Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Don't be a dick: feeding your dog edition

You know how it is. Someone is wrong on the internet again. For some reason this recent post over at Ruffly Speaking about vegan dog food was so irritating to me I couldn't keep my trap shut. (EDITED TO ADD: well, it showed up in my RSS feed a couple days ago, but the post is actually a couple years old. Oh well, I'll respond anyway). It's not even directed at me. I don't feed my dog a vegan diet. But I also smell a sprinkling of BS in that post too strong to ignore.

When it comes to domestic species, especially dogs, if it works, it works. There are plenty of dogs thriving on a vegan diet. Just like there are dogs thriving on a raw meat diet. I'm dubious of both, and can't see myself using either exclusively, but hey, it seems to work for many people. The fanatical "you must do this, all other ways iz RONG" is both prideful and annoying. It also seems to be a common attitude running through the BARF crowd at higher levels than other pet owners.

For every anecdote a BARFer has of a dog living to age 20 on raw meat, there's one out of there of a dog living to age 20 on a vegetarian diet. Or, for that matter, a stories of dogs on a raw diet with health problems (funny how with the fanatics on all sides, all positive health changes are attributed to their diet, but anythning negative is attributed to something else, like genetics, but it's vice versa if the dog was on a diet they don't agree with).

No one in this matter gets to say that only they have science or morality or common sense (whatever that means) to back them up. Not the greedy kibble companies, not the crazy vegans, not the fanatical BARFers. The plural of anecdote is not data, but experience. A raw diet works for you? Great. Keep it up. Tell others what worked for you. Cheap kibble is working for you? Fine. Your dog is thriving on a vegan diet? Fine. As long as you're paying more attention to your dog than your ego, and you're honest about it, who cares?

What you don't get to get away with is to get up on your high horse with a made up story about what 'nature intended' using a smattering of cherry-picked facts about dentition and digestion systems to suit your agenda. Dogs are not wolves. They are dogs. It's quite likely that they evolved by living off human garbage, and they continue that wonderful legacy today.

Do you really think many ancient dogs, living in association with hunter-gathers, got to have very much fresh meat? Or, for that matter, at any other point in the last however-many-thousand years that dogs have been evolving in association with us? Until very recently, most humans wouldn't have had the luxury of feeding their dogs meat every day, if ever.

So spare us all the 'evolutionary prey diet' story you made up out of daydreams and wishful thinking and be honest about it: dogs are very closely related to wolves. It seems logical that they should have similar diets, but there's no proof that it's necessary, and plenty of dogs thrive without raw meat so maybe dogs aren't exactly like wolves in that regard.

i can haz evolutionary diet?

I also hate BARFers who change the definition of 'carnivore' to fit their agenda. Dogs are omnivores. They eat both animal and plant matter. The end. The fact that they don't digest plant matter as efficiently as a primate or a horse or whatever doesn't change the fact that they eat, enjoy, and digest both. An example of an obligate carnivore is an eagle or a shark. Notice the difference, there? These are species that really truly can not digest plants. There are many levels of omnivore, and none eat the same ratio of meat:vegetable. Rats, humans, bears, whatever example you use, they aren't dogs either. What's more, you seem to keep forgetting that dogs are domestic animals with unusually flexible phenotype. Some breeds so contrived as to look like aliens. You really think it's useful to compare the teeth of a pug to that of a wolf?

Again, your anecdotes are not somehow better than others'. For every story you have of a pair of dogs taking down a deer on instinct (which is actually a very cool story, btw), you can find a matching story of dogs eating berries right off the bush, begging for carrots sticks, and scavenging other animals' feces.

Packs of wild/feral dogs have been known to hunt together, yes. They are also well known for hanging around garbage dumps and begging humans for hand outs. Wolves don't do this, but for a dog, it's pretty damn 'natural'.

You also don't find many people advocating for high pup mortality, untreated disease and internal parasites, yet these are also things that are very 'natural' for wolves and feral dogs. That's dumb, I hear you say. It's only right to vaccinate and deworm your dog. But what is it, exactly, that makes you choose one natural state over the other? It's either science, or lacking that, experience. And much as you hate to admit it, BARFers, your experience is no more important than a vegan's.

This sort of snooty, finger-shaking attitude is especially hard to take from a person who purposefully breeds animals that by some definitions are crippled and that wouldn't survive one day in the wild where their distant wolf ancestors lived; who thinks it's fine and dandy that bull dogs can't give birth without a c-section; who on the same blog has defended many other controversial practices in modern dog breeding that are about as far from 'natural' as you can get. All that and yet, what? Never mind all that other extremely unnatural things I choose to put in my dogs' lives, in the case of diet, well, of course then you must be as 'natural' as possible, even when no one actually knows exactly what that might be?

Whatever. Feed what works for you and your dog. Share your experience with others. But don't be a dick about it.


Jess said...

Go Suzy, go Suzy! My absolute favorite favorite favorite raw feeding site uses 'science' to tell us that dogs don't produce amylase in their saliva, so they shouldn't be fed grains. (Um, dogs don't need amylase in their saliva. They don't chew.) It also states that you shouldn't feed a cooked diet because you have to supplement with calcium, and you can't tell how much calcium the is actually absorbing. Um, you can't tell how much calcium a dog is absorbing from bones, either.

I have found my own dogs, (and I have been keeping in excess of twenty dogs at a time for over a decade, so I have a pretty good sample size,) to be pretty adaptable. In fact, I've found they contradict raw diet dogma in several ways, especially in regards to fat and carbs.

Do you mind if I steal that picture?

CyborgSuzy said...

Thank you Jess. LOLdogs are meant to be passed around. Click on it and take the high rez version, if you wish.

Jennie said...

I stumbled upon this accidentally via another dog blog and I have to say, sweet. I feed my dogs a vegan diet. I rarely discuss it with people because I am so, so very sick of being attacked by people who haven't stopped to think that I, as a vegan myself, probably have absolutely no interest in harming my dogs. Even after I present published studies, my vet's approval, and my happy, healthy dogs people still like to tell me I'm an irresponsible dog guardian. Oddly though, if I allude that my dogs eat a vegan diet because of allergies, I rarely hear any crap about it.

I don't really agree with most of the facts offered by people who feed raw, but I also don't think it's worth my while to argue with them. I think most of them are competent to judge if their dogs are doing poorly on a raw diet, so I'll let them do that.

boxer said...

Actually, even wolves seem to thrive on commercial dog food, it seems that many zoos are now feeding kibble:

CyborgSuzy said...

Zoos have been feeding kibble for a long time. Zoos have a lot of things that aren't great for the wild animals in their care, but the animals can still do fine. I don't think that's enough evidence that wild wolves 'thrive' on kibble. Especially when the second paragraph says, "Nutritional requirements for Mexican wolves have not been thoroughly studied but are assumed to be
similar to those of the domestic dog."