Trying to find the perfect diet for your dog, no matter the age, can be nerve-wracking. With all the advertisements claiming that their brand of food is the best, it can be nearly impossible to know what to believe. The good news is, there is a simple solution to this…read the labels!
All of the dog food manufacturer’s gravitate toward marketing that claims their food is ‘complete balanced nutrition for your dog’. Says who? We don’t all eat food that says ‘people food’ on the front. Some of us are overweight. Some of us are diabetic. Some of us need more calories. Some need less. Some of us need more iron. We need different diets as we age than we did when we were babies, toddlers, adolescents, etc. So how do the dog food manufacturers know that these foods will be good for your dog individually?
Easy answer: The dog food manufacturers are in the business of selling as much of their product as possible to the pet owners in their target market. They may not know that your dog has a corn or wheat allergy or that your dog is overweight and the fillers used in their products are adding to the problem. What they are aware of is that everyone’s dog has to eat something, and if they put a cute dog in the commercial who seems to be really enjoying the food, and yet another cute dog on the bag, you just might feel like it would make your dog look contented like that as well and you might buy the product.
Large dogs have different nutritional needs than small dogs. Older dogs have different nutritional needs than puppies and younger dogs. More active dogs may need different food than less active ones. Suddenly having a bag that has the words ‘DOG FOOD’ printed on it doesn’t seem like it is adequate.
Contemplate for a moment if you will, what it would be like if you went to a restaurant and instead of seeing a menu that had choices of what you would like to eat and items listed as side dishes, all you saw across the menu was complete balanced diet for humans. Would you be comfortable ordering that?
One of the more interesting things to ponder when you look at the major label dog foods is this: 4 of the 5 major pet food companies are owned by major food companies. This is a genius plan on their part. Guess where all the food that cannot be used for human consumption goes? If it is unfit to be made into human grade food, it gets shipped to the dog food manufacturer, which these companies, incidentally, happen to own. What a great way to make money. Instead of throwing out your trash, send it over to be processed and then charge thirty dollars or so a bag for the results! Why didn’t we think of that?
Since your companion is much more than just a ‘dog’ to you, put in some effort into researching what you are feeding him. Here are some basic things you may want to avoid if they are listed on the label of your dog’s food.
Fillers: these may be listed as propylene-glycol, animal digest or various types of corn products.
- Animal fat by product
It is usually a good idea to completely avoid non-specific ingredients. When the item is listed as simply ‘animal meal’ this could mean a variety of frightening things. It could even be that the manufacturer isn’t sure what kind of animal passed through the grinder. You should also watch out for phrases like ‘animal digest.’ To simplify this, this is the stomach and body contents of the animals that get processed. Avoid preservatives if at all possible. Some common preservatives are BHA and BHT, and sodium metabisulphate. You might also want to avoid foods that list sugar and sugar derivatives within the first several ingredients.
We will cover more extensively what these mean below. If you see these items listed in the ingredients on your bag, you may be unknowingly feeding your dog things such as corncobs, peanut hulls, soy, feathers, cottonseed hulls, straw, pulp, weeds or other plant refuse, rejects left over from grain milling that were not considered fit for human consumption, cow tongues, rotten meat, labels, id tags, metal, beaks, hooves, waste, restaurant grease, Styrofoam, cellophane, and in some truly disgusting cases discovered in the past, the euthanized bodies of other pets and road kill.
It is hard to believe that this could happen, but it does. If you would like to know further details beyond what I have shared here, search Google for “the truth about pet food.”
So that leads to the next logical question. What am I looking for on a dog food bag? What should I be happy if I see listed in the first seven to ten ingredients? A meat source should be the first ingredient in your dog food. Finding a food that has a specific meat meal listed as the first ingredient is outstanding. The word ‘meal’ indicates that it is a refined protein source. Your dog will benefit from the purity of the protein concentrate. You should try to avoid bags that have ‘by-product-meal’ listed as the main protein source, as this can mean the protein source is made of many different animals and is not as high in protein or as pure.
Commercial dog foods mostly use corn as the main ingredient. Of course anyone who works in the corn industry would tell you that it is a wonderful alternative to some unhealthy items that could rather be listed as the first ingredient. They would call the claims that corn is making us and our dogs all fat ‘unsubstantiated’ and denounce them as frivolity.
