What should I feed my dog?
The main diets to choose from are:
- Dry food ("kibble")
- Canned food
- Semi-moist food (dog rolls)
- Home cooked food
- Raw meat / meaty bones mixed with supplements (BARF and variations)
- Raw meat / meaty bones/ offal, no supplements (Prey Model)
- Grain free versions of the above.
Virtually any statement by proponents of one type of diet is contradicted by statements of the proponents of another type of diet. The two main camps are supporters of dry (kibble) food vs. various versions of "raw" diets. Up until recently there was no publicly accessible unbiased scientific data available to back up either claim.
Now, however, there appears to be evidence that dogs' digestive system has evolved to cope with typical human food including starches: Diet shaped dog domestication, and so does not resemble the wolf's digestive system any more than their behaviour does. This of course still does not tell us which type of food is actually best for dogs, or an individual dog.
Therefore, we are left with making up our minds based on what little real information (as opposed to opinion) is out there.
Here are some links with information and opinions (there are of course many more):
Comparison of pet foods
Recommendations for feeding raw bones
Foods to avoid
Even some innocuous foods like raisins can be dangerous for your dog. Learn which common foods to avoid:
Human food that will make your dog sick.
What I feed my dogs
A little Nature's Gift canned food. My Collie used to vomit up bile until I discovered that some breakfast settled his digestive system. Kibble didn't help - he still vomited.
Around the house
For good behaviour around the house, they get bits of any food I eat (cheese and bread are favourites), as well as a little Black Hawk or Nature's Gift kibble (one by one), dried lamb and dried liver.
Training / off leash park
For training and at the off leash park, I mix 4 Legs All Natural dog roll with bits of sausage and other desirable left overs. As extra special rewards, I use Ultimates cat food (fish with no additives), Nature's Gift small dog food trays, and Kangaroo sticks from Roo Chews.
Dinner is a mix of Nature's Gift canned food and Black Hawk or Meals for Mutts dry food. I used to feed raw kangaroo mixed with Vets All Natural. I stopped for two reasons: I couldn't cope with the blood spills anymore, and I was also tired of trying to scoop up runny poo. All that was resolved (including my Collie's sensitive stomach) with canned food and kibble.
Instead of feeding bones, I clean my dogs' teeth.
My experience with ...
Grain free kibble
I tried various brands of grain free kibble, one of which (Innova Evo) seemed to make my Collie's tendency to vomit worse. He did well on ProPlan Sensitive (which contains wheat). We have settled for Black Hawk, which contains grain but no wheat. I am not convinced either way but avoiding wheat as a main ingredient seems to make sense. We are currently experimenting with "Meals for Mutts".
Freeze dried food
We tried Ziwi Peak, but my dogs were never that keen on it, although others reportedly are.
I use 100% dried lamb and some liver products. When I am slack with the moist treats and use too much of this, my dogs inevitably get diarrhea.
My vet had no information whether dried bones are more dangerous than raw ones. The dried meaty bones lead to bouts of diarrhea. The non-meaty ones seem to be equivalent to the raw ones (from an incident perspective - see below).
Commercial dry treats
When my local pet shop closed, I was temporarily out of my high quality dry treats. I used commercial ones and promptly caused significant diarrhea in my dogs.
I tried to follow the Billinghurst instructions for BARF for a while, but the effort to do it right (including sourcing and preparing offal) was just unsustainable for me. I compromised by using Vets All Natural (Complete Mix) and raw kangaroo for dinner for some time, and then compromised further and now simply feed a mix of canned and dry food, which my dogs are doing very well on.
Raw meaty bones
My dogs have had a number of problems with raw meaty bones:
- Kiara was in Emergency twice after eating the (raw) chicken legs and chicken back, behaving as if she had a severe pain in her tummy. Both times she ended up recovering, but it was still scary.
- Giro suffered from severe constipation when I adhered to the recommended ratio of 1:1 of meat to bone. He still got slightly constipated even with a much reduced ratio of bone to meat. I ended up giving up on this.
- Giro got a piece of brisket lodged in his upper jaw which cause bleeding.
- Giro vomits up large pieces of bone frequently. The least problematic seem to be brisket bones.