Okay, Here is another topic that provides me with endless hours of conversation with owners, fellow breeders and vets. Dog food.
I have friends who are obsessed with proper diet for dogs and spend fifty bucks a bag for stuff with wild salmon pee in it. I know other owners who feed their dogs Ol’ Roy. And then, there’s everything in between.
Just today, I was looking a bag of the food I feed my dogs, and by the way, this is by no means crap dog food. It’s a high protein, high fat (30%/20%) kibble with chicken as the first ingredient. Not bad stuff. But, I got to thinking and thought to myself, wow, that only adds up to 50%!! What is the other half made of? I held onto this thought and spoke to my vet about it and he is researching this brain teaser and will get back to me with some credible explanation as to what could possibly make up twenty pounds of filler in a 40 lb bag! I actually can’t wait for his answer. Meanwhile, I kind of figured out what some of the stuff is. You know, the rice, oil, water, beet pulp, vitamins and minerals all take up some room there. But geez, twenty pounds!
I will definitely get back on this when I get more info, but for now, let’s assume that the fifty percent filler is necessary for the dog’s health. Okay. Really, since I’ve been feeding my dogs one of the better foods on the market, I am now wondering about the dog foods that claim to help with certain ailments or weight loss or being old – this really bothers me because I have had to handle pet owners on more than one occasion who use low fat senior dog food to keep their ten year old dog’s weight down, then don’t understand it when the dog develops skin problems. Well, I think anyone can understand that if you practically eliminate fat from a diet your skin will dry up. How about trying to REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF FOOD YOUR DOG TAKES IN!!!!!!
I have the same gripe with these “Large Breed” formulas that all of the major dog food companies produce. Why? Because somebody said somewhere once that the other foods make the large breeds grow too fast. That is a bunch of crap. It’s because idiots out there were speed feeding large dogs with large amounts of food and not giving them exercise and that is why that got too big too fast. How about controlling the amount of food your dog eats – try not to free feed, for example. Oh, the dog food companies won’t advise that, because they will make much more dough selling some low protein crap that large breed owners will feel less guilty about feeding their dogs.
I know, there are so many dog foods on the market, and so much attention being paid to quality due to the recent pet food recalls and such that some dog owners are in kind of a stunned state and will pretty much buy whatever their vet or the local pet store tells them to feed their dog. Not all of this is bad advice, but you must understand that the breeder many times knows what to feed that particular breed, if he’s been doing this for a while and has gone through the gamut of available foods, diets and so on for at least a few years.
I can give some advice here that may help the dog owner make at least a more educated guess as to what food to give his or her dog. It is derived from my own trial and error and is not meant to be the ultimate guide, but at least to help in deciding.
1. Do not free feed your dog.
Although this point isn’t going to help you decide on a dog food, I had to include it in this list. Mostly because people do not understand why you should not free feed your dogs. It’s just plain lazy, first of all, to dump a crapload of food in a giant bowl and have your dog eat all day long. Secondly, and more important, when you free feed your dog, you are not going to be able to detect when that dog is ill or has something wrong with it physically. The first sign of ill health in a dog is food refusal. So, if you dump food in a bowl all day, the dog will eventually show a sharp decline in food drive and may not even be interested when you first give him food, since he has all damn day to eat the stuff. If your dog is sick, you will lose precious hours not knowing this until it is perhaps too late, since he will not be showing any sharp appetite loss as a change from his normal behavior. Free feeding is also the cause of an obedience issue. The dog eats whenever he wants – no discipline here. I don’t know about those of you out there who have breeds other than working breeds, but lack of discipline in a working breed is asking for trouble. You give the dog ten minutes with the food and whatever he doesn’t eat, you pick up and he can have eight hours later at his second feeding. This isn’t some underdeveloped country and you don’t have to worry that your pooch will starve to death. He won’t – trust me. He might even start wanting to eat that food that you spend fifty bucks a bag for down at PetCo.
2. Actually read the ingredients on the bag of dog food.
Okay, just take a look at what’s in the food you’re feeding your dog or the food you want to change to. Really, the most important ingredient is the first ingredient. What is it? Chicken by product meal, Chicken meal, Meat and Bone Meal, Poultry by product meal, Rendered meat, Road Kill, Horses. The last two are ingredients you won’t really see on a dog food bag, but I’ve heard stories………..
