These days, everyone has an opinion about what dog food is best. Many of my clients ask me what I recommend they feed their dogs and why. You know what they say about opinions. For what it’s worth, here’s mine. I have checked a lot of sources, spoken with “experts,” tried a variety of foods on my own dogs, and read everything I could find. In the following paragraphs, I will explain to you what I perceive as fact, and you can form your own opinion.
Unfortunately, most people choose their dog food based on name recognition, advertising hype, and veterinarian or breeder recommendation alone—without reviewing the ingredients and nutritional value.
RAW MEAT DIET
Some people believe in feeding a strict raw meat diet consisting of beef, chicken, pork, turkey, or lamb. Many believe that dogs have evolved from wolves. The theory is that wolves did not stop to make a fire and cook what they killed before eating. Nor did they go to the dentist to clean their teeth. Seriously, they ate every bit of their kill raw, including the bones. I have to agree that gnawing on a raw bone is extremely good for a dog’s teeth, keeps them clear of tartar, and can prevent your dog from ever having to go under anesthetic to have his teeth cleaned. A raw meat diet is pure protein. Although meat protein should make up the highest percentage, other food groups are necessary in order to have a balanced diet. This method of feeding can be very expensive and time consuming to prepare.
MIXED RAW FOOD DIET
Others will feed a combination of raw meat, raw vegetables, and potatoes believing they are giving their dog a well-balanced meal like a human. However, with this diet, there are still many missing food elements—in particular–essential fatty acids for skin and coat among others. This diet can also be more costly and time consuming to prepare.
Some people cook complete “people food” meals for their dogs. Again, this choice can be expensive, time consuming, and honestly a little crazy. This is just plain spoiling the dog and creating bad habits. In addition, as you know, cooking takes much of the nutritional value out of food, so it is not a healthy way to feed. These pampered pooches almost always seem to have behavior and obedience problems, are missing needed nutrients, and are often over-weight, which can lead to multiple health issues.
ON THE MENU AT MY HOUSE
I feed my dogs a combination of kibble (dry dog food) and raw meat and bone. I do not feed any canned food, because it is 78% water and has the least amount of nutritional value. I feed my dogs raw meaty bones. Each of my small dogs gets a chunk of raw pork neck bone as a treat after their kibble breakfast. They love it, and it really helps keep their teeth tarter-free so I never have to take my dogs to the vet for cleaning (which is expensive and requires anesthesia). I sometimes feed raw chicken legs, thighs, and wings–bones and all. Yes, you can feed chicken bones to a dog as long as they are raw.
WHERE TO START?
Before choosing a dry food, do a little homework. Go to the Internet and Google some of the following:
- Corn in dog food Wheat in dog food
- Brewer’s rice in dog food (which is just filler), and
- my all-time favorite, Chicken by-products in dog food. Chicken by- products consist of parts that should be thrown away (i.e., feet, beaks, heads, feathers, blood, and lungs).
You may also see meat by-products, and that’s the worst of all. There is no telling what those are. I think you will be surprised at the name brand dog foods that have meat by-products and chicken by-products as one of their main ingredients.
Read the ingredients on the side or back of the bag!!
Check the label on the bag before you buy. Remember, they list the items in order, starting with the ones that make up the majority of the food. The first three to five ingredients will tell the story. One of the brands often recommended by veterinarians will read something like this:
Ground whole corn, chicken by-products, soy bean meal, animal fat, soybean oil, chicken liver flavor…
Like the Wendy’s commercial used to say… WHERE’S THE BEEF?? There are a variety of filler ingredients used in dry food that your dog cannot digest, or only partially digest. That is a big loss of nutritional value as well as a waste of money. Manufacturers’ recommended food portions per day are more than I believe a dog should eat. Have you ever noticed how many overweight dogs there are out there?
Although they cost a few dollars more per bag, the foods I recommend with the higher quality ingredients and less filler have a much higher digestion rate so you can feed a little less and get better nutritional value which makes it cost effective in the long run.
