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Endangered Species

How Did the Louisville Zoo Help Two Wolves Reproduce? Through Food.

Rudy Green was 14 when he was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer — a dooming aliment for the elderly chocolate lab.

A veterinarian said there was little to be done. But to buy the dog another week, owner Karla Haas could try feeding it nothing but fresh, unprocessed foods.

The directive made Haas think. If kibble was made for dogs, then why would a vet not recommend it for hers?

The simple question started Haas on a 10-year journey, in which she launched an all-natural dog food line and earned national attention for her work with the Louisville Zoo.

Rudy Green’s Doggy Cuisine, which first hit grocery stores in 2007, is now sold on Amazon and in approximately 450 Kroger pet food aisles across America.

It was a slow build, Haas said. But with more people looking into the foods they eat, her product has taken off with customers who want to give the same consideration to their dogs.
“You would never dream of giving your kid nothing but Cheerios for every meal, every day of his life,” Haas said. “Yet we’ve been brainwashed to think this is what dogs should eat.”
Haas never expected to get into the pet food business. She holds a degree in social work but spent the past few decades switching between careers, from modeling to sales management.

The only constant during that time was her volunteer work at dog rescues and animal shelters across several states. In Louisville, Haas rattled off a list of organizations for which she’s offered assistance, including the Shamrock Pet Foundation and Derby City Dog Rescue.

Saving dogs is Haas’s passion. And she can’t think of any better way to sustain herself while bettering the lives of pets than through her business, Rudy Green’s.

The line of natural dog food offers five recipes, sold for $10.49 per box in pet aisle freezers. Each box includes four 6-ounce packets of food that can supplement a sick dog’s kibble diet.
“It’s meant to be mixed in,” said Haas, who added that owners stretch out a box by reducing portions. “Most could never afford to do just this. Frankly, I still give my dogs dry food. But I know what’s in it, and I know where it’s made.”

Within three years of launching, Haas’s work caught the attention of a Louisville Zoo employee, who recommended her to a team of co-workers tasked with improving the health of the facility’s maned wolves.

Maned wolves are a near-threatened species indigenous to South America, zookeeper Angela Johnson said. And while they fall into the wolf category, they eat nothing like other members of the canid sector.
The red-coated wolves are finicky, said Johnson, who calls them “canine toddlers.” Five-year-olds Sadie and Rocko at the Louisville Zoo are no exceptions.

The pair of maned wolves are unwilling to eat various foods and are genetically dispositioned to develop certain diseases. In their time at the zoo, Sadie and Rocko have both been underweight with low muscle mass, and Sadie has struggled with irritable bowel disease.

Because of the issues, the two wolves have not been able to reproduce, Johnson said. But after working with Haas and a nutrition specialist to develop a healing recipe for Sadie, the female wolf gained enough weight to give birth to two pups this past Valentine’s Day — a big win for the entire population.

“We talked early on and said first and foremost, we want our wolves to get better and do well and thrive,” said Johnson, who’s worked at the zoo for more than 20 years. “If that works, we want other wolves to have the same benefits.
“This diet isn’t for every single wolf. But it shows a fresh, less processed diet can do good.”

Haas said she’s now working with the nutrition specialist to develop additional recipes the wolves can eat during off-breeding seasons. And other zoos have expressed interest in purchasing the first recipe — named Sadie’s Stew.

“We have had some setbacks along the way,” Johnson said. “… But this diet does seem to keep (Sadie) on track and keeps things going pretty well for her.”
If pet owners want to improve the diets of their own dogs, Johnson recommended trying to supplement kibble with fresh foods slowly.

“It’s expensive to eat healthy and it’s expensive to feed your pets healthy, also,” Johnson said. “Something fresh is better than nothing fresh.”

Reach reporter Bailey Loosemore at 502-582-4646 or bloosemore@courier-journal.com.
RUDY GREEN’S DOGGY CUISINE

What: An all-natural dog food produced in Kentucky at a USDA-certified facility. The dog food comes in five recipes, such as ground beef with brown rice, peas and corn.

Where: Find Rudy Green’s in the pet aisle freezer at Kroger, Rainbow Blossom and ValuMarket in Louisville or online at Amazon.

Cost: $11.99 per four-pack in stores or $64.95 for five boxes on Amazon

More info: Five-percent of the product’s sales are donated to various animal shelters. Learn more at rudygreens.com.

Rudy Green’s Maned Wolf Diet Leads to 2 Pups!

Zoo Celebrates Birth of

Two Maned Wolf Pups

 

The Louisville Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of two maned wolf pups. The two females were born February 14 to Sadie and Rocko, both five years old. Each weighed about 7 pounds at the time of their neonatal examinations.

 

Maned wolf gestation is similar to a domestic dog which is about two months. Sadie has nursed the pups since they were born and they should be weaned at around 4 months of age.  Both parents will also regurgitate food to the pups to assist with the transition from milk to solid foods.

The Louisville Zoo is continually seeking the very best methods in nutrition, veterinary care, and animal husbandry and consistently monitors the health of the animals. Prior to the fall/winter breeding season, zoo keepers and veterinary staff developed a plan to optimize the health of both adult wolves.  Sadie was underweight, had a poor appetite, and suboptimal stool quality.  Following a thorough medical evaluation and treatment plan, a diet change was pursued to improve food intake, body condition, and stool quality. This diet change was achieved with collaboration with the Maned Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP) nutritionist Dr. Cheryl Morris and  Rudy Green’s Doggy CuisineTM creator and President Karla Haas. Special custom-made whole food recipes were developed by these renowned professionals in the field using human grade meats and vegetables.     The Rudy Green brand has been producing human grade, gently cooked food for dogs since 2006 and is sold in Kroger pet aisle freezers and online via amazon.

 

The Louisville Zoo contacted Ms. Haas and together they began experimenting with a custom formulated diet in September 2016.  Both wolves were gradually transitioned onto it after initial testing of several recipes.  The new diet, in conjunction with recommended nutritional supplements by Dr. Morris, resulted in improvements in overall health. The Louisville Zoo is proud that this team approach has resulted in the birth of two maned wolf pups, the first for the Louisville Zoo in 10 years.

The Rudy Green’s Maned Wolf Diet is nick-named “Sadie’s Stew”and interest in alternative and more healthful diets for the maned wolves is spreading among zoos nationally.

ABOUT MANED WOLVES

The maned wolf is native to South America and can be found throughout Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Uruguay. Maned wolves are solitary. The maned wolf is an omnivore. Half of their diet is fruit supplemented with small mammals, birds and reptiles, insects, nuts, eggs and grass. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the maned wolf as threatened.