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.
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.
- Better for dental health because it is less likely to stick on, and stain teeth.
- Easy to transport and use in dog obedience training, handling, and dog grooming.
- Easy to stuff in dog toys.
- Balanced nutrition for our dog.
- Has good fiber content, resulting in more regular stools.
- 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.
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.
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.
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, check out this wonderfully researched article by Alisa, or refer to the links below:
- Wikipedia: Raw Feeding.
- SPCA International: Understanding Homemade Diets and the Pros/Cons of a Raw Food (BARF) Diet.
Yea, most regular vets aren’t as up-to-date on holistic and raw diets and medicines. You should check out my hubs.
“Everything that I read said that the chicken bones are much more pliable and easier to eat and digest when raw, which makes them much safe for the dogs to eat.”
I have read similar things, but several vets have told me not to give them any bones, especially chicken bones because they have sharp edges. Maybe the vets have to be more careful about what they say, in case something happens; but it still makes me very hesitant.
Interesting about the salmonella; although it is still something that I would worry about. Guess I am a worry wort too 🙂
I’ll have to check out Jerry’s site on the BARF thing. Thanks!
When I composed my B.A.R.F diet hubs I saw that it can be very nutritious for dogs to have a raw diet. Now, I would never do sole raw. I’d like to do maybe once or twice a week raw with some dry kibble.
Everything that I read said that the chicken bones are much more pliable and easier to eat and digest when raw, which makes them much safe for the dogs to eat. It also says that it’s rare for dogs/cats to get salmonella and other illnesses from raw bc their stomachs are much stronger than ours.
I would just like to add variety to my dog’s diet so that she gets the best nutrition, I can provide.
Have you seen where Jerry with tripawds is on the BARF diet? That’s what really got me doing my research.
I did consider raw as well, but I am concerned about the bones and possibility of contamination. I currently boil or microwave chicken for my pups, and they seem to really enjoy that. It seems to be a good compromise, and I worry less 🙂 Still I am always thinking about it.
I would be very interested to know, what are your reasons for, and your parents’ reasons against the raw diet. Thanks!
I love EVO. Mia gets dry food mixed with can every other day. Some days just can, and others just dry. I’d love to introduce a little raw in her diet, but I just can’t convince my parents of it. Although, she is my dog, she’s still a family dog.
Royal Canin is horrible. I wouldn’t feed it to any dog. I’d go with EVO if I were you, or Wellness CORE.
Thank you for recommending both of those as I may have to check those out, but then again you are probably correct I should leave it as is, as I spent thousands of dollars on gettnig him straightened out., thanks for the info.:)
If your dogs are doing well with a particular kibble, it is usually best not to rock the boat, especially if they are susceptible to food allergies.
Both my dogs have food allergies. My Sibe, especially, is allergic to most grains, and also to fish. I feed both my dogs Innova EVO kibble. It is grain free, and is high in protein which is good for active dogs. Orijen is another good brand.
We feed our dogs Royal Canine as my male Cocker has allergies, is there any other types of dogs foods that you would recommend for dogs with allergies?
LOL. I think all dogs will always beg for food even when they are not hungry. Your dogs are lovely! Thank you, Sheba, for the interesting resources for pet owners.