Friday, June 20, 2008

The Dog Food Dilemma – Part 2

With so many manufacturers making poor quality dog food, what’s a conscientious pet parent to do? Believe it or not, you do have options. Your first option is to feed your dog a home made diet, whether it be cooked or raw. From the time Weylin was 7 weeks old, he has eaten only human grade food. I started out using variations of recipes from Richard Pitcairn’s book: Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. Weylin did well on the diet, but off and on he would have diarrhea. I did some research on feeding a raw diet, but I was not yet comfortable with the idea. When Maggie joined our family, I continued to feed both dogs a home cooked diet. Maggie had no problems with the cooked diet, but in the back of my mind, I still felt that the ultimate diet for my dogs would be a raw diet. I did more research on feeding raw, but my options to buy decent meat were few. I tried giving both dogs raw chicken wings. Weylin ate his whole, and Maggie was not interested. Before Weylin ate his wing, he managed to carry it around the house and get it all over the carpet. I could see that this was not for us.

Eventually I discovered that a pet store in a neighboring town carried Nature’s Variety raw food. I checked out the Nature’s Variety web site and liked what I saw. Here was a meat based raw diet that was grain free and once thawed was ready to serve. Weylin’s gastrointestinal problems seemed to stem from grain intolerance, and I believed that the raw food would end his problems. So, cooler in tow, I made the 45-minute drive to the pet store. I started feeding raw in March of 2007 and have never looked back. Both dogs are thriving, and Weylin no longer has problems with diarrhea. My husband and I eventually bought a second chest freezer so that we wouldn’t have to make the drive as often. I make a trip to get food about once every six weeks. Feeding the Nature’s Variety raw diet is actually much less work than cooking a home made diet.
If you are interested in making your own home made diet, there are several books that may be useful to you. Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats gives you several feeding options. If you are feeding a high quality kibble and want to add to it, Dr. Pitcairn provides recipes for a fresh meat supplement, a cottage cheese supplement, and a fresh egg supplement. There are also many recipes for both dogs and cats that provide a full meal. You can use raw or cooked meat, and if you want to make larger batches of food, you can freeze the extras. There are also diets for special needs animals (such as puppies or high energy dogs).
A second book with a wealth of information is Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog by Wendy Volhard. The book puts the emphasis on a raw diet, but you may cook the meat in the recipes. One thing that I really like about this book is that it goes into detail about each ingredient in the diet and why it is good for the dog. It covers different supplements as well that you might want to add to your dog’s food even if you are not using these recipes.
Another book that you might be interested in checking out is Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats by Kymythy R. Schultze. This book is strictly about feeding a raw diet, and it explains the theory behind feeding raw. It offers a good bit of information, however there are no specific recipes. I would recommend this book as a companion to other books rather than as a stand alone guide, especially if you are new to feeding a home made diet.
If you are looking for more recipes, you can find them in Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food by Ann M. Martin. I really believe every pet owner should read this book. There are some very sobering facts in it, and at times some of the information in the book made me ill just to think about it. However, after exposing the seedier side of the pet food industry, Ann. Martin devotes the last third of her book to what you should feed your pet. There are recipes as well as information on supplements.
This is by no means a complete list of resources. These are books that I own and have found helpful for my particular situation. There are many ideas and variations on homemade diets, raw or cooked. Many of the recipes include cooked grains. Some animals seem to do well eating grains, while others do not. I personally believe that the majority of the diet should be composed of meats. If you start researching raw diets, you will find that there are many different views on the subject. One name you are sure to come across in your search is Dr. Ian Billinghurst. I believe that he is from Australia, and he promotes the BARF diet (bones and raw food). He has written several books and also has a web site: If you do decide to feed a homemade raw diet, many times you can find groups on the internet who go together and buy meat in bulk. This helps to save each member of the group money.
Your second option is to feed a high quality dog food made from only human grade ingredients. There are many brands of foods to choose from whether you decide to feed raw or not. As I said before, I feed my dogs Nature’s Variety raw food (I also add some supplements, fruits, and veggies, but I will get into this in a later post.) Their website ( gives great information about each of their products. Not only do they make frozen raw food (which is a complete diet), they also make grain-free kibble and canned food (Nature’s Variety Instinct), as well as kibble and canned food that contains “whole hearty grains, and wholesome fruits and vegetables” (Nature’s Variety Prairie). Nature’s Variety also makes cat food.

I am going to give you a short list of other foods that I know to be healthy food for your dog. This is not a complete list, and it is not in any particular order.

Merrick Pet Food: Merrick makes both dry and canned foods for dogs and cats. They also make a variety of different treats. I have fed my dogs the canned food, and they love it. Sometimes I mix it in with the raw food for a little variety.
Solid Gold: Solid Gold offers a variety of items for both dogs and cats. They make dry and canned food, biscuits and treats, and supplements.
Halo: Halo has been known for it’s Spot’s Stew canned food, but they also offer dry food, treats, and supplements for dogs and cats.
Bravo: Bravo offers raw food for dogs and cats.
Primal Pet Foods: Primal offers raw, frozen diets for dogs and cats, as well as some treats.
Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul: They offer dry and canned food and treats for dogs and cats

Again, I will say that this is not a complete list of healthy dog food. There are more and more manufacturers providing wholesome feeding options for both dogs and cat. If you want to find unbiased dog food reviews, you really need to order back issues of “The Whole Dog Journal” ( WDJ is a monthly guide to natural dog care and training. It’s looks a bit thin when you first pick it up, but then you realize that there are no ads at all. WDJ does not accept advertising so that they may provide completely unbiased information. They review different types of foods each year. The June 2008 issue, which I have in hand, reviews commercially produced frozen raw diets. I have been subscribing to WDJ for a couple of years and have never been disappointed. Each issue is three-hole punch so they are easy to store in a binder.

Another great source of information is “Animal Wellness Magazine” ( This magazine is also well worth the subscription price. They always have great articles on both dogs and cats and sometimes other animals as well. If you are looking for different foods, their ads are a great place to start. From what I have seen, the pet food ads are only for high quality foods. Just by thumbing through an issue, you can get an idea of what brands of dog food are available to you.
Whether you decide on dry, canned, raw, homemade, etc. food for your dog, the key is to do your research. Be suspicious of any web site where you have a hard time finding ingredient lists. All the foods mentioned above have each ingredient listed, and you don’t have to search for the list. You can also refer to for information on different foods, but you should check the manufacturers web site for the most up-to-date information. What you feed to your dog will ultimately determine the state of his health over his lifetime. It is sad to say, but my dogs each a much healthier diet than my husband and me probably ever will.

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