The notion of adopting and owning a dog seems a bit much for me and yet is something that I would love to do. Day dreaming. Window shopping on Rodeo with my dog. Trips to Malibu with my dog. Manicure and pedicures with my dog? Momentarily, I come to my senses realizing my orchids are fighting for their lives after all and with recently incorporating TM (Transcendental Meditation) into my life and making an effort to floss my teeth on a daily, when will I find time to feed, walk and groom my four legged friend? Renting a dog seems like the best idea at first. Stumbling onto a Time magazine video segment Finally an App that Lets you rent a Corgi could certainly be a good way to go and while it is an option, however, I question more in-depth; what would it be like to actually own a dog? That I can’t really answer right now, of course, as I don’t own a dog but knowing the wheres whats and hows are helpful in making the decision. And of course, what will my dog eat? This is my dog we are talking about. Will my dog get facial and go to yoga? I do live in Los Angeles. Research and seeking out experts is in order. Where to get my dog is the first question. Wags and Walks is an organization mentioned to me. In addition to adopting a rescue, they also have a fostering dog program. Some test runs are good and this is a step above the aforementioned rental dog app. Now that I know where to go to get my dog, the eating is the most important for overall health, in my opinion.If we are what we eat, so are our dogs. Checking out different pet food lines from Trader Joe’s, PetCo, Whole Foods, and asking around, I find Just Food for Dogs. Just Food for Dogs was started by Shawn Buckley in Newport Beach in 1100 sq ft five years ago and within five years there are now six locations and within those locations, two kitchens. I call the West Hollywood location and I am referred to Dr. Oscar Chavez. He is the on staff Canine Clinical Nutritionist. He agrees to answer questions via email as he is incredibly busy and we make a date for him to show me the Just Food for Dogs kitchen. The date he chooses happens to coincide with the entire Just Food for Dogs Executive team to be in house at this particular store and in this particular kitchen. Just Food for Dogs is schedule to launch the first Just Food for Cats meal and treat April 1st, which is why they are all together. I arrive and meet Dr. Chavez, and he introduces me to Founder, Shawn Buckley, CEO Carey Tischler, and Dr. John Tegzes, Veterinary Specialist/Professor of Toxicology. We all chat a bit and then I get a tour of the kitchen and facilities. The Just Food for Dogs kitchen looks like that of an actual restaurant kitchen. Some cooks here even have a people culinary restaurant kitchen background. Take a look at the kitchen in the West Hollywood location! And find the interviews from Dr. Chavez and Dr. Tegzes below.
Dogs that dine on the Just Food for Dogs Cuisine also need dessert. In a more dimly lit kitchen in the back of the house thinly sliced chicken (resembling that of carpaccio) can be found waiting for a dehydration process. These treats/dessert are very popular and sell out on a regular basis. Take a look!
More from the back of the house. Fridges and storage!
Compund lab and Prescription center:
Compund Manager, Danny, uses prescription tickets from the vet and puts together a specific nutrient blend to put together a custom diet for a dog or to treat a certain condition. He does this everyday. To formulate a specific diet JFFD charges $195. Then the cost of making food varies from $300-$700 a month and some customs can cost more. For example a Great Dane has a specific diet that cost $1000 a month. The cost depends on the size of the dog and what is in the food, etc. The demand is so great and team keeps growing. All compound diets are formulated at the JFFD location on Melrose and then sent out to various kitchen.
Dr. Chavez sent me home with lots of information and on my way out the door I had the opportunity to have one last chat with C.E.O. Carey Tischler. He has a business background and was introduced to Shawn, the founder from an investor. Carey has a long hair Chihuahua and is looking for a second dog, a beagle. I asked Carey, if you could introduce or share Just Food for Dogs with anyone, who would it be and why? Here’s what he said, “Funny, I used to work for a pet food company called Nutrish and Rachael Ray… fantastic company and brand and her name is attached to it and she over saw the recipe development for it…I have some connection. So, I would love for Rachael Ray to come see this. I think she would get a real kick out of it. I’d love to give her a tour.”
Just Food for Dogs Interviews
Me: Did you always want to be a Veterinarian?
