Being, just a little bit fascinated by food, diet and the impact different foods have on the body’s chemistry and its health. I was excited to notice the different diets of the dogs I met whilst working in Thailand at the Soi Dog Foundation.
The Soi Dog Foundations monitors, cares for and sterilises where possible the street dog population in Phuket Thailand, also campaigning to end the dog meat trade between Thailand Vietnam and Korea. Where street dogs, and even captured pet dogs are taken across the Thai boarder to Vietnam or Korea, where the canine is valued within the peoples own cuisine.
The trade is illegal but unfortunately still occurs corruptly.
For many of the dogs captured back at the Thai boarder by the Soi Foundation, just being alive is a bonus, let alone what they eat! Working there can put a lot into perspective in a way.
At the shelter itself, with fundraising and donations literally being their income donations of food from pet food companies is much welcomed.
The heat, which is averagely 30 degrees and higher on many days, doesn’t lend itself to the feeding of fresh, or defrosted, pieces of real meat.
The dogs, who over there are mostly laid back and friendly – despite what they may have been through, also live together in runs. As with all creatures kept together without access to instinctive food gathering behaviours or control of their resources, resource guarding can occur. The shelter chooses not to leave down raw bones for chewing down to avoid as many resource guarding situations as they can.
Donated, and purchased dry kibble food is the diet staple for dogs at the shelter, with some dogs such as the pups, oldies or dogs that need a veterinary diet being fed wet food too.
Supplements of Glucosamine and Green lipped mussel are added for the older dogs.
Do these help? Well, the intention is brilliant, many of the dogs I saw in the oldies run were struggling and hobbling about, but this could of course be their previous injuries, and their age too. As fans of Real food know, our older dogs simply don’t seem to get these skeletal, muscular ailments in the way processed fed dogs do. Yet with real food not being a feasible option the adding of supplements is at least well intentioned.
Many dogs can find supplements hard to digest and utilise even when on real food diets. No one dogs digestive ability is the same as the next. So each of these dogs will be benefitting from the supplements at varying degrees.
Consuming something is only the first part of a nutrient or a supplement being useful, if your dog has any kind of digestive compromise, supplements or even a ‘complete and balanced’ meal will not be able to provide everything they need in the way it markets itself as doing.
The manager of the shelter was keen to hear about diet and understood the value of real, unprocessed food with little persuasion. Her 4 gorgeous dogs, all from the shelter enjoyed their first chicken feet that evening!
Duck feet where not relished with quite as much enthusiasm but their journey to eating real food has now begun!
The dogs that live on the streets of Phuket, the real ‘Soi-Dogs’, find food in a few ways; locals will often leave dry dog food for them on the street or beach. The photo here makes me smile, a local has used a leaf as a bowl, this highlights to me the local has begun to feel a connection to the dogs he or she is feeding.
With all the space they could ask for the street Soi dogs are friendly and mostly as laid back as the Thai people themselves its easy to see how connections could be formed.
Scavenging from bins is rife, something I saw happen almost every time I went out. Typically amongst the restaurant and slightly more commercial areas more dogs have made there home, because of the food value amongst the bins. The kinds of foods they would find in the bins would be; left over fruit rinds – such as watermelon, papaya or young coconuts, cooked rice – loads of that and meat or vegetable meal leftovers, usually in some kind of spicy sauce. I did wonder how keen they would be to eat those restaurant leftovers, perhaps they have a got a taste for chilli and ginger through exposure?
With the heat as high as it is, one can only guess at the level of bacteria they consume too. With no apparent negative effect to their digestive health.
Mostly the dogs get on very well together, they hang about in friendship groups of 3–6 ish, with some groups having a more nervous dog, less pushy for fuss from tourists or locals and observed waiting for the other dogs to have moved away before feeling safe enough to eat some of what a feeder has provided the group.
The groups tend to stick to certain areas of the beach or streets, seemingly with a unspoken ‘rule’ not to ‘cross the boarder’. I didn’t see any territorial aggression, the dogs really do just seem perfectly happy to just stay in their area and play and mix with the friends they have.
Could our common human expectation that our dogs should always get on with every dog they meet and not react to consistent new stimuli be misunderstanding a dog nature slightly?
Thoughts for another blog maybe!
The only observation I had of a dog being given unprocessed food by a local was a restaurant owner providing one of the dogs with a raw squid! ( as in the photos – apologies for the bad lighting!)
The dog, who was actually one of the more nervous dogs, generally hung about with 2 larger others, 1 with a gorgeous soft grey Weimeraner type of coat and the other darker Labrador sized dog.
He sniffed at the squid being offered and once it had been thrown to the ground took it a distance away from the restaurant, dropped it and promptly rolled on it! Just like dogs often do when presented with a raw chicken wing for the first time.
It was comical to watch.
He then nibbled at it, but must have decided it wasn’t his kind of thing, and left it there, rejoining his friends and the previous nights leftovers from the bins.
Ultimately the diets the dogs have, they are surviving on. Many have skin conditions, although a proportion of those are mange rather than perhaps an allergy or nutrient deficiency, without proper research it would be difficult to tell exactly what causes those conditions.
Whether the diets provide optimal health over survival is another matter.
As owners we are in a position to choose diets and choices that promote optimum health over simply, survival.
Doing so can be confusing, each and every dog food brand, including the more natural ones, desire sales, and will highlight their products plus points in order to create the feeling they offer the best type of food for your dog.
Who in the end actually tells you the truth?
Vet have very little training in nutrition and diet, even holistic vets have to research nutrition for themselves.
On my seminars in Canine Nutrition I take a different approach, instead of focusing on the ingredients labelled on different dog food brands and judging from that information alone, I focus on 2 things, what does the dogs body actually need to create optimum health? and how can we find those elements in types of food?
Going beyond ingredients and the individual nutrients we are told make up a ‘Complete and Balanced’ diet, you will discover the 7 things your dog, and other living creatures, evolved healthily on planet earth with in their diets. Then the types of foods those elements can be found in.
An understanding of food processing rather than ingredients will arm you far more knowledge than an understanding if ingredients. The best ingredients in the world can be rendered pretty useless through processing, and that bit won’t be written on the label!
There is no prejudice for or against types of diets, simply the facts into what a dog actually needs to create optimal cellular health and live a long happy life alongside you.
I am bursting to share them with everyone! Feedback has so far been wonderful, with owners reporting improvements to ailments and behaviours through a few simple dietary changes.
I am running lots more Canine Nutrition seminars in 2015, including Northants, Kent and Stockton on Tees.
Why not see if I am heading to a town near you?
Click Here to view the Seminar Details, and locations.