Deciding on the type of dog food you provide is one of the most important decisions you will ever make for your puppy or older dog. Dog food nutrition directly influences every aspect of your dog's life. Things like how puppies grow, their behavior habits, health, overall well-being and appearance are all closely connected to the nutrition we provide - it's a big responsibility.
With all the recent publicity and concern with the dog food recall of 2008 the spotlight has been aimed fairly and squarely at the big commercial dog food companies. Us dog lovers are finally becoming more aware and educated about providing wholesome, nutritionally balanced meals for our dogs. So where do we start in our search to find the best dog food? What are our options, and who can we trust or even believe?
Is "Premium Dog Food" the answer we've been searching for or "Natural Dog Food" or how about "Healthy Dog Food"? Maybe the best dog foods are "Holistic", "Organic" or even "Lite"? And then there's "Human Grade All Natural" - does anyone actually know what all these fancy terms mean? And what about "Raw Dog Food"? Is it what our dogs require, or is it dangerous? How about "Raw Meaty Bones"? Are bones safe? Maybe we have to prepare all of our dog's meals from scratch to ensure its quality and nutritional value?
Choosing the best dog food can be an overwhelming decision - but why does it have to be so hard? I know from personal experience it can be difficult to see through all of the conflicting views, hype, marketing tactics and secrecy surrounding the dog food industry. After years of experimenting with different dog foods and lots of research I have reached an unfortunate conclusion. I feel that the vast majority of the big commercial dog food companies are far more focussed on extracting the money from our pockets rather than the health and wellbeing of our precious dogs.
So when I set out to determine the best dog food available my main focus was always the health, vitality and longevity of my dogs - I want my dogs to thrive. I hope this article will help you to determine the very best puppy food for your dogs and make your feeding decision clearer.
1. Commercial Dog Food: This includes the packaged foods you find at your local supermarket, pet store or veterinarian. Commercial dog food is available in dry, semi dry and wet (canned). All the big names that we know so well are represented in this group, such as Diamond dog food, Pedigree, Iams and Science Diet. Is the best dog food located in this group? Not likely.
2. Raw Dog Food: This is the group growing in popularity. It includes the raw dog food and bones you prepare yourself or pre-packaged diets like BARF and Steve's Real Food 100% natural dog food diet.
3. Homemade Dog Food: Anything you put together yourself at home. Is following good homemade dog food recipes the best choice for our dogs?
The sad truth is that most of these commercial dog food products (regardless of what fancy name is printed on the label) are rubbish - these big companies are taking us for a ride. It's bad enough that they are happy to deceive us and rip us off blind, but the thing that really gets to me is that they appear to have no regard whatsoever for the health or wellbeing of our dogs.
Not all commercial dog foods are killing our dogs - just most of them. Most of these products are woefully deficient in key nutrients and are chock full of toxic rubbish and fillers (like grain) that provide no nutritional benefit to our dogs.
Some of the ingredients hiding behind the laughably inept labeling laws and fuzzy feel good marketing tactics are: Indigestible waste products, colors, dyes, toxins, pesticides, chemicals, harmful preservatives (BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin) and antibiotics. It doesn't stop there, then you've got a wide range of dead, diseased, disabled or dying animals prior to their visit to the slaughter house added to the mix. You may even find some so called animal "by-products". Basically all of the rubbish that other industries can't or won't use can end up in your dog's dinner bowl. To top it all off any nutrition that is present in this toxic cocktail is then ruined by the cooking processes used.
Just imagine if you or I were able to lay all of the contents of a typical commercial dog food product out on a table in front of us. I've got no doubt we would be at first surprised, then disgusted and angry - have you ever tried to read the label on a can of dog food?
