If it moves, it dies.
By ALMA J. BUELVA
A startup dog food company, Escuin Pet Food Manufacturing, is making a strong pitch for raw feeding with its fresh line of frozen uncooked meat with vegetables and dog treats made from natural ingredients.
Its brand, Natural Goodness Real Food for Dogs, hit the ground running at the start of the year with two ready-to-serve raw dog meals (chicken or beef) and three varieties of dog chews – pumpkin biscuits, chicken strips and sweet potato chips.
Necessity is the mother of invention and for Donna Escuin, a self-taught canine nutrition expert, she built Natural Goodness from the ground up to save her little dog Audrey from obesity due to unhealthy diet.
Back in 2012, Audrey, a Pomeranian that should ideally weigh 2kgs max, tipped the scales at 4kgs. For a year, Audrey would see a vet every three weeks for check-ups and x-ray tests. As the dog got heavier, Donna's purse got lighter.
Fast forward to 2016, Donna not only got her dog healthy again after putting her on a natural diet, she also left the corporate world for the kitchen where she developed her first batch of Natural Goodness products that are “homemade, human grade dog food that the consumers can trust,” she said.
Aside from ground meat of fresh raw chicken or beef, every pack of frozen Natural Goodness Real Food for Dogs contains nutritious and calcium rich meaty bones such as necks, wings, and backs for chicken and ribs, necks, tail for beef. It also contains organ meats like liver and muscle meat such as thighs, tenderloin and hearts. For added nutrition and flavor, a cooled slow-cooked vegetable stew is added to the mix along with fresh eggs, virgin coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, raw honey, turmeric and malunggay.
“We have four resident testers (two Pomeranians, an Aspin, and a cross-breed) plus dogs of breeder friends who tried our products and they loved them,” said Donna.
A 2-kilo bag of frozen chicken doggie food costs P570, and P710 for beef. Donna gives discounts for bulk orders.
For treats, Natural Goodness' sweet potato chips (with malunggay flakes) and pumpkin biscuits are both priced P120 each for a small bag, and P370 each for a big bag.
A small pack of chicken strips costs P150 while the big pack sells for P450.
The raw meals can be frozen for four months from manufacturing date, while the treats are good for one month when kept in room temperature not exceeding 30ºC, and two months in a refrigerator. She also keeps her products fresh by preparing them based on demand. Most of her initial customers are dog breeders.
Donna arranges meet-ups at BF Homes Parañaque with customers who order the frozen doggie food. The treats, however, can be delivered to customers from Metro Manila for a minimum P60 shipping fee.
A popular local online pet store is interested to carry Natural Goodness products, said Donna, adding that supplying to other retailer pet stores later may be the way to go to give her more time to focus on product development and marketing.
WHAT'S (not) COOKIN'?
With Natural Goodness now in the market, Donna plans to enroll herself in an online course in Australia to formalize her education in canine nutrition to boost her and her products' credibility.
To date, she has relied on her own intensive self-study on raw feeding and advice from veterinarians to come up with her own carefully balanced dog food close to the “natural prey model” of eating that is intrinsic in every dog.
“I came to fall in love with the Biologically Appropriate Feeding method...I kept sharing my recipes in groups on Facebook. The only thing that saddened me was too many people I talked to would say they could not continue the diet because it was too much work. So, in my head I was like, okay I'll do it then,” said Donna.
She believes raw feeding is gaining traction among local pet owners though misconceptions such as how bones will choke dogs or raw meat will turn them into blood-hunting monsters continue to dissuade others from trying it.
Raw feeding advocates like her believe that switching a dog's diet of kibbles to raw food should be second nature.
“All dogs are designed to consume raw so it should be natural for them to love this diet. However, when a dog is too accustomed to over processed kibbles or canned food, it may find it strange at first. If you are feeding cooked, try mixing some raw little by little. However it is not recommended to mix raw to a kibble because these two foods require a different level of acid to be digested and may confuse the dog's digestive system which may lead to upset stomach,” said Donna.
The suggested amount of raw feeding is 3 percent of the dog's ideal weight, but Donna said it is best for a dog owner to first seek a veterinarian's expert opinion before changing a dog's diet and for how much more or less.