Corn meal has a glycemic index of 69. Barley has a glycemic index of 25. The glycemic index is a way of monitoring how much a certain food will affect the sugar levels in those who consume it. Corn has been touted as a good choice as a major ingredient in pet food because it has such a low glycemic index, but does it really? Corn has an index of 53, whereas wheat only has an index of 41. It seems that there could be other alternatives that would be even lower than corn products.
Aside from that, humans and animals alike do not digest corn well. It passes through the system mostly whole, which means that the animal is not breaking it down and getting any nutritional value from it, thus the reason why it is used as filler. Even though the corn is listed as a whole grain, it is most likely processed into powder before it is used in pet food. That way it does not come out whole in the pet’s stool. Corn will only be digested as well as it is broken down, because the body is incapable of breaking it down further. It is also a common source of allergies in pets, causing a variety of problems including breathing issues, frequent need to empty bowels and sometimes hair loss.
Corn is a carbohydrate and is mostly sugar. It does not have a high nutritional value for dogs or humans. When choosing a dog food for your pet, you should look for labels that list meat as the first ingredient on the bag. Meat contains the fat and protein that will keep your pet healthy and energetic for years to come.
There have been studies in the past that suggested too much protein in a dog’s diet may be responsible for liver failure. More recent studies suggest this is not true. When was the last time you saw two wolves on a nature show fighting over an ear of corn? Dogs were designed to eat meat and live on high protein diets. The benefits of a meat- based diet will always outweigh those of a grain-based one.
When you are reading the label of a dog food bag, the formulation they are using should have a guaranteed analysis of at least 30% crude protein listed. You should also look for a food with no food coloring that has been added. If the food is natural, food coloring will not be needed.
There are many commercial foods available from dog food companies that truly care about what your pet is eating. These holistic and natural food companies offer guarantees that everything in their product is human-grade, natural food. Many of them are owned by small family farms that produce their own livestock and grains and are fully willing to back up their claims by allowing people to visit the facility where the dog food is created.
Undoubtedly, you are going to pay more for a better grade of food, but it is worth it to know that your dog is getting the nutrition it needs to grow healthy and strong and have a long, full life. When the first ingredient in the dog food is meat, it will cost much more for the company to produce, so naturally it will be more costly for the consumer. I would rather pay more and get what I pay for than guess what is in some of the other brands.
You should always keep an eye on your dog when you introduce a new food to ensure that the dog does not have any negative reaction. If you notice that his eyes begin looking dull or his coat loses its sheen, you will know that your dog’s diet is missing a critically important component.
A few of the signs that the food you choose may not be working well for your dog may be, rapid weight gain when there are no other dietary or exercise changes, rapid weight loss, dry, flaky skin, overly oily skin, a strange odor coming from coat and skin, dull eyes or coat, or stools that are not formed well or are overly hard and dry in appearance. You might have to cycle through a few foods before you find one that works well for your pet.
When reading the feeding guidelines you should consider the recommendations as an approximation, not a strict rule. Your dog will require more or less food based on his or her size, height, weight, medical needs and age. If your dog is very active, it may require more nourishment than a dog that spends most of its time in the house.
There are some pet foods available on the market today that are breed specific. Getting breed specific is good and these foods may have some advantage over run-of-the-mill dog food, but they are not obligatory. Getting breed specific may be helpful if you wish to show your dog or breed them, as the nutritional items in these types of dog foods have been lab tested and are balanced for that specific breed of dog. In most cases, the cost may be prohibitive to buy these foods especially if you have multiple dogs.
Another alternative to buying commercial dog food is to make it yourself. Some people may not want the hassle or have the time to do this, but for those who do, it gives you peace of mind. When you make the food at home, you know exactly what is in it, and you can avoid things you know your dog has allergies to or has an aversion to. Plus, you don’t have to spend hours in the dog food isle reading labels to find out what you are feeding to your little pal.
