Feeding Your Dog

David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.

To understand how to feed a dog, we first need to understand some basic aspects of canine nutrition. Dogs are almost strictly carnivores. They will eat some grains, fruits and vegetables. Dogs thrive on diets made up almost entirely of meat, as long as we feed some organ meat, bones, grains and vegetables.

Most dogs on any diet will benefit from a good quality Nutritional Supplement. Our favorite product for dogs is:

  • Rx Essentials for Dogs

Conventional-minded veterinarians often say that commercial diets are superior to home cooked natural foods because the commercial diets are balanced, while home cooking creates nutritional deficiencies and diseases. The reality is just the opposite, as we will see. First, it is really not hard to feed a good, nutritious diet of fresh foods that you prepare. As we will explain, it is actually easy and very rewarding to provide the type of diet that dogs love to eat and one on which they will thrive.

First, let's look at commercial diets. Commercial diets, by and large, are highly processed, monotonous diets. For people, the most basic concept of a good diet is eating fresh foods and eating a variety of these foods. We would never think of feeding ourselves out of a can, or feeding ourselves a monotonous piece of dry "people" kibble. And we would never think of feeding ourselves the same food day in and day out, because we know how important variety is to the total diet.

Nutritionally speaking, dogs are very close to us, and should also be fed a diet filled with fresh foods that are minimally processed.

Many dogs should receive a calcium supplement when home feeding, we recommend Calcium Citramate.

Why is it so important to feed fresh foods? Let's look at what one study says about fresh, minimally processed foods:

"Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, herbs, nuts and seeds contain an abundance of phenolic compounds, terpenoids, sulfur compounds, pigments, and other natural antioxidants that have been associated with protection from and/or treatment of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer."

Craig W, Beck L. Phytochemicals: Health Protective Effects. Can J Diet Pract Res. 1999 Summer;60(2):78-84.

Many of these wonderful nutrients are NOT heat stable, and are destroyed during the high temperature processing of commercial diets.

It has been stated by one veterinarian with a Ph.D. in nutrition that we "are killing our pets with commercial diets".

Holistic veterinarians agree that the best diets are those with home-prepared foods as part of the diet.

Feeding a diet that incorporates home cooking with commercial kibble:

I. Meat Portion:

a. All dogs should be fed, by volume of the total amount fed each meal, 25-50% meat

b. The meat can include:

i. Beef

ii. Chicken

iii. Turkey

iv. Fish

c. The easiest way to start this program is to use ground meats. Take the portion to be fed, mix with water, and cook on the stovetop or in the microwave until the meat is cooked medium (pink) to medium-well. Some animals will thrive on raw meats, but do not start this practice in the beginning.

i. Take this meat portion, including the water, and add it to the rest of the ingredients

Your Animal's Specific Recommendations: Only available following a phone consult

II. Commercial Dog Food Portion

a. Although there are many good home-cooking recipes (which we can provide you), we feel that most owners have little time or inclination to routinely feed an entirely home-cooked diet for their dog. Good intentions fall by the wayside, and the diet plan is not followed as it should be. Instead, by feeding some meat, some commercial diet, and the rest as outlined below, the dog receives an excellent, well-balanced diet. Costs are kept at a minimum, and the time required to prepare the diet is so moderate that even the busiest person will be able to follow this feeding protocol.

b. There are many commercial diets that are good diets. However, none stand out as clearly superior to any other (they are NOT home cooking, after all). There are, however, a large number that are not worth feeding because they are either of too poor a quality or they are not cost effective (remember the average commercial diets that masquerade as premium diets). There are too many of these to mention, but a good clue that the diet falls in this category is if it claims to be "just as good as such and such, but costs less", or the "premium diet costs less than about a dollar a pound".

d. The commercial diet, whether dry food or canned, should be of as high a quality as you can afford, and should make up no more than 25-40% of the diet.

Your Animal's Specific Recommendations: Only available following a phone consult

III. The Variety Component

a. Since grains and other carbohydrates are not necessary, we recommend they be fed sparingly. Their biggest benefit is that they are inexpensive. Using the plan we are outlining, they are even less necessary, because the commercial diets contain grains. One of our favorite grains to use is white rice. Many dogs have digestive problems, which improve when rice is fed.

b. Vegetables should be routinely added. We recommend:

i. Carrots

ii. Broccoli

iii. Peas

iv. Leafy greens

c. Sweet potatoes , pumpkin, yams, and squashes are all excellent additions to the diet. Sweet potato is especially good, inexpensive, easy to prepare, and readily accepted. Sweet potato should be cooked, and can then be used a portion at a time over a few days. They can be mashed and mixed so well into the diet that all animals will accept them. Carrots often need to be cooked lightly or shredded/chopped finely, or they may not be accepted or completely digested.

d. Dairy products can be included sparingly. Our favorites are:

i. Yogurt

ii. Cottage Cheese

e. Eggs are great to feed, and can be fed cooked or raw. We recommend no more than a couple of eggs a week, if fed raw. Cooked eggs can be fed a little more frequently.

f. Leftovers can be fed as well, as long as they are good food and not excessively fatty or sweet.

g. The variety component should be just that: fed for variety, one thing one day, and another thing another day. Don't get caught up in a routine where you are feeding the same things all the time. Variety is just as necessary for your dog as it is for yourself.

h. A couple final thoughts:

i. Corn is not a vegetable. It is a grain, and it is in plentiful supply in almost all commercial diets. so there is no reason to feed corn.

ii. Legumes (beans, peanuts) are good sources of proteins and fiber, but do not have particularly large amounts of vitamins and tend to provide excessive carbohydrates, which leads to obesity.

Your Animal's Specific Recommendations: Only available following a phone consult