When I first rescued my dog Pancho, I thought I was doing the right thing by feeding him a premium dry food. I had no idea that the kibble I was giving him contained all sorts of, for lack of a better word . . . crap! Since then, I've learned so much more about the right way to feed your dog from my experience as a certified canine nutritionist and cofounder of Ollie. I've seen the real difference that giving Pancho healthier ingredients can make, and want to share some of the tips that I've picked up with fellow pet parents who only want the best for their pups.
- Stick to protein-rich, not wheat, diets.
Diets higher in protein and lower in wheat and processed grains (as found in most shelf stable commercial pet foods) will result in more energy for your dog and less GI problems.
- Wash your dog's food and water bowl regularly.
People easily forget about the cleanliness of their dog's bowl and how it can affect their pet's health. Most of us would never think about using the same soup or salad bowl for a week straight without washing it but many let their dog's bowl sit on the floor without thinking twice. This allows bacteria to grow and can cause illness from contaminated dishes from a mild upset stomach to vomiting and diarrhea. Make sure to wash your dog's bowl daily with dish soap and rinse thoroughly!
- Buy human-grade dog food.
Most dog foods are classified as "Feed" and although the pet food industry is currently a $25B business, we found that some kibble is legally made from 4D meat: meat from dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals. Human-grade ensures not only that the quality of ingredients that go into the food are edible by humans but also ensures food safety standards of the facility it is cooked in.
- Beware of meat with accompanying word "meal."
Meat meal, labeled on dog food ingredient lists such as "chicken meal" and "beef meal," is a nicer way of saying it is "rendered" meat. Render plants process animal by-product and can include materials such as grease, blood, feathers, and entire carcasses.
- Fresh food is better.
Canned and kibble food go through such extreme processing to make them shelf stable that most of the natural nutrients are sapped. To compensate, a ton of synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back to the diet as well as artificial flavoring so the dog will eat the kibble. Just like humans, dogs feel the difference when they eat meals made from real ingredients. It's easier to absorb nutrients from more gently processed food and thus easier for dogs to utilize them to stay healthy.
- Find the perfect portion.
Studies have shown that if you keep your dog at an ideal weight (a 4 or 5 on the body composition score) as opposed to pleasantly plump (a 6 or 7) you can add 20 percent to their life (who doesn't want more time with their dog?!). Most dog food brands give a range based on just your dog's current weight, but not knowing your dog's unique attributes such as how much exercise they get, it can sometimes be up to 50 percent more than your dog should be eating. Consult your vet, or fill out your profile and use Ollie's algorithm, to figure out your dog's unique caloric requirements and keep them healthier for longer.
- Steer clear of preservatives.
To extend the shelf life of food allowing it to sit on a store shelf for months, if not years, most commercial pet food brands that go through retailers (as opposed to directly to consumers) are forced to put a bunch of preservatives in their food. While natural preservatives exist, such as rosemary extract, many artificial preservatives can be toxic to dogs if used over a long period of time. We found out that some preservatives used double as pesticides (gross)! They are not permitted in the UK but are still legal in the US to be used in dog foods.
- Foods to never feed your dog.
Most people are aware that chocolate is bad for dogs. However, you should also stay clear of onions, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, and bones! Bones can break and sliver and can puncture your dog's intestinal tract or cause them to choke.
- Dogs are not wolves.
Yes, dogs descended from wolves and share around 98 percent of the DNA, but that does not mean they require the same diet, nor do they require a raw diet. There have been no studies showing dogs will be healthier on a raw diet, and there are dangers associated with it for both dogs and humans. Like any raw meats, they can carry pathogens that can cause food poisoning.
- Home cooking is harder than you think.
Ensuring your dog is well nourished with human-grade does not just mean feed your dog food that you would eat or leftovers from dinner. Because dogs eat the same thing every meal it is extra important that their food is nutritionally balanced. We hear all the time people cooking ground meat with peas and rice but there can be key elements missing for your dog's health (or too much of some). A balanced diet must meet all of dogs essential vitamin, mineral, and amino acid requirements. It is best to either consult a vet and get a specific recipe to follow or choose a food that meets AAFCO requirements.
- Keep your dog hydrated.
Generally speaking, dogs need between a half and a full ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. if your dog is active or lives in hot climate, maybe more. Fresh, natural food also keeps dogs more hydrated.
- Let Ollie do the work for you!
Ollie delivers freshly made, vet-formulated meals from real, human-grade ingredients that make dogs' taste buds do backflips. Our refrigerated food is gently cooked in a USDA-regulated kitchen to ensure the highest quality of nutrition and safety. We tailor each meal to your dog's one-of-a-kind needs and send it weekly or biweekly directly to your doorstep. For more info, head to Ollie.