MOTIVATION for READING: I was asked to participate in TLC’s blog tour for this book about how our dogs are getting fatter and Dr. Ward’s plan for saving their lives. I happen to live with the dog pictured below; this is Oscar de la Hunta. He is a five year old Wire-haired Pointing Griffon, a registered therapy dog (with an attitude) and he is my pride and joy.
I currently feed him what this book would describe as the BARF (bones and raw food) diet – a regimen of raw meat, veggies, yogurt and fruit. I will be discussing the pros and cons of this from my own experience and what Dr. Ward has to say on the subject. I was curious about this book, not because my dog is fat – I believe Oscar is healthy and happy – but because I want to know alternatives to the raw diet in case I need to know such sooner than later.
WHAT’s GOOD: Chow Hounds is packed full of examples and explanations on how to read dog food labels – dog food marketers prefer us consumers confused or apathetic! It takes a bit of math-willingness to be able to do side-by-side comparisons for sugar/fat content – especially while standing in a store aisle. Dr. Ward includes a few real-life stories of clients he as helped and some that chose not to be helped – these are my favorite parts. And I love that the book has RECIPES!!!
WHAT’s NOT so GOOD: This ain’t pop-science. You gotta want to read and work and think to follow this book – which to be totally honest, I had a very hard time wanting to do. I would schedule my days to dig into this book and find myself easily distracted away or re-reading the same page again and again till my eyes glazed over. A week would go by and no progress. This isn’t a book to read for pleasure. Not enough stories and I did want that list – you know, just give me the list of GOOD dog food treats I can buy. But alas, Dr. Ward would prefer I do the math and make my own decisions. Which I understand… I do. This also makes the book one you can trust and not have any suspicions that Iams is endorsed, or Benefull has sent Dr. Ward a pretty check as thank you. A few charts list these companies but not in any way do these suggest a better/best ranking upon a quick glance. You have to do the math! (I’ve said that already, haven’t I?)
I struggled with this motivation for this book. It didn’t help that the first thing I did was look at the index (yippee! it does HAVE an index, always a good sign and something I no longer assume a nonfiction book will have) to look up ‘raw food’ – yep! But the next word was AVOIDING. Uh oh. I count page numbers devoted to raw food: 4 pages out of 300. Flipping to page 144 to read Dr. Ward’s thoughts on the risks of raw diets, I don’t learn anything new.
In a perfect world, none of the food we or our pets eat would be commercially processed. However, we don’t live in that world, so we must make our decisions based on reality.
Oscar has breakfast consisting of raw bones: approximately 5-7 chicken necks and one or two duck necks. He loves breakfast! For dinner at 6 pm, Oscar is served a raw mushed meat mixture of beef, chicken and turkey in which the company that processes and sells this stuff has mixed in 20% vegetables. I also scoop up a few tablespoons of nonfat or lowfat plain yogurt and give him a banana or an apple or a handful of strawberries for his vitamin C.
Every two weeks, I buy in bulk in break down the bones and mush into single servings. This can be a scheduling and convenience issue and costly. But I’ve accepted it as part of MY reality. I love my baby , he is my child.
My veterinarian says Oscar is healthy and at the appropriate weight of ~70 pounds. Over four years ago, we decided to go raw after we lost our German Shorthair named Gunther at the too-young age of 8; he died of osteosarcoma and we were devastated. Wondering if it was crap dog food that killed him – all the processed food full of empty calories and chemicals & preservatives that we also wonder is killing us humans, we looked into Oma’s Pride and have never looked back. Especially because Oscar seems to love it – his coat is so soft and shiny, his teeth are clean, his poop is good (yes, this book discusses this), he’s very energetic and our Vet says he is in great shape.
So why would I want to read this book? Initially I said ‘yes’ to the tour hoping I would get validation – oops. According to this book (and I can’t dispute it, I’m just willing to accept the risks), “The biggest issue with raw foods involves bacterial contamination, which can cause disease in both pets and people.”
OK, so in order to read and review this book, I had to get over my disagreement with the anti-BARF approach. I accept the risks of Oscar’s diet and believe I’m doing right by him. But I can do better still. I possibly give Oscar too many treats (packaged and processed, oh my!), so I dove right in – read the labels, did the math and hope to soon attempt the MANY recipes included for healthy dog snacks. And if I do ever choose to change his diet, I will have the tools to do the research for what to feed him.
I had planned on making the Zucchini Tart dog treats for this post from the recipe on page 166 but my busy days got in the way. (I have yet to find coconut flour.) Hopefully, I’ll update on that and maybe have Oscar write a post for it.
CONCLUSION: Like I have mentioned, this isn’t a book to read for pleasure. But it IS a book to read when you need it for advice, thorough explanation, and guidance. As a resource for wanting to know exactly what is on that dog food label or how to help your dog lose some weight, I would recommend it.
The section on how to know what the marketing terms REALLY mean is informative and useful. He discusses many health concerns to watch for, how to calculate your dog’s basal metabolic rate, and how to track food intake and exercise goals, and much more. I do admit that I only skimmed the chapters on how to set up a weight loss program – Oscar doesn’t need it.
This book is canine health education. It’s action-oriented, information-heavy and doesn’t shy from saying, “this is work.” But so worth it if we love our dogs! Dr. Ward reminds us that our pets are part of our families and deserve our care and diligent attention.
For other reviews on the tour, check this link to the full TLC Tour Spot List.