DC: I suppose I did, I always liked biology and animals and it was a childhood dream to be an animal doctor. My decision was solidified when I got my first dog Shadow, and she became sick with Parvovirus. I was a Freshman in College. I knew nothing about vaccinations or parvovirus. I couldn’t afford the hospitalization, but was lucky enough to find a veterinarian that would teach me how to nurse her at home. She told me that this was not the best treatment, and her chances were slim, but since it was better than doing nothing, I did it. I gave Shadow subcutaneous fluid therapy every 4-6 hours and antibiotic injections. By day 4 or 5 she could eat solid foods. When she was completely recovered, I decided 100% I want to be a veterinarian and declared my Biology major later that week.
Me: How long did you study?
DC: I’ve been a student most of my life! Since I decided on my major late in my Freshman year, it took me 5 years to graduate UC Berkeley. I went to vet school at the University of London, at the Royal Veterinary College in the UK, which was a five year program. Thus it took me 10 years to become a veterinarian; I graduated vet school in 2006. Additionally, I went back to school in 2009 to get my MBA, which took another three years. I graduated with an MBA from the University of California at Irvine in 2012.
Me: Where did you study?
DC: The Royal Veterinary College (aka the RVC) in London. It is actually the second veterinary school in the world, and the first English speaking veterinary school in the world. The first was in Lyons, France.
ME: Do Veterinarians do residencies?
Yes, but this is only required for specialties. There are specialties for virtually every discipline you will find a specialty for in human medicine. In these cases, it is common to do a 2-3 year residency toward a board certification in a specialty (ie: cardiology, internal medicine, oncology, etc). As a general practice veterinarian, our equivalent of a residency is our last year in vet school where we are working at the university hospital.
Me: How do you choose a specialty?
DC: You apply for a residency and are matched with a specialist that will guide you through the residency program. For more information on this, you can visit: around: https://www.virmp.org/
Me: How did you find out about Just Food for Dogs?
DC: The founder, Shawn Buckley, came to me when I was a tenured track faculty at Cal Poly Pomona University. He wanted to know if we could run a more humane feeding trial than the one that is usually done. Usually, companies hire USDA laboratory facilities that house beagles that live their lives for animal testing. This was not compatible with the culture at JFFD. They wanted us to run humane at-home feeding trials using student owned and faculty owned dogs that are happy and healthy at home. We ran those trials and the health of the dogs improved! My own dog, Rey, experienced an improvement as well. This clinched it for me, so I went to work with them full time. You may watch a video on this here:
Me: How long have you been with the company?
DC: Full time for three years, although I started working with them (with the feeding trials) over four years ago.
Me: Do you have a dog?
DC: Yes, I have one dog today: Roxy.
Me: What is the importance of dog nutrition?
DC: We believe all health starts with nutrition. What people are feeding their pets today, commercial pet food, is the toxic waste of the human food industry and almost all of it contaminated with all sorts of bacteria, endotoxins, mycotoxins, etc. Our food is simply the same food you and I eat, but formulated for pets. For more information on the aweful things that are in commercial pet food, you can go here:
Me: Does food affect dog temperament? Increase cognitive skills?
DC: We consistently here about the “personality” change for the better from our food. If you think about it, dogs are going from a highly processed diet of rendered meat, and other ingredients, that are in a bag, stored at room temperature, for up to two years. This shouldn’t seem healthy at all, yet “kibble” is a mainstream way of feeding pets. Contrast that to a wholesome diet made with real ingredients, and you are bound to get an effect. The best example I can relate to is the documentary where the man ate processed meals for a month. He felt lethargic and sick. Once he switched back to wholesome foods his personality returned.
Me: Should dogs get a certain amount of exercise per week? DC: Yes, just like us, dogs should be exercised. How much exercise depends on the dog, but a general rule is enough exercise to maintain a healthy weight.
Me: Where is the food sourced? Are their special farms that only provide ,eats and grains to your kitchens?
DC: We get our food from the exact same suppliers you get yours ☺. We use top grade suppliers that supply top restaurants. For example, all our meats come from West Coast Meats, you may have seen their trucks driving around: http://www.westcoastprimemeats.com/
Our produce comes from Penjoyan and Ingardia. Again, you may see their trucks driving around
Me: Do you test dog food the same as you would human food as far as regulations go?
DC: We do internally, yes, but there are few regulations requiring this. Human food is much more tightly regulated. Since we use human food ingredients, and we test our finished product, including having run feeding trials at Cal Poly Pomona, our quality assurance is very high.
