What should my dog be eating to stay healthy?
February 13, 2010 10:56 AM   Subscribe

What kind of food is nutritionally best for dogs? Where can I go to get reliable information on dog food?

I am currently feeding my dog Purina One Naturals but am having a hard time finding it on the shelves--so it's getting time to switch to something else.

My dog does better on oats or rice, seems to be sensitive to wheat products. [diarrhea] Please recommend where to get trustworthy information on what makes a food good for dogs.
posted by AuntieRuth to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Check here, some good info.
posted by iamabot at 11:10 AM on February 13, 2010

When I've looked into this, I couldn't find much information except that the dog diet has evolved to be similar to the human diet. So, get a good mix of fiber, carbs, and protein. Personally, I prefer homemade dog food; it's cheaper and I am more confident with where the ingredients are coming from since there is no requirement that pet food products have pre-market approval by the FDA. Of course, there are a few things to avoid- onions and uncooked salmon stand out. I've had good luck with this homemade recipe:

Main Ingredients:
32 oz. bag of mixed frozen veggies
8 cups water
1 cup brown rice
2 cups TVP (if you prefer a vegetarian diet) or cooked chicken (if not)
Olive Oil, Flax seed oil, molasses, peanut butter

Bring water and frozen veggies to a boil, add rice and simmer for 45 minutes add remaining ingredients and stir. This lasts for about a week for my 45 lb. dog. I also mix in kibble once every couple days.
posted by surfgator at 11:13 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by purpleclover at 11:20 AM on February 13, 2010

Thanks purpleclover :) Saved me from retyping it.

AuntieRuth...you don't have your location in your profile...but almost all good foods have store locators that will tell you where their food is available in your area (the best foods are only available at independent pet stores although Whole Foods does carry the Wellness brand and Primal). Petco and Petsmart carry Solid Gold, Wellness, Holistic Select (used to be "Eagle Holistic"), and Blue which satisfy the criteria for good foods (but with the exception of Solid Gold's "Bark at the Moon", they aren't A+ foods but good solid A- or B+). I've linked some manufacturers below that might sell in your area:

Natura (EVO, California Natural, and Innova)
Solid Gold
Nature's Variety
Natural Balance
posted by vito90 at 11:35 AM on February 13, 2010

On the off chance that you live on one of the coasts, or in a major cosmopolitan city, you might be able to find these (A+) foods:

Petcurean (GO! and NOW!)
Champion Pet Foods (Orijen and Acana)
First Mate
posted by vito90 at 11:39 AM on February 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with surfgator. I have 6 dogs, and cook for them. They get brown rice (buy it at the GFS so it's cheap), beef (supplement Ca/P 2:1), yogurt, vegetables, cod liver oil or flax oil. They are doing great, are at healthy weights, and it's cheaper and better for them than commercial food. See Dr. Pitcairn's book , which has some great suggestions. Note: when I cook hamburger/chuck for them, I cook it in a pot, then add hot water to about an inch above the meat. I put the pot in the fridge, and the fat hardens and I can just grab the chunks and throw them out= defatted beef.
posted by bolognius maximus at 11:48 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

The most basic things that I've heard are to not get a food that has corn or some other filler as the first ingredient. A meat should be the first ingredient. Also, you don't want meat that is some byproduct crap....you want meat in there that is human grade if possible.

I've had good luck with Canidae. I think it is in the middle of the spectrum of price for commercially made food. People who spend a lot more on food will have their reasons...people who will spend a lot less will have their reasons, too. This really is a good question for a veterinarian (and not the people who work at the pet stores).
posted by fieldtrip at 12:46 PM on February 13, 2010

You can compare different dog food brands at these sites:


I used to feed my dogs Natural Balance. One dog is allergic to beef and so I fed their 'Duck and Potato' Limited Ingredient Diet, canned and kibble. Well, they changed their formula last year with very little fanfare to include more potato and less duck. In fact, they changed the name to 'Potato and Duck' formula. Eating it made my dogs itchy, skinny (it had less protein than the original formulation) and gave them horrible digestive issues. Not only that, but they raised their retail prices!

I switched to Taste of the Wild about two months ago and have noticed shinier coats, efficient digestion, and much excitement at mealtime. I get a monthly UPS shipment from West Coast Pet Supply and it is cheaper than what I was previously paying for Natural Balance at PetCo.

If I had the freezer space and resources, I would be feeding my dogs a raw diet, as I do with my cats.
posted by Seppaku at 12:58 PM on February 13, 2010

Building on what fieldtrip said: you want named meat meals high on the list. Actual meat is great, but there's way less of it than you'd think -- even if it comes first on the ingredients list.

An ingredients list like: "Chicken, Beef, Corn, Oats, Rice, ..." is terrible, despite sounding great -- when you remove the water from the chicken and the beef, they're way, way farther down the list. Meat meal already has the majority of it's moisture removed, thus it's lots of high quality protein -- seeing that high on the list is a good sign. Seeing something like "Animal meal" is not so good, however as it could be just about anything.

I feed Orijen to my little furry brat -- I would probably feed raw if I had more time and space, but high quality kibble is pretty darn good for 'em.
posted by wrok at 3:27 PM on February 13, 2010

Thanks for your answers so far. I like to make food for my friends but sometimes I just don't have the time so the recommendations for store bought are much appreciated.

One question for the homemade dog food makers...what kind of vegetables do you make? My dogs like raw carrots--but don't like celery or apples..what other veggies do your dogs like? Again, thanks a million for all the great ideas!
posted by AuntieRuth at 4:02 PM on February 13, 2010

Another high quality dog food is Blue. I don't know about other people, but the smell of dog food tells me a lot about the quality and ingredients. I can honestly say that the Blue food smells good and it's not greasy. Most of the other dog food out there smells disgusting, putrid even.

