We feed all our dogs including the puppies a nutritious balanced raw dog food diet. Not only have I researched the heck out of it, I promote it! Please do some research of your own. If you want to chat with me about continuing on this diet I am happily available to coach you through your journey. If you choose not to feed your new puppy a raw dog food diet then I have easy steps to transition your puppy using pro-biotics and canned pumpkin for digestion in just few days.
I recommend Artisan Raw as a great place to begin your raw dog food journey. They make it super easy, the dog food arrives in a clean, convenient packaging and made of human grade ingredients. It is also important to mention supporting local/Canadian raw dog food businesses, as they really have a nack for a proper healthy nutrition for your pet.
My local go to is Bone & Biscuit and 4 Paws both located right here in Prince George!
Here is an example of what I feed my dogs:
Artisan Raw pucks.
Three eggs weekly.
Coconut oil daily.
Dehydrated treats (not treated or smoked.)
This is my go too diet! I still mindfully feed variety. I browse the local markets for whatever is on sale. (chicken feet, meat, fish, cheap turkey or ground beef etc).
The Best Raw Food for Dogs
When feeding a raw food diet to your dog, you should
keep in mind how a dog would eat in the wild. Dogs
are opportunistic animals and will eat just about anything
that contains meat, but wild dogs also eat plant matter
such as occasional fruits and vegetables. They eat eggs
and fish when they have the chance. They also eat
partially-digested vegetable matter in the stomach and
intestines of their prey.
Whole vegetables can pass too quickly through a dog’s
digestive system to be of much nutritional value for
them but when they are already partially-digested by
other animals, vegetables can provide important
nutrition for canines. So, it may seem kind of gross to
think about dogs eating the stomach contents of other
animals, but this is an important source of vitamins and
minerals for them.
So, while many dogs like to munch on raw carrots when
you offer them, and they can be a nice treat, your dog
won’t derive much nutrition from them or other
vegetables unless they are broken down in some way
first. When veggies are broken down first by pureeing
to mimic a prey animal’s digestion, for example, they
are a good part of a dog’s raw diet.
With that in mind, what exactly do you feed a dog
when using a raw diet? You should feed raw meaty
bones which contain at least 50 percent meat or simply
feed whole carcasses such as rabbits, chickens, fish, etc.
Chicken is one of the favorite meats fed by people who
feed a raw diet, partly because it is so easily available.
While certainly not a complete list, here are some of
the more commonly used raw meats given to dogs:
Whole raw fish (with bones)
Really, any kind of meat can be used with the exception of Bear. In addition to the above, you’ll also want to feed various organs such as liver, kidney, tripe, and heart. Dr. Ian Billinghurst, a pioneer in feeding raw food to dogs, recommends that people following a BARF (biologically appropriate raw food or bones and raw food) diet feed about 60 percent raw meaty bones (RMB) and 40 percent vegetables and other food (eggs, organs, and so on). The percentage of raw meaty bones can vary upward a little, but you still need to include organ meat and some vegetable matter, as well as a few other foods to ensure proper nutrition.
The ideal amount to feed is normally about 2 percent of your dog’s total body weight daily. So, for example, a 50lb dog would require about 1lb (0.45kg) of raw food per day. This amount can be separated and fed in a morning and evening meal, so you would feed about 8 ounces (½ pound) at each meal. Growing puppies will need more food – about 10 percent of their body weight per day. This can be fed in 3 meals. Remember that every dog is different so you will need to watch your dog’s weight and condition and adjust the amount you feed once you see whether he is gaining or losing any weight.
It’s always important to use fresh ingredients when you are feeding your dog a raw diet. However, there is nothing wrong with pre-mixing some parts of your dog’s meal ahead of time. Obviously, raw foods won’t keep long even in the refrigerator, but you can make up enough food (raw meaty bones such as chicken wings, some pureed veggies, a couple of eggs ready to add, and some yogurt, perhaps) and have it ready to mix for your dog’s meal and keep it in the fridge. Planning meals ahead of time makes raw feeding easier, as does buying food in bulk when it is on sale. You can look for family-sized packs of chicken, beef, pork, and other meats when they are for sale in the store. Or, if you have more than one dog, you may want to talk to a local meat seller or grocer to see if you can buy in bulk. Many places will sell 40lbs of chicken or turkey at a lower cost. You just have to have a way to freeze it.
It’s important to try to feed your dog a variety of meats and other ingredients so he will get all of the amino acids and vitamins and minerals he needs in his diet, so be sure to buy different meats and fish when you can. You don’t have to make every meal different, but over the course of a week, your dog should get a wide variety of different meats and other foods.
It’s also very important to feed bone along with the meat. Don’t make the mistake of only feeding your dog meat with no bone. Most raw bones are soft enough for a dog to consume and they provide great nutritional value to them. Some raw feeders grind bones for their dogs with a meat grinder but this is usually done only when a dog has a health issue that prevents them from being able to chew and digest raw bones.
Other Raw Foods for Dogs
In addition to raw meaty bones which should make up about 60 percent of your dog’s raw diet, you will need to provide raw vegetables which are broken down for your dog. You can do this by using a food processor,blender, or juicer. This is because dogs can’t digest vegetables while the cellulose in them is still intact. In the wild, prey animals break down this cellulose when they digest the vegetable matter and the dogs can get nutrition from the veggies when they eat the stomach and intestines of these animals.
But we have to do this for our dogs so they can get vitamins and minerals from the vegetables.
Other food that should be added to your dog’s raw diet includes organ
meat such as kidneys, heart, liver, and tripe (stomach lining). These are
very rich meats that are high in vitamins. Your dog doesn’t need a lot of
organ meat because it is so rich and you don’t have to give it with every
meal but you should feed it at least several times per week.
