Dog Food Choices

Attitudes about dog foods have changed significantly over the last 5+ years.  The old advice to never feed dogs tablescraps is shifting toward “Supplementation with quality meats and slightly cooked vegetables might be a smart idea.” A percentage of the people ‘in the know’ carry the philosophy further, to “Why use prepared dogfood with chemicals and inferior ingredients, when I can make my own?”  Most of us frankly do not have the time or inclination to prepare our own home made dogfood.  We can guard our canines’ health by providing quality dry dogfood (“kibble”) instead of doggy junk food. 

Golden Retrievers (and some other breeds) commonly battle food allergies, sensitive skin, and a susceptibly toward cancer.  GRR notes obvious differences in the health, skin and coats of dogs surrendered to our program, directly relating to the quality of the food they have been fed over their lifetime.   The old adage is generally true.  You DO get what you pay for.

The first question is "What type of diet do you want for your canine?”

1) Raw (veggies and meat are raw, some include cooked grains, prepared at home)

Positive: food is in most natural form, great source of vitamins, enzymes and minerals.  Negative: Prep time (lengthy), working with raw meat and difficulty in "taking it on the road" for traveling. 

More info: Wendy Volhard's Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog     

2) "Just add meat" (commercially prepared)

Positive: Balanced diet, easy to measure and can choose what type (raw, cooked or freeze-dried) meat.

Negative: Cost of freeze-dried beef, working with raw meat and a high level of grains.

More info:

3) Cooked Diet (prepared at home)

Positive: Lots of recipes, create specific diet for special needs.

Negative: Prep time, need lots of freezer space to do meals in advance.

More info: Dr Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats.

4) Kibble (dry food which is commercially prepared, the “usual” kind)

The ingredients used in our canine's kibble are very important. Let’s figure out what the label is telling you about the ingredients.

What to look for in kibble:

Specific meat meal(lamb, chicken, turkey, beef etc), Dogs are omnivores with teeth designed for chewing & tearing.

Specific grain in it's whole state such as "ground brown rice" or "ground millet" versus "brewer's rice" which is fragments of a rice kernel.

Ingredients should be easy to recognize and understand.  Poultry digest (intestines and feces) and animal (any species) fat are vague terms

Ingredient Comparisons in 3 different kibbles:

Purina Dog Chow (first 4 ingredients):

Ground Yellow Corn > low digestibility (42%)

Soybean Meal> by-product of soybean oil processing.

Meat and Bone Meal> question to ask is "What kind of meat and bone?"

Beef Tallow with Vitamin E>What is beef tallow?

Nutro (first 4 ingredients):

Chicken Meal> very good! Very specific!

Ground Rice> Ditto from above.

Rice Gluten>by-product from processing rice. Not so good.

Lamb Meal>Specific and very good!

Innova (first 4 ingredients):

Turkey and Chicken>very good and specific!

Chicken Meal>very good and specific!

Whole ground barley>excellent (we've got the "whole" barley").

Whole ground brown rice>Ditto from above.

Many of the super premium kibbles are made from ingredients "fit for human consumption" and have fewer processed ingredients. Difference between premium and super premium is the quality of the ingredients and the digestibility of the food. If dogs are able to utilize the food better, you feed less food so you pick up less poop.

Super Premium Brands of Kibble

Premium Quality Brands of Kibble:

Flint River Ranch



Nutro (Natural Choice)

Solid Gold

Sensible Choice



Lynnie Goodman of “Wonder Dogs!?” has a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Behavior from the University of Vermont, and belongs to multiple training, behavior and rescue associations.  She uses positive reinforcement to teach canine obedience, clicker training, and agility.  Lynnie specializes in private consultations for behavior problems, generally with dogs, cats or birds.  She has done a fair amount of research in the area of canine diet and nutrition.  We asked Lynnie for an overview of food choices for our canine companions.

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