Review: Natural Dog Care

Natural Dog Care.

I found this book in mint condition at a used book sale for $1. The books I’m prone to buy are ones that I think I may later use as a resource, and this one looked like it might possibly fit that bill. Natural Dog Care is written by Celeste Yarnall and was published in 1998. The book aims to provide a comprehensive guide to holistic and homeopathic care for your dog, including an extensive chapter on nutrition and even a chapter on using zodiac signs to heal your pet. OK. As I started to read about Yarnall, however, I began to think that I may have wasted a dollar.

Celeste Yarnall’s qualifications? She’s a champion cat breeder. That’s it. She’s not a veterinarian. She’s never actually studied animal medicine at a university. The dust jacket says she’s researched a lot on nutrition. Well, that’s nice, but I don’t know if that exactly qualifies you to give medical advice to dog owners. Throughout the book, she uses cat examples to prove that her methods work. It’s great that it works for your champion Tonkinese, but cats are quite different from dogs.

Yarnall spends an entire chapter telling you not to vaccinate your dogs, ever. I have heard varying opinions on this and some of what she says is intriguing, but I find it very hard to believe her when she uses shoddy and poorly cited research to back up her arguments. She also universally applies research from different disciplines to make her point.

The long chapter on “astromedicine” is really what pushed me over the edge. I know some people believe this, and if you do, that’s fine, but I think it’s especially silly in a book on canine health care. The fact that my dog is a pisces shouldn’t dictate what crushed herbs and crystals I slip into his food–if I’m going to use crushed herbs and crystals in the first place. (Also, what if I adopt a dog and don’t know his or her exact birth date? No astromedicine for you, pup. And it’s probably just as well.)

So, save your time on this one. I’m sure there are far better and more credible sources of information for those interested in holistic and homeopathic medicine for dogs.

What should I feed my future dog?

Dog food canisters from Etsy.

Lately, my dog reading focus has been pretty heavy on the health and nutrition side of things. I’ve been scouring Dog Food Advisor constantly and I’ve been writing down all sorts of advice and ratings. I read the (pretty terrible) Natural Dog Care and the (really great) Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs. The latter book especially convinced me of the truth that dogs should not be exclusively eating low-grade, high-carb, and high-grain kibble.

So, this means I want to make food for my dog or supplement his or her kibble with fresh meat and natural food. Therein lies the rub. My husband and I are de facto vegetarians. I say “de facto” because we tend to eat vegetarian six nights a week; I don’t eat any meat myself for the rest of the week. This means we’re not really in the habit of buying a lot of meat. We’ll eat it occasionally and if we go to friends’ homes for dinner, but it’s not a regular part of our menu. We can buy meat, however, and we are blessed to be surrounded by plenty of local farms and butchers who raise and sell organic, free range beef and poultry.

These are my options, as I see them:

  1. Kibble diet: Buy a high-quality, grain-free kibble and feed exclusively.
  2. Half kibble/half homemade diet: Supplement homemade meals with high-quality, grain-free kibble.
  3. Raw diet: All raw meat and fresh foods, all homemade and self-prepared.

Everyone I know who has a dog has them on an all-kibble diet. Most dog owners I know also stick to the adage that “people food” is bad for dogs (a myth quite successfully perpetuated by the pet food industry). These dogs eat the exact same thing, day in and day out, and don’t complain. They get fat, though, and often smell bad and shed terribly. After having read these excellent books, I don’t think I could feed my dog an all-kibble diet and feel good about it. Unless it was a really, really high-quality kibble. I might be eating my words on this in a few months, but from today’s vantage point, I don’t think my conscience would rest comfortably if I gave my dog only kibble.

I’m leaning most toward the half kibble/half homemade diet at this point, at least in the beginning.  If I find out that all homemade/raw is easy and affordable, we might just go for that. The plan would be to mix kibble with homemade recipes, including some raw meats, fruits and vegetables, and recommended dairy products. I think this plan could also help us cut down on the food that we throw away: Dog as (carefully moderated!) trash reducer. I plan on arming myself with books like Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs and other canine cookbooks to make sure that our future dog is getting all of the nutrients that he or she needs.

I’ve read some about raw diets for dogs. They make me a little nervous, for a few reasons: 1) I don’t cook all that well for myself; I’m not sure how reliable I would be at cooking every day for my dog; 2) It sounds really expensive; 3) It also sounds very time-consuming; and 4) It would take some effort to find reliable places to get such raw meats. Maybe I will work up to it. For right now, though, I’m not sure if I have the guts (or capital) to jump into a raw diet.

Either way, it’s a lot to think about, and I’m sure I may think differently about some of these things when I’m actually in the day in/day out grind of having a dog.

What kind of diet is your dog on? What do you recommend? If you feed kibble, do you have a particular brand you like? I’m all ears!