” …if people really knew the quality of food they are feeding their pets, they would be totally appalled.” – Dr. Karen Becker
The more I show people what ingredients are actually in their dog’s food, the more I see this reaction. And pet food companies are not making it easy for us consumers. They market things like ,fresh ingredients, grain free, meat as the first ingredient, to keep your eyes off the real problems with the food. I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty but this article is meant to be a starting point to good nutrition. (And if you don’t want the big explanation and just food suggestions skip to the bottom)
What does it really matter? I mean my dog looks okay.
Is your dog a bit of a hyperactive child? How about terrible attention span? Itching with allergies? Dry skin and dull coat? Bad breath and dirty teeth? All things nutrition plays a big role in.
Let’s use an analogy. If I only fed my child fast food for every meal what do you think their physical health would be like? How about their learning ability? Now if here and there they had a cheeseburger but properly balanced meals were their mainstay?
A good many of us are feeding junk food to our dogs for every meal and then expecting miracles of them.
Meat as the 1st Ingredient and other marketing scams
By now a lot of pet owners are getting smarter about nutrition. Word is getting out that grain isn’t so great for our dogs (slight myth), that corn is no good, and that the more meat the better (Typically). And food companies know this! They adjust their marketing to fit these ideas; and we the consumer think we’re doing Fido well by buying this wonderful food the commercials say such good things about. Wrong. Almost always I tell my clients if you see a commercial for it you probably shouldn’t be feeding it.
Meat as the 1st ingredient? Have you ever cooked a whole chicken before? You know how it starts out pretty big and then as the water cooks out it becomes half the size? Food makers know that to, so they weigh their meat ingredients before cooking. Seeing the picture?
Grain-Free? As Karen Becker says “Grain-Free” Doesn’t Mean Carb-Free. Even many of the higher end pet foods marketed as “grain-free” contain carbohydrate fillers like potato or pea fiber. (As an aside most grain-free foods are still better than the alternative)
Fresh ingredients? Most pet foods are using rendered (not fit for human consumption) meats. (And yes we’re talking beaks, feet, diseased tissue, the whole kit and kuboodle) Remember the pet food industry came as a solution to food waste.
Key vitamins and great taste. Did you know pet food companies are constantly adjusting the vitamin spray they douse the food in after cooking to entice your dog to eat it? That’s why a dog will happily dive into a bag of puppy chow (With all its highly processed colored corn goodness)
And last but not least let’s remember that its shelf life is only while it is sealed. Once open it rapidly begins losing its nutrition and molding. The best way to keep it safe? Freeze portions if you buy big bags or buy small batches. Keep in an air tight container preferably not plastic. If you have a plastic container keep it in the original food bag inside to act as a barrier between the plastic and food.
We are starving our dogs.
I had the privilege of learning from long time nutritionist Wendy Volhard last year. Thee most profound thing I learned was that most owners are starving their dogs. (And gang. I cried)
Now you say of course I’m not. In fact obesity is a big problem in dogs today (Sugars, carbs and grains being a big player in that) but we are. And I can prove it.
Go pick up your dog food and read the label. Read how many cups of food it wants you to feed your dog. If you’re feeding that much you’re likely over feeding your dog (And yes they are likely overweight) Now read a very specific little blurb that says they need that much for minimum daily requirement FOR LIFE. That is they need to eat say 4 cups of food to get the minimum requirement of vitamins to LIVE. Now say you know your dog only needs 3 cups a day or they start to get a bit rotund. Your dog is missing out on 1 cup full of vitamins. Again. FOR LIFE. So feed the 4 cups? Then your dog is going to be exposed to the many health risks of being overweight.
Okay but what the heck am I suppose to feed my dog then?
You might be feeding a decent food already. You might even be feeding a fantastic food. If so wonderful! But don’t skip this bit just yet.
To start dry kibble is the most convenient food to feed, but it has it’s limitations. Food brands I like are Acana, Orijen, and Fromm. I’ll leave a link below that can help you with finding a good quality dog food that works best for your budget. (And remember the better the nutrition the less you spend at the vet) Even high quality foods still need supplemented!
