There are four primary dog feeding strategies:
There is no definitive answer as to which dog feeding method is best.
This article summarizes each method, and presents their pros and cons. Based on this, we can decide what to feed our dog, based on his lifestyle and preferences.
What to Feed a Dog 1
Dry Dog Food (Kibble)
When considering which kibble to feed our dog, it is important to keep these things in mind -
- Note what the main ingredients are.
- Look for a kibble with meat as its primary source of protein.
- Avoid kibble with wheat, corn, or soy as its main ingredients. For sources of carbohydrates, potatoes and rice are easier to digest. Many dogs are allergic to wheat and corn.
- Avoid any food with wheat or corn gluten. Here’s why.
- Avoid kibble with too many “by-products” in their ingredient list.
- Avoid kibble with many generic ingredients, for example poultry meal or fish meal. Instead, look for chicken meal or salmon meal.
- Avoid kibble with artificial coloring and preservatives, for example BHA or BHT.
- Avoid kibble with too much filler material, such as corn hull.
A good rule of thumb to distinguish the major components of a food is to look for the first named source of fat in the ingredient list. Anything listed before that, and including it, make up the main portion of the food, other items are present in much smaller amounts to add flavor, function as preservatives or because of their dietary benefits (e.g. probiotics, vitamins and minerals).
~~ [ Excerpt from the Dog Food Project ]
I have done a fair amount of research into dry dog food, because both my dogs have sensitive digestive systems. My Shiba Inu is allergic to wheat, and my Siberian Husky is allergic to most types of grains (wheat, corn, oats), as well as some types of fish.
Here are some good kibble brands that are well-reviewed by many dog owners:
- Wellness CORE – My dogs are currently on Wellness CORE. They seem to really love the kibble and are doing well with it.
- Orijen – This was actually my first choice during our kibble switch-over. However, my Sibes are allergic to some types of fish and all their kibble formula contains fish.
- Blue Wilderness – Very well reviewed and the chicken formula has a similar ingredient list to Wellness CORE.
- Nature’s Variety Instinct – This kibble has a simpler ingredient list with two main components – chicken meal and tapioca. It also has a 42% protein content which looks good.
- Taste of the Wild – I have never tried Taste of the Wild, but they also have a well reviewed grain-free kibble with good ingredients. I love their cover art.
- Innova EVO – On March 2013 there was a voluntary recall of EVO products. As a result, we decided to switch over to Wellness CORE.
** Note that all of the above brands are grain-free, high-protein kibble. There may be some concern over high-protein dog food causing kidney disease, but this is a myth that has been debunked .
Just be careful not to give high protein food to large breed puppies as it may cause overly rapid growth, which will stress bones and joints.
Other dry dog food brands:
Canidae is often recommended as a good, medium-cost quality kibble. I have never tried Canidae, but their ingredient list looks sound.
Solid Gold: I did not include Solid Gold because their high protein kibble, Barking to the Moon, contains generic fish meal as its primary ingredient. Instead, we want to look for salmon meal, herring meal, or whitefish meal which is in Orijen 6, and Wellness CORE Ocean.
- Does not smell or taste as good as the other dog foods.
- Our dog may not want to eat kibble, and instead try to hold-out for something better.
- May make our dog thirsty. Therefore, provide free access to water all day long.
- Cannot be sure about quality of ingredients. There have been a fair number of dog food recalls on kibble.
What to Feed a Dog 2
Wet Dog Food
Once we have finished our research on dry dog food, we can just get the wet or canned versions of our favorite kibble brands. Doing this will ensure the same high quality ingredients, and packing process.
I only give my dogs a small amount of wet food everyday. They get their wet dog food in the form of frozen Kongs, which they work on at night while in their crate.
- Tastes good.
- Will not dehydrate our dog.
- Balanced nutrition for our dog.
- Difficult to handle and stuff in toys, unless frozen.
- Difficult to use for training, handling, or grooming.
- Not as good for dental health.
- Cannot be sure about quality of ingredients. There have also been some wet food recalls.
What to Feed a Dog 3
Homemade Dog Food
The most difficult part of feeding our dog homemade food, is ensuring that it has the proper nutritional balance.
The American Veterinary Medical Association warns against feeding our dogs table scraps. Table scraps tend to be too rich, and may contain foods that are poisonous to dogs. The AVMA also discourages using homemade food as our dog’s primary feeding method.
The AVMA does not recommend that people attempt to prepare home-cooked meals for their pets because pet nutrition is very complicated and unique to species and individual animals.
~~ [ Excerpt from Tips On Cooking Your Pet A Home-Cooked Meal, AVMA ]
If we absolutely want to try this dog feeding method, the AVMA recommends the book Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative by Dr. Donald Strombeck, or the www.petdiets.com website.
I will sometimes microwave some simple people food for my dogs, but only as a supplement to their mostly dry dog diet. In particular, my dogs really like melted cheese, boiled chicken, microwave sausage, and bacon.
When I need my dogs to endure an unpleasant dog grooming session, e.g. nail grinding or teeth brushing, I will sometimes microwave them a mix of salad greens (lettuce, and carrots), boiled chicken, vienna sausage, cheese, and a very small amount of bacon bits.
- Very tasty.
- Our dog will probably work hard for homemade food.
- High quality, human grade ingredients.
- May not have balanced nutrition for our dog.
- Difficult and dirty to stuff in toys.
- May be time-consuming to prepare.
What to Feed a Dog 4
Raw Diet (BARF)
A raw diet consists primarily of uncooked meat, edible bones, and organs. Sometimes eggs, vegetables, fruits, and vitamin supplements are added to create a more balanced meal.
Whether to feed our dogs a raw food diet, is a hot debate with strong proponents and opponents.
- Very tasty.
- Bones help to clean teeth.
- Nutrients are not destroyed by cooking.
- May lead to better health.
- May not have balanced nutrition for our dog.
- Bones can splinter and become a choking hazard or cause intestinal perforations.
- Raw food may carry bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli.
- Difficult to use in training, or to stuff in food toys.
For a more comprehensive discussion on the pros and cons of a raw diet, refer to the links below:
- Wikipedia: Raw Feeding.
- SPCA International: Understanding Homemade Diets and the Pros/Cons of a Raw Food (BARF) Diet.