You should also give your dog some raw eggs occasionally. Many people
like to dry and powder the eggshells for some extra calcium. Eggs are very
rich so you don’t have to include them on a daily basis, but they are very
good for your dog.
You should also add yogurt to your dog’s raw food. It’s an excellent probiotic
and helps with digestion. It contains healthy bacteria that keeps your dog’s gut
functioning as it should. Be sure to use plain yogurt and not something that
contains flavors or sugars.
Whole yogurt is better than low fat or fat free – it contains more calcium.
If your dog is not eating fish regularly, you may want to add fish oil or fish oil
gel tabs to your dog’s diet. Fish oil is high in omega 3 fatty acids which are
good for his skin and coat. Some people add flax oil seed for this purpose but
fish oil is a better source. Check out Innate Choice for great source of quality
omega 3 supplements.
Organic Kelp Powder is a must! You can add other supplements to your dog’s
diet when you feed a raw diet but that’s really up to you. Just be sure that your
dog is getting all of the trace minerals he needs in his diet, as well as all of the
normal vitamins and minerals he needs. Watch his condition carefully and if
you see any signs that he appears to be nutritionally deficient in any way, you
may need to adjust his diet.
Coconut Oil (not coconut milk)
Coconut oil is great for everybody even dogs! It’s great for the skin and coat,
helps reduce allergic reactions and helps with digestive disorders. It helps
balance the thyroid. It can repel and expel parasites. It regulates insulin and
can help prevent or control diabetes. It contains antifungal, antibiotic and
antiviral properties. It can even be used to clean teeth.
You can even add a little fruit to your dog’s diet. Your dog won’t derive a
lot of nutrition from fruit but most dogs like some apple slices, pieces of
banana, or pieces of pears. (I have a dog who loves oranges.) Berries,
however, are a great source of antioxidants. Blueberries and cranberries
can be very good for dogs when added to a raw food diet occasionally.
Finding and Buying Raw Food for Dogs
Finding raw food for dogs is pretty simple if you live near a populated area. Often times a butcher shop has scraps and leftovers they are willing to sell for cheap as the scraps are not normally sought after by humans. But dogs love it and you know the meat has come from high quality sources (as long as you trust your local butcher shop!). You can often times find chicken necks, turkey necks, chicken or turkey feet, liver, hearts, pork necks and riblets, tripe or other stomach contents, cow tongue, and many other meat products which are difficult to sell. If you can find the right butcher, you can obtain these meat products for cheaper than you buy your kibble. Call around, you might be very surprised with what your butcher has!
And, of course, there is always your local grocery
store or big box store. For the most part, you should
buy your dog the same meats you would feed your
own family if you want to feed your dog a good diet.
Pet Stores are now on to the trend and most are not
equipped with a freezer section to supply Raw Dog
Food to their consumers. Artisan Raw is a
great company that is widely know and supplies
Pet Stores. They are located out Alberta
with warehouse in most large city or supply smaller
local Raw Dog Food Shops.
Is Feeding Raw Meat to A Dog Messy?
Yes, it certainly can be. Dogs are not very neat when
they are eating raw meat. The best place to feed your
dog on a raw food diet is your backyard if possible.
Other people will have an area in a room with a small
tarp on the floor making it easier to clean.
Other people will use their garage, an area of an
outside deck, or an unused room. Or you can feed your
dog in his crate which keeps the mess confined to a
smaller area which is easier to clean. This is obviously
one of the disadvantages to a raw food diet for dogs.
It can get a bit messy and if you feed something like a
whole rabbit, you almost certainly don’t want that in
your house while it’s being consumed!
How to Switch from Kibble To A Raw Food Diet
When switching between different types of kibble, it’s widely known that you should slowly mix the new food with the older food and gradually increase the amount of the new food. This helps to avoid any digestion problems like vomiting or diarrhea. However, when switching to a raw food diet, it needs to be done “cold turkey.” Reason being, cooked food and raw food is digested quite differently. By feeding both, it will force your dog’s body to digest two completely different types of foods in two completely different ways. So, when switching to raw food for dogs, you want to make the switch a quick one.
Be aware that there is a break-in period. Some dogs will adapt to the raw diet immediately while others will take several weeks to adjust. Typically, the longer the dog has been on kibble the longer the adjustment period will be. Some dogs will turn their nose to their food and even go for 5-7 days without eating. Don’t be alarmed. They will never starve themselves. During this adjustment period, you can expect some diarrhea, constipation, and sometimes occasional vomiting. While a bit unpleasant, this is nothing of serious concern and the symptoms will eventually subside. Once the symptoms do subside, you and your dog can enjoy benefits to a raw diet for the rest of your dog’s life. When making the switch it’s important that you feed your dog a relatively bland diet at first.
Feed raw meaty bones and some bland vegetables such as chicken wings and squash or pureed carrots, for example. Don’t start feeding richer raw foods, such as organ meats or eggs until your dog has begun to adjust to eating raw foods. To help aid in digestion, pick up a can of pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) and add a spoonful to each meal. Also, a canine probiotic added each day.
History of Raw Food Diet for Dogs
Many people believe that a raw food diet is the healthiest way to feed your dog. That’s why sled dogs, racing greyhounds, and many working dogs have been fed raw diets for decades. Raw food diets are sometimes claimed to eliminate allergies (especially skin allergies) as well as extend lifespans. Why does this happen with a raw food diet? Because some cooked and commercially produced dog food lacks the nutrients required for some dogs. Some commercial dog food contains fillers and lower quality ingredients which can lead to health issues in dogs.
