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August 15, 2009

Is All Dog Food the Same?

By: Lori Marchek | Animal Nutrition & Wellness Consultant

How does a dog lover make sense of it all? There are so many choices from fish to beef, from large to small kibble, from raw food to prescription. There are even breed-specific varieties. How do you know you are giving your pooch the best possible food?

You have to do what you feel comfortable with. Everyone has different time and financial constraints they need to consider. But remember that if you are committed from the start to making positive changes in your dog’s feeding programs, you will be more willing to stick with them over the long term.

Let’s take a look at some of the options available to health conscious dog owners:

Raw Food
It contains raw muscle meat, organ meat, tripe and finely ground bone along with vitamin and mineral fortification. There are many brands to choose from. Making raw food at home is another option. You can find recipes in books and online, but whatever you choose make sure your dog is getting everything it needs in their diet. It does take a considerable amount of work, so you’ll need to decide if you are willing to do it on a daily basis. Although there is a perception that raw is an expensive option, Nature’s Advantage is available for only $2.13 per pound. For a 25-pound dog, a month’s worth of food would be $31.95. If you have a 50-pound dog it would be $64 per month.  For comparison, Taste of the Wild, a grain-free kibble, costs $23 and $36 a month, respectively for a 25- and 50-pound dog.

Raw with Kibble
If serving entirely raw food is not something you are able to do, the next best alternative is a combination of raw and kibble. The more raw food you can provide, the better. Serving raw food on alternate days or just doing raw on the weekends is one solution.

Quality Grain-Free Kibble
Grain-free food should be non-negotiable! Giving your dog food that is free of wheat, soy, barley, corn, oats, rice or millet is essential. All of these are high allergens, and grains grow candida or yeast. (All living beings have yeast in their bodies, but if we feed it, it can get out of control and cause ear and skin issues.)

Remember that all kibble contains filler. (That is why raw is best.) If a food does not contain these grains, it will likely contain potatoes. Potatoes feed parasites, so it is not the best choice either, but it’s better than just grains. If you can find a food with sweet potatoes, that is the better option. Most have both sweet potatoes and potatoes. Similar to food labeled for human consumption, the order of ingredients matters. When sweet potatoes are listed ahead of potatoes, it means there is a greater share of them in the food.

Another thing to watch with kibble is the amount of protein it contains. Dogs need protein, not filler. Grain-free kibble can contain as little as 20% protein with some containing as much as 45%. The more protein the better. If cost is a consideration, Taste of the Wild is entirely grain-free, weighs in at 32 % protein and is one of the least expensive and highest quality grain-free options.

Reading Labels
If you care about what your dog eats, read the back of your bags of food, not the front. The marketing is on the front and often includes vague words such as “natural,” “holistic,” “wheat-free” and “organic.” Despite what is printed on the fronts of bags, when you read the actual ingredients, the contents are often not organic, the company has substituted barley or millet for wheat, which is just another grain, and “natural” and “holistic” can mean just about anything (and therefore nothing). Read the label and think about what it means. Google the ingredients. Many of them contain known carcinogens. Also question foods that have low meat content and those in which the first ingredient is starch or cellulose. Is this what you are comfortable having your dog eat?

Fish-based Foods
We feed fish-based food because we think they are healthier. Keep in mind that if the fish has come from the wild, it most likely has mercury and PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyl, a hazardous chemical). If it was farm-raised, they, unfortunately, are not fed a quality food and sometimes were raised in tanks that are too small for them. This leads them to eat their own feces causing the meat to become toxic.

This is just the tip of the dog dish as far as canine nutrition goes, but it gives you a few tips to get your dog on the right path to living a longer and healthier life. If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to contact me.

Lori Marchek
Animal Nutrition & Wellness Consultant
Fluffy Dog Wellness, Hartland, WI

user comments

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Wednesday, 27-05-09 16:58

Very good info,But I am wondering about Taste Of The Wild,Diamond Food company makes it and the have a lot of products recalled.
So who do we trust?


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