Me: What qualifications are needed to cook in a dog kitchen?DC: Most of our employees come from a human kitchen background. As you have seen, it operates very similarly.
Me: How many cooks are on staff?
DC: Generally, there are three cooks per kitchen.
Me: What is the shelf life for dog food?
DC: We don’t call our food dog food ☺ We call it food for dogs. Our food for dogs will last in the freezer for up to 1 year. Once defrosted in the fridge, and opened, you must use our meat diets within 4 days. Fish diets should be used within 3 days. Essentially how you would treat your own food. We tell people, you want food that could go bad, you just don’t want it to actually go bad. What scares us is meat and other ingredients, in a bag, shelf stable for up to 2 years. ☹
Me: How is the cost of dogs’ food calculated?
DC: We calculate how much food a dog needs to eat per day, then the cost per oz to feed that dog.
Me: You have a food delivery service. Will you explain a little how it works and the benefits of this service?
DC: People can buy our food and have it delivered. It’s really that simple. We also ship nationwide. For all addresses in CA, shipping is $14.95 flat rate for all orders over $100.
Me: Do Health Insurance for dogs accept any dog on a health care plan? What are the structures? Is it a general or categorized in to a PPO HMO style?
DC: Yes, we have a line of prescription only diets (vets must give us a prescription for pet parents to get the food). There is one health insurance company that does cover our prescription diets (terms apply). They are Trupanion: https://trupanion.com/ppc/best-care?gclid=CMGjye_0-ssCFUiGfgodZh4OiQ
From my understanding (should be verified) they will cover 50% of the cost of a prescribed food for 60 days. They also cover the cost of our veterinary supplements for life.
Me: Can dogs eat chocolate? Can dogs drink caffeine?
DC: No, chocolate and caffeine contain theobromines, which are toxic in dogs. They can cause high heart rates, arrhythmias, and even seizures, or death.
Me: Are there any plants or weeds especially toxic to dogs?
DC: Yes there are several plants that are potentially toxic, but these questions are best answered by our toxicologist, Dr. John Tegzes, as this is his specialty.
****Dr. Tegzes Q&A at the conclusion of Dr. Chavez interview
Me: What is your opinion on dogs eating table food?
DC: Many foods are safe to feed dogs. They should be low in fat, and only be given in small quantities. No bones, no fatty trimming, nothing processed, and no junk food. A dog’s regular diet should be balanced for long term feeding; you will not get a good balance from table scraps alone.
Me: Are treats the equivalent to dessert for dogs?
DC: Essentially, yes, they should only be fed 10-15% of their daily calories as treats. Most people over do it with treats.
Me: What is the difference between your products and other commercial products?
DC: We make food with real USDA certified ingredients that are fit for human consumption. We lightly cook our food and hand package it in our kitchens. None of our ingredients are “feed grade” which is usually the case in commercial pet food.
Me: Do pregnant dogs require a different diet than non-pregnant dogs?
DC: Yes, toward the last third of their pregnancy (about day 40-45), they should be fed a diet formulated for puppies, and continue on that diet through the weaning of the puppies. The higher minerals (including calcium) found in the puppy food will help them make enough milk for their puppies.
Me: How much water should dogs drink a day?
DC: Dogs drink up to 90ml/kg/day of water. You want a fresh wholesome diet that has natural moisture. Part of the issue with feeding kibble, is that dogs are chronically dehydrated.
Me: How many times a day should dogs eat?
DC: Either once or twice a day.
Me: Does one breed of dog favor one flavor profile over another?
DC: No, each dog is a unique individual, irrespective of breed.
Me: Do dogs have allergies? How can you tell?
DC: Yes, they can be allergic to the environment, fleas, and even food. Dogs will be itchy and lose hair when they are allergic.
Me: Are there any particular food style spa treatments that dogs benefit from? I notice some grooming services have, for example, blueberry facials. Do you recommend any of these? DC: We do not get involved with this, although proper grooming is likely to be beneficial for most dogs, so they maintain a healthy coat and skin.
Me: How do you test dog food? Is there a type of dog focus group?
DC: We use our staff dogs, they are our focus group. ☺
Me: If you could provide a meal from this kitchen for any dog, what dog would it be or who’s dog would it be and what would you want to serve this dog to eat from the just food for dogs?