You can utilize many different combinations of fruit, vegetables, starches and meat to make a proper diet for your pet. Most of the recipes do not take very long to prepare and make multiple servings. If you wish for the peace of mind of knowing that you are feeding only wholesome, natural ingredients without preservatives, food coloring and additives, making your own dog food is a brilliant option.
If you are going to make your own dog food, a simple formula to use is as follows. Make sure the food sources are divided properly.
As for protein sources, here are some good examples. Lean cuts of lamb, chicken with the skin removed, trimmed beef, salmon, ground turkey, organs. You may boil, bake or steam them but try not to add seasoning. Your dog will not mind if you don’t. It is a good idea to avoid feeding fish more than 1-2 times per week because of the high mercury levels found in ocean goods.
Starches that may be decent choices to add to your pet food are brown rice, oatmeal, flax, stone-ground wheat, sweet-potato or pumpkin. You may also use small amount of whole-wheat pasta. Some people choose to use potato.
Realize that these foods do not have any preservatives as the commercial dog foods do, so they will only last for up to four days in the refrigerator. You may make containers ahead and freeze them for later use.
Good sources of fruits/vegetables may include carrots, peas, green beans, cooked celery, apples, blueberries, sweet potato or yam, potato, zucchini.
You may also want to lay in a supply of chicken stock as it can add flavor.
If you are concerned about your dog getting the proper nutrition you can always add a daily multi-vitamin intended for dogs once per day. Calcium is the number one deficiency that happens when dogs are fed a home-cooked diet, which can lead to nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism, causing the bones to weaken and soften until they fracture. If you are cautious about making sure your dog is fed a balance of Carbohydrate, protein and fiber this should not be a concern.
You may puree the items together to make a processed style food, or simply shred or chop them to make a chunk style food. An example of a simple recipe for dog food could be as follows:
½ lb. of chicken breast
2 cups of chicken stock or broth
1 cup of instant brown rice
¾ cup of shredded carrots
Dice chicken into bite sized cubes. Add chicken, carrots and stock to a medium sized pot. Allow to cook for 30-40 minutes on medium heat or until chicken is tender. Reduce heat to low and add rice. Boil until rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Allow to cool. Makes 5-7 servings.
There are bottomless possibilities when it comes to making dog food at home. The protein balance is the most important part of the recipe. Making sure you have a low-fat, quality protein is the key. If you feed your dog too many table scraps and high-fat foods, you can cause peritonitis. Not to mention, Chihuahuas are prone to easy weight gain, so even small amounts of very high fat foods when fed frequently can cause unhealthy weight gain.
Whatever you choose to feed your companion, you must find a system that works for you and your dog. If you have a work schedule that prevents you from being able to prepare the meals yourself or if you would rather just feed bagged food, try to ensure that your dog is getting the best brand of dog food available. The rule is, the cheaper the dog food, the cheaper the ingredients. Here are some of the better choices.
Canidae all natural pet food-human grade, fine quality ingredients that are free of corn, wheat, soy and fillers.
Holistic select-hypoallergenic formulas free of allergy inducing products.
Natura– Uses only high quality whole food ingredients, no additives or fillers.
Castor and pollux pet works-Organic dog foods free of fillers and artificial ingredients.
Avoderm– this is the food I chose to feed my Chi’s when they were pups. The results were a beautiful, shiny coat and bright eyes. There is some discrepancy over whether avocado is a healthy ingredient for dog food, since large quantities of persin can be harmful for a dog. I never had any issues with this type of food, but your results may vary.
Berkley and Jensen– the first ingredients are chicken and chicken meal. After that is brown rice, oats, rice bran and chicken fat. This product has a good protein source and also good fiber and carbohydrate sources.
Breeder’s choice active care– this food has the added benefit of glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints.
Brothers complete allergy formula-brothers complete may be one of the very best dog foods available. The first few ingredients are turkey meal, peas, dried eggs, tapioca and chicken fat. There are no controversial ingredients and the food has one of the best protein balances available on the market. They also make a grain free variety.
Canine caviar lamb and pearl millet dinner-The first few ingredients in this food are dehydrated lamb, pearl millet, lamb fat, sun-cured alfalfa. This food does contain garlic, which is a controversial ingredient, but largely is an excellent balance of proteins, carbohydrate and healthy fats.
