What Do You Feed A Saint Bernard
(Besides anything he wants)
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Recently, I posed some questions to one of the saint e-mail lists regarding the feeding of St. Bernards. The following are the responses received of various SBCA club members. Thanks to Joanne Alstede (JA), Giselle Carlow (GC), Melody Salmi Kirkbride (MK), Pam Katz (PK), Donna McPhate (DM), and Brenda McWhorter (BM) for their contributions. If you would like to contribute tidbits of information for this webpage that you think other Saint owners would care to know about, please contact me, Lynn Jech, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pam Katz and Marie Taylor provided some book titles and diet website links at the bottom of the page.
Do you feed kibble/soft canned food or raw diet or a combination?
MK - Kibble and canned food.
DM – I feed Precise kibble mixed with Precise canned (just enough to add flavor) and add a helping of ground up carrots, apples, garlic, flaxseed meal and parsley. I feel this gives them some live enzymes and fresh foods. 2-3 times a week I give each dog a cut up raw turkey neck as a treat and to clean their teeth. It works.
PK - I feed raw. I also feed cooked occasionally to my older dog. He's a picky eater.
"OK, the first guy that walks in the food bowl gets it!"
GC - We feed dry kibble primarily but every day I make stew to put on their food as well. I am lucky to have a local butcher who makes Meat Pet Food out of all the scraps of meat left on the cutting table. He mixes pork, chicken, beef, etc and puts it in pound packages to freeze. He sells them at $1.30 a pound so it is fairly cheap as one pack makes enough stew for all the dogs here. I add vegetables, minced garlic, rice or egg noodles and the dogs love it. My dogs have done well on this for years so I have seen no need to change the way I feed to a raw diet. My dogs are healthy and carry great coats on what I feed. As they are outside dogs primarily, even in minus 40 weather, during the winter they get an extra ladle of stew and I add salad oil as well for the extra fat calories.
BM – We feed kibble as well as canned food. Most of our dogs, if they are active, get approximately 3 cups am and 3 cups pm mixed with ½ can Pedigree Chicken. In the winter I cook for my dogs, chicken stew, I call it. . .basically cut up chicken with vegetables, sometimes rice or noodles. This goes over their food vs the canned during the winter months.
JA – I feed kibble with wet food.
If you feed a raw diet, why did you change? What did your dogs look/act like before and after the change?
DM – I do not feed raw because storage and handling would be a problem for me and I feel I have landed on a good combination of kibble and fresh that works for my dogs. They have good weight, good coats and “knock on wood”, I have not had a case of bloat. The turkey neck treats keep their teeth clean so it all works for us.
PK - I did a lot of research into the commercial dog foods and was appalled at what USDA allowed in dog food. Not all commercial brands contain these noxious products, but the ones that don't are, understandably, very expensive. In researching canine nutritional needs, I realized that grains are not needed and in many cases cause allergic responses in dogs. I wanted healthier, fresher diets tailored to each dogs specific needs. The initial reason for switching was my older Saint. At 7 years old at the time, I noticed that he was 'slowing down'. After placing him on an all raw diet for about 6 weeks, his energy level increased dramatically and his age-related problems diminished significantly.
BM – We used the straight raw diet for a 10 year old about 2 years ago. It was suggested she be put on this diet by our vet, because she was becoming obese, it was to trim her up a bit, which was hard to do with kibble because she stayed hungry all the time. With the raw diet she was chewing a lot more the bones etc. After we put her on the raw diet, she lost approximately 30 lbs over many months. She was a lot more active after starting her on this diet, beautiful teeth, and honestly, it appeared to turn back the hands on the clock with her, in her actions, beautiful white teeth. She made it to 12 ½ years old. She just laid down went to sleep and did not wake up.
If you still feed kibble, why?
MK - Why fix what ain’t broken? Also with the raw diet, which I did do some years back, it’s difficult to make sure the dogs are getting the required nutrients that they need.
