"Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats"
by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, Ph.D., and Susan Hubble Pitcairn
Doggie Chef Rating: 4 out of 5 Bones
This book is a MUST READ for all Doggie Chefs and wanna be Doggie Chefs. Particularly the sections on diet and nutrition.
Dr. Pitcairn’s book gave me the courage to become a Doggie Chef. Although the book provides nutritionally balanced homemade pet food recipes, I never actually used one. Instead, I used the book's valuable nutritional information to create my own nutritionally balanced meals for Gracie.
In the first chapter, Dr. Pitcairn describes how he discovered the relationship between diet and pet health in his veterinary practice. He devotes a whole chapter to the topic, "What’s Really in Pet Food." The best chapter in the book is Chapter 3, "Try a Basic Natural Diet --- with Supplements."
When I first began making Gracie’s meals I worried about unintentionally making her ill, or accidentally causing her to develop a vitamin deficiency. I started formulating her meals based on Dr. Pitcairn’s explanation of "The Basic Food Groups": meats, grains, legumes, and vegetables. I also followed Dr. Pitcairn’s advice, supplementing Gracie’s meals with nutritional yeast (rich in B vitamins, iron and other nutrients), bone meal powder (to provide calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals) and pet vitamins.
Every meal I make for Gracie contains meat (beef, chicken, fish, or egg) and has a grain base. The "grain" is usually whole wheat bread, since it’s easy to buy and serve but I also regularly feed Gracie oatmeal (often cooked with some milk for added calcium) or rice (brown or white). I include a very small amount of vegetables in her meals everyday and occasionally include black beans or chickpeas. Three times a week I feed her: Red Star Nutritional Yeast Flakes, bone meal powder; and a specific fat (flax oil, canola oil, corn oil or fish oil *** See Post Update below).
I also make sure Gracie eats fatty fish each week (usually canned salmon or sardines), for the essential fatty acids and other benefits they provide.
Dr. Pitcairn’s book is a good general dog care guide. It includes chapters on common pet illnesses, exercise, rest and grooming for pets, and holistic and alternative therapies. I’m dubious about some of the alternative therapies discussed (homeopathy, herbal medicine, chiropractic therapy, etc...) but some people might embrace this approach to pet care.
If you’re interested in feeding your dog homemade meals, read Dr. Pitcairn’s book. The information on diet and supplements can seem overwhelming at times, but the book will give you the courage to take your dog’s health and diet into your own hands. With a little effort, most pet owners can be very good Doggie Chefs! It's not hard to provide your dog with meals that are nutritionally superior to commercial dog foods.
In the last six years I’ve read Dr. Pitcairn’s chapters on dog nutrition and homemade dog food three different times. Each time I learn something new. It’s important for Doggie Chefs to continue learning about canine nutrition. And it’s just as important to periodically review feeding methods and practices and improve them when possible.
I recommend this book for all Doggie Chefs.
*** POST UPDATE: Since writing this post I decided to stop including Red Star Nutritional Yeast Flakes and pet vitamins in Gracie's meals. Click here to read my 12-30-08 post explaining why. I also no longer supplement Gracie's diet with flax oil or fish oil. I believe the canned and fresh fish Gracie eats provides her with an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids for abundant health.