“Feeding dogs raw food can start with one meal once a week. One natural meal a week is better than nothing,” she added.
Meanwhile, she plans to move Natural Goodness' kitchen out of her house in the coming months and to open a Natural Goodness store next year.
“We are a very small company—so small that the owner who answers the emails also does the cooking, packing and arranging shipping and meet ups,” Donna revealed.
But she's not complaining because advocating raw feeding and offering alternative dog food is what she really wanted to do ever since she saw how it helped improve her dog Audrey's health.
“I decided to go into this business to spread awareness and knowledge. To be able to offer much better option for pet owners to better care for their loved ones. If there are any Audreys out there suffering, I hope to help them through our product,” said Donna.
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By ALMA J. BUELVA
“Eat your vegetables,” says actor Will Smith to his German shepherd dog in the movie “I Am Legend”.
The line stuck to me ever since and taught me to include vegetables in my dogs' lunch or dinner. I also want them to eat fruits, except only apples mildly interest them.
But things can change after they have a taste of fruits in the form of dental chews called Happi Doggy. Available in fruity flavors of strawberry, apple, avocado and orange, Happi Doggy helps introduce fruits in a dog's diet (without them knowing it). Milk and mint flavors are also in the mix which, like the fruit flavored ones, are designed to give dogs a health boost while cleaning their teeth and gums.
We tested Happi Doggy on four dogs: a labrador, a beagle, a chihuahua and an aspin to see how they would like it. All four are used to gnawing on meaty bones, rawhide bones and other types of chew treats.
The first positive sign we looked for was in the dogs' level of interest at seeing and smelling something different. The excitable nature of the labrador and aspin canceled out any conclusive finding in this department, but the beagle's reaction, with its highly-sensitive sense of smell, conveyed that it was picking up something that didn't conform to her concept of a chewable treat.
The chihuahua eyed the Happi Doggy chew stick with suspicion and, after much ado, decided it's too big for her and gave it the cold shoulder.
Each Happi Doggy chew is packed in a colorful bag that corresponds to its flavor. Because dogs apparently can only see shades of gray, yellow and blue, it's safe to surmise that Happi Doggy's vividly colored packaging are made for humans, not dogs. I know because that's what pulled me to check them out the first time I saw this product.
But we're not judging this product by its cover. Dogs are after its taste so we pulled each and every flavor of Happi Doggy out of their bags and all hell broke loose, so to speak.
The beagle hoarded three in her mouth, the aspin ran away with the mint flavor (good choice, he needed a breath freshener!), the labrador ate the rest, including the rest of the milk flavored Happi Doggy that the chihuahua earlier snubbed.
These dogs are “foodies” and know the good stuff. Documenting how they reduced the flexible and rubbery Happi Doggy dental chews to bits until there were no more took only a few minutes. Clearly, they like it and it's a big plus that an apple Happi Doggy a day could keep the vet away!
Happi Doggy dental chews are supposed to benefit dogs by:
* giving them strong teeth and healthy gums
* freshening their breath, whitening their teeth and preventing plaque buildup
* helping improve their coats and
* providing dogs with additional source of vitamins and minerals, Omega 3 and 6
Animal doctors say pet dental disease, if left unchecked, could cause pets much pain and damage to internal organs. Bad breath, yellowed teeth, missing or loose teeth, swollen and bleeding gums are symptoms of periodontal diseases. The aspin, who was rescued from the street, had some blood stains on his dental chew, a definite red flag that regular tooth brushing and serving of Happi Doggy hopefully could address.
Happi Doggy is a product of Singapore and is sold here in pet supply outlets such as those in Tiendesitas, at Pet Express branches and at Paws Hotel and Boutique branches. One can also order Happi Doggy dental chews from Lazada.com and have them home delivered.
Most shops would sell each dental chew for P50, but Lazada's price could be a little higher to cover delivery cost.
Shelf life of an unopened Happi Doggy is about a little over a year. Once opened, it's best to keep it in a ziplock or airtight container and refrigerate.
As for the chihuahua, she later nibbled contentedly at some specially cut pieces of Happi Doggy.
Here's a little video of our dog testers enjoying their Happi Doggy dental chews.
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