Greyt Inspirations Life

A little about our life, our business and our pets.

What to feed your dog

The San Francisco Gate’s Christie Keith (always a good writer) has an interesting article online today about feeding your dog a raw diet:  Raw food for pets?   Christie feeds a raw diet herself and I think she’s a little more biased toward this way of feeding than I would be, but it’s a very interesting article.


118405415_e03f850cf6_mAs she points out, there was no commercial dog food until the 1890s.  You can get the whole story of the creation and development of commercial pet food from the Pet Food Institute web site.  They’re the “voice” of the pet food industry.  Dog food got its start when American James Spratt, a lightning rod salesmen, was in London.  He was offered some awful ship’s biscuits for his dog to eat and decided that his dog deserved better.  He created the first “dog cakes” — baked dog biscuits with wheat meals, vegetables, beetroot and meat.  From that start a little over 100 years ago dog food has slowly developed into the recipes and forms we know today.


2959686334_9b8128b0a5_mCommercial dog food today has to meet minimum nutritional standards.  All this means is that it has to provide a certain amount of protein, fat and a few other ingredients.  The minimum requirements are often far different from the amounts provided in premium foots.  The FDA and AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials which provides the labeling guidelines that most pet food companies follow) provide some guidance about what goes into commercial dog foods but there are many ingredients that would probably shock owners.  There are also formal definitions for the ingredients on the label of your dog’s food.  For instance, consider the following forms of chicken that may be in your dog’s food:


Chicken – the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.

Chicken By-Product Meal – consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.

Chicken Liver Meal – chicken livers which have been ground or otherwise reduced in particle size.

Chicken Meal – chicken which has been ground or otherwise reduced in particle size.


The manufacturer can claim that the food contains chicken no matter which of these versions of chicken is used in the food.  Some are better than others.  If your dog food contains whole chicken as the first ingredient, that chicken is full of water.  It may appear as the first ingredient listed on the label since ingredients must be listed by weight before processing.  In actuality, after processing when the water is removed, that whole chicken will be a much less significant portion of your dog’s food.  Chicken By-Product Meal is usually considered an unsatisfactory source of protein for dogs.


Because of the difficulty in verifying what kind of ingredients dog food contains and how it is processed; and because of the increase in dog food recalls in the last few years, more people have become interested in preparing their own food for their dogs.  Some people simply feel that dog food prepared at home is healthier for dogs.  Whether that’s actually true or not is debatable.


2773213408_4aa8eccb96_mThere are concerns about preparing food for your dog.  One concern is the problem with bacteria like E. Coli and salmonella.  If you buy meat in bulk and work with it in your kitchen there are concerns that you may not be able to keep bacteria levels down.  Advocates point out that wolves and dogs in the wild eat raw animals and carcasses and that they must also have bacteria, but our pets aren’t wild animals.  Most domestic dogs also live longer and enjoy better health than wild animals.  Could that be partly because of commercial diets?  E. Coli and salmonella in your kitchen can also be transferred to humans.


Another criticism of feeding raw diets is that it’s hard to get the nutritional requirements right for your dog.  The big dog food companies spend a lot of time and money testing their foods and doing research on canine nutrition.  A lot of what we know today about dog nutrition is thanks to companies like Purina, Waltham-Pedigree and Iams.  It’s true that the process of making kibble may destroy many vitamins because of the high heats involved but other vitamins and minerals are added in.  Can dog owners meet the exact nutritional needs of their dogs by feeding a raw or homecooked diet at home?  Feeding a wide variety of meats and other foods can help, but dog owners also have to add supplements and probiotics to try to meet their dogs’ nutritional needs.  It’s always something of a guessing game.


Finally, there’s the cost and preparation time.  Feeding raw and homecooked food to your dog usually costs more than buying commercial dog food, even if you buy in bulk or through a cooperative.  If you buy meats in bulk you will need to invest in an extra freezer.  You may also need to consider a meat grinder if you buy meat with bones.


None of this information is intended to discourage people from feeding raw or homecooked food to their dogs.  I feed homecooked food to one of my dogs who wasn’t doing well on kibble after he turned 12.  But there are pros and cons to feeding raw and homecooked food.  I doubt that they’re going to replace the ease of feeding commercial dog food.  And there are many good commercial dog foods available for anyone who does some research about foods.

April 1, 2009 Posted by | dogs, General, Pets | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dog Food Woes

Dogfood Woes

I know from talking to other dog lovers that so many of them have issues with the food they buy their dogs. You can include me in that number. Ever since the pet food recalls last year I’ve paid more attention to what I feed my horde. Not only that, but when fuel costs began rising and farmers began growing more corn for ethanol and less for feed it seriously affected the price of all kinds of dog food. Whether it was the corn used in foods or the corn used to feed beef and other meat sources, many ingredients in dog foods shot up in cost. The result has been that dog food has gone up over 6 percent in cost this year. You’re definitely paying more for your dog’s food than you were a year ago. And chances are that the size of the bag has also been made smaller to try to help hide the fact. If you paid $14 for a 20 pound bag of food last year you’re probably paying $20 for the same food in a 17 pound bag right now. (That’s a real example I’ve seen with one well-known grocery store brand.)

Photo courtesy flickr
Since I have four big dogs these price increases have hit me hard. We go through a 37.5 pound bag of food every two weeks. I had been feeding the same food for ten years, with good results, but recently the company made changes in the formula (something else that’s been happening a lot lately as dog food manufacturers try to find cheaper ingredients). They decided to add soy products as one source of protein, something that I, and a lot of other people, felt was a bad idea. If you have Setters, or other breeds prone to bloat, you know that soy products can be a problematic ingredient. Anything that can lead to a dog producing more gas in his gut can be a real problem since it can potentially cause his stomach to torsion. Therefore, I decided it was time to start considering some of the more natural dog foods.

We’ve been trying various kibbles recommended by the Whole Dog Journal which rates the best foods annually. I think my dogs have been enjoying this process but I can’t say that I have been entirely happy with any single food we’ve tried. We’ve tried organic foods, “natural” dog foods, baked foods, and grainless foods. My pocketbook is hurting. These foods are sometimes $20 more for 30 pound bags than I was paying before for the 37.5 pound bags, and I wasn’t buying cheap food then. To make matters worse, the local store where I buy the foods charges around $7 per bag more than the store an hour away. I’m always asking myself if it’s worth driving an hour and spending the gas to save the money. I could buy these foods online and save money on the price of the food, but the shipping costs would make them cost the same as buying locally.

If I felt that I had found a food that was clearly superior to what I used to feed and that the dogs did a lot better on it, then I would pay the price and not complain so much. But so far I haven’t found a food that fits that description. Right now my oldest dog is itching and scratching on a dog food that costs me $56 for a 30 pound bag, and he’s never had an allergy or other skin problem in his life. He sure is getting fat though!

There may be hope for us. I read this week that my old food has been overwhelmed by e-mails and calls from customers and they’re bringing back one of the foods they had stopped making. Starting in January we’ll be able to buy it again in the same old formula. I guess we’ll continue to try different foods for a while longer to see if we find one that’s better for us. If we don’t find one that fits my dogs and helps them do well then we’ll be going back to the old food at the start of the year.

November 11, 2008 Posted by | General | , , , , , | 1 Comment