A question that commonly arises in dog ownership is one surrounding diet. Dog food is a real minefield and finding the right food for your dog can seem like an impossible challenge. You have your vet telling you one thing, the breeder another and people online saying something completely different. There is always the whole “commercial vs home cooked vs raw” debate occurring on almost all dog websites relating to diet. So let’s narrow it down a bit:
Raw advocates will often, but not always, have a real problem with commercial food, figuring that it’s all the same and full of rubbish. The key requirement for finding a good commercial diet is looking at the ingredients and finding the following:
- The meat content listed first on the ingredients list. This is important because the ingredients are listed in order of quantity and so therefore, with dogs being carnivores, you want the meat content to be the first on the list.
- A named meat source. Basically meaning that you don’t want it to be called “Animal derivatives” or anything like that. “Animal derivatives” can be anything from beaks, feathers, testicles or less desirable parts of the animal; normally being the parts that humans will not normally eat. You want it to be listed as: “salmon”, “pork”, “chicken” etc.
- Clearly marked grains or none at all. Dogs cannot digest and utilise grains as effectively as many other animals can as grains aren’t a part of their natural diet. Foods with rice or oats are ok, so long as your dog isn’t intolerant as these grains are less likely to cause itchiness and irritation. Try and avoid grains such as wheat and maize: two of the most common allergy causing ingredients in dog food. Definitely, without a doubt, avoid any good with “cereals” in, as these are basically whatever the company can get in cheapest and will vary with every batch.
- No sugars, artificial colours or anything nasty like that.
That is a good guideline to follow. There are obviously more criteria you may wish to follow, but that’s a good starting point.
Always remember when looking at dog food that your dog is a carnivore, not an omnivore or a herbivore. Meat is the most important and primary aspect of their diet. At a minimum, around 30% meat would be the lowest I would want to go, but obviously the higher you go, the better.
There are whole hosts of different foods out there. Do your research carefully and follow those guidelines. Ask yourself questions.
There is nothing wrong with a good quality commercial diet. They do exist, but equally there are many terrible ones out there.
Before I begin, I will first start by saying that I do not feed raw, so cannot give in-depth information regarding this topic. I can however, give the basic idea and reasoning for feeding raw, then allowing you to go and research it should you so wish to.
The idea behind raw feeding is that it is unprocessed, natural and free of preservatives, grains and other undesirable ingredients. As the name suggests, it is the feeding or raw meat with a percentage of raw bones and offal. It also closely mimics what a dog would naturally eat if in the wild.
Raw feeding is certainly a very appealing idea for many, but may not be practical. Freezer space is generally required because the best deals are found when bulk purchasing. It can be bought less regularly, but you will find the price will be more likely to increase. This is, in itself, a reason why many, including myself, are unable to feed raw.
Raw doesn’t suit every dog (nor does any diet) but is very good for helping dogs with food intolerances, itchy skin, bad breath, dirty teeth and many more problems.
I do not wish to give further information on raw, because I do not feed it and don’t want to give out any incorrect information, but it will give you an idea of what’s behind raw feeding
Research is the key thing. No food will suit every dog, it just never will. Look at ingredients in commercial foods carefully. Use the guidelines above, always ask questions and never be afraid to ask online. Dog food can be a minefield, but once you understand what to look for, everything becomes so much easier.