Over the years many people have asked me what Miles eats. I used to be hesitant to answer this question, because food is such a controversial subject for people and for dogs. I’ve never wanted anyone to feel that by sharing my story, I want to pressure them to follow a particular path. The path that brought me and Miles to raw dog food was a personal one. After many years of success, I think it is worthwhile to share Miles’ story in case it is helpful or interesting to anyone.
Miles’ Health Struggles
When Miles was young, he suffered from a wide array of health problems. He had chronic ear, eye, skin and stomach infections. He was desperately uncomfortable and itchy, and was on an endless supply of antibiotics to manage all of the infections. Because of this, I worked hard to find the right veterinarian, and I found a wonderful one when Miles was just under a year old. Together we began the journey of figuring out the underlying problem and then working to manage it. Miles has environmental allergies. Because Miles and I live in the mild PNW, his little body is subject to full-blown outdoor allergens year-round. My veterinarian and I tried every route except full-time steroids to manage Miles’ intense allergies (and I have accumulated so much useful info that it will come in another post). The most interesting discovery about Miles was that diet was an overwhelming 75% of the solution.
Even though Miles’ allergies aren’t caused by diet, my veterinarian and I both realized that the right diet for him finally gave his immune system the boost it needed not just to survive, but to thrive.
Change is Scary!
I grew up thinking that all that dogs should eat was kibble, because it is formulated for them specifically. When the idea of raw was presented as an option, I viewed it as outside of what my veterinarian knew, and I was scared that because of that, I would be managing my dog’s nutrition on my own. Looking back, I realize that is true no matter what you feed your dog, or yourself.
Originally when diet was identified as something that could help Miles’ health, Miles’ vet put him on kibble elimination diets. Those didn’t work for him, but sticking with the classic concept of the elimination diet helped me when I tried Miles on raw. When we started raw with my veterinarian’s support, I did it “elimination diet” style. I started Miles on two neutral meat blends, blended leafy green vegetables, and meat-only treats for the first month. I think a lot of people who try their dogs on raw panic about switching from a diet with a long list of ingredients, and add in too many supplements or new ingredients to raw right away. Keep in mind, the traditional veterinary elimination diet is 12 weeks.
Starting simple worked really well for Miles. Over time, I was able to add in beneficial extras that I will talk about in an upcoming post. In short, Miles eats a base of a very high quality meat blend consisting of muscle meat, ground bone, and organ meat (varied protein sources), and some natural supplements including dried kelp, human-grade fish oil pills, and homemade blended leafy greens (recipe here). For snacks Miles gets USA/Canada bully sticks, and for treats he gets a variety of 1-ingredient meat treats (never raw, always cooked, dehydrated, freeze dried, or air-dried, bought and homemade). Since figuring out how to make my own high-quality treats, I almost exclusively make my own using this method and recipe.
Miles’ Health Test Results
Miles is a bit of an abnormal dog because of how much I have invested in his health. With our regular veterinarian, Miles gets detailed blood and urine panels four times per year, fecal tests if he’s eaten something gross, and multi-times per year check-ups. He has seen a veterinary dermatologist and ophthalmologist, and he has a yearly check-up with a canine sports medicine veterinary specialist (orthopedic surgeon). Year after year, Miles’ medical test results and examinations show a dog not only in perfect health, but in his prime.
Behavioral Changes on Raw Dog Food
I remember switching Miles to a raw diet like it was yesterday. At first, I didn’t tell anyone but my veterinarian. He didn’t know much about it, but he was supportive given how few options we had left. I remember watching Miles relish his food in a way I had never seen before. Instead of gobbling it, he ate it very slowly, savoring every bite. About a week in we walked into our little agility class and everyone exclaimed, “Where is Miles??! Who is this relaxed dog?!” The change in his behavior was a welcome relief not only for Miles, but for everyone around him. Miles has always been a 10/10 Welsh Terrier, but it was only at that moment that I realized that his former frantic way of being was not part of who he was; it was discomfort.
Traveling with Miles and Raw Dog Food
Miles and I travel a LOT. This year we have done more road and Amtrak train trips than I can remember, and by the time 2019 draws to a close, we will have flown on 18 planes. When a dog is on raw food it is easy to switch them to dehydrated food when traveling, but so far, I haven’t found the need to. It is that easy! I have become an expert in traveling with raw, and I will share my tips soon. It is fun to see Miles relish his daily breakfast and dinner on the road. We travel so much for agility, that having a constant routine like that is so comforting. It is also a huge relief to have a dog who has regular digestion that isn’t bothered by the ups and downs of travel.
Raw Dog Food for Performance
Part of what convinced me to try raw was realizing how many agility people feed it. On the whole, most agility people don’t try to say what others should do, they tend to just be quietly hooked on whatever will help their dogs perform best. People put so much effort, care, and money into the careers of their agility dogs that the most devastating thing is to have to retire a dog early. Many people who haven’t tried agility yet think that agility dogs are healthy because agility is such good exercise, but they don’t realize that agility can actually be hard on the body. Top agility dogs are conditioned and exercised outside of agility, so that they can train and compete without developing injuries. Injuries can easily end a career. Diet is a critical part of fuelling top athletes of any species!
Miles and Raw Dog Food
Seeing Miles’ intense pleasure at mealtime day in day out is so special to me and everyone who knows him. Being able to compete with Miles at the level of agility that we do, and for him to be able to do so many things in our daily life that Welsh Terriers aren’t expected to be good at, it is all a dream come true.
- Miles’ body is lean, powerful muscle.
- He is a ‘senior,’ but has been rated by a veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation specialist as having a physical age of 5 years old.
- Miles’ coat is hard and glistening.
- His stomach is a well-oiled, sturdy machine that handles change and travel well.
- Miles poops once a day.
- His breath is fresh, his teeth are white and sparkling, and his teeth have never required dental cleaning.
- Miles smells great!
A Special Thank You to Natural Instincts Raw
So far this year Miles and I have qualified for three major agility Nationals and AKC Invitationals, Miles has earned his AKC Agility Champion title, and he is 7 Q’s away from his Lifetime Achievement Award in AAC Agility. One of the most exciting things to happen this year for our agility career has been our new sponsor partnership with Natural Instincts Raw Dog Food. If you visit their main page and read Max’s story, you will notice similarities with Miles’ story.
To be sponsored by the best food available means so much to me. For Miles and I, agility has never been about winning or about proving our worth to ourselves; agility has been about the joy of learning and working together, and my dream to show the world what is possible with wild dogs like Miles. By partnering with us, Natural Instincts has demonstrated that they see the importance of what Miles and I are doing. Miles is one of the kinds of dogs that many people think are un-trainable. Welsh Terriers have a reputation for being “naughty” and “mischievous” and “only doing what they want,” when really, they are wildly active and intelligent dogs who thrive working with people. Miles is my teammate through and through. Our agility keeps reaching new heights because of our mutual respect for each other. I listen to Miles and let him be himself, and he gives me the same in return.
Thank you Natural Instincts and M&E readers for supporting us in our journey to show what is possible with wild dogs! I am honored to be able to share the many things that have contributed to our success on this blog.
* Posts are coming about: managing canine environmental allergies, what a raw diet and raw food prep entails (the ingredients, how I prepare it), and how I travel with a raw-fed dog. If there questions or related topics you want me to cover in these upcoming articles, please comment below!