As time goes on we are finding more and more food choices available for our dog, from commercial kibble, canned food, kibble with freeze dried raw bits for nutrition, fully freeze dried raw, frozen commercial raw patties with or without veggies and of course home-made diet.
T.V. commercials tell you how good their food is for your dog, yet they have numerous recalls. Then, on the other hand, you hear horror stories about a homemade diet and organ failure from a friend of a friend. I’m hoping to shed some light onto what is best to feed your dog according to your environment, beliefs and financial budget.
First off, let’s talk about dog food history. Around 1860 a man by the name of James Spratt came up with the idea that he could create more nutritionally sound food for dogs then what was available at the time, which were scraps of really anything available and biscuits. Obviously, he was on to something because it wasn’t long before a British public company took over his formula and began the commercial food industry around 1890, taking the nutritional knowledge of the day and offering it publicly. Then throughout the 1950’s, the pet food industry really boomed due to the adaptation of equipment used in the production of cereal which made it easy to produce large amounts of food for limited cost. Something that we thoroughly thought would be revolutionary, dog food that is convenient and nutritionally sound, it’s a win win…..right?
#6 – T.V. Commercial Kibble
I’m not going to name names, but these commercial kibble foods are the big name brands, the companies spend tons of money on commercials of a happy, gorgeous purebred dog eating their food, they tell you that “your dog will love it” and “we use only the best,” these companies highlight a small percentage of their ingredient list which may add up to maybe 5% of what is in the food, everything else is fillers, additives and preservatives. Their goal is to entice you, the owner, with pretty dogs and marketing schemes to trick you into buying their food, it’s alluring….pretty packaging, healthy dog on the front, kibble shaped in cute forms, why wouldn’t we buy it?
Kibble is highly processed food, cooked so much that you basically cook all the nutrition out of it and because this happens they need to add nutrition back in, artificially.
By no means am I saying that all pet food companies are feeding your dog horrendous ingredients but their #1 objective is NOT the dog, it’s to make money.
PROS: Cheap for families on a budget & convenient.
CONS: Nutritious enough to keep your dog alive, but will take years off your dogs’ life, increased thirst and possible recalls that can kill your dog.
#5 – High Quality Kibble
These foods are the commercial kibble that is sold in pet stores but don’t have the fancy commercials and because they don’t spend money on commercials they have more money to include better quality ingredients. These bags generally have a more “limited ingredient source” which is better, less preservatives and fillers which means there is better high-quality ingredients such as whole chicken, duck, beef etc. But don’t be fooled that higher quality kibble is an ideal diet for your dog, there is only 10% moisture in kibble, think about how hard their digestive tract has to work to digest that! And not to mention it causes horrendous breath, horrible gas, obesity, tartar on teeth and food intolerances in many dogs.
PROS: Convenient healthier option, nutritious enough to not cause underlining health issues.
CONS: Higher priced, highly processed, artificial nutrients that not all dogs do well on & can take years off your dogs’ life, increased thirst, and possible recalls that can kill your dog.
#4 – Canned Food
Canned food is higher on the list because of the moisture content, moisture is good for your dog, it makes it easier to digest food and the dog will absorb more nutrients compared to a hard pebble like food (kibble). This makes the dogs body work less to survive and in turn can prolong the organs, therefore having a healthier dog longer.
Canned food is also more fragrant for dogs which entices them to eat what is infront of them.
Canned food can often solve the “hunger strike” your dog may have going on.
PROS: Convenient healthier option, limited ingredients, nutritious enough to not cause underlining health issues.
CONS: Higher priced, processed and possible recalls that can kill your dog.
#3 – Freeze Dried Raw
This is a nice choice for those people who do not want to deal with the messiness of raw food or the hassle of a homemade diet but want something healthier than kibble and canned. It’s highly nutritious and can actually help with many food intolerances, skin issues and weight loss, however, the price of freeze dried can scare most humans off as it is one of the most expensive diets to feed your dog.
PROS: Convenient healthy option, highly nutritious, easy to store, smaller and less smelly poops.
CONS: Higher priced, highly processed, artificial nutrients that not all dogs do well on & can take years off your dogs’ life, and possible recalls that can kill your dog.
