"If you are one of the many people who are still on the fence about changing your dog's diet, you are not alone. Many people are skeptical about making a complete switch to a raw or home-cooked diet. Don't worry. Changing your dog's diet does not have to be an all or nothing affair." (Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olsen PhD)
There are many ways to maximise the health and nutrition of your dogs without breaking the bank or frying your brain. Here are your options listed from the freshest food for dogs to the most processed:
Whether you decide on a home cooked or raw food diet for your dog is a personal choice. I feed Zuma and Perro raw and I cook for Gracie. Some people jump straight into feeding raw, others are happy that home-cooked is good for their dog and do-able for their lifestyle. And many people begin by simply adding fresh food and gradually reducing kibble or tinned.
Two common concerns about switching dogs from processed to fresh food are the cost and the complexity.
Taking cost first; meat is definitely more expensive than kibble, particularly here in Switzerland. So yes, your dog's food will cost more. But there are ways to reduce the costs and ultimately, your vet bills should be far, far lower in the long run. My biggest advice is to figure out when your local supermarket discounts short dated meats and buy up as much as you can. In my case it's Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Migros sells fresh meat for dogs at CHF10/kg but because its very short dated, I often get it at half that price. Get to know your butcher. Add lower cost ingredients such as tinned tuna, courgette and eggs to bulk out meals for hungry dogs. And of course, keep any leftovers from family meals (no onions, seasoning, potato or cooked bones).
In terms of complexity; feeding your dog a fresh food diet is no more challenging than feeding your family a fresh food diet, despite what the pet food industry would have us believe. There are online forums, books, DIY options, pre packaged frozen complete meals and home delivery services. There is an initial learning curve and you will need freezer space, but once you're up and running, you will see how easy, cost effective and rewarding it is. And you will have a healthy, happy, slim, fresh smelling dog with a shiny coat, good teeth and just the right amount of energy.
If you think raw food is the right option for you and your dog, here is some more information on getting started. If home cooking is your preferred route, I really recommend buying my book of the month as a starting point. And if dry or tinned food is the right option for your dog, or you're not ready to make the switch to fresh food for whatever reason, here is some practical, easy advice on maximising the nutrition of kibble.
Boosting the nutrition of dry or tinned dog food:
Why not boost the kibble or bite the bullet entirely?! Feed your dog fresh food for three months and see for yourself? You can always switch back if you don't see the benefits. PLEASE let me know if you take up the challenge! And IF you want to jump directly to feeding raw food please read this article next.
Aileen Woulfe, Irish expat, lifelong animal lover, Swiss qualified with a diplôme cynologique in breeding, grooming and kennel management and owner of Happy Dogs Aigle boarding and daycare in Vaud, Switzerland.