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Anyone even slightly interested or involved in the food system and how that relates to our pet food may be familiar with some debate as to what dog food diet is best. I read an analogy recently that put my thoughts into words: traditional commercial dog food is the equivalent to dogs as fast food is for humans. If you read the ingredient labels on most commercial dog food bags, you’ll see what this means.
Dogs are carnivorous creatures and eat so in the wild. If they consume grains or vegetation, it’s usually from the stomach of their prey. Because their bodies are designed this way, most healthy dogs require a diet high in protein and fat, followed by smaller amounts of whole vegetables. For some guidance on choosing good dog food, check out this video by Dr. Karen Becker.
Discerning the dog food industry will be a difficult one and here’s a little about what I’ve found. First, a link to an article addressing the ancestry of the dog diet. And here’s a breakdown of the alternatives to traditional commercially processed dog foods: the raw food diet, cooking for your pet and the grain free diet. The raw food diet attempts to feed a diet dogs would actually consume in the wild, completely raw food, including bones. Cooking at home is not as extreme as the raw food diet and is a step towards feeding more real, whole foods. This would include meats (including bones), vegetables and sometimes grains, but a controversy exists relating to the fact that dogs don’t eat cooked food in the wild. The grain free diet is just that, grain free. It’s based on the belief that dogs in the wild don’t eat grains. It can be, but it is not necessarily, a raw diet and some holistic dog food manufacturers (i.e. kibble and canned food) offer grain free versions. Again, controversy exists about whether or not grain free is really the best way to go and obvious controversy exists surrounding the processing of even holistic dry food. Here is a good (short) article breaking down the alternatives to kibble.
After watching the video by Dr. Becker and sorting out the information I’ve learned online, I am leaning towards a grain free diet of holistic kibble (dry food) balanced with a grain free canned food. My reasoning for this is that even the healthiest of the dry foods lack the water that’s vital to dog health. Also, even the grain free versions of dry food are not free of carbohydrates since the gluten is required to hold all of the ingredients together. There are some healthy, grain free options for canned food, which don’t have the added carbohydrates and have more water content. Doing this would be meeting in the middle with my husband who does not approve of the raw food diet or even cooking at home for the pooch! If I’m being completely honest here, I’m feeling a little relieved that the pressure is off to feed raw food or to cook at home. Both cost a lot more money and require more effort.
I took a gander around our local PetsMart to see what my options are, and while there appears to be quite a few holistic dog food brands, only a few are grain free and even of those, many contain animal by-products, ew. But, there is controversy here too. Are animal by products in dog food really bad? Here is another article about animal by-products.
In my own life, I’ve been slowly transitioning into a “back to the basics” way of eating. Cutting out processed food and eating real, whole food. I talk about that here and here. I want the same for my pets.
My husband doesn’t care about any of this. He would feed his pets the cheapest one available since “tens of thousands of other dogs eat it and do just fine.” I disagree. I don’t want my pets to just be fine, I want them to be healthy and eat what their bodies were designed to digest.
But is the cost of all of this really worth it? Do you think we are what we eat and that the same goes for our pets? I do, but where do you draw the line?
What do you feed your pets?
UPDATE: I ended up purchasing Blue Buffalo’s grain free line, Freedom. They offer kibble and canned food, which I purchase some of each. I am also switching our kitties to Blue Freedom for cats.