When I first graduated from Vet School, I was convinced that dogs needed to eat 'balanced, commercial' food and, more specifically, that Hill's Rx diets were the best (well, they did fund the Nutrition section at KSU...) but, over the years, I have been firmly convinced that (my) dogs do much better on a much more natural diet. Rather than "complete and balanced", chemically fortified & preserved, with ingredients sourced from God only knows where, my dogs eat simple, raw and/or minimally processed foods from companies that source their food locally, and/or use organic and free range or human grade foods, minimally process the foods, and do not source anything from China. Dogs are carnivores...plain and simple. While they are not obligate carnivores (like cats who MUST eat meat) their GI systems are designed to eat animal source foods. Because they are not obligate carnivores, they can process grains, etc, but that does not mean that this food is optimal or even good for them...it simply means that they can survive on foods with cheaper ingredients than real meat. But there is a big difference between survive and thrive. It is a testament to the constution of the dog that so many get along 'fine' on commercial food with inferior ingredients. But that is not what I choose for my Elves.
Yes, I DO spend more money on dog food than I do on my own food...and *I* also eat simple, natural, unrefined, mostly organic foods but, not being a carnivore, I pass on meat and fowl, saving that expensive protein for the dogs.
So, what do my dogs eat? They eat a variety of raw foods using frozen, freeze-dried, dehydrated formulations. And, a special, custom made kibble appropriate for each dog's profile (age, activity, size, etc.)
Below I will share with you information and links on the specific foods I am currently using. Our day begins with the kibble, by Pawtree. This represents the least part of their diet...they only get a little, more of a snack than a meal as I believe the raw foods are best. Each of the girls can have their own grain-free, USA made formula designed to meet the varying needs of a senior dog, middle aged dog, and young active dogs. For more information on Pawtree foods and supplements visit www.pawtree.com/elfinhav
News Flash Janary 2015...Pawtree has lowered their prices on their food. This was welcome news for us as the Elves really prefer Pawtree kibble to any other kind, even going to far as to pick out the 'other' kibbles and leave them in the bowl!
Joanne V Baldwin DVM
Dinner varies as we regularly rotate protein sources (despite the old wives' tale that you should feed dogs the same food and not change foods for fear of upsetting tummies, long term exposure to the same protein is more likely to result in food sensitivities than rotating protein sources.)
Frozen, rawfood is the first component of dinner. My dogs love Darwin's Natural Selections, a frozen, balanced blend of free range meats and organic fruit and vegetables. The bones and connective tissues are included, ground up so as not to be an issue for dogs that don't chew (which most don't.) There are beef, chicken, turkey, duck, bison varieties. I wean my puppies directly onto Darwins as their first solid food and the results have been excellent. No GI issues as I had at weaning time with canned or commercial kibble foods. Darwin's ships their food overnight, in coolers with dry ice and I have never had an issue with thawed product. They also have a trial offer of 10 lbs of food for $14.95 with free shipping so you can try it without great expense. Freezing kills most pathogens so the food is reasonably safe raw but, as with ANY raw food, you should handle it with care, wash hands and prep surfaces after preparing. (I was very disappointed to see AVMA come out against raw feeding, citing dangers of pathogen exposure to discourage the natural feeding of our dogs! For anyone that eats meat or chicken, etc, it's simply a matter of taking the same common sense precautions you do with handling your own food. I DO wash my dogs' faces after they eat as they sleep in bed with me and are great kissers.
They also really love the ground meat/tripe/bone mixes from www.haretoday.com in PA. No veggies or fruits in these products...just frozen meat(including organs and tripe) and bone.
Freeze-dried rawfoods provide most of the same benefits of frozen or fresh raw foods but with more convenience and less 'risk' of bacterial exposure. Stella & Chewys, my main freeze dried food even labels its foods as the 'safe' raw food as pressurization and freeze drying destroy pathogens. It also comes in a variety of protein sources, as small patties which can be fed dry, or reconstituted with water. Again, I rotate through the protein sources, switching with each bag. Some examples of varieties are beef, duck/goose, chicken, lamb, pheasant, rabbit, venison, surf/turf. When I am traveling, or at shows, I feed this dry, along with dry kibble, so their faces remain clean for showing. No refrigeration is required and feeding just doesn't get any easier than this. The dogs love these patties.
Other dried raw foods I use are Primal and Wysong archetype. Primal comes in nuggets and I use the Wysong burgers, which are large and crunchy so are broken into pieces. Stella & Chewys and Primal also come in frozen versions but I have not tried those. They are available on a variety of websites so just ask Mr GOOGLE where to find them. Wysong products (they also make great human supplements) are available at www.wysong.net.
Dehydrated Raw foods are the other mainstay of our menu. These are blends of meat and vegetables+/-fruit that are meant to be reconstituted with water. They, like the other components of our menu already listed, are complete and balanced within themselves. I usually combine some of each to dinner. The Honest Kitchen makes several varieties of grain free dehydrated foods, all human grade and made in a human food facility. Embark (turkey), Force (chicken), Love (beef), & Zeal (fish) are the grain free foods I use. Visit www.the honestkitchen.com for more information on these foods. (They contain alfalfa so are green...like green porridge but don't let that scare you...the dogs don't notice the color!)
The other foods I use are made by Grandma Lucy's. They have three lines of dehydrated foods each using a different carbohydrate source and each in a variety of protein sources. Artisan uses potato, Pureformance uses chick peas, Valor uses quinoa. Some of the proteins are chicken, rabbit, pork, bison, rabbit. For more information visit www.grandmalucys.com
My dogs do not eat dog 'biscuits', preferring instead 'real' food treats such as lamb lung, freeze dried liver, dried meats (only made in the USA...no chicken jerky from China!!) I also give them a variety of chewies, again all natural, bully sticks, dried tracheas, cow or lamb ears, raw beef rib bones, etc. They also get raw chicken wings on a regular basis. Now, mind you, my dogs are small and not 'gulpers'. It takes them a good 10-30 minutes to polish off a chicken wing and I do confine them to the kitchen when eating wings so they don't eat on my bed. When I add a new food, or change up foods, my usual method is to simply fast the dogs for 24 hrs then switch. This has worked for me going from processed to raw, no GI upsets or issues. If you are going the other way I would suggest gradually adding the processed foods, if you must feed them at all.
Now for the mandatory disclaimer...This is how I feed MY dogs. There are always risks involved when we endeavor to formulate the best diets and care and feeding regimens for our dogs. Are there risks involved with feeding raw foods? YES, of course there are. You have to use common sense and good sanitation, same as when you prepare raw food for humans to eat. Are there risks involved with feeding bones and other chewies to dogs? YES, there are...dogs can break teeth on bones. Some dogs do not chew well but like to just swallow stuff...can they get in trouble? Yes they can. Whenever deciding how to proceed with anything I do a risk vs benefit assessment and *I* have decided, for my house and dogs, that the benefits of natural feeding outweigh the risks. For me the risks in feeding mass produced, commercial foods, with ingredients sourced from unknown places, with ingredients that are in no way 'natural' to a carnivore's diet, with emphasis on profit rather than quality, and with the false sense of security that comes with 'processing' (considering the number of recalls of these 'safe' foods) is higher than that of feeding the way I do. You pays your money and you takes your chances and you proceed at your own risk. This works for me and my dogs are healthy and happy.