Also, fillers such as corn, wheat and soy can be attributed to several allergies that our canine friends contract. I have been very fortunate that my dogs have never had a skin allergy, hot spots, urinary infections, or other health issues suffered by many dogs. Below, I have included a variety of comments I found in my searches describing some of the issues with meat by-products, corn, wheat, and soy.
Meat by-products, a euphemism for the parts of animals that wouldn’t be considered meat by any smart consumer. The well-known phrase “meat by-products” is a misnomer since these by- products contain little, if any, meat. These are the parts of the animal left over after the meat has been stripped away from the bone. Chicken by-products include head, feet, entrails, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, stomach, bones, blood, intestines, and any other part of the carcass not fit for human consumption.
Pet grade meat by-products consist of organs and other parts either not desired or condemned for human consumption. This can include bones, blood, intestines, lungs, ligaments, heads, feet and feathers.
A veterinarian writes
Originally I took the pet food manufacturer’s declarations as fact… that an assortment of “Complete and Balanced” pet foods were perfectly nourishing because that wording was not legally permitted on pet food labels unless feeding trials demonstrated its veracity. I eventually discovered I was mistaken in the belief that any “Complete and Balanced” dog food was appropriate to feed. Grain-based diets for dogs do not make nutritional sense and that was exactly why I was seeing those patients with the dry and flaky, sometimes greasy skin and coarse hair coats. They were eating “Complete and Balanced” grain- based diets with nothing else added. Why add anything when it is “Complete and Balanced” already? The meat-based diets are the best choice. I prefer chicken as the first (main) ingredient when I recommend a dog food because I have seen so many dogs on chicken-based diets that were in really excellent health. Lamb, turkey, fish, beef and venison all are good choices too.
Here is a list of symptoms that may indicate your dog has a wheat allergy. It is important to note that wheat is digestible and is high in B vitamins.
- Itchy skin
- Shaking of the head
- Ear inflammation
- Licking front paws
- Rubbing face on carpet
- Asthma like symptoms
- Anal itching
- Behavioral changes
Soybean meal is high quality protein filler containing 50% protein. It boosts the protein content in pet food. Although it is a high source of protein, it can also cause allergies in dogs. Keep in mind that only a small percentage of allergies are caused by fillers. Most skin allergies can be resolved by feeding a brand with high Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, which are found in my top two brands.
Here is a short list of medium priced brands that I think are suitable to feed our 4-legged family members.
- Nutro Ultra
- Blue Buffalo
- Solid Gold
- Natural Balance
I feed my dogs Nutro Ultra and Blue Buffalo. Here are the first several ingredients of each.
Chicken Meal, Whole Brown Rice, Lamb Meal, Poultry fat, Beet pulp, Flaxseed.
Other ingredients include: Salmon Meal, Fish Oil, and Sunflower oil. These among other ingredients give Nutro Ultra one of the highest Omega 3 and 6 rating in the industry at 3.5 to 4.0. Very important to skin and coat. Most store brands are around 1.4 to 1.6. Corn gluten is also a good source of protein but can contribute to some allergies.
Nutro also has 3 formulas that contain no corn gluten. Lamb, Venison, and Herring, and have recently added a new formula Ultra, which contains more antioxidants, whole grains, and three meat formula. They call it Ultra Holistic Superfood.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken meal, Whole Ground Barley, Whole Ground Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Blueberries, Cranberries, Green Tea extract.
The Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are in just the right proportion. Because cooking (exposure to extreme heat) causes vitamins to loose up to 75 % of their potency, Blue also boast their “LifeSource Bits.” The Lifesource Bits are precise blends of nutrients and antioxidants that are cold formed to retain 100% of their nutritional value. to help maintain your dog’s immune system. Both of these are high quality brands that I don’t hesitate to recommend.
So, now that you know a little more about ingredients, you can visit your local pet store and spend some time reading the bags. There are several very good brands of dry kibble out there. These are just a few of the brands I would look into. They are readily available at Petco and Petsmart.
We used to say. “You are what your eat.” If you apply that to your dog, you’ll make good decision on what to feed him.
Thanks and Bon Appetite! Paul J. Pipitone
Dog’s Best Friend of Central Florida