In this blog, you will continue to learn what to serve your dog for optimum nutrition. By now you have read my last post showing processed dog food is unhealthy, and watched the recommended documentary “Pet Fooled”. If you are new to our community, please READ THAT POST FIRST! The key information that you need to absorb is found in the Pet Fooled Documentary. This is essential homework to understand why I say that processed dog food is unhealthy for your pet.
So now I’m sure you are wondering, what are your options? Which kinds of dog food give proper nutrition? Let’s discuss alternatives to processed food.
Here are the options that I recommend instead of feeding your dog processed food. The list is in order from the most effective, to the least effective nutrition sources for dogs:
- Fresh raw, or commercial frozen raw food
- Commercial freeze-dried, or air-dried raw food
- Home-cooked meals
- High-quality canned dog food
What do dogs really need for optimum nutrition?
We have all witnessed our dogs as scavengers, which might lead us to think that non-animal nutrients are part of optimal health. Well, no. Dogs only need meat for optimal health. According to Dr. Becker (who was featured in the Pet Fooled documentary), and according to Wikipedia, dogs are carnivorous. That is to say, their biological structure was designed primarily to consume meat. They have evolved to digest vegetables in order to survive when no or insufficient supply of meat is available.
Wikipedia says: “Dogs are considered to be omnivores with a carnivorous bias. They have the sharp, pointed teeth and shorter gastrointestinal tracts of carnivores, better suited for the consumption of meat than of vegetable substances, yet also have 10 genes that are responsible for starch and glucose digestion, as well as the ability to produce amylase, an enzyme that functions to break down carbohydrates into simple sugars – something that carnivores lack. Dogs evolved the ability living alongside humans in agricultural societies, as they managed on scrap leftovers from humans.“
Dr. Becker summarizes the above definition by the following:
“Dogs are scavenging, or facultative carnivores, which in general terms means they are primarily meat-eaters, but can survive on plant material alone if necessary. The key word here is “survive.” To survive is not to thrive. To thrive is to grow vigorously. To survive means simply to stay alive.”
So given all of the above, it’s clear that dogs primarily maintain their best health through animal content consumption. They don’t require plants in their diet.
Non-processed food alternatives for quality dog nutrition:
So, now let’s get back to exploring the alternative diets to processed food. The primary, healthiest diet for your dog is fresh raw. This includes commercial frozen raw meat.
When serving raw food, how can you be sure your dog is getting sufficient nutrients? Interestingly, you must provide the correct ratio of uncooked muscle, organ, and bone. In the wild, a dog would kill prey smaller than itself. She would hunt birds, squirrels, and other rodents. So, due to their relative size, the dog would manage to catch and eat the entire animal. And this means that she would eat the muscle, organs, and bone. Therefore WE need to ensure that she eats a similar ratio as if she killed and ate prey.
B.A.R.F. and Prey Model:
There are two different raw feeding platforms that are generally available. According to Wikipedia, one type is referred to as “bones and raw food diet and later called “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” (B.A.R.F). This type of raw diet prescribes feeding 60% raw, meaty bones. The rest of the diet is to be composed of a wide variety of foods including vegetables, grains and legumes.”
The other raw diet is referred to as Prey Model. ” The ‘prey model’ diet attempts to create a diet that simulates the proportions of ingredients and nutrients seen in a prey animal‘s diet. In the wild, a predator gains nutrients not only from the meat and organs of the prey they are eating. A wild animal would also gain nutrients from the food their prey has previously consumed. This diet aims to simulate all the nutrients that the wild animal would obtain.”
The Prey Model duplicates the diet dogs hunted for themselves. There were no side dishes of fruits and vegetables. And there was definitely not any rice, which most processed pet foods contain as filler. In natural Prey Model eating, dogs scavenged for plant-based foods to supplement their calories ONLY if they didn’t get enough animal content.
What do the experts say about the benefits of a raw diet?
Petmd.com presents the risks and benefits of serving raw diets in general to our dogs. At this point, I will detail the benefits of feeding a raw diet, and will address the risks later on.
The potential Dog nutrition benefits of serving a raw diet to our dogs include:
- Shinier coats
- Healthier skin
- Cleaner teeth and less odour to the mouth, body and feces
- Higher energy levels
- Improved immunity
- Improved behaviour
- Duplicates a more natural diet, resembling what a dog in the wild would eat
- Avoids the harmful effects caused by processing which might increase the risk of some cancers
- Avoids the potential contaminants that commercial dog foods may contain (e.g., the 2007 recall due to melamine)
- Smaller stools
Why are dogs’ stools better with raw food?
