How to feed your dogs well is simple as!
Before commercial dog foods came along, what did dogs eat? They had meat, bones, and human leftovers. And they were a whole lot healthier. They lived longer. They had less cancer. They had less chronic diseases. Interesting, isn’t it? Diet isn’t the only factor in these changes, but it is the most important by far (followed by over-vaccination, and use of toxic flea and tick products).
The processed pet food industry makes a LOT of profit. Billions! The foods are made with cheap, nasty and downright harmful ingredients. They are high in carbohydrates (cheap calories compared to meat) provided by using starches from grains, pulses and veggies like potatoes.
Any protein is nearly always in the form of meat and bone meals. These are foul ingredients. Basically, it’s all the groobly bits left over, scraped up of the floor, trimmings, bones and fat. They take all of this and render it (a fancy term for deep frying) in it’s own fat. This awful mess is then drained and ground up into a powder. This high-temperature processing causes bad changes in the proteins, essentially making it toxic.
Then they add what I call cosmetic ingredients like vegetables, blueberries, seaweed, etc. The thing is, once you get past the first five or six ingredients on the list, anything else is in what I’d call trace amounts. Not meaningful nutritionally for sure, though you see beautiful big glossy images of these ingredients splashed all over the packed to manipulate you into thinking that this processed crap is healthy. It’s not.
Some of the most expensive ones (I’m looking at you, ‘prescription’ diets) have the worst/cheapest/nastiest ingredients in them. They are priced at a massive premium and are extremely profitable. They pretend to be high quality, but it’s all spin. Very dangerous spin for your pets.
I could write another whole book on why processed food is bad for your pets. Mould. Toxins. Heavy Metals. Etc, etc, etc, etc.
Tinned food is not much better. Unless you want to soft yucky poos and dog farts that will chase you out of the house.
The bottom line is that all processed food is a slow poison. You must feed fresh whole foods…
So then, what’s the alternative? It’s simple. It is more expensive (but believe me, the highly processed cheaper foods are a false economy!). And you can feed your pets very affordable if you’re willing to take a little extra time and effort.
You can feed raw (preferable in most cases) or home-cooked. The BARF diet is the go. The basic diet is 75% raw meat and bones (90% for cats) with the remaining amount of veggies. No potato, minimal starchy veggies. No onion. Small amounts of Garlic are ok.
For protein, I recommend grass-fed or wild-hunted meat sources. Chicken and turkey, duck are usually intensively fed with a lot of grain, and this makes the meat behave more like grain in your dog’s body. Many dogs with allergies will flare up on grain-fed meats. Avoid farmed fish (same issue).
Home-cooked is fine too. Raw is usually better, but let’s not get fundamentalist about it! Simply cook up a pet stew of meat and veg, and then give raw bones in addition (important for calcium). You can divide the cooked food into portions and freeze for convenience.
If feeding whole raw bones, then size appropriate non-weight bearing bones as a meal a couple of times a week should be plenty to give adequate calcium. If you want to go the whole hog and calculate exactly how much bone is needed, check out this link for info and a calculator: https://perfectlyrawsome.com/raw-feeding-knowledgebase/bone-content-in-raw-meaty-bones/
Some people go all out with raw- I’ve seen the most elaborate meals with chicken feet, all sots of offal from different animals, quail eggs, purred veggies, blueberries, and all sorts of other superfoods sprinkled on top. If that’s what floats your boat, get googling and have some fun with it! There are a whole range of raw/prey model/keto/etc. diets, groups on Facebook, meal plans, etc etc. You can go as far down that rabbit hole as you want to.
For me, with my time constraints and lack of excitement about gourmet meals for my pets, I feed BARF – the Raw 4 Paws brand (much better than the options in the big pet stores here in Australia – smells better, keeps better in the fridge, and my animals like it a lot more). And I fast one day a week for all my animals.
But I can’t afford the meat- it’s expensive!
If you honestly can’t afford species-appropriate healthy food, that’s a problem for your pets. If you must use carbs to pad out the calories and make it cheaper, use millet or brown rice (soak well and rinse before cooking). Organic if possible. Try to keep the meat at the highest percentage you can manage. And avoid kibble. It may be cheap, but it really is nasty.
If you include whole grains to make the calories cheaper, and you get cheaper pet mince (make sure it’s reasonably lean) or offcuts etc from your butcher, you can feed fresh whole foods without spending more than you would on premium supermarket dry foods.
And if you have to feed kibble, for whatever reason, add as much fresh whole foods (including appropriate scraps from your meals) as you can. This will make a difference.
You will see beautiful changes in your pets when you get off processed foods and onto a fresh whole foods diet. Shinier coats. Healthier poos. Less farting. More energy… And in the long term, fewer visits to the vet!