Quick History Lesson on Dog Food
Dogs have been around for tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of years and during most of that time they’ve been eating raw meat diets. Before they became domesticated animals, they lived as wolves. Even after domestication, dogs were happy eating raw meat and scraps that humans didn’t want. By comparison, the first bag of commercially-produced dog food entered the market about 100 years ago and didn’t gain much popularity until World War II. During World War II, the food industry discovered that they could use unwanted meat and grain products in pet food. This would not only save consumers money on feeding their pets but would also help drive profits since food companies could now sell previously unwanted meat and grain products.
Of course, much has changed in recent decades. Many dog foods today are more nutritious and they do not rely on cast off ingredients. You can easily find dog foods that use high quality, nutritious ingredients for your dog, but there are still plenty of lower quality dog foods that do contain lower nutrition.
Most dog foods today are made, directly or indirectly, by one of the five large pet food manufacturers in the market: Mars, Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, and Del Monte. Due to corporate buying and selling, these corporations also own many of the smaller dog food companies pet owners usually think of as producing boutique, “holistic,” “natural,” or organic foods. Large pet food companies commonly produce dog foods that range from the highest quality to lower end foods with inferior ingredients. They produce grain-free foods, prescription diets, limited ingredient diets, and other specialty foods. In short, they produce dog foods for every budget and pet owner lifestyle. What’s more, the production facilities of the plants run by the large corporations often have very good quality control measures and they are often less likely to be subject to recalls than some of the smaller dog food companies. (Of course, your idea of quality control and that of USDA inspectors may not be the same, but the facilities and products are meeting inspection standards.) It’s no longer possible to simply refer to commercial dog food companies as “good” or “bad.” The same company that makes low quality foods also makes top quality foods. It’s more important to understand each product line and the ingredients used in it in order to make informed decisions about foods. Factors such as where and how the food is made, what ingredients are used, the brand’s history of recalls, and so on, are important to understanding whether or not you should feed the food to your dog.
As you can imagine, the complexity of the dog food scene has become frustrating to many pet owners who just want to feed their dog a wholesome diet. They want to know what is in the food and have confidence that the ingredients are fresh and healthy at all times. This is another reason why many people prefer to feed a raw diet.
While a raw food diet for dogs isn’t going to work for many dog owners, you’ll definitely want to spend the next 20 minutes or so reading this information so you can form your own conclusion about the diet which is best for your dog.
The Raw Food Diet for Dogs – A Brief Video Overview
To start things off, here’s a video overview about feeding your dog kibble and what it is doing to them. If everything in this video makes sense to you and you’d like to read more, please continue reading. Switching your dog to a raw diet isn’t as hard, time consuming, or costly as you might think it is!
Note: This video is a promotional video to purchase an amazing product and if you can afford it then great! My intent on showing you this video is to educate “the dangers of kibbles”
Why Raw Meat Instead of Kibble?
Plain and simple, dogs are carnivorous. This is not a debatable fact. Carnivores are also known as meat-eaters. This term describes animals who have a diet consisting mainly of meat, whether through predation or scavenging, which includes dogs. While your dog may enjoy eating fruits, vegetables, and other non-meat-based foods, their anatomical makeup shows that they evolved as a carnivore. To help explain your dog’s food digestion process, here are some of the carnivore features you will find in any household dog:
Digestive Tract: With short and acidic digestive tracts, dogs are able to digest animal fat very quickly. Plant matter takes longer to break down which is why herbivores (animals that eat plant matter such as cows) have long digestive tracts. Dogs also secrete large amounts of hydrochloric acid, further assisting in the breakdown of meats as well as helping to kill bacteria found in raw meat.
Teeth: Carnivore teeth, including dog teeth, are sharp and pointed as they are designed to slice through and penetrate tough raw meat. Teeth are also elongated which makes catching and killing prey much easier. By comparison, herbivores have teeth designed for grinding plant matter.
Jaws: The jaws of a carnivore move vertically in a chomping motion. This allows a dog to slice through meat. Dogs also have the ability to open their mouths and throats widely which enables them to swallow large chunks of meat and fat rapidly.
Saliva: The saliva of a carnivore contains no Amylase which is an enzyme that breaks down starch (carbohydrates) into sugars. Only the pancreas produces Amylase which makes a high carbohydrate diet a poor choice for carnivores, including dogs, as it puts extra strain on the digestive system. Unfortunately, many dog food brands are high in carbohydrates. You also may have noticed that your dog doesn’t chew his or her food as much as you’d expect. That’s because carnivores don’t need to mix food with saliva for proper digestion like herbivores and omnivores do. Carnivores simply bite off the largest amount of meat or fat they possibly can and swallow it whole.
Alright, so we’ve determined that your dog is a carnivore. That’s a good starting point! However, even Timber Wolves enjoy fruits and vegetables when they find them. They also eat non-meat food when they eat the stomach contents of their prey, for example, which often consists of partially-digested plant matter. (Wolves eat birds, deer, caribou, and smaller animals when they catch them.) The stomach and its contents are considered a rich prize for a wolf. Wolves are also not averse to scavenging for food when they are hungry or if finding food is easier than hunting prey. Scientists believe that wolves were probably first domesticated and developed into dogs because the wolves were scavenging around early human camps, drawn by the smell of food. So, while your dog evolved as a carnivore, he has been domesticated for at least 15,000 years and shared his diet with humans for millennia. Dogs are happy to have small amounts of fruit, vegetables, and other non-meat foods added to their diet and these foods can be quite beneficial to your dog. You will find them mixed into many high-quality dog foods.
Now, let’s take a look at what your dog really needs for appropriate dog food digestion.
Protein is the essential ingredient that leads to healthy dog food digestion. Proteins help with basic body functions including cellular regeneration, tissue maintenance, hormone and enzyme production, and it assists in generating healthy energy. With this in mind, not all proteins are created equal. Factors affecting the quality of proteins include the source and the digestibility of proteins for a dog.