Dogs that eat raw diets have very small and solid stools. This makes for easier poop pick up. Also, these raw food stools produce significantly less foul odour than those from processed food! The stool is harder because it is the product of whole organs and bone without all the added processed ingredients that dogs are not able to digest – such as corn gluten meal, vegetable oil, or salt. And there is less waste because the dog’s body absorbs more nutrients from raw food in its natural form. It is opposite with a processed food diet. More of the content they eat is just passed through their bodies because there are fewer nutrients and more filler. Consequently, the waste outcome of processed foods is larger, much softer, and smellier!
My veterinarian Dr. Steve Avery did confirm that harder stools can help maintain the anal gland. Hard stools move past the anal gland, putting a bit of pressure on it. This gradually (and naturally) expresses and cleans it. Dr. Avery also told me that the softer the stool, the less the anal gland will be naturally expressed. Too little pressure can cause anal gland content buildup.
We have all seen uncomfortable dogs rubbing their back ends against the ground! Another sign of this buildup is when dogs obsessively lick their rectums. And if that happens, your veterinarian may need to manually express your dog’s anal glands. The softer stools resulting from a processed food diet can cause discomfort for your dog and unnecessary trips to the vet!
How did my veterinarian respond to Roxy eating raw food?
When I told Dr. Avery that I had switched Roxy to raw food, he did not dispute the health benefits that raw diets offer dogs. And he told me that he has seen many dogs that had skin and digestion conditions improve when moved to raw diets from processed food.
What is freeze-dried and air-dried raw dog food?
So now let’s talk about freeze-dried raw food.
Freeze-dried raw food is what it sounds like. It’s raw muscle, organs, and bone and other high-quality ingredients. These can include vegetables and fruits that dogs can digest that have also been freeze dried (gentle dehydration of the all the ingredients). You may be surprised to learn that freeze-dried raw dog food is equally as nutritious as fresh (frozen) raw food! And it’s easier to manage and serve than fresh raw food, because all you need to do is crumble the patties or nuggets, then add water.
In addition, serving freeze-dried raw food that also contains high-quality fruits and vegetables can give you peace of mind! You will know that your dog’s diet is properly balanced with the correct non-animal ingredients that he can absorb, and not filler. Thus he receives all the nutrition that he needs.
Whole Dog Journal explains what freeze-dried raw dog food is. This article says: “As a generalization, the makers of these freeze-dried dog food products are targeting the top end of the market and have an extraordinary commitment to sourcing top-quality ingredients.” And this article points out the main benefits of serving freeze-dried raw food:
“1. You can store Freeze-dried food longer than kibble .
Very low-moisture foods such as these products can be stored at room temperature (in unopened packages) without spoilage or rancidity – much longer than kibble.”
“2. Most dogs love the taste of freeze-dried raw food.”
“3. Freeze-dried raw dog food has high quality ingredients.”
What about air-dried raw dog food?
Air-dried raw dog food is similar to freeze dried in that both dehydrate the raw food. But the air-dried food uses an even gentler way of drying the ingredients than the freeze-dried method. And the benefits are the same as noted above for freeze-dried raw dog food.
What are my criteria for choosing a commercial brand of fresh raw, freeze-dried, or air-dried raw food?
While operating my premium dog care concierge service, Executive Pet Concierge for the past 13 years, I researched and sourced out high quality freeze-dried, air-dried, and fresh (frozen) raw dog food products. Not only do I feed Roxy these foods, but I recommend and sell them to my clients. I always confirm where the company makes the product. Then, when possible, I find out from which countries the company sources their ingredients.
The U.S. and Canada pet food industry is highly unregulated. So I always do my due-diligence to research the quality of all the food that I serve my dog and sell to my clients.
Generally speaking, I trust freeze-dried and air-dried raw dog food brands that are made in the U.S., Canada, and especially those made in New Zealand. New Zealand has exceptionally high standards for farming, whether the farms grow animals or plants for consumption. And these standards hold, whether the food is destined for humans or for pets. Freeze-dried and air-dried pet food made in these countries generally source their ingredients from safe food-producing countries.