Chicken soup for the dog lover’s soul-The first few ingredients of this food are chicken, turkey, chicken meal, turkey meal, cracked pearled barley, whole grain brown rice, oatmeal millet and white rice. This food is relatively high in protein and has a good balance of other necessary minerals and ingredients.
Earthborn holistic- the first few ingredients are chicken meal, white fish meal, oatmeal, ground barley, ground brown rice, rye flour, potatoes and sweet potatoes. There are a few controversial ingredients in this food, including garlic, tomato pomace and canola oil.
First-mate dry dog food-The first few ingredients in this dog food are chicken meal, pearled barley, oat meal, brown rice, chicken fat, herring meal and fish oil. There are a couple of controversial ingredients in this food, including garlic oil and tomato pomace. They also make a grain-free variety of this food.
Fresh-pet slice and serve dog food (rolls)-This is another of the best foods available on the market, with quality human-grade ingredients and absolutely no preservatives, this food is the next best thing to making it yourself. The first few ingredients listed in the chicken formula are chicken, turkey, eggs, poultry liver, chicken broth, carrots, brown rice and peas. This food also contains chelated minerals which make them easier for your dog’s digestive system to absorb.
Gaea all life stages dry food-the first few ingredients in this dog food are chicken meal, turkey meal, brown rice, lamb meal, chicken fat, salmon meal, herring oil, dried chicken liver and alfalfa. This is a well-balanced food that has an excellent listing of protein sources.
Halo dry dog food-The first few ingredients in this food are chicken, eggs, pea protein, oats, vegetable broth, pearled barley, and chicken fat. This food has a first-rate protein analysis.
Innova Prime dry dog food-The first few ingredients are salmon, salmon meal, red lentils, green lentils, sunflower oil, herring, peas, flaxseed, pea fiber. This food has a higher-than-average protein analysis and is made with antioxidants for a health boost.
Merrick classic dry dog food-The first few ingredients in this food are deboned beef, pork meal, barley, salmon meal, peas, brown rice, sweet potato and pork fat.
Nature’s logic organic-The first few ingredients in the dry, chicken variety of this food are chicken meal, millet, chicken fat, montmorillonite, brewer’s yeast, flaxseed. This food has an admirable protein rating and good overall blend of nutrient rich ingredients.
Orijen adult dry dog food-The first ingredients listed on this dog food are fresh boneless salmon, salmon meal, herring meal, fresh boneless herring, fresh boneless walleye, russet potato, sweet potato, peas and salmon oil.
Pinnacle peak protein formula-The first few ingredients in this food are chicken meal, chicken, potatoes, chicken fat. This is a very above average food when it comes to getting maximum protein.
Pioneer Naturals grain free-The first few ingredients in this food are listed as venison meal, yams, freeze-dried sweet potato, freeze-dried pumpkin, blueberries, bok choy, Zucchini, Squash, Kale, freeze-dried papaya, and cranberries. It is above average in the protein category and has a nice balance of other nutrients.
Amicus dry dog food-The first few ingredients listed for this brand are turkey, chicken meal, red lentils, peas, pea starch, salmon, chicken fat, salmon oil, turkey meal, salmon meal and flax. This food has a good blend of proteins and fibers
Back to basics dry dog food-The first few ingredients in this dog food are listed as turkey giblets, turkey meal, turkey, chicken meal, tapioca, pea protein, poultry fat and dried whole egg. This food is far above average for protein and is full of omega three fatty acids which is great for digestion and absorption.
Wysong ultimate performance-The first ingredients listed for this food are organic chicken, chicken giblets, poultry meal, ground brown rice, ground oat groats, poultry fat, eggs, whey, dried yogurt. This food has an above average protein analysis and many vitamins and nutrients your dog will benefit from.
Wellness core dry dog food-The first few ingredients listed for this dog food are deboned turkey, turkey meal, chicken meal, peas, potatoes, dried ground potatoes, chicken fat. This food does contain tomato pomace, which is a controversial ingredient. This food has a good protein/fat balance and a lot of healthy ingredients found in natural dog foods.
