Apr 10

Dog Food Bottom Line

Dog Food Bottom Line....what really WORKS?

Dog food, as in exactly what you feed your dog, has become a hot topic in recent years.  We no longer simply have to wade through aisles of  commercial dry and canned food to make the best choice. Now the savvy dog owner is also faced with choices such as frozen raw food diets, and even the option of concocting a homemade diet at home, of either cooked or raw food choices. Dog magazines and websites are simply full of opinions on the subject, and you may find that the more you read, the more confused you become.

What is really BEST for your dog? Good question. After over 30 years of being "in dogs", including feeding show dogs, rescued dogs and literally thousands of boarding dogs, I have experimented with many different foods.  I have nine dogs here at present, and on a typical month I am purchasing 3 or 4 different types of dry food and  2 or more types of canned from specialty pet supply stores, plus buying meat at the grocery store for one of my older canine buddies who has some special needs.

There has been a lot of confusion brought about by writers who only own one dog, but become "instant experts" because they like to evaluate the ingredients written on the bag. Unfortunately, a few of these folks have their own magazine and have developed their own rating system. It is a rating system which has nothing at all to do with knowing dogs and evaluating how a dog's skin, coat, digestive system and overall health respond to a food. Cranberries might be a healthy food, but if they make me itch or upset my stomach, then they aren't healthy for me, and the same goes for your dog!

But here is the good news...I have found a couple of commercial diets that I can feed to practically any dog with positive results, so I want to share a word or two about them here. Oddly,  these foods are not the ones with the fanciest holistic ingredients or the highest prices.  I have tried almost all of the highly rated (based on ingredients alone) holistic dog foods, and have not found one that produces good results for all of my dogs. There may be one out there that has simply been out of my reach price-wise, so I cannot say for certain that one cannot be found, especially if you are feeding only one dog. You only have to customize to that one dog's needs, versus I have to always have food here that can be fed to a variety of dogs.

Here is what I rank as very important, as far as what a dog food needs to deliver if it is going to be fed to my canine crew:

1.  It must be highly digestible. Even my dogs with sensitive tummies must be able to eat it without having loose stools, vomiting or gas issues.

2.  It must produce good skin and coats. It must not cause allergic reactions in sensitive dogs--must not cause them to bite their feet, have itchy skin or  itchy red ears.

3.  If fed long term, must produce gorgeous coats and good weight and muscle tone.

4.  If fed long term,  must produce dogs that live long, healthy lives (in comparison to other dogs of their same breed or mix).

You might be expecting a long list of commercial dog food that meet the above four requirements, but unfortunately, the list is not long.  There are two types of dry dog food and one type of canned food that has consistently met my expectations.  The dry foods are Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach (Salmon and Rice formula) and Eagle Pack Original Adult  formula. The one variety of canned food I always keep on hand is also Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach (Salmon and Rice).  I presently feed most of my dogs dry, but use the canned as a mixer for picky eaters, or to hide a pill in when someone is on medication. My champion Siberian Huskies Martin and Dakota, fed this diet, lived long healthy lives--we lost Martin last year just a few months before he turned 15, and Dakota when she was 15 and a half.

Yikes, you may say, when you realize that neither one of these foods fits into the" holistic" category. Eagle Pack does make holistic formulas and I have tried two of these formulas.  Just like most holistic formulas that include multiple ingredients, my Poodles with sensitive skin issues had flares, and at least one of my dogs with a sensitive tummy had digestive upset.  So why pay $10 more a bag for the holistic formula, when the original formula delivers better results for my dogs?  I have fed dry food that was grain free and cost me close to $60 a bag, but if I can feed something that runs $35-40 a bag and my dogs stay healthy and beautiful, why not do so?

Since we have addressed one myth (that holistic is always better, which my experience says is untrue), let's hit just a couple more before we leave this topic.  First, raw food diets are not always better.  Been there, done that.  Also have friends who have been feeding raw diets  yet have still faced health issues in their dogs (such as bloat).   Also don't forget that things such as the salmonella problems found from time to time with commercial food are certainly there in raw food diets as well - just look at all the human outbreaks that have come from contaminated hamburger and chicken sources.  When I was feeding raw, one of my dogs came down with bacterial hepatitis, which my vet felt was directly related to her diet.  Yet I have other acquaintances whose dogs have been fed a raw diet for years, with great results.

As far as truly top notch commercial food, again, you have to look at more than the ingredient list. Do you trust the company that makes the product? Personally I trust Wysong more than any other dog food company, so when I have dogs with special needs and I know my schedule is going to be such that I cannot be spending a lot of time in the kitchen feeding fresh food that month, then I make sure I have Wyson on hand.  I love their new Epigen kibble, which is starch free (don't be fooled by grain free products that are full of potatoes)---Epigen is 90% meat!  Also, they have dehydrated raw meat products as well, such as Archetype, that the dogs just love. Inexpensive? No. But I currently have an older dog that is having trouble with anemia, and it is easier for me to keep these products on hand than to constantly be trying to figure out what type of raw meat she can handle, and trying to keep the right amount on hand in the refrigerator, so that I use it before it goes bad, or deal with the process of dividing and putting it into ziploc bags when I buy it, etc. Although I simply cannot afford to feed all of my dogs and my foster dogs Wysong, I try to keep it on hand and feed it to special needs dogs, and give it as a special treat to my other dogs occasionally as well.

Last....I just cannot talk about dog food without addressing the fact that dog food companies have tried to brainwash us into believing that keeping our dogs on one type of food, for life, will give them complete and balanced nutrition.  Nonsense.  Each dog, just like each person, has a unique set of nutritional requirements. We will come much closer to making sure our dogs remain healthy if we feed them variety, versus always the same. That is one reason I am familiar with a lot of different commercial foods, because my dogs are not fed the same thing every day.  There are brands not mentioned in this article that I have on hand which some of my dogs are given on a rotated diet--such as Eukanuba Small Breed Small Bites and Eukanuba Adult Maintenance, which work well for sensitive tummy dogs and picky eaters but not so well for my allergic prone kids so I don't give it to everyone.  And yes, when my geriatric Poodle gets picky,  I do boil chicken, ground turkey and lean cuts of beef for him. Sometimes he eats canned pumpkin or has slices of raw apples or a carrot as a treat, as do my other dogs.  Do you think you would remain healthy if you ate exactly the same thing day in and day out?

Bottom line is.....feed what WORKS BEST for your dog. Don't be swayed by fancy marketing techniques.  Find several varieties of food that work, even if they are all within the same brand, instead of always feeding the same thing.  You are the one that knows what agrees with your dog. Since you pay the vet bills if chronic ear infections, skin issues or tummy upsets pop up,  you are the person most motivated to feed something that produces good health!  If you aren't happy with your current results, try one of the foods recommended, and let me know what you think.  As always, I love to hear from my readers.


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Comments (2)
  • Barry O  - And what of all those field dogs..

    and competing sled dogs apparently being fed on corn based diets..I can't confirm..but I believe there is a pretty good representation worldwide being fed Purina and the like..dogs that run, jump and swim as their vocation...are they not thriving and living long healthy lives???

  • Melanie S

    Yes, I think many hunters and field trial people use brands like Purina and even food of lesser price that contains even more grain. As far as sled dog people, the ones I have known who are serious racers often use a brand like Eagle, Iams or Purina but...they add fresh meat to the diet daily. Sled dogs have rather unique needs and they need the additional meat or fish to keep up their red blood cell counts.

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