#2 – Commercial Raw
This is an ideal choice for many dog owners as the ingredients are in their whole form which is the healthiest foods for your dog (and humans), and the moisture content is high so the digestive system doesn’t have to work extra hard and it is easy and convenient.
However, there has been a lot of stigma attached to feeding your dog raw regarding salmonella poisoning and other health risks to children and adults with compromised immune systems. As long as you practice safe handling with raw meat (cleaning the workspace properly with warm water and soap) and make sure to feed your dog away from young children who may go and touch their food space and contaminate their hands.
But just like anything made in mass amounts, quality control can go downhill. There is always the chance of contaminated meat and recalls so make sure you know your commercial raw food comes from a reputable source where they use high quality ingredients, preferably antibiotic and hormone free animal protein.
PROS: Convenient healthy option, highly nutritious, small odourless poops, releases anal glands naturally, cures food intolerances, cures skin issues, cleans teeth, fresh breath, increased brain health and will extend the life of your dog by years.
CONS: Higher priced, not easy to store (you will need lots of freezer room for large breeds), there is about 5-10 min prep time each meal.
#1 – Homemade Whole Food Diet (Raw or Cooked)
A homemade diet is obviously by far the best route you can go, however, it is the most dangerous route if you do not know what you’re doing. Dogs required specific amounts of organs, muscle, bone and veggie per meal to ensure they are eating a balanced diet otherwise you can run into some serious complications down the road (3-5 years later).
The great part about cooking a homemade meal for your dog is you can control every ingredient that goes into the meal, plus you have the option of cooking it (without bone and adding a calcium-phosphorus powder) to add variety for your dog or if you just don’t want to feed raw.
Before even considering creating a homemade diet for your dog you MUST educate yourself on specific recipes for your dog (NOT GOOGLE).
An example of a homemade diet consists of:
15-20% organ meats (liver, heart, giblet in chickens)
15-20% bone meal or bone
30-40% extra lean muscle meat (which should have 5-10% max fat)
15-20% fruits and veggies
2 times a week canned sardines or canned wild salmon (replaces 15-20% of muscle meat)
3 times a week eggs (which replaces 15% of muscle meat)
Vitamin mix that includes: Taurine, Iron, Manganese, Iodine from standardized kelp, Vitamin E and Salt, Zinc, Copper & Vitamin D.
Omega fatty acids
If you cannot do this correctly, then do not attempt to make your dogs’ food, your dog will be better off eating any other option listed here. If you are interested in learning more about your dogs’ diet, I highly recommend "REAL Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats", fourth edition by Beth Taylor and Dr. Karen Becker (recipes for meals and supplements included), DVM and "Canine Nutrigenomics" by Dr. Jean Dodds.
We all knew when we got our dog that we would need to feed him or her, we budgeted how much it will cost estimately and made sure our dogs could eat every day. If you plan on increasing the quality of your dogs’ diet but are worried about money, search around your pet shops to see how much it will cost per month to feed your dog. A good estimate for a 50-60 lb young active dog is as follows for each food:
As the times have changed, our love for dogs changed as well, we start caring about prolonging their life to be with us longer. But how do we prolong life? We try to understand nutritional requirements to the best of our knowledge with the scientific facts available to us at the time, feed our dogs and wait to see if we did a good job, then build on that.
Right now, with the current research and common sense, I opt to feed my dogs a whole food diet with variation of protein sources, veggies, cooked and raw, I see the health results, their coats are shiny, they smell beautiful (no dog smell) and I only bathe them once per year! It may cost me more now to feed them a healthy diet but in the long run they won’t need as many vet visits from complications.
Kristin Crestejo has been training dogs for over 10 years, 5 of those years have been running her own business, Modern Canine Training and running her Youtube channel which showcases her training techniques and tutorials for free. Her goal is to share the knowledge that stress-free, humane dog training works! There are better ways to train your dog, with no ill side effects as traditional or confrontational methods do.
She is a Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant that specializes in complex behaviour cases ranging from compulsive barkers to OCD behaviours, Fears & anxieties, Aggression and Frustrations.