I eat healthy foods to maintain optimal health, and I want my pets to for the same reason. Here's how I feed my dogs a healthy dog food and supplements in a few minutes a day.
What Should Dogs Eat Anyway?
If you've read even a few of my posts, you know I'm passionate about eating healthy in as little time as possible. I love my dogs, and I want them to be happy and healthy, too. So, I've put quite a bit of time into figuring out how to feed them healthy dog food and supplements without having to spend more than a few minutes a day doing so.
Certainly, I've put weeks of trial and error over many years and a humongous amount of research into how to feed dogs for optimal health. To save you from a huge amount of boredom, I'm going to leave out all the error part and boil this post down to my most important realizations and the results. I'm recommending the healthy dog food and supplements that have worked / works for my dogs.
Quick caveat...I'm not a vet. As a matter of fact, when I've asked my vets over the years what to feed my dogs, I haven't been impressed by their response. They usually recommend high carbohydrate dog food, and they stock and sell high carbohydrate dog food in their office. Not good.
My first challenge in feeding my dogs healthy foods was to figure out what percentage they should be eating of the basic food macros of carbohydrates, fat and protein. Domestic dogs are descended from wolves, and it's not been that long ago from a hereditary standpoint that they've been domesticated. Dogs probably need to eat pretty much what their wolf forbears ate to be healthy, I reasoned.
So what do wild wolves eat? The expert answer is wolves are almost 100% carnivores. They may eat a few berries, and a bit of grass here and there, but they're still in the high 90 percent range for eating animals almost exclusively. Wolves eat only about 1% carbohydrates and just a little more protein than fat. In addition, wolves eat the entire animal. Want to read more? I suggest Dietary nutrient profiles of wild wolves: insights for optimal dog nutrition?
Have You Checked a Dog Food Bag Lately? Where's the Protein?
Unfortunately, almost all brands of dry dog food, even the expensive brands, are relatively low in animal protein. Even if the brand shows a protein analysis in the 40-50% range by weight (which is a very high protein amount for dry dog food), it's not all animal protein.
More and more vegetable / legume protein is being used to increase the perceived protein and decrease cost. However, not all protein is the same, and there is a very real difference between animal and vegetable protein, especially for carnivorous animals. Bottom line vegetable protein is far less healthy for dogs to consume than animal protein.
In addition, dry dog foods have a high percentage of carbohydrates. Maybe dogs can handle a little more carbs than wolves due to domestication, but the difference between wolves 1% carb intake and the common dry dog food carb ratio of between 46 and 75%. No way. Does not compute.
Considering the move toward increased carbohydrates and vegetable protein sources in their food, it's no wonder our dogs are developing many of the same degenerative diseases that humans have.
Almost all dry dog foods are not healthy dog foods on their own, then.
So What Are the Alternatives to Dry Dog Food?
Over the years, I've tried many of the alternatives to common dry dog food:
- Make all the dog food - this takes time and it's difficult to ensure you're getting the correct nutrient ratio. You can't just feed muscle meat or one type of meat for example.
- Buy high protein dry dog food - there are a few very expensive brands that have a higher protein ratio. It's still nowhere near the 90 percent range. My dogs refuse to eat those brands. Sigh.
- Supplement dry dog food with animal protein - this is what I currently do for my dogs.
Also, the average canned dog food doesn't have a higher protein ratio. Canned dog food just has more moisture.
How to Supplement Dry Dog Food with Protein
First, choose a high quality dry dog food within your budget that your dogs like to eat. We currently use Blue Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe. We use this food because it's fair to good quality and our dogs will eat it. We've tried many different dog foods over the years. We'll probably change again.
I realize this isn't a rousing endorsement of our current dry dog food choice. However, it's an honest assessment.
If you have no objection to raw dog food, and your budget can stand the high price, it's a really good option. Why? Because standard dog foods are cooked at high temperatures which decreases the vitamin content, etc. There are a few low carb, higher protein raw dog foods on the market.
Second, and most importantly, supplement your dog food with varied sources of low fat protein. Both varied and low fat are important.
Sources of protein we use are
- Cuts of muscle meat such as beef roast, hamburger, chicken, etc.
- Chicken feet - called chicken paws at Walmart. These are a good source of non-muscle protein, cartilage, etc.
- Sardines packed in water with no salt - we use Season brand from Vitacost.
We use 3/4ths of the lowest recommended amount of dry dog food supplemented with 1/4 of the high protein source. Our dogs are fed twice a day.
