Unfortunately, I don't have a choice in what food I get, unless of course I get an occasional prey from the backyard, when my Mum isn't looking. (Oops, probably wasn't supposed to confess that, anywho...)
Because of this, I have to trust my Mum to feed me the healthiest diet possible. Believe me, she has thought a lot about the food I eat. And she has learned a lot about dog food, doing all that research she's done over my five young years of life.
So we're gonna share some of the things we've learned about dog food over the years to help you make the healthiest choices for your dog. Read on!
What you feed your dog is a very personal choice, and sometimes, unfortunately it's an economic choice.
Also, unfortunately, you can't always believe the information you hear from the massive advertising claims you encounter day in and day out about dog food. And, you sometimes can't even take your veterinarians word for the best food for your pup, because they may have a vested interest in selling the foods they provide through their practice.
Our best overall advice to you is to learn, read and research to find the best food you can afford for your dog to live the healthiest, happiest and longest life possible.
Below we've put together some tools, links and information we've discovered over the years to help you make the best decision possible about what to feed your dog:
What kind of foods are available for dogs?
There are basically four types of foods to feed your dog:
Ultra and Super premium canned and kibblep
Grocery store brand kibble and canned
What are the differences of these foods?
Raw Food - Raw foods include fresh raw meats, bones, organ meats (preferably meats raised without antibiotics or hormones, and/or organic). Some individuals supplement with small amount of fresh vegetables, and vitamin/mineral and fish oil supplements. Sources of raw foods can come from the direct purchase of the meats from your local market or butcher. And, there are also sources for purchasing prepackaged raw foods and dehydrated raw foods for convenience.
Cooked Food - Fresh cooked meats and organ meat, mixed with small amounts of fresh vegetables. Some include vitamin/mineral and fish oil supplements. Cooked foods are cooked at home, or you can now purchase some cooked meals shipped freeze dried direct to your door from suppliers.
Ultra and Super premium canned and kibble - Ultra and Super premium dog foods are considered to be the highest quality kibble and canned foods. These products are mostly human quality meats, are usually grain-free, contain no by-products or chemical enhancements or preservatives, and are very low in carbohydrates. Some are also organic and you can purchase in specialty pet food stores and online.
Grocery store brand kibble and canned - These products contain very little meat and the main ingredient is water or by-products. They also contain a large amount of grain and grain by-products. The rendered meat used in these products often comes from condemned animals, i.e. – animals that were deemed unfit for human consumption. These products normally contain artificial colors, flavors and chemical preservatives.
Note: There are hundreds of brands of kibble and canned foods on the market that would fall between the Ultra/Super premium foods and the grocery store brand kibble, all with wide variations in ingredients. This is where research is most important.
So how do you decide what food is best?
Start with this thought: Dogs are carnivores. And as a carnivore, we've been eating a diet of primarily meat since before domestication roughly 15,000 years ago. Even though we're now domesticated, we're still carnivores, and so we need to eat a diet made up of mostly meat. Also remember that the freshest, most wholesome meat is always the healthiest.
That's why two of the veterinarians that I respect the most, Dr. Richard Pitcairn and Dr. Marty Goldstein, recommend feeding a raw diet with vitamin/mineral and Omega essential fatty acids supplements. You can read more about Dr. Pitcairn's and Dr. Marty's feeding recommendations. They both have the incredibly informative books that are staples in our library: Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats and The Nature of Animal Healing for Dogs and Cats.
So how do you feed a raw diet? How do you find the healthiest kibble? How do you find resources and suppliers for the foods you want and need?
Here's our list of our favorite dog food related sites to help you make the best decision possible for your pup:
- Overwhelmingly our favorite site for researching and understanding dog food and the wide varieties and types available is DogFoodAnalysis.com. The site evaluates ingredients of all major brands of dog food, has information on the different types of feeding programs, and includes resources for further study.
- Want to know if your pup's food was affected by the Pet Food Recall in 2007? Visit this site.
- If you're looking for detailed information about certain food ingredients and need help comparing dog food brands and finding a better one, DogFoodReview is a great resource.
- Here's a great article to learn about how kibble is made (you would be surprised), and to learn more about what's really in pet food.
We subscribe to the practice of 'variety is the spice of life'. Rather than feed just one "best" food, we've chosen at least two or three different types of wholesome foods, using different protein sources, and rotating between them. That way, we feel, any potential deficiencies in any one brand or type will most probably be overcome.
We have a very active, busy and travel heavy lifestyle, so we eat a mix of ultra, super premium kibble that Mum rotates often, combined with raw and cooked foods. We supplement with a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement. And since we are agility dogs, Mum has added in a Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplement to our diet. as well for prevention. We make sure that the sources of our foods are free of any and all preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, insecticides, pesticides and other chemicals that could be harmful.
This type of diet may not be for everyone, but the most important thing we've learned over the years is that not all dog foods are created equal. It's important to feed your dog the highest quality, freshest and most wholesome food you can afford. And by doing your research, understanding labels and ingredients, comparing and learning about the different types of foods and products you can potentially feed your dog, then taking necessary action to improve their diet, will ultimately have a positive and lasting effect on the health, wellness and happiness of your dog.