My favorite supplement for dry kibble is Volhards Endurance. It’s cheap (20$ a bag) has to be refrigerated (no preservatives) and is only a teaspoon or so on your dog’s food. Plus it makes a nice little gravy with some water that the dogs love to gobble up. Every dog that stays with us for boarding goes on endurance. (Helps with stress and allergies)
You can also just add in veggies (need to be lightly steamed or chopped in a food processor), fruits (frozen blueberries and bananas are a staple in my home), sardines (fantastic all around, need in water/olive oil no salt added) and/or chicken/beef as you’re cooking it for yourself and you add a little extra in their bowl.
I’ll be honest I don’t feed nor have I ever done wet dog food as a main diet. Check out the link below to see where your wet food ranks but the above applies there as well.
Raw Diet. The diet of champions (Or one cute old goldendoodle and the she-devil malinois)
If you want the absolute best for your dog a raw diet is (almost) always the best way to go. It’s like going to the grocery store to make your own meals, versus low quality kibble being fast food and high quality a chain like a steakhouse.
I’ve changed their diet a bit since this video was filmed but volhards is still a great diet. They used to get volhard’s NDF2 dehydrated raw mix (All the good vitamins and things), 80/20 ground beef, B vitamin supplement (For skin, coat and flea prevention), and Optagest probiotic. (which is a great starter diet for the switch to raw)
I now feed them a mix I make at home (saves $$$) and I can adjust exactly what I need to for my individual dogs. In the morning they get a mix of ground beef, beef liver, beef heart, goat pancreas or pork kidneys, and a veggie mix I blend. At night a chicken quarter bone in. I feed them their quarters in a crate for easy clean up and to keep from any resource guarding. The bones clean the teeth splendidly but make sure your dog isn’t a gobbler and skipping the chewing bit. Anything is a risk of being a choking hazard so keep a close eye on your dog while they are eating.
Raw bones are a great chew but there are different types for different styles. I give my guys big marrow butcher bones. They skim the leftover fat off the outside then slurp up the good marrow inside. Once stripped it gets tossed. The bone here doesn’t get eaten. Dogs can fracture teeth if they chomp down on weight barring bones so keep your dogs chew style in mind. Some give turkey backs and necks as a softer alternative. And chicken feet are loved here.
But what about salmonella? bacteria?
Dogs eat roadkill. They eat deer poop. You name it. A dog would probably put it in its mouth. Does that mean they are immune to disease? Certainly not. But the risk is low if you keep their bowls clean and feed quality meat. Dogs have acid vats for stomachs and are able to digest meat far differently than us. I weigh the risks of all the recalls in kibble foods over the risk of bacteria in raw. You have to make that decision for yourself.
(To give you an idea my malinois’s mother was on a raw diet, as well as her grandmother and great grandmother and great great grandmother who is still alive and well, and she was weaned onto raw and then continued on raw with me. She’s now a year old and a picture of health, and the cover photo on this blog)
At the end of the day
Is it the end of the world if you’re feeding puppy chow? No. But you are likely going to see a lot of health problems. Inflammation, hypothyroid, diabetes, allergies, to name a few. Feed the best quality you can and supplement where needed.
Have more questions? We’re happy to help build a nutrition plan for your dog with one of our training programs. Visit www.VictoryTails.com for more information.
Resources & Links
Take a look at where your dog’s food ranks here www.dogfoodadvisor.com
Wendy Volhards Raw Diet NDF2 and Endurance supplement http://www.volharddognutrition.com/
Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib on facebook are great places to start learning https://www.facebook.com/PlanetPaws.ca/?pnref=lhc
and of course, check out our facebook page for more www.facebook.com/VictoryTails
*Disclaimer* I am not a nutritionist or veterinarian so understand everything in this article is base on pure opinion and what I’ve seen personally work with my own dogs and clients. I always recommend doing your own research and speaking with your veterinarian.