You do not have to cook the protein. We do because Beck refuses to feed our dogs raw meat because of his concern for us getting salmonella, etc. from the raw protein source. We don't cook the sardines.
You can try other high quality protein sources such as organic beef liver or chicken livers. Our dogs refuse to eat these. Sigh.
What About Table Food?
If you do provide table food to your dog, in other words, your own food from after a meal, make sure it's high protein, low fat and low carbohydrate. If you're eating healthy foods for you, then your protein source may also be healthy for your dog.
However, any human food you feed your dog(s) should be safe for them to eat. Dogs can't eat everything humans can. If you're not sure which human foods to avoid for your dog, read the post 13 Human Foods that Are Dangerous for Dogs. You may be surprised by some of the 13, such as milk products.
Don't Forget High Protein Snacks
If you give your dogs treats, then choose high protein instead of high carb treats. We buy our dogs chicken and beef jerky strips at Walmart. These are all meat, and they're relatively expensive. As a result, we'll often give our dogs a piece of a strip, versus the whole strip as a treat.
Chew snacks to clean their teeth are also very important. These keep dogs occupied and happy, too. We provide
- Beef marrow bones
- Hooves and horns
Finally, give high carbohydrate treats infrequently and / or make sure they're very small treats. If you give your dog even several treats in a day the carb count can add up, especially for small dogs.
Feed Your Dog the Correct Amount of Food
One of the top actions you can take to ensure good health for your dog is to control the amount of food you feed them and control their weight as a result. I've often thought I'd benefit from someone who adjusted my own portions. 🙂
In other words, you can choose the healthiest of healthy dog food and supplements, but you're still not going to have a healthy dog if the dog is grossly overweight.
We use the lowest range of dry dog food by body weight, then use 3/4ths of that supplemented by protein. If our adult dogs gain weight on that amount of food, then we drop the amount of dry dog food a little.
Our dogs also get to run while we walk 1.5 to 2.5 miles a day. If they were sedentary and didn't get a long run almost every day, we'd have to feed them even less to maintain their weight.
Plus, if we fed them high fat foods, we'd have to feed them less quantity of food. Our dogs usually finish their food, then look at us like they want more. However, we don't feed them any more until they get a snack later in the day. Why? Because if we did, they'd be overweight.
When it comes to your dogs health (and your own) it's better to err on the side of underfeeding than overfeeding. Studies show longevity is more likely on fewer calories than too many.
It's perfectly normal for your dog to refuse a meal on a regular basis, or even to refuse several. Our dogs often skip a meal once or twice a week on their own.
Refusing food is one of the only ways your dog has to let you know non-verbally that a certain food isn't liked or maybe gives them digestive distress. However, dogs will sometimes take a break from eating even if they like the food.
Wolves often go days without making a kill. Then, they gorge and make up for the lost weight once they do get to eat. It's one of the reasons you never see a fat wolf in the wild.
Our domesticated dogs, on the other hand, are often fed regularly twice a day with no missed meals. In other words, they would never fast unless they did it themselves.
When our dogs refuse food and leave their bowl untouched, we take up the food and save it for the next meal time. Certainly, this is an easy way to keep our dogs on the lean side, too.
If my dog does this routinely, it becomes obvious that she doesn't like a particular food. Even with established dog food brands she likes, she will sometimes begin to refuse the food. At times, I've found the manufacturer changed the ingredients. Then, it's time to change foods.
Consider Other Supplementation for Optimal Health (and Happiness)
Healthy dog food often isn't enough. Sometimes, you also need to provide supplements. We currently give our dogs a few other add-ins on a regular basis for optimal health and happiness:
- Brewer's yeast - helps to keep fleas away, provides additional nutrients
- Parsley - I purchase several bunches at a time, chop it up in the food processor, then freeze it. I store it in a freezer bag and add one to two teaspoons per meal.
- Vitacost Super Pure Omega-3 for Pets - We give Beau, my standard poodle, one capsule squeezed out on her food per meal. I discovered this keeps her from having sensitive poodle skin.
- CBD Oil* - We give Zippy, our Blue Heeler / Cocker Spaniel mix, 4-6 drops of CBD Oil with each meal. Zippy is nervous and paranoid and hides under the bed without her CBD oil supplement. With it? She's far happier and content.
