I get asked for my opinion on dog food A LOT. Luckily, it's a subject that really interests me. I am not a nutrition specialist or a vet and my opinions are just that, my opinions. I do however spend a lot of time with dogs as well as reading, learning and researching about their nutritional needs, so this article is a summary of my beliefs and practices. Please note - this is an enormous topic summarised into one short blogpost. I will list numerous reference websites for further reading or contact me for more information and/or questions. I hope you find it to be "food for thought".
IMO - in a nutshell - the less processed the food, the better. For dogs and for us.
I want my dogs to be lean, healthy, shiny and fresh smelling with great teeth and the right amount of energy for their age, so I feed them fresh food. Perro & Zuma get raw muscle meat (80%), raw meaty bones (10-20%), organ meat (5-10%), some fruit and lightly poached vegetables (5-10%). Read more about raw feeding for puppies and dogs here and here. This option sounds daunting but it's really not. Ready mixed frozen complete meal options of chicken, turkey, rabbit, beef, lamb, kangaroo, ostrich & duck can be bought from quality pet stores such as Petfriends and Meiko. There are also companies such as Babarf who deliver customised and frozen complete meals in a bag to your door once or twice per month, it couldn't be easier. I buy as much human grade meat as possible from supermarkets when it's on sale as well as tinned tuna, sardines and mackerel (in water, not oil or brine) and I buy frozen chicken hearts, stomachs, backs, feet & necks and sardines & mussels from my local Portuguese supermarket. A couple of times per week I add hemp seed or coconut oil, seaweed powder, cottage cheese, raw eggs, bone broth and probiotics. That's it in a nutshell.
For Gracie who is a grand old dame (and for Siddy who died this year aged 20), my preference is cooked food, the same ratio as above but everything very lightly poached. I personally believe it's easier for really old dogs to digest cooked food. I realise many raw feeding advocates would disagree and that's fine but my golden oldies thrive on this so I intend to continue. I also mix in a little quality tinned senior food from time to time (Terra Canis, I order online here) and for upset tummies I highly recommend having a few tins of Recovery Recipe in the cupboard.
I do not feed dry kibble to my dogs and definitely not to senior dogs. Dry kibble is the most convenient dog food but is also (IMO) the poorest of all the options. Here's some additional reading on kibble. Some dry foods are better quality than others (this is a good comparison site). For kibble fed dogs, I really recommend adding as much fresh food as possible (and reducing the dry food accordingly). It is advised that up to 20% fresh food can be added to kibble/tinned diets without disturbing the nutritional balance. Here's a throw back to my blog post on how to make frozen power cubes for dogs. Important not to mix kibble with raw food as that plays havoc with digestion but you can significantly increase your kibble fed dogs' health, longevity and happiness by adding eggs, sardines, poached veg, leftover meat or porridge, blueberries etc as often as possible. Read this for some great tips. Next month I will touch on some of what not to feed dogs (dentasticks and rawhide bones will definitely make that list).
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.