Victor grain-free dry dog food-The first few ingredients of this dog food are listed as beef meal, sweet potato, chicken meal, peas, chicken fat, pork meal, and alfalfa meal. This food has a good mix of protein sources and a lot of fiber.
Timberwolf wild and natural dry dog food-The first few ingredients listed in this dog food are chicken meal, chicken, herring meal, potatoes, chicken fat, dried chicken liver, sweet potatoes, herring oil, eggs, kelp and alfalfa sprouts. This food has a higher than average protein analysis and is balanced well for adult dogs.
Taste of the wild dry dog food-The first ingredients listed for this dog food are duck, duck meal, chicken meal, egg product, sweet potatoes, peas, chicken fat, potatoes, roasted quail, roasted duck, and smoked turkey. This food may have some of the best quality ingredients available anywhere, blended together to form a perfect balance of nutrients and protein rich ingredients.
Some of the other foods you may be interested in looking into are:
Healthwise dry dog food
Laughing dog dry dog food
Life’s abundance dry dog food
Mulligan stew dry dog food
Natural balance organic
Natural planet organics
Nature’s variety prairie dry food
Newman’s own organics
Pelican bay dry dog food
Perfectly natural dog
Pinnacle dog food dry formula
4health dry dog food
Addiction dog food
Artemis Professional formula dry food
Whole earth farms dry dog food
If you are interested in finding some wet foods for your Chi, the following list may be good choices.
Blue Buffalo Family Favorites
Evanger’s Hand Packed
Evo Dog Food
Well Fed Dog frozen food
Tripett Dog Food
Castor and Pollux Natural Ultramix
Canidae Grain Free Pure
Nature’s Logic Canned
Vital Dog Food
Great Life Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Wilderness
Kiwi Canine pure
Old Mother Hubbard Canned
Taste of the Wild
All of the above dog foods are good choices if you wish to feed your dog a commercial product. There are apps for cell phones now that can alert you to any recalls that have been done on dog foods and other products, which may take some of the stress out of knowing if what you are feeding your dog is safe. You may also go to www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/newpetfoodrecalls/.com for a list of the most current recalls.
Now that we have covered the basics of dog food, let’s return to safety for a moment. Here is a list of food items that you should make sure to keep away from your dog. Some of them are outright poisonous and others are just controversial, but I have included them so you can come to your own decision about whether to feed them to your companion.
Again, the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is 888-426-4435
Avocados- avocados contain persin and large quantities may be fatal if ingested.
Onions and garlic- can cause anemia
Caffeine- can cause caffeine poisoning, to which there is no known cure or antidote. Can be fatal.
Macadamia nuts- macadamia nuts are extremely poisonous to dogs and can cause an array of symptoms, including fever, tremors, weakness and death.
Bones-many people still give their dogs bones, but they can be very dangerous. If the bones splinter and fragment puncturing vital organs, it could be fatal.
Fruit seeds and pits- especially cherries, peaches, plums and persimmons contain cyanide. Be particularly careful if you have any of these fruit trees in your yard as the fruit can fall from the tree and the pits may be consumed by your dog.
Raw meat, fish and eggs- all of these items contain live bacteria which may cause parasites and bacterial infections.
Sugar-too much sugar in your Chi’s diet may induce diabetes and cause weight gain which can greatly reduce the lifespan.
Yeasted Dough- the dog’s stomach will work as an oven, causing the dough to expand and can cause intestinal blockages and severe abdominal distress.
Salt- Sodium ion poisoning. May cause dehydration, seizures and death.
Nutmeg- very poisonous to dogs and may cause death if ingested in large quantities.
Baking soda- may cause death if large quantities are consumed.
Always take care when serving food that contains these ingredients that your dog does not have access to it. Unfortunately they do not always have the knowledge of what is good for them or bad. If you are having a party or placing food where it can be easily reached, please put your dog in their safe area before serving.
If you feel like you aren’t being fair when you don’t give your dog everything you eat, you might actually be doing him a favor. Getting into the routine of feeding your dog snacks that are meant for humans can be a costly mistake when it comes to the health of your dog. Chips, crackers and other human snacks were not meant to be part of a k-9 diet. If you must feed your dog something other than dog food, try banana chips, fresh bananas or carrot sticks. It is better for their teeth anyway.