I feed raw prey-model. 80% meat, 10% bone, 5% liver, 5% other secreting organs.
Better food does make a difference. Dogs bodies cannot adequately digest plant/grain matter, it must be pureed and/or cooked for them to digest it, and even then, the nutrients have lower bioavailability than nutrients from animal matter. It’s also harder on the animal’s system to digest foods it is not naturally intended to digest.
Also, with cheap fillers, your dog will eat more. So it may seem cheaper if you compare cups or pounds; but in the amount eaten and the health of your pet, better food is worth it.
Meat is, you got it: meat. Chicken, turkey, pork, beef, goat, lamb, ostrich, duck, salmon, venison, rabbit, pheasant, quail, kangaroo, whatever you can find. The more variety you can [slowly!] work into their diet, the better; but even if you can only get your hands on a few proteins, it’s still a good diet. I try to feed at least 50% red meat; red meat being ‘mammal meat’, so pork, even though it’s called “the other white meat”, is actually red meat.
Bones are a little trickier than meat. We’ve all heard “don’t feed the dog chicken bones!”, but this actually requires more explanation. It should be “don’t feed the dog cooked bones, be it chicken or beef”. Raw bones (yep, even chicken bones) are soft and digestible. Cooked bones (yep, even beef bones) become brittle and can splinter into shards. That smoked ham bone at the petstore is actually more dangerous for your dog to eat than raw chicken bones. The main bones my dogs eat are chicken bones, along with a few pork and lamb bones. Note: weight-bearing bones of large herbivores are too hard for dogs, so bones like a cow femur are no-no’s.
Bones are also “nature’s toothbrush”. Dental care is just as important for dogs as it is for people. 80% of dogs over the age of 3 have periodontal disease; which not only is a problem of unattractive teeth, it affects the internal organs of the animal.
Liver is liver. Beef liver, pork liver, chicken liver, etc. That was an easy one!
Secreting organs are *drumroll* organ which secrete. Examples: kidney, spleen, pancreas, thymus, brain. The non-secreting organs, such as heart and gizzards, are fed in the “meat” portion of the dog’s diet.
A raw prey model diet does not require any supplements, it supplies all the nutrients required by dogs. I do, however, give my dogs fish oil for Omega-3s to make up for the fact they do not get organic grass-fed beef or much wild game meat.
The amount to feed is based on your body’s ideal adult body weight. The starting point is about 2%-3% of the dog’s body weight, then adjust as necessary. (It’s on a dog-by-dog basis depending on the dog’s metabolism and activity level. One of my dogs eats nearly twice the recommended starting point!) I use a cheap kitchen scale to portion out my dogs’ food.
My “rules” for kibble:
- High meat content.
This is first and foremost. Dogs are carnivores, carnivores eat meat.
Preferably at least 2-3 out of the top 5 ingredients be meat or meat meal (first ingredient must be!). Don’t confuse “meal” with “byproducts”. Meal is simply the meat with the water weight removed. So for example, on the ingredient list, “chicken meal” is actually more quantity of chicken than “chicken”.
A dog should never be on a vegan diet. And the only time a vegetarian diet should be considered is if the dog has severe allergies and all normal and exotic protein options have been exhausted. Most kibbles are chicken, lamb, duck, or beef; but you can find exotic proteins like pheasant and kangaroo as well. Also worthy of mention is that there is a different between cooked and raw proteins, if your dog has allergies to a cooked/processed meat, it may not have a reaction to the same protein as raw meat.
- Higher quality grains, such as barley, brown rice, and oatmeal. No wheat or corn.
Or an alternative starch/carbohydrate such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, or tapioca.
Dogs have absolutely no need for carbs and starches. The reason these things are included in dog kibble is because a starch is required to have “kibble”, it holds the pieces of food together, else it would be “crumbles”.
- No byproducts.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with dogs eating the things included in “by products” (organs, bones, feet, etc), the problem is that the term “byproducts” is a catch-all. You have no idea exactly what the byproducts are.
- Minimal fillers.
Fillers are things like brewers rice, beet pulp, etc.; used to bulk up the food but add no benefit to either the dog’s health or the manufacturing process.
- No carcinogenic preservatives (BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin).
- No artificial colorings such as the Red, Blue, and Yellow dyes.
Your dog doesn’t care what color the food is, dyes are only added to make it look pleasing to the human buying it. And dyes have been linked to hyperactivity and health problems.
- No added sugars (sugar, corn syrup).
Dogs don’t need these. These are only included to make crappy food more palatable to the dog.
- No mystery meats (meats identified only as “meat” or “poultry”.)
Your dogs’ food should always tell you exactly what type of meat you are feeding.