Source of Proteins
Meat-based proteins, also called animal proteins, have an amino acid profile that is considered to be a complete protein for dogs. On the flip side, plant proteins are considered to be incomplete as the amino acid profile does not fulfill the daily requirements a dog needs for optimal health. So not only are proteins important, but the proteins you feed your dog should largely be animal-based instead of plant-based. Many dog food companies use a large amount of plant-based protein which can create problems for your dog’s digestive system. Plant proteins also lack certain acids which are necessary for healthy growth and development. Most cheaper kibble contains large amounts of corn gluten, soybean meal, and other plant-based material which is harder for your dog to digest than animal-based proteins.
Digestibility of Proteins
Plant matter takes longer to digest than meat-based proteins, which is why omnivores and herbivores have longer digestive tracts. Since dogs are carnivores, they have very short digestive tracts. Under most circumstances, dogs are not able to digest plant-based proteins efficiently and do not derive as much nutrition from them as they need. Animal meat, on the other hand, is not only high in protein, it is relatively easy for dogs to digest. Therefore, dog food with a higher meat protein content is usually better. If the first ingredient in your dog’s food is not a meat protein, you should seriously consider switching to a brand with a higher meat content. Check out my dog food reviews to find a brand that contains a higher meat content.
Varying Qualities of Meat Proteins
Even among meat proteins, some proteins are easier to digest than others. Muscle meats such as chicken, beef, and lamb are usually rated at around 92 percent digestibility. Organ meats (kidney, liver, heart) are rated at 90 percent digestibility. Fish is rated at about 75 percent digestibility. By contrast, eggs are considered to have protein that is 100 percent digestible. Plant sources of protein, such as soy, rice, oats, wheat, and corn, have protein digestibility between 75 and 54 percent. This means that when you read the dog food label, even if two foods have the same protein percentage, your dog may be able to digest one food better than the other and thus get better nutrition.
As humans, we like to stay away from animal fat so we can look better wearing our speedos and string bikinis at the beach. However, animal fat is crucially important for proper dog food digestion. Dogs do not suffer from heart disease or cholesterol problems caused by high levels of animal fat. Animal fat should not be avoided when feeding your dog as it is crucial to having a healthy dog. Oh, and it makes for a softer and shinier coat, too!
When reading the ingredient list on dog food packaging, make sure fat is listed from a specific source such as chicken fat. Anything listed as animal fat is very vague and can include used restaurant fat or other fat sources with all the nutrients already cooked out. The vague “animal fat” can be a mixture of fats from unnamed, less desirable meat sources and not something that you want to feed your dog.
What Does Animal Fat Do for Dogs?
In short, it gives them healthy energy! Since household (non-working) dogs are such couch potatoes and spend a lot of time resting as compared to their ancestors (the Timber Wolf), they don’t require quite as much fat and protein in their diet as a wolf does. A good range of animal fat in dog food is about 15 percent to 20 percent. If the food meets AAFCO’s (Association of American Feed Control Official) minimum requirements for food labeling (and you should not buy a food which does not meet these minimum requirements), it will show a guaranteed analysis on the label. This analysis will provide the percentage of each of the nutrients in the food, including the minimum percent of crude protein and crude fat, and the maximum percent of crude fiber and moisture. (“Crude” refers to a testing method used and is not a comment on the ingredients.) This information should always be found on the dog food label. If you have any questions about the analysis, most companies also provide this information on their company web site. The fat percentage given in the analysis is included in the food. It does not cook off during the preparation of the food.
Finally, dogs require what are known as essential fatty acids which a dog is unable to naturally produce. The only way a dog can acquire essential fatty acids is to consume them, and they are mostly found in meat or fish-based food. The most important of all the essential fatty acids includes DHA and EPA (Omega-3) as well as Linoleic and Arachidonic (Omega-6). It is very important that there is a good balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6. Some dog food brands include these essential fatty acids. I’ll once again shamelessly link to my dog food reviews to help you sort out the good brands from the bad. The reason why essential fatty acids are important with regard to the fat in your dog’s diet is that without the fat, your dog is not able to consume or digest these fatty acids. In addition, there are a number of vitamins that your dog needs which are only soluble in fat. Without good sources of fat in his food, your dog won’t be able to metabolize the vitamins he needs for good health.
Sources for Omega-3
So where does Omega-3 come from? Well, the best source for a dog is in fish. Fish is high in what is known as EPA or Epicosapentaenoic Acid (try saying that 5 times fast!). EPA is a requirement for a healthy dog. Fish also contains DHA or Docosahexaenoic Acid (I’m not making these words up, honest!). Plants, on the other hand, contain ALA or Alpha-Linolenic Acid. While ALA is a form of Omega 3, it is not a requirement for dogs! So once again, a high meat-based food, perhaps mixed with some Omega-3 from fish, should lead to healthier digestion.
Although it’s true that the ancestors of our modern dogs didn’t eat grain (modern agricultural grains didn’t exist 15,000 years ago), many dog foods today include grains in their ingredients. Contrary to popular belief, this is not done merely to add a cheap filler to food. Grains such as corn, wheat, rice, and others do add plant protein to a dog’s diet. And, in the case of corn, this is no longer a cheaper source of protein. Crop prices for corn to feed cows for milk, cattle for beef, and to provide ethanol for our vehicles are constantly rising which partly explains the rising cost of dog food, along with transportation costs related to the price of gasoline. In other words, corn is no longer cheap. If you feed a dog food that contains corn, you may find that the dog food manufacturer is making changes to utilize some other plant proteins such as peas or soybeans that cost them less.
