Friday, May 27, 2011

FAQ: So what's up with the fish?

Since my post on Sunday depicting my dogs chowing on partially frozen and completely intact mackerel, I've received about 25 emails from readers who want to know more about the fish and about feeding fish.

You feed the whole mackerel?
Yep. The whole mackerel. The whole sardine too. For anyone who is squeamish, sardines might be a better place to start with whole raw fish - they're smaller and less investment in product. A sardine is about 2 bites for my dogs. Poof! Gone. Sardines are easier to feed for indoor meals though, so if you're somewhere where you can't turn your dogs loose in the yard with some fish, sardines might be a better option. Sardines are a bit lower on the food chain than mackerel, so there's likely less contamination (from eating other fish) - however, Mackerel are fattier fish. I've fed both, but I find mackerel to be a great size for my dogs.

Is it thawed?
Partially. I like the fish to be thawed enough for the dogs to easily make progress, but not so thawed as they can eat it without chewing. I like the fish to be pretty firm still, semi-flexible - frozen in the middle. This means the dogs have to work a little bit to get through them - thus they eat them slowly. The more frozen the fish is, the longer it'll take the dog to work through one. If you're concerned about how your dog is going to eat his fishsicle then feed it more frozen.

Do you gut it before feeding it?
Nope. Really it's OK - you don't need to gut the fish before feeding it.

What about the bones?
Cooked fish bones are a disaster - super dangerous, sharp needle-like pieces - one of the reasons I'll NEVER -EVER - EVER eat tuna fish again. Raw fish bones though are flexible, digestible and nutritious. Know your dog. If he doesn't chew his food you might have a problem. I watch my dogs very closely, they're trustworthy with fish and bones...

What about the eyeballs?
Yeah, the eyeballs are gross. Both of my dogs start with the eyeballs. Like it's the best part. Whatever - if that makes them happy, that's fine. From the eyes Murph eats the head down to the tail. Teller takes a bunch of little bites all over the fish and saves the head for last. I don't question.

Why do you feed whole fish?
Fish is a great protein source! Oily fish, such as sardines and salmon contain high levels of vitamins A and D. Fish bones provide an additional source of calcium and phosphorous. Oily fish contain omega's and in Teller's case he does need some additional fat in the summertime.

Do you remove the scales?
I don't. I suppose you could if you wanted to. I don't, the dogs don't complain. Honestly the scales on the average sardine or mackerel are pretty small.

Do you remove the fins?
Actually, sometimes I do. Some of the mackerel come with pokey fins. On a couple of occasions I have snipped off the dorsal fin.

Why do you feed your dogs ugly fish like sardines and mackerel?
For the same reason as above. It's a great protein source, fish add some variety to the other TCM cool proteins I feed already and I do feed more fat in the summer when the dogs are so active.

Where did you get your mackerel?
I buy cases of mackerel from Oma's Pride. Mackerel come in cases of 30-40lbs, each fish is about 14-16oz, so that's about 40 fish per case. Oma's also carries 2# bags of sardines.

Can I go to Hannafords and find a whole mackerel? Is it the same thing?
Yes, probably the exact same thing. Oma's Pride pet food is manufactured by Miller Foods in CT, many of their products are labeled for human consumption - I'd guess that the mackerel are in fact the same fish that end up in restaurants - probably in the same size case. I know the bags of sardines from Oma's are labeled for restaurant supply.
If you buy a fresh fish at Hannafords (likely it's been frozen and thawed actually), I'd really recommend re-freezing the fish and feeding it partially (or entirely frozen).

Seriously don't you worry about bones?
I do, that's why I watch my dogs eat their fish. I want to make sure they're chewing the fish as they're eating it. If they were gulpers I wouldn't feed them whole fish (or I'd feed smaller whole fish).

My dog has a sensitive stomach - can she still have a mackerel?
Probably. Perhaps the solution is to cut the fish into pieces - half or thirds. That'll give you an idea of how things are going to digest without really committing to being up all night with a dog who needs to go outside.

Don't your dogs smell like fish after eating a fish?
No. Unless they roll in the grass that has fish pieces on it. I hose down the areas where they ate the fish after they finish. Not because they roll in it - but leftover fish pieces - even microscopic ones can get stinky in the sun.

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