DM – I feel they get a more balanced diet nutritionally from a good kibble. I add the fresh veggies, etc mentioned above to give the benefits non-cooked foods will add to their diet and feel comfortable with this mix. Also, I have gone over my entire regimen with the nutritionist at Precise and he has helped me tweak things by adding a 200mg of selenium once a day and a 400 IU vitamin E capsule once a day. I credit the probiotic capsule I add to each meal (I feed twice a day) in helping prevent bloat and maintain a healthy digestive system in my dogs.
PK - I do not. If I need to substitute a grain-based "filler" I use whole oats or brown rice or rye flakes. These are a little easier on the canine digestive system and contain certain essential nutrients which, if one must include grains, are healthier.
"Mud? What mud? Just gimme dinner!"
GC - I have trouble buying the idea that if you cook the food for the dog that it is less beneficial to them! If that is the case, then how do people stay alive? We must get nutrients, etc from our cooked food! Why wouldn't the dogs? I guess if I found that my dogs were suffering from their diet I would try a different way, but so far, so good. My dogs are in good weight and my vet thinks they are some of the healthiest he has ever seen, (knock on wood), even the older ones. At nine and a half, our old Teddi still carries a luxuriant coat and runs around like a puppy! I realize that good genetics helps a fair bit but I think the food part of the equation plays a big role too.
BM – I believe if we just had 3-4 dogs, raw diet would be easier to feed to all of them. We have over 12 right now and the preparation time, I just do NOT have the extra time at this particular time to do it justice. Plus, it is extremely hard to ensure that the dogs are getting the proper nutrients they need. That was the biggest deal with the on dog that we used the diet on – was making sure she had the proper nutrients, vitamins and minerals in her diet. Our dogs do well on the kibble we use right now, along with some extra added to it and until I can get to a point in my life where I can spend more time on preparation, kibble will have to be our choice here for right now. Our dogs all appear to be doing good on the dry product. They are in good coat, have great check ups at our vet, their teeth look good etc. so will stick with it for now.
JA – I feed kibble for more than one reason: 1) dogs do well, coat, weight, etc. and 2) most economical for number of dogs fed. I cook for my dogs every day. I have a crockpot going and I put everything in it for them. I buy chicken by the 10lbs and cook with all scraps, peelings from vegetables, fruit, grain, etc. This wonderful smelling “stew” is mixed with dry kibble. I have done this for over 15 years. I am happy my dogs love it, do well and I don’t waste anything. I have peach, apple and pear trees and dogs will pick up fruit hat has fallen and eat it like a special treat. I never feed “Puppy” food to my pups, just good quality adult kibble and I give them yogurt in one meal and meat in another.
Give advantages and disadvantages of both raw and kibble diets.
MK - Kibble is very convenient and economically affordable. Raw is difficult to find, store and prepare.
DM – I don’t feel that I am either a chemical engineer or a nutritionist to really trust that they are getting all they need from the raw diets. I have heard too many horror stories of dogs dying from punctured organs from the raw bones (that is why I elect to use the turkey necks as those bones don’t splinter, and I cut them up so there is no chance of one blocking the esophagus). As with the dogs themselves, I believe in “moderation”) Additionally, feeding raw would be a problem when you are on the road with your dogs.
PK - I'm just going to address raw diet. Advantages: A healthier diet which costs less than a commercially produced product of the same quality. A diet which can be tailored to the specific nutritional/allergy/other health issues of an individual dog. Small, dry poops which almost disintegrate in 24 hours (the dog's digestive system is able to utilize approx. 90% of what is fed vs. only 60% of kibble diets). Boosts the immune system, reducing skin problems, reduces allergic reactions and yeast related problems, maintains a healthier dentrice. You feed less (volume) on the raw diet. Disadvantages: - Requires preparation in terms of knowledge, finding consistent sources/suppliers, and lastly, kitchen items necessary for the processing of this diet. Initially, the diet will require more time to prepare until the dog owner finds a convenient routine. Knowing your vitamin supplements, how much to give and when/why.
GC - I have a friend with small dogs who feeds raw diet and I see all the time put into it for 4 small dogs and the expense. Perhaps if you only have a couple of Saints it is a good way to go, but when you are feeding 7 to 14 Saints it would take the whole day and a whole other freezer and the expense would be tremendous. I have heard too many conflicting reports on the benefits of raw from different people to be really sure if I would do that. I also see that when my friend travels it is far more difficult to bring along enough food for the trip as it all has to stay frozen, each dog has it's own little bags of food as each gets a different quantity, etc, etc. For mine, when we travel, a cup scoop, a bag of kibble and some tins of meat are all that is required. I just mix the tinned with warm water and the dogs never miss a meal!