Overview of Plant Based Proteins
As already discussed, plant proteins are not as easy for a dog to digest as meat proteins, but they are not quite the garbage that they have been labeled in some quarters. Although some people have advocated that you should not feed your dog any grains at all, there are no scientific studies that show feeding a grain-free diet is healthier for a typical dog. If your dog has any kind of allergy or food intolerance to a grain they you should obviously avoid feeding a food with that grain. Otherwise, there is no proven health reason to avoid grains in your dog’s food. Some people have suggested that feeding dog food containing grain can lead to obesity in dogs, but obesity in dogs depends on over feeding and lack of exercise. Dogs can become overweight eating any kind of food if they are not fed in moderation. Always measure your dog’s food and monitor his intake, no matter what kind of food you feed.
Is Grain Free Dog Food Healthier?
Although there is no evidence that a grain-free diet is healthier for your dog, many dog food companies today have been happy to hop on the band wagon and they are making grain-free diets for dogs, as well as Limited Ingredient Diets for dogs with allergies or food intolerances, and other special diets. Anyone can feed these diets but if you feed such a diet for your dog, be sure to pay attention to your dog’s condition. Is he gaining or losing weight? Does his coat look good? Does he look and act healthy? Does he have good energy? And, of course, what does his poop look like? This last question is important because if your dog is digesting the food well, he should produce small, compact stools. If he is not digesting the food well, you will probably see signs of diarrhea or cow plop-style poops meaning that the food is passing through his digestive system largely undigested. No matter how good your intentions or how much you are spending on the food, if your dog isn’t doing well on it, get rid of it. Go back to something your dog was eating that agreed with him, even if it was not as highly regarded.
There’s More To High Quality Dog Food Than Ingredients
In many cases there are also intangibles with dog food that are hard to measure in the guaranteed analysis or even the ingredient list. A company’s reputation, their quality control, and other matters can have an important impact on your dog’s nutrition. Sometimes you don’t know when a respected company has been purchased by a lesser manufacturer and their manufacturing processes have changed. Sometimes there are changes in the formula that are not required by law to be noted on the packaging for six months. Always pay close attention to your dog’s condition and how he is doing on the food. That will tell you more about the food than anything you can read about it.
Limiting Grain Intake Can Be Beneficial
With that said, you would still do well to limit the amount of grain you feed your dog to make sure the food is providing plenty of meat protein, healthy fat, and other ingredients. When you read a dog food label (and you should make it a habit to read the labels so you know what is in the food – do not just look at the front of the bag or believe the hype), you should look at the order of the ingredients listed. This will tell you how much of each ingredient is in the food, by weight, before cooking. Ideally, you will find two or three meat proteins in the first several ingredients to indicate that there is more meat protein in the dog food than any other ingredients. After the first five or six ingredients, if you find some grains, they won’t be present in large enough quantities to be of concern unless you start to see a grouping of the same grain in different forms. This is called “splitting” and it’s a way to hide the total amount of something in a food.
Don’t Waste Money on Excessive Protein
On the other hand, for people who advocate tremendous amounts of protein in the dog’s diet, you probably won’t do your dog any harm, but you may be paying a lot of money for extra protein that your dog doesn’t need. After a certain point, your dog will simply excrete the excess protein from his body in his urine. The only harm you might do is if your dog has a pre-existing kidney problem. In that case, a high percentage protein diet is contraindicated. But feeding your dog lots of protein will not cause kidney problems if your dog doesn’t already have them.
Fruits and Vegetables Are Necessary
The fact is, you can’t feed your dog a diet that is made up entirely of meat and fat, with a few fruits and vegetables thrown in. Not only would it be nutritionally deficient, but your dog needs something in his stomach to help him feel satisfied between meals. He may have a shorter digestive tract than an herbivore, but he doesn’t need to empty out his gut as fast as possible every day. Dogs are descended from wolves, yes, but they no longer live the same lifestyle as the wolf. Instead of catching a large prey animal once every few days and gorging themselves on a large meal, then sleeping it off for a couple of days, our dogs eat small, regular meals. They exert considerably less energy since they don’t have to travel miles to hunt their prey. They don’t live the hard life that wolves lived and they don’t have the same nutritional requirements any longer.
Even people who feed a RAW diet do not feed their dogs an exclusively meat diet (or meat, bone, and fat). It is always necessary to have some balance in the diet so your dog can get the full range of nutrition he needs from different ingredients. If you check the labels you will find that most so-called “grain-free” dog foods have substituted another kind of carbohydrate – usually a complex carbohydrate — for the grain in the food. This is true of even the most expensive, highly praised foods. This switch from grain (usually a simple carbohydrate) to another kind of carbohydrate doesn’t make the food “better,” but it makes it different if you have a dog with an allergy, and grain-free foods were originally intended for dogs with allergies. A dog may be allergic to wheat flour but if he’s never eaten potatoes before, he probably won’t have an allergic reaction to the food – at least at first. All dogs need something other than meat and fat in order to feel full after they eat and so they won’t be immediately hungry again. Carbohydrates are not evil or harmful when fed in low to moderate amounts and there are many good dog foods that include them, along with high quality meat protein and named sources of fat.
Ingredients to Avoid:
While reading dog food ingredients on the back of dog food packaging, you should try to avoid any of the following:
Low to moderate amounts of grain will not harm your dog and, contrary to popular belief, grains in dog food are not simply a filler and they do have some nutritional value, depending on the food and the quality of the ingredients. They are a plant-based protein and they contain anywhere from 54 to 75 percent protein, which starts to make them comparable to some of the lower kinds of meat protein. They are not as easy for dogs to digest as meat-based proteins but, used in conjunction with meat protein, they can help your dog feel full after eating and keep him from becoming immediately hungry again. You should definitely avoid foods which feature grain as one of the first ingredients, however, and choose a food that has several sources of meat protein in the first few ingredients instead. Grains do not cause allergies. Dogs can become allergic to grains, but more dogs are allergic to beef, dairy products, chicken, lamb, fish, and chicken eggs than any grains. Grains in dog food do not cause weight gain, obesity, diabetes, or other health problems in dogs. The three-major veterinary-prescribed diabetic dog foods feature grains. Over feeding and lack of exercise cause weight gain and there is no evidence that grains cause any particular health problems in dogs.