* If you're considering CBD Oil for your dog, there's a good dosage calculator at CBD Oil Dosage for Dogs. We use East Tennessee Hemp Company, Industrial Hemp, 2000 mg Tincture, 1 oz (30 ml). CBD oil varies widely in strength and effectiveness.
Beck had temporary back pain and I found the locally produced East Tennessee Hemp Company CBD oil for him after trying several other brands. He said the East Tennessee Hemp Company formulation above, which is the strongest, most expensive choice in their lineup was best.
Other Supplements We've Used or Recommend
Sometimes our dogs need supplements to help them overcome physical issues. I'm not a vet. Therefore, all the recommendations I make for supplements are based on personal experience. Here are examples of supplementation I've used in the past with unbelievable results.
Glucosamine Chondroitin and Aspirin for Hip Dysplasia or Spinal Issues
I previously had a German Shepherd, Kaia. She lived to be 14, and during her life, she had many genetic health issues.
When she was about seven years old, Kaia developed hip dysplasia so severely she couldn't stand after lying on the floor. I took her to the vet and my vet told me there wasn't much that could be done for hip dysplasia, especially as severe as she had, other than medicate her for pain.
I decided to try natural remedies, did extensive research and gave her the following:
- 1/2 of an aspirin tablet (500 mg tablet) twice a day with food. Must be given with food to decrease likelihood of stomach bleeding / discomfort.
- Human grade Glucosamine chondroitin with MSM tablet ground up and added to a heaping spoon of wet food twice a day.
Kaia's hip dysplasia totally went away, and she didn't have it as long as I gave her the above supplements daily. I've recommended this dosing to others based on body weight for their dogs. Kaia weighed 50 pounds.
The aspirin dosage is 0.5 mg per pound twice a day. The glucosamine chondroitin dosage is usually a 500 mg tablet. That comes out to 10 mg per pound twice a day.
Another Recent Success Story
My cousin Jennifer recently had one of her dachshunds, Carlos, have spinal issues where his back legs weren't working properly. He was also in very obvious pain. Her vet told her surgery for the condition often didn't work and was expensive. Other than that, there was no fix.
As a result, Jennifer was considering putting Carlos to sleep. My Aunt Kay, Jennifer's mother, told me about Carlos. She was very upset because she loved Carlos, as did Jennifer, and didn't want to have to put him to sleep. I told Aunt Kay I may be able to help Carlos and to have Jennifer call me.
Later, I told Jennifer how to dose Carlos by weight. Since he's a small dog, she uses one low dose aspirin and half a glucosamine chondroitin tablet ground up twice a day. Within a week of starting him on the glucosamine and aspirin, he was walking normally with no signs of spinal issues or pain.
Benadryl for Allergies or Sleep Disorders
Before I discovered Omega 3s for dogs with sensitive skin, I used Benadryl. It works for dog allergies just as well as for humans. You simply use 1 mg of Benadryl (or generic equivalent) for each pound of your dog's body weight.
Also, just as for humans, it makes your dog sleepy. So, if you have a dog who keeps you up at night, Benadryl can be used as a doggy sleeping pill. Use the same dosage of 1 mg per pound of body weight.
We should always take our dogs for a walk every day (and ourselves, too). Unfortunately, there are often days where the weather or our schedule just aren't conducive for a long enough walk to calm high energy dogs.
When this happens, you can give your dog Benadryl before bed. Just slip the correct dosage of Benadryl in a little Velveeta cheese, chase it with another very small piece of cheese to make sure your dog swallows the cheese / pill, and your dog will sleep for around six hours.
Benadryl is also helpful for older dogs in pain from arthritis or other degenerative illnesses. Nighttime pain often causes licking and pacing. Benadryl helps both your older dog and you sleep.
I realize giving a dog Benadryl to help him sleep may seem extreme to some. However, if the alternative is to take the dog to the animal shelter to give away or have the dog put to sleep because the owner can't sleep, then Benadryl as a solution looks much better.
Feeding Yourself for Optimal Health, Too
If you're interested in feeding your dogs healthy dog food and supplements, then you're probably interested in eating healthy yourself. Please check out some of my posts on healthy eating for people:
Share Your Experience
I hope these suggestions for healthy dog food and supplements help you to have a much healthier and happier dog. What are your experiences with dog food? Do you use a particular supplement for your dog(s)? Why? What's your favorite dog food brand? Why do you use it? By sharing your experiences, you may help someone else's fur baby have a healthier and happier life.