DC: Sorry I do not understand this question. We make 6 daily recipes, have a line of 8 prescription diets, and also do custom diets for sick dogs or dogs with special needs. We also have seasonal specials. For a complete list of our offerings, check out: www.justfoodfordogs.com.
As Dr. Chavez mentioned Dr. Tegzes could answer the question regarding toxicity and he did. Please find a few questions and answers below.
What is NOT so great for dogs…
Dr. John Tegzes Interview
Me: What is incredibly toxic to dogs?
DT: All toxic substances are on a scale from low toxicity to high toxicity, but it is the dose that determines how a dog might react. There are many substances that are toxic in low doses to dogs. Among these are things like xylitol which is an artificial sweetener found in chewing gum and some candies and baked goods. Less than one stick of gum can be deadly to most dogs. Oleander is an ornamental plant frequently cultivated in Southern California. Less than half of a leaf is deadly toxic to most dogs. Baker’s chocolate contains the most concentrated toxins found in all forms of chocolate, and less than an ounce can be harmful to most dogs. Many human medications including ibuprofen can rapidly result in severe illness or death with even small doses. Many pesticides, including those used to kill rodents and snails can be very harmful to dogs, and they will readily eat them. The seeds from sago palms are also very toxic to dogs. And lastly, grapes and raisins can be deadly toxic to dogs.
Me: What are the most common? What are not so common?
DT: Chocolate is probably the most common cause of poisoning in dogs. It is readily available, and dogs love the taste and will rapidly eat any they find.
Rat poisons also tend to be very common.
Human medication exposures are consistently common. Even though it might be difficult to intentionally give your dog medications, they will in fact eat your pills if they accidentally fall on the floor, or you leave them out on the countertop. Sometimes dogs will chew on pill bottles because of the texture of the plastic, but once they break the bottle open may also eat all the pills inside.
Not so common, but important toxins are many of the ornamental plants we have in our yards and gardens. Also many heavy metals are toxic to dogs including lead, arsenic, and Mercury. But we do not commonly see these toxicities in adult dogs. When seen they often affect puppies to a greater extent.
Me: What plants or weeds are toxic for dogs?
DT: There are many, many toxic plants. Some can cause mild vomiting and diarrhea, while others can cause liver or kidney damage, or even certain types of cancers. In California we can grow many types of plants from around the world, and unfortunately some of these are particularly toxic to dogs. Among the most toxic to dogs are oleander, sago palms, brunfelsia, grapes/raisins, foxglove, onions, castor beans, and kalanchoe.
Me: What home remedies may be given should a dog ingest (if any)?
DT: It is extremely important to consult with a veterinarian if you think your dog may have been poisoned. That’s because some toxins do not exert their effects right away. Some effects can be delayed 6 days or more, but once the dog begins to appear sick, it can be too late to save them. Therefore, even if your dog looks unaffected by a poison, he/she may still need to be treated by a vet. Decontamination is usually the first and most important treatment when a dog has been poisoned. However, there are specific risks associated with decontamination, especially if the dog has ingested something that might cause drowsiness, or if the dog is dehydrated. Therefore, home remedies are not recommended. Instead see a veterinarian right away so that the dog can be assessed and the appropriate decontamination methods can be used.
Me: What are some things that are surprising toxic to dogs that humans wouldn’t think?
DT: Chewing gum that contains xylitol, which is found in most chewing gums these days. Also grapes and raisins are toxic and many might not be aware. There are also other common human foods that can cause illness or worse in dogs. These include chocolate, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, green tomatoes, potato buds/sprouts, moldy breads and walnuts, moldy cheeses, and others.
As far as grooming goes, there is no shortage of doggie groomers and spas. From Santa Monica’s To Wag For to Echo Park’s Washing Spot and many in between. There is also a mobile grooming service that will come to your home and groom your pouches in the comfort of their own home called Town & Country Grooming (appropriate, don’t ya think?!). Some spas even offer obedience training/school and luxurious blueberry facials and coconut oil massages.
I had so much fun! And while I haven’t adopted a dog yet, I know where to go and I certainly know where to purchase what my dog will eat. Who knows, while I am getting my own spa treatments in Korea town, maybe a blueberry facial for my pooch could be in order too!
Until next time…
Note: I originally posted this April 25, 2016…