Dog food grade meat by-products usually consist of undesirable parts which have been deemed unacceptable for human consumption. Meat by-products can include bones, blood, intestines, lungs, ligaments, heads, feet, and feathers. These parts may also be derived from animals which are dying, diseased, or have been dead for an extended period of time. You do not want to feed this stuff to your dog!
Meat and Bone Meal
Meat and bone meal is a very specific term and includes the slaughtering waste and parts of the animal which is not fit for human consumption. Meat and bone meal can contain any mammal. It can contain road kill, animals which are diseased, dying, disabled, or already dead. Find something with a named meat source such as chicken meal or lamb meal.
This is a very low-quality fat source used to increase the taste of your dog’s food but does little to improve nutrition. You should look for high quality and naturally-derived fat sources such as poultry or chicken fat, which is naturally preserved.
This is a very generic term which can mean many things. It can mean the fat source consists of restaurant grease, and/or other oils that come from any kind of animal or poultry. As stated above, look for healthy fat sources like poultry or chicken fat.
Corn (Including Wheat or Corn Gluten Meal)
Dogs can digest about 54 percent of the plant protein in corn and 60 percent in wheat. Corn is not the dreadful ingredient that some people seem to believe although you should avoid foods that rely too heavily on it. It does not “cause” allergies in dogs and it does not cause obesity. Many very good dog foods use some corn in their formulas. Gluten meals may have picked up a bad reputation because the term was used during the dog food recalls in 2007 when many pets died but this had nothing to do with the actual ingredient. Chinese manufacturers laced the gluten meal with melamine to make the product appear to have a higher protein content. Melamine is used to make plastic but chemically it reads as a protein. When the gluten meal with the melamine was used to make dog food in the United States and Canada, unbeknownst to the dog food companies, it was harmful to pets. The dog food companies were as shocked as anyone and many of them now have testing in place to make sure something like this can never happen again.
Whole Wheat Flour
Whole Wheat Flour does not cause allergies in pets. It is frequently used to make dog food snacks and cookies and it is the same ingredient that you find in many kitchens used to make bread and other baked goods for people. In fact, whole grain flours are usually considered healthier for people than other flours, so the same should presumably be true for dogs.
This usually consists of low quality leftovers from some other type of food manufacturing process such as leftover waste rice which was used in the production of alcohol. You also want to avoid any labels which say potato product, middlings/mids, mill run, cereal food fines, corn bran, oat hulls, rice hulls, peanut hulls, distillers grain fermentation soluble, and cellulose (ground up wood particles). Most of these terms are rarely seen, but you will find a few of them listed in some of the more expensive foods as dog food companies get more creative in cutting corners.
Soy flour does not cause allergies. No grains – or any other foods — actually “cause” allergies. In some cases, a dog may become allergic to an ingredient after he has been exposed to it more than once but there are usually multiple factors which determine whether or not a dog develops an allergy such as his overall health and his immune system. Among the total canine population, it’s estimated that only about 10 percent of dogs have food allergies. Soy Flour is derived from roasted soybeans that have been ground into a fine powder. The plant-protein in soy is about 75 percent digestible for your dog, making it similar to fish.
Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Not only do you want to avoid sugar, but you also want to avoid cane molasses, corn syrup, sorbitol, sucrose, fructose, glucose, ammoniated glycyrrhizin, propylene glycol, and xylitol. These ingredients are used to make food more palatable for dogs. They add additional calories unnecessarily and have no nutritional value. Sugars can also lead to hyperactivity, nervousness, and tooth decay.
This is a pretty disgusting one. Unspecified animal parts are cooked down into a broth and sprayed onto food or sometimes mixed right in.
Food coloring, including blue 2, red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, and titanium dioxide should be avoided. They are unnecessary as your dog doesn’t care what size, shape, or color the food is. The coloring is added to be more appealing to the human.
Mena Dione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (source of Vitamin K Activity)
This is a controversial ingredient but my stance is that it should not be used in any dog food. Mena Dione is a synthetic man-made form of vitamin K and has been linked to toxic reactions in liver cells, a weakened immune system, allergic reactions, and other very negative side-effects. Dogs do not require much vitamin K and this ingredient is completely unnecessary in dog food according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Why include an ingredient deemed unnecessary, which has also been linked to serious illnesses and side effects? I have yet to obtain a reasonable explanation about why synthetic vitamin K is used in dog food.
Some dog food companies use this in their food to help dogs digest their food better. Hydrochloric Acid is produced naturally in a dog’s stomach to break down food. Any food which needs to have hydrochloric acid added in addition to what the dog naturally produces should be a clue that it’s a terrible food! Do not purchase any dog food containing hydrochloric acid.
BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene) are synthetic antioxidants used as preservatives that are added to many foods to prevent fat spoilage. They are banned in many countries outside the U.S. These chemicals are considered toxic in certain usages and have been linked to cancer. They are sometimes found in lower quality dog foods. You should look for foods that use natural preservatives instead, such as vitamins C and E.
Ethoxyquin is a quinoline-based antioxidant widely used as a preservative in fish. As such, it is often found in dog foods that contain fish. If the ethoxyquin is added to the fish before it arrives at the dog food manufacturer’s facilities, they are not required to list it in the ingredients. It’s even found in many premium dog foods without consumers being aware of it. There are a few companies which go out of their way to use fish which is ethoxyquin-free and they make this clear on their web sites. If your dog food does not state that it is ethoxyquin-free, then you can assume that the fish they use contains this substance. The problem with ethoxyquin is that it has other uses besides being a preservative. It is also used as a pesticide and to make synthetic rubber tires. The FDA has found that ethoxyquin leads to a buildup of protoporphyrin IX in the liver and elevated liver-related enzymes in some animals, though the health consequences of these changes are not known. The Center for Veterinary Medicine has asked pet food manufacturers to voluntarily limit the levels of ethoxyquin in foods until there is further testing.
