Dog Food - What You Need to Know
(Just My 2 Cents!)
I am certainly not the dog food authority here! These are just a few things that I believe, in my humble opinion, might be helpful to your dog's long term health.
1. Allergies might be prevented by rotating your dog's food.
Recent findings are proving that a dog fed the same kibble day in and day out can develop allergies. This has been found to be true even in humans. People that eat eggs every day can sometimes develop an egg allergy. It sounds crazy, but it happens. I believe so many of the dog allergies we face today are related to their diets. Not because they had too many grains, but perhaps because they ate the same food day after day without any rotation in meat and grains. I recommend rotating food every 2 to 3 months.
2. High protein may not always be the best.
Dogs are not cats. Cats are carnivores and need very high protein diets. Dogs are actually omnivores. They are going to be very healthy when eating both animal and plant foods (i.e. healthy grains). Many formulations of dog food are raving about their high protein content, and they say dogs were meant to eat such high levels of meat. I have found that whenever I put my dogs on very high protein formulations that they had very loose stools, and the food was simply too rich for them. My dogs do best with a dog food that has anything over the 20% range of protein, but not higher than low 30% proteins. I believe they need a food with enough protein. Some brands have way too low a protein content. However, I don't feed them anything with super high protein because it doesn't agree with them. I have found that anything in the 20 to low 30% range of protein seems to be the best for my dogs.
3. Not all grains are bad - don't believe all the grain-free hype
All of this is only my opinion. Of course, I am not a vet. However, just because a vet recommends a food does not mean it passes the test for me. I am shocked at a lot of the formulations that are recommended by vets. I urge you to do your own research. I do not give my dogs completely grain free formulas (more about that below in the Peas, Lentils and Chickpeas section). I am a big believer in grains...healthy grains that is. Oats, Brown Rice, Quinoa and other healthy grains are beneficial in your dog's diet.
4. Peas, Chickpeas, and Lentils ... Yikes!
I used to feed my dogs food formulas with peas, chickpeas and lentils. I love eating these foods myself, and I knew they were very healthy for people, so I assumed the same was true for dogs. Yet very recently, studies have started to show a connection between peas, lentils, and chickpeas and an increase in dilated cardiomyopathy. The findings are still a very small percentage. If you want to feed your dog a grain free diet, you will search high and low to find one that is grain free and without peas, lentils or chickpeas. Believe me, I did that very search! This is why I think the list I have below will be a great help. It's a list of foods that passed the test for me.
5. What's the number one ingredient?
It's so sad to see that most of the big brands in our grocery stores have meat meals (not whole meat) as their number one ingredient. Many of them even have corn, the cheapest grain available as their number one ingredient. Meat should always be the number one ingredient in your dog's food....whole meat and not a meat meal. Don't get me wrong, I do actually think meat meals are beneficial in a dogs diet, but they should not be the number one ingredient. I grew up in the Pacific islands, and saw the dogs there eat everything. Yes, they did eat feathers, and hooves, and bones! When a pig was cooked for the family, they fed the remains to their dogs, and the dogs were very healthy. Meat meals are shunned, yet believe it or not, your dog can actually benefit from the ingredients in meat meals. But remember, as I stated earlier, they are not to be the number one ingredient in the formula.
6. Be careful with canned foods!
Canned dog food seems very appealing to us as owners. We may feel sorry for our dog eating that dry kibble, but if you think splurging on canned food is a good idea, watch out! Many of the canned foods available are often loaded with preservatives which, in time, can cause cancer! If you want to add canned food to your dogs diet, I recommend that you only use it as a flavorful topping because the dry kibble is much better for cleaning your dogs teeth than canned food. Mix the kibble in with canned food, but think of it as a yummy topping, - and always, always read the label and watch out for preservatives. Make sure it doesn't have any crazy ingredients that you can't pronounce (some of the vitamins do have funny sounding names, but if you aren't sure, you can look those up and see what is a vitamin and what is a preservative. Read my tips below for how to read any label of dog food whether canned, dry, or any other variety of dog food.
7. My top 5 tips for reading a dog food label
1. What's the number one ingredient? It must be whole meat and not a meat meal.
(If it's a whole meat great! If the first ingredient is a meat meal, no thanks.)
2. Is it corn and wheat free? It needs to be!
(If so that's great! )
3. Does it have peas, lentils or chickpeas? If so, you don't want it!
It's not worth even a small risk of any connection between that and dilated cardiomyopathy (which is a serious heart problem).
4. Is the protein content somewhere in the 20% to low 30% range?
(If so, great!)
5. Does it have preservatives? If so, YIKES!
(Steer clear of anything that can cause cancer!)
8. How to switch your dogs food...
Slowly introduce the new food by following the guidelines which are often found on the bag. You can do a 1 to 8 ratio or even a 1 to 4 ratio over a few weeks if possible.
Do not blame a new food if your dog suddenly gets diarrhea or an upset stomach or even gassy. This is usually just a symptom of TRANSITION and has nothing to do with the new food formula. It will take time for your dog to adjust to a new food. If you choose to introduce a new food and must, for some reason, do so quickly --then I always recommend introducing it in the morning. Also, ONLY introduce it on a day when you are home all day. Your dog could get an upset stomach or really need to go potty, and may need you home to let him out frequently.
