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Brownie enjoyed her two meals of Oma’s Pride raw pet food, in this case a mix of  turkey and vegetables. But instead of buying more of that, I bought five pounds of chicken thighs on sale for 99 cents a pound (because they were one day away from their freshness expiration date) some sweet potatoes and some green beans. I put the chicken thighs in a big pot and boiled them for an hour, then added the sweet potatoes. Half an hour after that, the green beans went in for the final 15 minutes. I drained the liquid (saving it, of course) and let everything cool down.

When cool, I removed the meat from the chicken, mixed it up with the potatoes and beans and spooned portions into freezable, microwave-safe containers. For dinner now, instead of throwing a cup of kibble into her bowl, I remove an already defrosted container of the chicken mix and warm it briefly in the microwave. Brownie loves it and continues licking her bowl long after the food is gone.

I know that cooking and microwaving the food eliminates some of the qualities that make raw food so healthy. But it’s still a very big improvement over the highly processed kibble. I stretch the portions by adding my own leftovers to them, from cottage cheese to cabbage slaw, a fried egg or a few strawberries. The whole process took very little time and is less costly than buying the commercial preparation.  In return, I get the pleasure of seeing how excited Brownie is about her dinners, and imagine her enjoyment of all those flavors, aromas and textures. So we’re at half-kibble, half-homemade food. It seems like a good balance.

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The never-ending saga of trying to find better but affordable food for Brownie continues.

The idea of a BARF diet – bones and raw food – has great appeal. With just a few exceptions, such as onions, grapes and chocolate, she could eat what I do. It wouldn’t require any special or time-consuming preparation beyond fixing portions a bit larger than usual.

The bones, however, are proving to be problematic.

I offered Brownie a fresh, uncooked turkey neck. She looked at it, sniffed it, looked up at me, then walked away. That was less of a response than to anything ever offered to her. Even with a food she isn’t familiar with, she’ll at least take it in her mouth and trot over to the living room carpet, where she can put it down and examine it carefully before deciding whether to eat it.  If she decides not to eat it, she can just leave it there instead of rejecting the offering to my face, which she might think would discourage me from offering any more unfamiliar goodies.

So I took the remaining turkey necks in the package to someone whose dogs thrive on the raw food diet. In exchange, she gave me a package of something called Oma’s Pride turkey and veggie mix. It’s part of a line of prepared raw foods for dogs and cats, made in Connecticut. The ingredients listed are turkey and bone, turkey neck, green beans, okra, yellow squash, turkey hearts, turkey gizzards and turkey liver. After it defrosts, I’ll offer some to Brownie.

Stay turned for dog-food quest part 4!

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After my previous post about trying to choose a food for my dog, I had a Homer Simpson moment. I had described switching to Iams after Brownie developed an unpleasant body odor. But based on information from a website devoted to deconstructing dog food (http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com), I was thinking of switching again, to Costco’s in-house brand, Kirkland. Dog Food Advisor rated Kirkland as a higher quality food than Iams, and it’s less expensive. Then I remembered – Kirkland is the food I had been feeding Brownie when she developed that bad odor. Doh!

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Like every dog owner, I wrestle with conflicting and confusing information about canine nutrition and dog food ingredients. I want the best for Brownie but can’t afford the highest-priced dog foods. Recently, I obtained a sample of Burns Brown Rice and Chicken Meal dry dog food. It advertises its products as “holistic – working with Nature to promote pet health.” It has a warehouse and offices right in Valparaiso, which appealed to my go-local desire (although I don’t know where it’s actually made).

Before feeding any to Brownie, I looked up some of the ingredients and stumbled across the website Dog Food Advisor (http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/). It gives Burns three out of five stars for quality, concludes that it is “recommended” but raised questions about the relatively low amounts of protein and fats in the Burns formula. It’s also pricey, costing $45 for a 33-lb bag.

The same site gave Costco’s in-house brand, Kirkland, an above-average rating of four stars. A 40-lb bag of this goes for roughly $25. A higher rating and lower cost made this choice sound like a no-brainer until I read somewhere else that Kirkland buys its dog food from Diamond. The Dog Food Advisor gives Diamond only a below-average two-star rating.

To complicate matters further, I have been feeding Brownie Iams on the recommendation of another pet owner after I complained that Brownie had developed a persistent, unpleasant odor. The odor disappeared after she’d been eating Iams for a while. But Dog Food Advisor gives it only two stars, a below-average rating.

So now what? I’ve decided to give the Kirkland food a try. It costs less and has a higher rating than Iams or Burns, although there is some question about the rating based on whether it’s really the lower-rated Diamond dog food packaged under the Kirkland name. If Brownie’s body odor returns, I’ll be back in my usual pet-food quandry. Stay turned for updates.

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