I know what you’re thinking. Finding high quality dog food ingredients sounds well and good but how much does healthy dog food cost? Let me warn you now, on the surface, better dog foods usually cost more. In reality, you will be paying for better health for your dog. Feeding your dog, a healthier diet that features meat protein, low to moderate carbohydrates, and high-quality ingredients means you won’t have to feed as much as you would with lower quality foods. Your dog will be getting more nutrition from less food. Your dog will also feel more satisfied after his meals. You’ll also save in the long-term because your dog will be enjoying better health and you won’t be going to the vet so often. Worst case scenario, you pay slightly more over a long period of time for high quality dog food ingredients.
Which Dog Food Is Best?
That’s a tough question to answer as the “best” dog food will vary since each dog is unique in their own way. However, you should look for a food that is high in meat protein and which has low to moderate carbohydrates, as well as good quality named fat. You want to have a meat-based item as the number 1 ingredient and preferably dominating the first 5 ingredients. IF I had to choose a kibble brand I would personally go with Orijen Dog Food, although is one of the dog foods that made it on the FDA Danger list. So, to be honest I am at a loss with choosing a kibble as I will never go backwards. With that said let’s check out the ingredients, shall we? Remember, the first 5 ingredients are the most important:
Orijen Dog Food
Ingredients: Fresh deboned wild boar, fresh deboned lamb, lamb meal, russet potato, fresh deboned pork, peas, salmon meal, whitefish meal, herring meal, fresh deboned bison, fresh whole eggs, potato starch, fresh deboned salmon (a natural source of DHA and EPA), alfalfa, sweet potato, fresh deboned walleye, salmon oil (naturally preserved with vitamin E), pea fiber, psyllium, pumpkin, tomatoes, carrots, apples, cranberries, Saskatoon berries, black currants, chicory root, licorice root, angelica root, fenugreek, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, chamomile flowers, dandelion, summer savory, rosemary, organic kelp, vitamin A, vitamin D3, vitamin E, niacin, zinc proteinate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, vitamin B5, iron proteinate, vitamin B6, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12, selenium, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product
Notice the first 5 ingredients? Now let’s compare that to something like, say, Beneful Healthy Weight Formula Dog Food:
Beneful Dog Food
Ingredients: Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, soybean hulls, whole wheat flour, rice flour, chicken, soy flour, beef tallow preserved with mixed-tocopherols (source of Vitamin E), sugar, animal digest, tricalcium phosphate, sorbitol, water, salt, phosphoric acid, potassium chloride, dicalcium phosphate, sorbic acid (a preservative), L-Lysine monohydrochloride, dried green beans, dried carrots, calcium carbonate, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, vitamin supplements (E, A, B-12, D-3), zinc sulfate, added color (Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 2), DL-Methionine, ferrous sulfate, gyceryl monostearate, manganese sulfate, niacin, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, biotin, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, menadione sodium bisulfate complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, sodium selenite. *14 percent-a source of fiber
The Differences Are Clear
See the difference in the quality of ingredients being used? I don’t think it needs much explaining. With what you just read on this page, you now have the knowledge necessary to quickly check labels on dog food and find a quality brand which will lead to a healthier and happier dog as well as reduced veterinary expenses!
Dogs Have Never Cooked Their Food
No dog of any kind, wild or domesticated, has ever cooked their food. As humans, we feel that cooking food is natural, necessary, improves flavor and increases our ability to chew or eat food. That’s true for humans but not dogs! By cooking food for dogs, we are actually burning off many of the nutrients they need. Sure, we can add in supplements to a dog’s kibble to make up for the nutrients lost during the cooking process, or we can just feed them the most natural and nutritious food source: Raw Meat! Its what dogs have been eating for thousands of years. Cooking is used in the process of making kibble to break down many of the ingredients used so they will be more digestible to dogs but with raw meat this is not necessary.
Another disadvantage to feeding your dog standard kibble is the dryness of the food. Not only does the dry kibble make your dog thirsty, but it’s very tough on a dog’s esophagus and absorbs essential fluids in the stomach which are needed for proper digestion. Dry kibble will expand in your dog’s stomach and can produce gas in some instances. That can lead to flatulence and, in some cases, bloat, which can be a life-threatening illness in which the stomach becomes distended and twists. Gas and bloat are even more likely with inferior foods that tend to expand more in the stomach.
More Advantages of A Raw Food Diet For Dogs
A raw meat diet is what nature intended for dogs and most closely mimics the diet of all species of wild dogs, including their closest relative, the Gray Wolf. Wild dogs feed on the whole carcass of an animal including various raw organs, including the stomach, and even bones. Further, a raw meat diet provides nutrients in an unaltered form. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes are preserved whereas cooking meat destroys these naturally occurring nutrients. When you cook meat for dogs or use kibble, these important ingredients have to be added back after the cooking process (which dog food companies do). After switching to a raw food diet for your dog, you should notice the following benefits within the first month:
Reduction in problems associated with dry skin
Reduction or elimination of excessive itchiness and/or skin allergies
Smaller and less stinky poop
Increased pep and energy
Healthier size and weight
Less smelly breath
Better dental hygiene and whiter teeth
Addressing Concerns of a Raw Food Diet For Dogs
Below are some of the most common concerns people have about switching their dog to a raw meat diet:
One of the most serious concerns people have about feeding a raw food diet is whether or not their dog will have all of his nutritional needs met – and this is a legitimate concern. Wolves and dogs in the wild who eat a raw diet manage to stay healthy because they eat a wide variety of meat protein – and essential amino acids – from different kinds of prey. If you decide to feed your dog a raw diet, you should feed your dog a variety of different meat proteins so he will be getting all of the essential amino acids he needs. Along with the meat protein, be sure to include other healthy and wholesome foods in his diet. Smal amounts of dairy, veggies, and fruits will provide some of the other vitamins and minerals he needs. In addition to the meat protein in his diet, you should make sure he gets some organ meat from animals such as liver, heart, or kidneys. Many people who feed a raw diet give their dogs supplements to make sure they are getting all of the trace minerals and other vitamins and minerals they need in their diet. If you have any concerns about your dog’s diet you can always talk to a canine nutritionist or other dog food specialist to make sure your dog is having his dietary needs met.