Food formulas I recommend:
***These foods are very specific in my recommendations. Do not think that just because I recommend a brand that all of that brand's formulas are acceptable. They are not. Only the specific ones listed here. Many of their other formulations, even though from the same brand, are full of peas or various things that I do not recommend. I only recommend these specific formulas, and I have used every one of these for my dogs in their food rotations (unless otherwise noted). I have also used every one of the treats recommended. Also I have a list of treats we recommend as well below the food recommendations.
PUPPIES - These foods and also any of the ALL LIFE STAGES foods below are great for a growing pup.
Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Puppy includes great ingredients like chicken, oats, quinoa, egg, flaxseed, etc.
Fromm Gold Puppy
Great ingredients with chicken first, other star ingredients, chicken liver, lamb, duck, brown rice, oats, barley, carrots, sweet potatoes, flaxseed.
Nutro Natural Choice Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Puppy food. Nice smaller kibble. Great recipe with chicken as the number one ingredient, lots of other healthy ingredients like chia seed, coconut, whole egg, and kale. Also includes healthy grains like whole grain brown rice and whole grain barley.
PUPPIES and ADULTS - All Life Stages (Great for Puppies and Adults) -
Acana Wholesome Grains ALL LIFE STAGES PUPS AND ADULTS
This food has a nice variety of different proteins, beef, pork, liver, and lamb.
It also has a great mix of healthy grains including oats, along with butternut squash and even kelp.
Health Extension Little Bites Chicken and Brown Rice (This food is the smallest size kibble I have ever found. Although, don't worry, it doesn't hurt your dog to actually chew his kibble if it is a larger size - slowing down to chew his kibble isn't going to hurt him! It's probably better for him instead of simply swallowing it whole! But if you are really wanting a tiny bite size of kibble for your little friend, this one is it. Has organic chicken as the first ingredient. Other great ingredients include oats, brown rice, flaxseed, and coconut oil.
Diamond Naturals Small Breed Puppy
Great small kibble size. Probiotics and DHA, Omega 3 and 6. Cage free chicken, pumpkin, kale, and even blueberries.
Diamond Naturals Chicken and Rice Formula ALL LIFE STAGES PUPS AND ADULTS
I also listed this in my most affordable foods section. Contains nice ingredients like chicken, whole grain brown rice, flaxseed, pumpkin, kale, chia seeds, and blueberries.
Wet food choice - All Life Stages - Pups through Adults:
The Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Dog Food Turkey - Complete Meal or Topper for Dry Dog Food
This is a pretty neat food that comes as a dehydrated powder, you add water, wait 3 minutes and it is almost like a homemade dog food. I love that it has real turkey, flaxseed, spinach, etc. My dogs really like it too. It is also one that can be used as a flavor topper, to add to dry dog food. All life stages. It is grain free, but uses potatoes for the carbs. I like that it is all fresh ingredients that are human grade foods.
Adult Formulas -
Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Real Beef + Brown Rice Recipe with Ancient Grains (Adult)
Includes beef, pork, brown rice, oatmeal salmon, quinoa, flaxseed, and organic alfalfa.
American Natural Premium Legume Free Duck Recipe with Butternut Squash (Adult)
Duck, turkey, brown rice, oat flour, butternut squash, pork, and pumpkin to name a few ingredients.
Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Small Breed - Adult
Chicken, brown rice, oatmeal, turkey, quinoa, carrots, and apples are a few of the ingredients I really like in this food.
Most Affordable Food - (All Life Stages - Pup through Adult)
Diamond Naturals Chicken and Rice Formula
Contains nice ingredients like chicken, whole grain brown rice, flaxseed, pumpkin, kale, chia seeds, and blueberries.
Treats (for treats, the first ingredient does not need to be meat, but just make sure it's pea free and preservative free!) That's kind of hard to do since most treats are full of peas and preservatives! This list took me quite some time to compile, but it's all treats that I give my dogs, and that they love!
Chicken - Freeze dried chicken liver treats
Jerky Tenders Free Range Beef Recipe treats - One of my dogs FAVES! I tear in smaller pieces and give as treats since they're long strips.
Beef Lung Treats - one of my dog's favorites! I do not give my dogs one of these whole treats, they are huge! I break them into small pieces and put them in my treat jar. One bag will last you a very long time.
Beef Chews: These are one of our favorite chews for our dogs.
There's nothing weird or nasty about these beef tendon chews, my dogs love them!
Assorted biscuits: Chicken, Cheddar and CharTar flavors in one bag
Pork Pineapple Chia Treats:
Salmon and Chicken Treats:
Peanut Butter Treats:
Bacon Apple Training Treats:
Organic Turkey and Sweet Potato Recipe treats from Callie's Kitchen on Chewy:
Blue Health Bars - with Bacon, Egg and Cheese:
Another one of my dog's favorite treats for training are Honey Nut Cheerios. Also my dogs love a small piece of cheese, a tiny little bit of steak from dinner, etc. Be sure it is a dog safe treat of course, but "people" food is often some of the most exciting treats to your dog. All of these provide wonderful little treats that can be much healthier for your dog than a processed, chemical laden treat from your regular big box store. It is rare to find dog treats at your local grocery or big box store that are healthy - always read the ingredient list, and, if in doubt, just save a few tiny pieces from your burger for treats later instead of risking all the chemicals in the average box of dog treats. (Of course the ones on the list above don't have the bad chemicals and ingredients!)