When I first told my very best girlfriend (the ultimate pup-mom when it comes to taking care of her dogs) that we were getting a dog (literally as we were in the truck driving out to pick our pooch up!), one of her first questions was what we planned to feed her.
The breeder provided us with a popular commercial kibble sample that she gave to all new puppy owners she worked with, and despite trying it for a couple of days, we found that the kibble was just too large for our 2lb, 8 week old Yorkie. So, my girlfriend recommended a soft food to try, which we did. And our pup ate it up… for about 3 days only. Now what? Our vet recommended researching the best brands out there and finding one that would work best, but cautioned us not to switch foods too much at all, and to cut the breeder food with the new stuff in the beginning so that Duchess could adjust (for about 2 weeks).
So over the next couple of long, panicky days, we scoured the internet to try to figure out how to put some fat on our little monkey.
Choosing the right food can help determine whether your dog lives a long, healthy life or not. Most dog owners feed their dog commercial kibble; however there is a growing trend of some owners feeding their dog a raw-food based diet or one of fresh home made cooked food due to perceived health benefits. But which is better?
Feeding a dog can be expensive if you are preparing raw food or fresh home made cooked food. Most pet food manufacturers make a wide range of foods that are typically more economical. Commercial kibble is widely available at grocery stores, pet food stores and veterinarian offices.
Commercially made dog food boasts all of the vitamins, minerals, taste and nutritious ingredients that your dog needs, as it is formulated by trained nutritionists. They are cooked to consistency among batches to control pathogens and decrease spoilage. Commercially processed pet foods are often made to meet the specific dietary needs of pets’ various life stages. Some also help meet the dietary needs of pets that suffer from various health conditions. Most kibble today is formulated with vitamins and fatty acids and preserved with natural preservatives like Vitamin E.
Most commercial dog food use fillers. Low to moderate amounts of grains and other carbohydrates will not harm your dog. Find a high-quality, trustworthy brand that names the ingredients on the label.
Some things to avoid are kibble that has high amounts of filler, and excess artificial flavoring, coloring, preservatives and synthetic vitamins that are harmful to your pet’s health. Allergens such as corn, wheat and soy are also typically found in Commercial kibble.
It is recommended to look for the source of the food – is it made in North America versus overseas? This can have a great effect on the standards used for production.
Also, research any recall histories and vet reviews.
Raw-food based diet
Raw food diets consist of raw meat, bones and vegetables. Some include organic grains as well.
The main reason people choose a raw-food based diet is because it is believed to be more “natural”. Some owners want total control over what ingredients are included in their dog’s food.
Raw food diets contain no artificial ingredients, flavorings, colorings or preservatives and provide nutrients in unaltered form – but only if you can ensure that the raw foods you are cooking up in your kitchen come from sources that boast such claims as well. Just because you are not adding hormones or preservatives in your kitchen, doesn’t mean that the individual ingredients did not come in contact with those items before reaching the store shelves. If you choose raw, you may want to consider certified organic foods.
For dogs with certain medical problems such as allergies, skin conditions or immune problems, a raw food diet can eliminate the ingredients to which your dog is sensitive.
There are risks to raw diets that any pup parent should be aware of:
- In addition to raw, organic meat, dogs need vegetables and sources of micronutrients to meet all of their nutritional needs.
- Certain cuts of meat can be very fatty and a diet of excessive fatty meats can lead to pancreatitis or stomach issues.
- Raw diets have often been found to contain bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, E Coli, staphylococcus aeureus etc.
- A raw food diet can also increase the risk to your dog from known pathogens such as Neospora caninum, Nanophyetus salmincola, and Trichenella spirals, which are found in raw meats and are potentially fatal.
- Many pathogens found in raw protein diets can be transmitted to any humans who come into contact with the food itself, the pet, or environmental surfaces.
Fresh home made cooked food diet
Many dog owners attribute modern pet health problems to today’s highly processed, grain-based commercial pet foods. However, they are fearful of bacterial infections that raw food diets may cause. A fresh home made cooked food diet has many benefits that address these problems.
- Food that has been freshly prepared does not contain preservatives and is usually considered a healthier choice than commercial dog food or raw food – again, providing that you are ensuring none of your ingredients have come into contact with these elements before hitting the store shelves.
- Many ‘do it yourself’ recipes for dogs are easy to make with the ingredients readily available in local organic markets.
- It is easier to maintain a healthy weight for your dog since you control the ingredients.
- Most of the nutrients in raw vegetables are better released when they are lightly cooked and ground.
- Cooking is a form of processing that reduces the risk of bacterial contamination and helps break down the food so that digestibility is easier for the animal.
One of the drawbacks to a fresh home made cooked food diet is that it may not be nutritionally balanced. It is extremely difficult for a pet owner to provide a home made diet that provides a dog with all of the essential nutrients a dog needs in the proper amounts. Additionally, not all people foods are safe for dogs. Grapes, onions, avocados and chocolate can be fatal if your dog eats them.
Preparing home made cooked meals for your dog is time consuming and expensive and difficult to maintain when away from home.
There is no scientific research available showing evidence that a raw food diet or a fresh home made cooked diet is better than high-quality commercial dog food. Ultimately, what you feed your pet is your decision.
So after all of that – what did we choose?
Our Duchess finally settled on a high quality kibble from Acana (from Champion Foods, the makers of Origen pet foods). My husband’s cousin recommended the Acana brand because its puppy formula has a smaller kibble for small breed dogs and does not boast too high of a protein content for her little system to handle. She is now 8 months old, growing long and lean, lots of energy and a perfect bill of health from our vet. So it seems we have a keeper for now 🙂