Black and white dog waiting for food

REVEALED – things you must understand before you buy more dog food

What should you feed your dog? This is a HUGE topic. If you do an internet search, you will get a lot of conflicting information. If you were to ask five different vets, you may also get five different answers!

Conflicting information

Conflicting information can lead to confusion and a sense of overwhelm. At the heart of the issue is that everyone just wants to do the right thing by their four legged family member.

If you’ve ever felt like this, then this article is for you.

It is to help breakdown the information WITHOUT making you feel like you’re being a bad pet parent because your choices are different to someone else’s, especially if you are just buying what is on the supermarket shelves.

Education is the goal here.

Crucially, our dogs need a complete and balanced diet. Their age and their breed are important factors to consider when assessing their nutrient requirements. There is not just one way to feed a healthy diet to your dog, just like there is not one way to eat a healthy diet yourself. To that end, there are many different options for feeding your dog including commercial food (kibble or tinned food), fresh and raw foods and home-made cooked meals.

Glossy brown ridgeback eating feed for thought carbon neutral dog biscuits

Age

Puppies require a diet that is higher in calories, protein and fat than adult dogs. This is because they are still growing and developing and need extra nutrients. Similarly, senior dogs may require a diet that is lower in calories and fat to maintain a healthy weight and avoid obesity-related health problems. Both our young pups and senior citizens need highly digestible diets that are kind to their developing or ageing digestive systems.

Breed

Different breeds also have different nutritional requirements. For example, large breed dogs may require a diet that is lower in calcium and phosphorous to prevent skeletal problems. Active small dog breeds may require a diet higher in protein and fat to meet their energy needs.

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Feed for Thought 5kg Dog Food Packet

Commercial food (dry kibble)

Kibble is a popular option for many dog owners because it is convenient, affordable and widely available. The other benefit is that a quality kibble will be nutritionally complete and balanced, meaning that it is formulated to contain all the nutrients your dog needs to sustain life. Good kibbles are formulated by a vet nutritionist to ensure that you dog is getting every nutrient it needs in the correct amount.

However, not all kibbles are created equal. Some lower quality kibbles may not meet dog food standards and some contain cheap ingredients that are combined in a way that doesn’t provide optimum bio-availability. Kibbles require carbohydrates to bind the food together. While dogs don’t need to eat bulk carbohydrates, they aren’t bad for them in the right proportions (and they’re even better when minimally processed). Equally, feeding a diet of only meat may not lead to a complete and balanced diet as it may lack some nutrients. Even obligate carnivores will ingest cereals, grains, vegetable matter, fruits and berries in the guts and intestine of their prey.

Some kibbles contain upwards of 50% processed starches, which can be difficult for dogs to digest thus contributing to chronic inflammation and weight gain. Not all proteins are equal in kibbles either. Select a brand that values transparency and names the protein and check the amount of carbohydrates (including if they are spread across several ingredients).

Fresh and raw feeding

Max Protein Meal Topper

Fresh and raw feeding is growing in popularity. It involves feeding your dog a diet that is based on raw meat, bones and organs. This option is less processed and in the same way that we pet parents benefit from fresh, wholefoods, so too do our dogs. There are some risks involved with fresh and raw feeding. Raw meat can contain harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli, which can cause serious illness in both dogs and humans. It is also important to make sure the diet is nutritionally balanced. There are plenty of tools to help you with this and lots of information in supportive communities dedicated to this choice, such as the Facebook Group here.

If you are keen to feed your dog a raw diet but don’t want to make it yourself, you can buy it pre-made from most big pet stores (online too). Be careful with storing and handling this food just as you would if feeding this to the human members of your family. If you are comfortable with some technology, there are online tools available to help you formulate your dog’s diet and identify potential nutrient gaps here and here (the latter one has an instructional video too).

There are also shelf stable products available that aren’t ‘raw’, but are also not kibble. These are freeze or air dried products, such as Feed For Thought’s Max Protein.

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Home cooked meals

Some dog owners choose to feed their dogs home cooked meals. This allows you to control exactly what your dog is eating and can be a great option, especially for dogs with specific dietary requirements or allergies.

Like raw and fresh feeding, it is important to make sure that home cooked meals are nutritionally balanced over time to meet your dog’s dietary needs. The ‘over time’ qualification is an important one here. Commercial dog food is focussed on ensuring a perfectly balanced diet, every day. Dogs, like us, need a balanced diet, but we can achieve that over time.

We can achieve a balanced diet for dogs if we include muscle meat, organ meat, bone content, vegetables, and oils. Many of these diets will require supplements to achieve the correct balance of micronutrients as found here.

The benefits, like raw and fresh feeding, are that your dog is eating fresh food (good for them in the same way it is good for us!) and it may be easier for weight management.

There is a bunch of great information to support you if you choose to incorporate fresh food in all or part of your dog’s diet.

Check out some great information here. If you want some help knowing what to cook, you can purchased vet approved, complete and balanced recipes here. There are also pre-made raw and fresh options if you value feeding fresh and balanced but also value the convenience of a pre-made food.

Hybrid Feeding

Hybrid feeding is giving your pet fresh or whole foods and adding in dry food as well.  This is a great place to start if you are curious about moving away from dry or tinned food and commence a journey to fresh food. Some people also choose to feed a hybrid diet permanently.

Teddy, cute dog licking his lips

Allergies and ethics

There are other variables if your dog has allergies or a specific medical condition. Here’s the expected but warranted ‘see your vet’ statement. If you fit in the allergy camp and you want a sustainable protein option, make sure you mention Feed For Thought’s incredible novel protein to your vet to see if it might be suitable.

So how do you feed your dog healthy dog food, even if you don’t eat meat yourself? Read on! While dogs can technically survive on a plant based diet, they can more readily absorb the nutrients they need from animal protein. If you are mindful of the animal ethics issues with meat, there are some dog foods that use meat proteins with this in mind, including Feed For Thought. If it is for reasons relating to your sustainability choices, again, consider novel proteins such as that found in Feed For Thought. Air and freeze dried foods, like Feed For Thought’s Max Protein can be a good compromise between not wanting to touch fresh meat but also wanting to feed fresher or home cooked food.

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So where do Dr. Heidi and I stand on this?

We stand for quality and a balanced diet that meets each dog’s individual nutrition requirements. I feed Max a mix of Feed For Thought kibble and home cooked food with Feed For Thought insect protein. This way I feel like I’m giving my dog the best quality whole foods that match my values and I’m 100% certain he’s getting the nutrients he needs. It works for me.

As a growing large breed puppy Dr. Heidi feeds Neutron a commercial food designed to meet his specific requirements including grains for heart health. She also feeds him lots of training treats including Feed for Thought’s Max Protein as a tasty addition to his Kong.

If you’re still not sure, ask your vet team or a vet nutritionist to help you determine what will be best for your dog and what nutritional factors you need to prioritise for your pet. There are so many wonderful vets, including Feed For Thought’s vet (qualified in companion animal nutrition) who are there to educate you on what is best for your animal without judgement – only support.

Black and brown dog looking up with pleading yet happy eyes waiting for dog food

Your dog will love it, or we’ll give you your money back.

Be part of the solution. Choose a sustainable dog food.

Glossy brown ridgeback eating feed for thought carbon neutral dog biscuits