Thankfully not all dog food companies take us for ignorant fools. Some have even realised that we are capable of looking beyond the hype and doing some research of our own - some may even care about our dogs. Andrew Lewis has recently conducted a detailed study into the merits of commercial dog foods. He has now identified 9 brands of commercial dog food that passed his strict criteria and are safe to feed to our dogs. I can't divulge his findings here for copyright reasons (which is fair enough considering that Andrew put in all the time, resources and money to discover the truth). What I can tell you is that I feed two brands of commercial dog food to my dogs - I still do even after reading Andrew's special report;). I feed Wellness (a couple of different varieties) and Canidae. You can access Andrew's special report here - Dog Food Secrets - Confidential Dog Food Report (Gold Package).
Raw dog food is a fairly broad term as there are many variations on this feeding method. The common thread with raw food enthusiasts is that they believe feeding raw is the most natural way to feed a dog. Raw foodies believe that this is the way dogs have successfully evolved and that eating a raw diet is the way nature intended dogs to get their nutrition. The raw food diet is said to replicate how a dog would eat in the wild. A raw dog food diet is sometimes referred to as an "all natural" diet as ingredients are generally free from chemicals, preservatives, additives, by-products and fillers (like worthless grains).
Some raw food proponents love to give big meaty bones and others won't. The same applies with fruit and vegetables - some people say that vegetable matter is a natural part of a wild dogs diet, gathered from the stomach of their prey. The following is an example of the real whole foods that are included in a raw dog food diet. These ingredients are usually organic or all-natural produce: Chicken, lamb, pork, salmon, turkey, kangaroo, rabbit, quail and organ meat. You may also find raw meaty bones and a long list of fresh fruit and vegetables. Plus you'll find nutritious ingredients such as eggs, kelp, yogurt, flax seed meal and other supplements. Compare this list to what you read on a commercial dog food label - there's simply no comparison.
Raw foodies argue that a raw food diet provides the enzyme rich nutrients and amino acids in a perfect unaltered state - which is easily digested. They believe that the raw dog food diet leads to fewer visits to the Vet, strengthened immune systems and less allergy and disease. They also point to the over-all health and appearance of their dogs for proof that the raw diet is the right way to go. Raw foodies report increased longevity and reproductive capacity in their dogs. Another benefit of feeding raw is healthy teeth and gums and well developed jaws, neck and shoulder muscles (from all the chewing).
On the other hand detractors of feeding raw focus on the danger of foodborne illness through the threat of bacteria like salmonella and E. coli. Some also say that it is difficult to feed a nutritionally balanced meal the raw way.
One tip I would suggest if you are considering the raw feeding option for your dogs is to go out and visit a breeder or friend who already feeds a raw dog food diet. Have a chat with them and take a really good look at their dogs - the health of our dogs is always what matters most.
Preparing your dog's meals from scratch has many benefits, including the complete control of all meals served. You know exactly what goes into every meal (and where it was sourced) and you also know that it has been prepared in a clean environment.
It does take an organized person to set up a homemade feeding plan and then prepare all of the daily meals. The homemade dog food option also comes with the added responsibility of formulating nutritionally balanced meals (proteins, vitamins etc.) and meeting the calorie requirements for your individual dog. If you arm yourself with some good dog food recipes and get into a routine this process is not all that difficult to maintain.
Typical homemade dog meals include big meaty stews, healthy soups, pies, vegetables and maybe some raw bones every now and then.
For hundreds of well thought out and nutritionally balanced dog food recipes check out this resource - Dog Food Secrets. You'll also learn how to calculate the calorie requirements of your dog and discover all of the foods you must avoid feeding. Many dogs who have previously had skin allergies or other common health complaints have thrived when switched over to a good homemade dog food diet.
For further research into the best dog food to feed your dog I recommend this ebook - dog food secrets. This package includes which foods you must avoid, the commercial dog foods that are high quality, dog food reviews, dog food comparisons, your dogs nutritional requirements, a calorie chart, the best brand of dog food and loads of tasty dog food recipes.
You may also be interested in this page of my site - how to train a puppy.
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Please consult the services of a Professional Dog Trainer, Behaviorist or Veterinarian before implementing any of the advice contained on this site.