We also used to feed our dogs Natural Balance, but I noticed a change in smell and quality last year so we switched back to Blue. Thanks for pointing out what changed Seppaku. We bought the Potato and Duck formula as well.

Thanks for the homemade dog food recipe surfgator. I think I might give that a try. One of our dogs is naturally thin and no matter how much we feed her she doesn't gain any weight. This might help.
posted by wherever, whatever at 4:14 PM on February 13, 2010

what other veggies do your dogs like?

They'll eat just about anything if it's pulverized with the rest of their food, but I especially like to give them nutritionally rich fruits and vegetables, especially cooked sweet potato, kale, parsley, raw cranberries, carrots, broccoli, and bananas.

(Whether dogs need vegetables is a matter of debate amongst the homemade-food people, but I figure they've been eating our leftovers pretty much since they were domesticated 14,000 years ago, and our leftovers usually include vegetables, so it makes sense that they've adapted to a diet that includes them.)
posted by HotToddy at 4:17 PM on February 13, 2010

what kind of vegetables do you make? My dogs like raw carrots--but don't like celery or apples..what other veggies do your dogs like?

YMMV - my dogs love celery and apples. Spinach, turnips, potatoes, cheramoya, tomatoes, corn, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, bananas, pumpkin, pineapple - they will eat any vegetable or fruit I offer them. I think it's just a matter of personal taste.

Just remember that onions, garlic, grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs.

I will sometimes add plain yogurt, flax seed, olive oil, and whole raw eggs (shells too!) to my dogs' food. Eggs will help them regain weight if they've changed their workout regimen or have spent some time at the boarding kennel and seem a little spare.
posted by Seppaku at 9:34 PM on February 13, 2010

My friend was overfeeding her dogs with Milk Bones and the dogs were gaining weight. The vet recommended instead of using Milk Bones for treats all the time, buying apples and bananas to cut up, put in the fridge, and give those as treats.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:52 AM on February 14, 2010

If you decide to prepare your dog food, be careful about spoilage and be aware of what foods dogs cannot have (the list is daunting - longer than onions, garlic, grapes and raisins). You also need to know what foods have value for dogs - raw eggs have biotin blockers, for instance.

If you decide to go with a boutique dogfood, joins some list so that you'll be aware of recalls or the potential for recall ASAP. (It's a problem.)

There is a lot of controversy about pet foods which is not helped by the fact that pet food manufacturers don't have to disclose as much as food manufacturers - and of course they change suppliers and ingredients all the time.

FWIW, the diarrhea may be from eating too much grass, not the food directly. If you can provide some greens for your dog (peas, green beans, whatever), that might solve the problem.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:53 AM on February 14, 2010

You also need to know what foods have value for dogs - raw eggs have biotin blockers, for instance.

"Biotin deficiency can be caused by excessive consumption of raw egg whites over a long period (months to years). Egg whites contain high levels of avidin, a protein that binds the vitamin biotin strongly."

(Protein chemist here) Biotin binds to avidin in one of the strongest non-covalent bonds ever discovered. However, in order to induce biotin-deficiency, a human would have to eat 20 egg whites per day.

So supplementing your dog's regular high-quality diet with a raw egg is not likely to cause biotin deficiency. But if you're really worried about it, you can cook eggs for your dog (using no salt, pepper or fat).

be aware of what foods dogs cannot have (the list is daunting - longer than

There are lists available of what foods dogs cannot have,
and many of the entries on that list are pretty common sense. Don't get your dog drunk, high, or smoking cigarettes. But also no mushrooms or persimmons!

FWIW, the diarrhea may be from eating too much grass, not the food directly. If you can provide some greens for your dog (peas, green beans, whatever), that might solve the problem.

The OP didn't mention that her dog was eating grass. But dogs usually eat grass because they enjoy it (usually slowly and methodically) or because they would like to throw up (eating quickly with little chewing).

IF your dog has really bad diarrhea, it is not a good idea to begin introducing novel green vegetables. First, rule out intestinal parasites by taking a stool sample to your vet. Next, impose a 12-hour fast upon your dog. Give your dog plenty of water, but no food. This allows the digestive system to 'clear out' and have a rest from constantly producing poor quality poo. Then, resume feeding your dog very easy-to-digest foods (such as boiled chicken and rice). Feed in small portions, don't overwhelm the body.

If your dog's stool looks like a cowpie and needs some firming up, adding easily digestible fiber to their food can help. Canned pumpkin with no additives (the kind you buy for pumpkin pies, without sugar) typically works well.

But the OP is very sensible to consider that her dog's diarrhea may be caused by allergies to wheat in Purina One. It doesn't make any sense to supplement a nutritionally poor supermarket dog food brand with additional vegetables. Adding green peas or beans to Purina One is unlikely to reduce the dog's diarrhea.
posted by Seppaku at 12:31 PM on February 14, 2010

I bought Canidae today-both canned and dry...mixed reviews from the gang..the pug cheerfully ate every bite [Cassie] The Golden Retriever ate all of his and snooked around for more. My fussy one [dachshund] ate half and walked off in a huff..She prefers lamb little Cesar..

Our local pet store stocks many that Vito90 recommended so we have some things to try to please the princess! Thanks a bunch for the help. I find the bewildering array of options confusing and ever since the Chinese wheat scare I am afraid I'm accidently going to poison my pals.
posted by AuntieRuth at 3:46 PM on February 15, 2010

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