Anyway, what you want to have with your first ingredient is the closest thing to real food as possible. I like real chicken or at worst chicken meal, as I have found that chicken is more palatable and more digestible than meat based foods. At least for Rottweilers. After that, just see that you don’t have any preservatives, like BHA or BHT. The food should then be naturally preserved with vitamin E or some other oil. Okay, that’s about it on the ingredients. Other than that, I think all of the anal retentives who insist on only giving their dog the best dry kibble made are so full of themselves that I think they do it just so they can tell their friends how much they pay for a bag of dog food. Here is the deal with all dry kibble – all of it is processed. That means that to make it into kibble, the manufacturer has to cook all of the ingredients together in a big vat until all of it rendered down into a mush and then cool it down and extrude it through these holes to make the paste into strings of paste which is further cooled down and cut into equal sized pieces which is what kibble is. If you are believing that all of this high end buffalo meat and salmon anus and whatever is going to withstand 2000 degrees of cooking and still be chock full of nutrition, then there is a bridge in Brooklyn you may be interested in.
Look here, read the bag of that designer food you just paid sixty bucks for and you will see that all of the vitamins and minerals are added in as ingredients AFTER the ‘fillet of free range avocado’. Don’t you see that they cook all of the nutrition out and then slam it back in? So, really, are you getting a better quality kibble? I don’t think so.
The chicken or chicken meal is pretty good for the dog. Look, have you ever seen what your dog eats when it’s not presented in a bowl? Feces, both dog and horse. Dead things. Grass and other weeds. Garbage, both yours and your neighbors. Do I make myself clear?
3. Pay attention to the Protein and Fat percentages
This is another overlooked item in dog food. As I said earlier, I feed my dogs a 30% protein and 20% fat as that is what keeps them trim and active and healthy,etc. I do not go for the large breed formulas as they are for people who think large breeds have eating disorders. The dog food companies know that pet owners anthropomorphize their pets, which means ‘to ascribe human characteristics to’. So, they prey on the guilty pet owner and sell stuff like ‘Large Breed Puppy’, ‘Senior Formula’, ‘Low Fat Weight Control Formula’, like they’re prescribing some kind of medication. Well, let me tell you, dog food companies are not vets and even if they were, these ridiculous formulas do nothing at best and at worst contribute to lowered levels of fat and protein with higher levels of carbs and other nonessential crap in the dog’s diet.
Dogs need protein and fat to convert into energy and vital muscle tissue and bone growth. Unless you are keeping your dog in a box, he will burn this stuff up pretty quickly and he needs more protein and fat to convert into more energy and tissue. Giving him ten pounds of corn meal a day is the equivalent to feeding your kids ten pounds of corn chips a day. If your dog is eating a food with mostly corn meal and fillers, do not be surprised if he is obese.
I personally would not go below 26% protein and 16% fat for a working breed, with chicken or chicken meal as the first ingredient. I guarantee you that the dog will not gain excess weight, unless you are free feeding him fifteen pounds of food a day!
4. Get word of mouth recommendations and always judge results based on what you see with your own dog.
I really feel that if you cross check your research with actual results from pet or kennel owners who do not have a vested interest in you buying the dog food, then you may get actual feedback that will help you with your decision. Try to stay within the breed you own or plan to own, as different breeds have different dietary issues. German Shepherds, for example, are sometimes very hard keepers and their owners may go through all kinds of trial and error before finding the right dog food that helps their dogs gain and maintain weight. Although I do believe that this should be looked at on an individual basis, there may be some good information to get from others who have the same breed of dog.
The ultimate test, however, is with your own dog. After you have done the research and have made your decision, buy a bag and put your dog through the entire bag and really watch him or her for the next few weeks. Note any weight gain or loss and any energy or allergy issues, condition of the coat, eyes, and yes, the condition of the stool (is it hard, soft, massive or compact – how is your dog digesting this stuff). The last item is very important as that will tell you if the food is being assimilated properly. If not, you may need to try another food, and so on. Eventually and hopefully sooner rather than later, you will find the right dog food for your dog.