Dog Food and Treats

One of the most common questions I get asked as a veterinarian is “what should I feed my dog?”  Here are my recommendations:

  1.  If your dog has a health problem, they may need a specific diet to help treat it.  Ask your vet.  There are prescription diets available for dogs with allergies, arthritis, epilepsy, cognitive dysfunction, bladder stones, kidney disease, liver disease, and more.
  2. Healthy dogs should be fed an age and breed-appropriate diet.  Large breed puppy food is designed to prevent panosteitis, or painful “growing pains,” for example.
  3. Do NOT feed your dog an exclusively grain-free diet.  They have been associated with a potentially fatal heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM).  I would bet a lot of money that your dog isn’t allergic to “grains.”  #1 Most food allergies in dogs are caused by the protein source, not the grain.  #2 Even if your dog is allergic to ONE grain, it is almost statistically impossible for them to be allergic to ALL grains.  Grain-free food is nothing but a very successful marketing campaign and the supposed benefits have absolutely no basis in science or reality.
  4. Don’t be one of those people who avoids “by-products” in food and then gives your dog a pig’s ear for a treat.  Pig’s ears are by-products.  So are pizzle sticks, hooves, and bones of all kinds.  Why? Because “by-products” simply means it’s the parts of the animal that PEOPLE don’t eat.  I mean, some of us do- oxtail soup is good.  Lengua (tongue) tacos are good.  Pork belly is good.  But they are all considered by-products.  Dogs eat the whole animal and avoiding by-products is unnatural and wasteful.
  5. DO avoid artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.  There is no reason for dog food to have any of these ingredients in them.
  6. “Real meat” has less meat protein in it than meat meal.  Why?  Because meat is about 60% water.  A dog food with meat meal as the first ingredient probably has more meat protein in it than a dog food with meat as the first ingredient.  It all balances out in the end – dogs don’t care where their protein comes from, meat, grains, or veggies.  Diets formulated with “real meat” as the first ingredient are heavy in non-meat proteins to make up for it.
  7. Kibble is fine.  If you want to spend more on non-extruded food, that’s OK too.  There are healthy dog diets for all budgets.
  8. Rotate the protein and veggie sources of your dog’s diet regularly o matter what kind of food you choose to give, unless they have allergies.
  9. Do not feed your dogs any homemade diet without a recipe from a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.  Balancing the diet is very difficult and 99% of the recipes found online will cause nutritional deficiencies if fed long-term.
  10. Everyone wants to know what I feed my dog.  Purina Proplan Sport.  I mix a variety of canned foods with her kibble so she gets different proteins and carbs.  Purina has done a TON of research into feeding dogs, they test their foods at many stages of the process, they have board-certified veterinary nutritionists on staff, and they don’t (generally) market lies like some other companies (Blue Buffalo started the grain free lies and I’ll never recommend them).

Now, onto the treat rules!

  1. Do not feed your dogs jerky treats.  They are still causing significant health problems in dogs on a sporadic basis.
  2. Don’t treat your dog with anything that you wouldn’t want to be hit in the kneecaps with.  Bones, antlers, knuckles, and other very hard substances designed to be chewed on are likely to fracture your dog’s teeth, which can lead to painful infection and expensive dental care.
  3. Treats should not make up any more than 10% of your dog’s calories.  That includes whatever human food you give them.

Everything I listed on our website follows my guidelines.

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