BM – A person really has absolutely no idea if they are providing a balanced diet or not on a raw diet. To even come close to a balance diet, you have to feed different things, different days of the week. If you have dogs like most of mine, they get hung up on a certain favorite foods, and do NOT want to eat their healthy vegetables that go along with this diet. Things like chicken backs have a very short fridge life and will stink to high heaven if you r saints do not eat it all and you throw it back in the fridge for the next day. You really do need a separate deep freeze to keep all their food in and if it breaks down you have a BIG disaster on your hands! Also in mixing in their supplement with their food sometimes they refuse to eat it and it is impossible to put supplements on the chicken backs. You have to keep in mind raw foods are very high in proteins and if you have a young dog for instance, it is NOT easy to get through the growth spurts with a high protein diet because of panosteitis. When you try to lower the proteins with raw foods, it means adding more vegetables and grains and young dogs are notorious for NOT eating their veggies and grains – they prefer that good ole’ meat! Different dogs have different nutritional requirements too – some may be fighting a weight problem, some may need more fiber, some may need more fat or protein. We just come closer to getting the most for the masses using dry and knowing we are coming fairly close to the nutritional requirements using it, than with the raw diet.
Any other comments regarding the diets?
DM - . We had Dr. Hutchison here for a day-long seminar on June 1st and I got the job of transporting him back and forth. I took advantage of that one-on-one time to ask some questions of him. One of those questions was whether or not he saw a significant difference in the dogs and bitches he treats due to the raw diet. He thought for a while and responded that he had not. Then he added, that in one case a bitch was in poor condition on the raw diet but he felt it was because the owner was new at it. Other than that, he saw no difference in reproductive ability or general health. When you consider that he is operating on and treating more dogs per day than the average vet, I thought his comments were significant.
PK - When I first switched to feeding raw, there were only two other Saint people in the West who fed raw. Now there are numerous raw feeders, so a person either contemplating this change or initiating it, has many fellow Saint owners who can assist with questions and help them trouble-shoot. Feeding raw DOES NOT cure CHD, OCD, Cardiomyopathy or any of the other disorders that plague our breed. Raw feeding is not an on-again, off-again proposition. This approach will eventually compromise the dog's digestive system. Before beginning this diet, I would highly recommend that the dog have a blood work-up by a vet. It's just good practice to know what health issues, if any, the dog is experiencing. This helps create a diet to adjust to those needs.
Books and Links provided by Pam Katz and Marie Taylor.
K9Nutrition@yahoogroups.com This is an excellent list and will provide additional links. This group does not just advocate raw feeding. It is for those who want to feed kibble, cooked or raw, or any combination thereof. The list moderator, Mary Straus, is adamant about respecting all modes of feeding. I have Mary's permission to post this link.
email@example.com Just Saint people who feed raw.
SeniorRawFeeding@yahoogroups.com For those with older dogs. Although this states "raw" it, too, does not restrict itself to just those who feed raw.
* Switching to Raw by Susan Johnson, is available through Saint Bernard Rescue, Karen Bodeving at firstname.lastname@example.org for $18 with all profits benefiting rescue. This is an excellent, easy to read, “How to” book for beginners. Or you can purchase directly from the author at www.switchingtoraw.com
* Give Your Dog A Bone by Dr. Ian Billinghurst (his first book)
* Grow Your Pups with Bones by Dr. Ian Billinghurst (specific to breeding and puppies)
* The Barf Diet by Dr. Ian Billinghurst (his newest book)
* Raw Meaty Bones by Dr. Tom Lonsdale
Available at www.dogwise.com or directly from his website www.rawmeatybones.com
* The Ultimate Diet by Kymathy Schultze
* K9 Kitchen: Your Dogs' Diet: The Truth Behind the Hype by Monica Segal, available through www.doggiediets.com.