What freeze-dried and air-dried brands do I recommend?
The freeze-dried and air-dried dog food products that I have vetted and recommend are:
- Freeze dried – Stella and Chewy dinner patties– Made in the U.S.
- Air dried – ZiwiPeak – made in New Zealand.
- Freeze dried – Primal – made in the U.S.
Stella and Chewy’s ingredients offer excellent nutrition for your dog
To serve Stella and Chewy, you need to crumble the patty and mix it with water until it becomes a paste. It resembles porridge.
I emailed the Stella and Chewy company to verify where they source their ingredients (as I hadn’t checked in many years). I received a detailed response from their retail customer service department on May 5, 2020. See below:
- “The meats/poultry/fish are antibiotic-free and have no added hormones.
- The red meats (beef, lamb, venison, goat, and elk) are from North America, Australia and New Zealand. The animals are grass-fed raised.
- The pork is from the US.
- The poultry (chicken, duck, goose, turkey, and quail) are from North America and Europe. They’re raised cage-free.
- The fish is wild-caught in North American waters.
- The rabbit from Western Europe.
- All of our fruits and vegetables are 100% organic. They are all sourced from North and South America based on seasonal availability.
- The vitamin and mineral mix we use in our products is formulated for us in the United States – the individual components are from the US, Western Europe, and India, with Taurine from Japan.”
As you can see, the Stella and Chewy brand sources their ingredients from high quality and ethical farmers.
ZiwiPeak also offers excellent nutrition for your dog:
According to the ZiwiPeak website, this is what they say about their ingredients:
“All of our natural ingredients are sourced from the green, free range farms and blue, pristine oceans of New Zealand. ZiwiPeak chooses to only source from humane, ethical and sustainably managed local farms that exceed the strict New Zealand government regulatory standards.”
Just like the Stella and Chewy product, ZiwiPeak has equally high quality standards.
ZiwiPeak is as convenient as serving kibble
It comes with a scooper inside the bag. All you need to do is scoop out the proper serving portion and toss it into the bowl. So it’s a very convenient way to feed your dog, and of course, extremely nutritious since it is non-processed food. Which makes it so easy to serve on long road trips to feed your dog at rest stops! Also, ZiwiPeak has a unique highly-nutritional ingredient called: New Zealand green lipped mussel.
Primal Freeze-dried raw food is another brand that offers great nutrition for dogs!
I have come across another high quality freeze-dried raw dog food. Since there has been no reason to switch the freeze-dried and air-dried raw food that I serve to Roxy and sell to my clients, I have not tried others. But I serve this Primal brand to my cat. When deciding on this food for my cat, I of course checked into their ingredients and their source(s). I was satisfied with the quality. And Primal (just like most freeze-dried brands) sells food for both cats and dogs.
So based on this experience, I can definitely recommend Primal for dogs because this product is made in the U.S. And Primal clearly publishes that they source their high quality ingredients from safe food-producing countries.
Can I feed my dog home-cooked meals?
So up to now, I have discussed a few non-processed alternatives that are infinitely more nutritious and healthy for your dog. And, after considering all of the above, if you are hesitant to serve any of the above raw diets, the next best food for your dog would be home-made cooked food. You can ensure that you provide full nutrition for your dog by sourcing out expert recipes online.
One highly respected source that I can recommend for trusted recipes is Monica Segal. With her recipes, you can buy the ingredients at the grocery store when you buy groceries for yourself. And some of the items in your cart (or the bag delivered to your front door in this time of COVID-19) will be the same ones that you buy for you and your family!
Is there any high-quality canned dog food?
The only reason to choose high-quality canned food for your dog is if you are rejecting all of the above options. I found one brand via research I did for a client’s dog. He required a low-fat diet to accommodate his pancreatitis.
I learned from Barkside Bistro that dogs with this condition need to eat a low-fat diet with about 10% crude fat. He was always a really picky eater and preferred to eat Stella and Chewy, rather than fresh raw food.
Fortunately, Stella and Chewy food (of any flavour) has a value of 11% minimum crude fat when hydrated. So we were lucky this dog could continue to eat Stella and Chewy, even after his diagnosis!
But his pet parent asked me for a recommendation to add variety to his dog’s diet. He wanted to keep the menu interesting so his dog would not get tired of the Stella and Chewy.
K9 Natural canned dog food
I did the research. And I found that K9 Natural canned food had high-quality ingredients.