Choking is another concern for people who feed a raw diet. The basic rule is that is generally safe to give your dog raw bones. They are usually comparatively soft and pliable. Eating raw bones is good for your dog’s teeth and they help provide the proper calcium to phosphorus ratio in your dog’s diet when eating raw meats. However, you should not give your dog any cooked bones. Cooked bones, especially poultry bones, are brittle and they can splinter and puncture your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
Parasites and Bacteria (Salmonella, E. Coli, etc.)
Remember, dogs are not human beings and their digestive system is very different from ours. They have a much shorter digestive tract than we do which helps diminish the risk of parasite or bacteria-causing issues. Further, they have a very acidic stomach with a pH level of at least 1. That allows a dog to break down meat and prevent bacteria from colonizing. And finally, there are enzymes in a dog’s saliva that have antibacterial properties, further limiting the risk of any adverse effects caused by bacteria in raw meat. The risk of parasites and bacteria is far greater to the dog owner if proper handling of raw meat is not used and contaminates food which you or your family will eat.
Dangers of A Raw Food Diet for Dogs
There is no 100 percent safe method of feeding your dog. As compared to the potential issues lower quality dog food can cause, I think a raw food diet for dogs is one of the safest diets available today. Nonetheless, a raw food or raw meat diet for dogs has its own inherent risks and inconveniences, so let’s go over those now:
Increased Risk of a Cracked Tooth
This is rare, but worth mentioning. There have been cases reported of dogs cracking or fracturing a tooth while chewing on a bone. When you give your dog bones to chew, you should always supervise. Chewing on bones can also improve your dog’s dental health.
Some people are concerned that feeding their dog a raw meat diet will cause aggression issues or make their dog “blood thirsty.” There is absolutely zero scientific fact to back this up. Dogs can develop food aggression for many reasons which is usually a direct result of humans unknowingly reinforcing food aggression behavior. Feeding raw meat alone will not contribute to food aggression nor will it help decrease food aggression if your dog is already aggressive around food. Food aggression in dogs is strictly a behavioral issue and not a dietary issue.
Risk of Gastrointestinal Perforation
Another possible risk is if your dog swallows a bone with a sharp fragment. The bone could potentially cause a tear or hole in the wall of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large bowel, rectum, or gallbladder. If unidentified or left untreated, this can quickly become fatal. This is of higher risk with cooked bones as the cooked bone forms splinters when eaten. So never feed cooking bones! A gastrointestinal perforation is relatively rare with raw bones, but it does happen from time to time so I thought it was worth talking about.
Lack of Documentation
The raw food diet for dogs only dates back in its present form a few decades to Dr. Richard Pitcairn and Dr. Ian Billingshurst when raw feeding was called BARF (biologically appropriate raw food). Household (non-wild) dogs have long consumed cooked human leftover foods and table scraps, including corn, fruit, and other vegetables. Dogs are incredibly adaptable and have adjusted to the many different diets humans have fed over many centuries. Since the advent of commercial dog food about 100 years ago, feeding kibble or canned food has become the norm. However, in the past couple of decades, many people have become interested in feeding their dogs a raw food diet again. There is relatively little scientific literature on raw food and dogs. This is also probably due to the fact that many feeding studies are carried out by and paid for by dog food companies and it’s probably not in their interest to promote raw feeding. The American Veterinary Medical Association has taken a position against raw feeding but not all veterinarians oppose the practice. Many canine nutritionists support raw feeding.
Increased Risk of Human Food Contamination
The greatest danger to feeding your dog raw food is contaminating your own food supply! Dealing with raw food, especially in the kitchen, should be dealt with in a very careful manner and very strict cleaning should be performed as soon as possible after raw meat has come into contact with any surface or utensil. Your family should also be educated on the dangers of handling raw meat and the dangers of leaving contaminated objects uncleaned. Hands down, the greatest risk of feeding your dog a raw food diet is to you, not your dog. Treat the raw food for your dog with the same care that you treat raw food intended for your family and you should be fine. It doesn’t hurt to wash your dog’s face with a cloth after their meal.
A Raw Food Diet for Dogs Is Not A Miracle Diet
I’d like to take this moment to make something very clear. A raw food diet is not a cure-all diet. There is quite a bit of information on the internet giving the impression that a raw food diet for dogs will cure or prevent just about anything. Truth be told, if your dog has allergies now, your dog may still have allergies after switching to a raw diet. Some dogs can definitely benefit from a raw food diet, especially if you are personally choosing their food and preparing it yourself. But I don’t want to give you the impression this will cure or prevent all illnesses. Even human beings who eat right, exercise, and maintain good mental health can become sick, injured, and die from serious disease. The same holds true for dogs. Many people smoke a pack of cigarettes per day and live to 100. Likewise, many dogs can eat commercial dog food and live for a long time. Feeding a raw food diet can be beneficial for many dogs but it is not a guarantee of anything.