way to go about it… and they’re willing to call you all sorts of things on the interwebz if you disagree with them.  It’s funny – it’s almost like arguing with another set of parents about not spanking versus whoopin ’em for even looking at you wrong.  That’s the level of intensity that this debate escalates to. I’ve seen perfectly sweet people go into fits of rage if you disagree with what they think is correct.

Why?  Well, I think most of that is due to the fact that the leading killer of Great Danes is bloat.  Couple that with the fact that we’re not sure exactly what triggers bloat, and you’ve got a maelstrom of opinions being fired off by people that think what they do for their baby is the absolute best.  But here’s the thing – what THEY do for THEIR baby might not (and probably won’t be) what’s best for YOURS.

I’ve read and read and read on the subject of Great Danes and diet.  I’ve probably put more hours of reading into this subject than most people spend researching vehicles when they buy a car.  There are probably a lot of people that have or have had Great Danes and they just threw out whatever kibble was the cheapest, never giving it a moment’s thought, and their dogs grew to be healthy and have long lives.  However, I’m just not willing to take that risk.

So what exactly should you feed a Great Dane?  It’s not an easy answer.  You could go the BARF diet route, which is Bones And Raw Food.  The thought behind this is that you feed the dog what they would eat in the wild.  It’s an intriguing approach, but the cost, food prep time, and making sure your dog receives all the balanced nutrients is a BIG undertaking and I don’t know enough about it to feel like I could give my dogs the proper nutrition.

The other approach is a grain-free kibble.  This is VERY popular among Great Dane owners.  The rationale is a lot like the raw diet, but if offers the convenience of it being already prepared and the assurance that the proper nutrients are in there.  Most dog foods are full of corn as a filler, which is a cheap way for companies to give you 50 lbs. of dog food at a lower cost to them.  But you have to think – when is the last time you saw a dog leaping through a corn field chomping down on ears of corn?  Never?  Yeah me neither.  So you have to wonder why it’s in most of our dog foods.  Also, it’s believed that this grain filler is a contributing factor to bloat.

Then of course there’s the grain-laden kibble approach.  This is what the majority of pet owners do, and for the most part it works out fine for their dogs.  There may be times when a vet will put a dog on a special diet because of kidney stones, sensitive stomachs, etc. but as a whole, we pretty much buy whatever brand we think has the cutest dog on the package, or what we think is the healthiest from the shelves at Wal-Mart and go on about our business.

I really can’t blame anyone for this.  For instance, I went into our tiny Petsmart this weekend to look at the food options and if I didn’t know anything about dogs or how to feed one, I’d be overwhelmed.  Just take a look…

Are you kidding me?  That’s 4… count them, 4 aisles of dog food!  And not to mention, I didn’t see a single bag there from one of the 10 – 15 brands that are highly recommended on Great Dane forums.  Also, this isn’t a big store either – I’m sure the selection is even bigger in larger markets.  I tried to picture what it would be like to have never owned a dog before, buy one on a whim, then head into Petsmart to pick up some food.  I would think it would be incredibly overwhelming.

Almost every single bag says “Veterinarian Recommended!” on it, and all of them proclaim to be the best, most wonderful, super healthiest thing you’ve ever given to your dog and he/she is going to love you even more if you choose their food.  That’s where you have to put all of that aside and get to the boring, drab details of it.  The nutritional analysis and the ingredient list.  That’s all that matters.  Period.

Luckily, you don’t have to get out your kids’ Chemistry Set and start performing analysis tests in your basement (but if you do, call me because that could be fun).  We’ll talk more about feeding, what to look for, resources for information, and what we’re currently feeding as we revisit this topic from time to time.

Not the most entertaining of things to read about, but with all the love and joy that our pets bring us, we feel it’s important to invest that same sort of time and commitment into making sure they’re as healthy as we can possibly help them be.  They’re already with us far too short of a time, so we need to make sure the limited number of days we have them are the absolute best that they can be.

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Puppy Food?

I know you readers hate it when I get serious (the hate mails, the letters to Congressmen, the old ladies standing on their curb shaking their fists at me) but feeding a Great Dane is a serious undertaking so I’ll be visiting this topic from time to time.  I especially find it important because thanks to the great marketing engine of corporate America, we’re to believe that you can go pick up a bag of puppy food at the grocery store, slap it down in front of any puppy, and he’ll grow up to be a show dog.

I know this will come to a shock, but that’s not always true.  In fact in some cases like a Great Dane, it can be debilitating.  There are several bone diseases that are prevalent in giant breeds.  Of course the genetics of your puppy play a factor in this, but diet has a very large role.

Puppy foods are very high in protein for growth (around 30% if I’m not mistaken) and have supplements in them such as calcium.  Feeding a high-proten, calcium supplemented diet to your giant breed dog can cause them to grow TOO fast.

Now wait a minute – isn’t that what we want?  Don’t we want our puppies to grow up to be big, giant, strong, healthy dogs?  Well… yes we do.  However, we want them to do so in their own time.  A puppy food can accelerate their growth rate too fast and the result is a long laundry list of horrible bone diseases.

There’s a great (and short) article to read here about the various diseases that feeding a puppy food can contribute to here. I wouldn’t have known anything about regulating Duchess’ protein or calcium intake if I hadn’t researched this before we got her (remember, we pretty much rescued her from white trash ghetto-land where she was most likely being raised on a diet of pork skins and Pabst Blue Ribbon).

Oh, and don’t be fooled by “Large Breed” puppy foods either… the protein is still too high in those.  We’re looking for a protein percentage of 21% or so to promote a slow and steady growth.  So I know what you’re thinking right now.  It’s probably along the lines of “I don’t care.  I seriously don’t care.  I can’t believe I’ve even read this dribble this far.”  Am I right?

The rest of you that do care are probably freaking out because you’re either a) realizing that you have a dog that you probably shouldn’t have fed puppy food to, or b) wondering just what it is that you’re supposed to feed to a giant breed dog.  I mean, really… what are we supposed to do – strap on our loincloths, fashion primitive weapons out of things laying around the house, and go all caveman on some poor unsuspecting cattle just so our big doggies can get back to nature?

I guess you could go that route.  If you had your own cattle.  And lived really, really, really far away from other people.  And was certifiably batpoop crazy… but for the rest of us, there’s a simpler option.  But we’ll have to get to that another time because I have a big puppy that’s dying to eat and then crawl in my lap to go to sleep.

P.S. – please keep in mind that these opinions of mine included in this blog are my opinions about feeding GIANT BREED dogs.  So don’t go all crazy and throw your bag of puppy food out in the street, set it on fire, and put your dog on an intestinal cleansing product because you fed it to your Lhasa Apso.  It’s all cool.  Your little Swiffer dog will be just fine.  So just put the bag down and step away from the torch.

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