By April 23, 2007

You are what you eat: making your own dog food with Fish Sprout

With the recent dog and cat food scare, I thought some Gibberish pet owners might be wondering wtf to feed their four legged family members. My friend Fish Sprout has been making her own dog food for almost four years. She started rolling her own chow while her dog Hobie was “a medical disaster.” He had hip dysplasia, mange, gastroenteritis, severe allergies, and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. In short, this guy was fucked up.

Fish Sprout thought she could improve Hobie’s health by improving his nutrition. Fish Sprout already tried top-tier mass market food as well as boutique brands. She turned to Dr. Billinghurst’s BARF diet. The BARF diet stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones And Raw Food. “You are feeding all natural foods where carbohydrates are very limited, it’s based on the theory of what wild dogs would eat,” Fish Sprout told me. “Some of it sounds like fluffy cock to me, but it seems to work.” Fish Sprout’s BARF diet for her dogs consists of 60% raw meaty bones, 35% muscle meats, and 5% offal. Now, it’s okay to think that’s fucking nasty, so did I. But it is interesting.

Raw meaty bones, are, well, raw meaty bones. They can be chicken backs, turkey necks, lamb breast, or whatever is handy. When asked if she was worried about smaller bones becoming an obstruction she replied, “no, all the bones are soft enough to be easily digested, and my dogs are not gulpers, they chew. Raw bones are safe, cooked bones are what splinter and will cause issues. I also don’t feed beef bones because they’re too hard, I use those as recreational bones.”

The muscle meat is pretty self explanatory, made up of items like ground beef or heart. Offal includes such delicacies as the liver and kidneys. Fish Sprout has fed lamb, beef, tripe, duck, ostrich, chicken and turkey. She grinds the muscle and offal together so that she can mix Hobie’s enzymes (to help with his EPI), but grinding is not necessary. The bones are not ground up and are thrown in the bowl. When she’s feeling lazy, Fish Sprout may just feed bones.

“Tell me about how you buy store the components,” I typed. “I know you are part of a meat co-op.”

“I don’t go to the grocery store for my meat. All of my meat comes from the co-op which delivers direct from the source. You had to be sponsored by someone so if you don’t pay your bills someone can come after you. If I’m short [on meat], I’ll run out to this boutique meat shop and they grind my chicken backs for me. I usually buy anywhere between 100-200lbs at a time and I have a spare chest freezer in my garage. My dogs eat better than me. I buy all that hoity toity shit — organic, antibiotic free, etc.” Fish Sprout suggests feeding dogs 2-3% of their body weight to start, then adjust accordingly. For Porter and Rosie combined, that’s just a touch over two and a half pounds of food a day. For reference, they are currently given four cups of food between the two of them.

Fish Sprout replied no when asked if she was nervous about any diseases such as salmonella. “Just like kibble, there are dogs that have gotten sick on raw. Dogs stomachs and intestinal tracts are shorter so food doesn’t sit in there as long, plus the acidity is different than a human [digestive system].” I’m still a little tentative about this reasoning. However, it’s true that I’ve seen dogs eat gnarly stuff that would knock a human out cold. The dogs just keep wagging their tails. Try eating a box full of cat shit sometime. Your dog probably does.

By this point, I was curious. “Aside from the freezer, what else would someone need to start doing this at home?”

“A grinder probably, and [having] read up on it. Ian Billinghurst has good information, and Kymythy Schultze is a good read. It’s not rocket science. If you feed a large enough variety, your dog will get the nutrients it needs. It’s intimidating to read up on at first because you don’t wanna ‘break’ your dog. But after all this time, people comment on how great my dogs look, and how much Hobie has improved, and I pretty much don’t supplement their food at all.”

Now it was time for me to pop the important question. “When they eat, do they get nasty shit everywhere?” I could just imagine Porter and Rosie dragging a lamb heart around the house, barking at each other and playing tag before popping it like a bloody fucking balloon on my leather couch.

“Hahaha, I feed them outside :-D”

“What if it’s raining?”

“I’ll feed them ground food inside if it’s raining so there no bones dropped on the floor, or just throw a towel down :-D”

I asked Fish Sprout how much it cost to feed her dogs a month on the BARF diet. She estimated about $50 a month per dog, depending on what she feeds them. Some meat is more expensive than others. Being the lead GIMP that I am, I asked what Fish Sprout’s plan was for feeding the dogs should she run out of power for an extended period of time and faced food spoilage. Fish Sprout freezes complete meals, which could be kept in a cooler (or sealed up in the freezer) for a few days. After that, she’d grab a bag of kibble. “I’m not anti kibble. If a dog can thrive on kibble by all means feed kibble. It’s a helluva lot easier. My dogs just didn’t do well on it.”

I’m going to let the final part of our chat log speak for itself:

Fishsprout: so, i should add. i grind everything up about once a month and store them in tupperware
Fishsprout: then when i feed i just pull out a tupperware, defrost, and feed
DrFaulken: besides the bones?
Fishsprout: all the soft stuff
Fishsprout: it’s just easier that way
Fishsprout: i probably spend 2-5 hrs grinding a month
Fishsprout: wot a sad life
Fishsprout: hahahahahaha
DrFaulken: sounds like most married couples
Fishsprout: hahahahahahaha
DrFaulken: thanks for answering my questions 🙂

Big thanks to Fish Sprout for explaining how she implements the BARF diet.

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2 Comments on "You are what you eat: making your own dog food with Fish Sprout"

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  1. fishsprout says:

    Ok, now who’s getting on the BARF bandwagon with me!?! 🙂

  2. Stomper says:

    Hey Fish Sprout’s right about the differences with the dog’s digestive tract and human, but there’s another factor that works for humans and dogs. There lots of patches of immune tissue throughout the digestive tract – think of them as mini lymph nodes. As your digestive tract is exposed to regular bouts of food containing bacteria the patches of immune tissue grow in size – strengthening your ability to deal with bacteria in your food. This is why if there is a disaster and dogs have to survive on trash/rotting food a junk-yard dog that has eaten out of garbage cans most of it’s life will outlast a pampered pooch that’s been eating “sterile” food. Same is true for humans — it’s part of the reason that there is some true in the old wives tale to let young kids eat dirt – it won’t hurt them.

    It’s cool – the difference in the amount of immune tissue between a pampered pooch and a junk yard dog can be seen quite easily under a microscope when you look at a cross section of the intestine.