Plus, the crude fat was only 9% which was ideal for my client’s dog! I also served it to Roxy to see how she liked it. Thankfully, both dogs were easily able to digest it, and they both LOVED it!
Keep in mind, like all processed food, canned food manufacturing burns out the nutrients and then artificially adds nutrients back into the formula. That is, of course, why I recommend the better alternatives above, of freeze-dried and air-dried raw food. They are simply much better for your animal. However, this particular canned food is much superior to the average mainstream canned dog food. That’s because it has whole food supplements added into the formula rather than artificial processed supplements, and the brand limits preservatives. And since this product is made in New Zealand, we know that it’s likely one of the highest quality canned dog foods on the market.
Why do I recommend raw options before home cooked or canned?
I recommend raw options before home-cooked or canned dog food, because all the natural nutrients are already included in the fresh, freeze-dried, or air-dried raw food to provide maximum nutrition for your dog. Unfortunately, as mentioned, even in high-quality canned food, the nutrients are burned out to some degree during the processing. This is also true when you cook the food yourself!
Plus, I am sure you would agree, serving a cooked meal is much more complicated and laborious than serving the raw options. This is because you need to plan out, purchase, prepare, and cook all the ingredients, in order to make sure that you provide a fully balanced diet for your dog every day.
The processed pet food industry is not dominant everywhere
Here’s a story that Ms. Schiavone, from Barkside Bistro told me. This is one of hundreds she can recount where she witnessed a dog’s health significantly improve when he came off processed food and went on a raw food diet.
A Veterinarian in Toronto recommended this healthy senior dog eat prescription processed food!
A new customer came into her store and said that he recently moved to Toronto from British Columbia (B.C), Canada, with his 9 year old black lab. He explained that his dog only ate fresh/frozen raw food while they lived in B.C..
When this man moved to Toronto, the first thing he did was find a local veterinarian.
At the initial appointment, this veterinarian immediately recommended he switch his senior dog from a raw diet to a prescription processed joint-formula food. Even though his dog was perfectly healthy! Nor did his dog have any joint problems.
The man told Ms. Schiavone that back in B.C., he had never heard of special prescription processed food for dogs. It turns out that the majority of dogs eat raw or cooked food there.
The man believed that the prescribed special food to prevent his dog from developing joint problems must be good for his dog! Otherwise, why would a veterinarian recommend it? Even though his prior veterinarian (in B.C.) never mentioned any such food.
The dog became ill within only three weeks of eating the prescribed processed food due to poor nutrition
Gradually, within only three weeks of feeding his dog that prescription processed food, his pet became sluggish, lethargic, and had significantly reduced energy. The man recognized that the veterinarian’s prescribed food was harming his dog. So he searched for a raw dog food store. He found Barkside Bistro and put his dog back on raw food. And within days, his 9 year old black lab was back to his normal, healthy, high-energy self, now that he was consuming the kind of nutrition that dogs need for their best life. So you can see how raw dog food can provide exceptional nutrition.
Ms. Schiavone’s new customer told her that the processed pet food industry does not have much of a foot hold in B.C. (or should I say – paw hold!) as it does in Toronto.
Some of you may not be familiar with the culture in B.C., Canada’s most westerly province. British Columbians generally try to live in the most natural way possible, including healthy whole food diets and exercise for themselves. So it makes sense that they have not allowed the processed pet food industry to influence them in choosing truly healthy food for their dogs. Let us learn from them and from our local raw dog food experts.
Stay tuned for more! My next two blogs will have all the details you need to provide your dog with optimum nutrition!
Among the answers I will share in the next Judys Dog Report: Where do you buy these raw foods? How do you decide which type and how much? How do you introduce raw food to your pet? What are the cost comparisons? Are there any risks or draw backs to feeding raw? And much more!
You will even learn: What’s on Roxy’s menu?
Footnote: Please note that I am not a certified dog nutritionist. The advice I write about in this series about dog nutrition is based on my personal research in my quest to serve the healthiest food possible to my dog Roxy. As a result, I have been coaching countless clients during the past 15 years with the knowledge I have gained not only about nutrition but also in respect to all the other aspects that I discuss in my blog.
Yours in better dog care, Judy.
In the meantime, check out my earlier posts!
Here’s a recent newsletter by Dr. Karen Becker regarding pet diets, May 2, 2021.
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