A Balanced Approach to Your Pet’s Food

How many of you eat the same exact foods for each meal, everyday?   We would assume no one – right? We humans love variety and would get tired of the same repetition.  We wouldn’t be exposed to the variety of nutrition available to us, which may allow illness/inflammation or a weakened immune system to occur.   Same goes for our pets.   They need to be exposed to a variety of protein sources as well as vegetables and fruits.  While feeding a balanced whole, fresh food diet to your pet will provide the best nutrition, we understand the convenience of feeding kibble.

Think about why you feed the food you do?  Why did you first start feeding it?  When did you first start feeding it?  When was the last time you changed?   We’ve been brainwashed, in just the last 80 years or so, to believe one brand is best.  Who started the brainwashing?  Why the companies who make the food of course!  It’s just business for them, not what is good health.

We all know that there is a wide spectrum of foods on the market today certified complete and balanced by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) from the lowest store brand quality to the ultra-premium foods.  The difference? The quality of ingredients!   A very simple rule of thumb – the first 5-10 ingredients on the dog food label are some of the most important information you can use.  The first ingredient must be a named meat (beef not animal meal)!  No by-product, corn or wheat included.  The more named meat sources in those first 5-10 ingredients the better!   

Know that every manufacturer has a different mix of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.  But no one really knows what the magic formula is for the “perfect” dog food. One can reasonably come up with something that keeps dogs alive and even healthy, but who is to say that one dog food does it best?   By providing variety in your dog’s diet, he will receive multiple nutrients from different sources which prevents an excess or deficient reaction to the same ingredients day in and day out.

Has your dog been diagnosed with food sensitivity/intolerance or do you think he might have environmental allergies?  Recurrent ear infections, chewing and biting the paws, skin irritations and sensitive digestion are some symptoms of how both food sensitivities/intolerances and environmental allergies manifest in a dog.  A dog may have a true allergy but it might take up to three months for his body to react to a new ingredient in his diet. By rotating foods at least every three months, you can possibly head off an allergic reaction to a new food.  However, you must ensure that the ingredients are truly different. For instance, switching from a chicken & rice formula to a lamb & rice formula won’t do the trick.  You’ve got to switch to a food without chicken or rice (and different than the rest of the ingredients). Don’t worry, we can help you with this.

Kibble, be it baked or extruded, is still a long way from the natural form in which it began.  Nutrients are cooked out and then added back in various ways, including spray coating. A dog’s body, which requires moisture, needs to re- hydrate kibble, no matter what the quality.  The more moisture a dog gets from a natural food source, the more efficient the kidneys function with low stress. Just like humans, the closer the food is to its natural form, the more nutritious it remains.   The best way to get moisture into the diet is via a fresh raw diet.  Even once a week or using some nuggets as a treat goes a long way. You can also use one of our fresh stews, a quality canned diet or a rehydrated diet.

People food is BAD! – NOT!  You can toss some chicken in the dog’s bowl, put some ground beef aside or save the chicken broth to make a gravy.  Use your imagination but avoid foods that are bad for dogs, like onions. Also, use your best judgment and don’t give your dog four servings of mac n cheese, ice cream or food loaded with butter.   When preparing your own dinner, put aside some non-seasoned food and use it as a kibble food topper (but remember to feed these foods from your pup’s bowl and not from the table – no begging allowed).  

This brings us to an important point.  When starting out a food rotation diet, DO IT SLOWLY.  There’s no rush! While some dogs will handle the transition just fine, others might only be able to eat a handful of new kibble over the course of a couple weeks.  Once a dog is accustomed to switching foods, the process will be much easier.  

Remember it is all about the poop!
To start, mix 75% of the old food and 25% of the new food for 2-4 feedings.  If the poop is normal, switch to 50/50 until you use up most of the old food. Finally, as long as everything is still good, switch to 25/75 until the old food is gone.   You can also add supplements to the diet during transition such as slippery elm, pumpkin, sweet potato or goats milk to help with digestion and stool complications.

Understand no dog will do well on every food.  It is not one size fits all. Some dogs will be intolerant to certain brands, formulas and ingredients.  If your dog is not reacting well to a new food, don’t be afraid to try again. Transitioning may be hard but well worth your efforts in the end.

Adding variety to the diet can start as simple as adding a food topper to the bowl.  Bone broth, canned food, our stews, freeze dried, dehydrated, goat’s milk, kefir and more!  We’ve got so many it is too hard to list them all.  You can vary the topper each time.  When you are buying that bag of food, go ahead and buy a different topper.  Your dog will LOVE it!

Talk to us and schedule a time for a consultation.  Our advice is free!  Disclaimer: We are not veterinary professionals.  We are not here to tell you what to feed.  We offer only guidance for you to make the choice for your own dog.  You are your dog’s advocate.  Our knowledge comes from research, lectures, training and experience. We provide this information to you in order for you to make a more informed decision on the health and well-being of your dog.  Feel free to discuss this information with your vet. In the end, you get to decide what you think is best for your dog.