Pet Nutrition – What Do You Feed Your Dog?

<Updated 11SEP16>

< A version of this article was published in the June 2016 issue of Downeast Dog News>

<This topic was also discussed on The Woof Meow Show on 4JUN16 – click to listen>

Don and Muppy-Fall 2015-1Most of you know that I own Green Acres Kennel Shop and that we sell pet food. As such, it is not uncommon for someone to walk into the store and ask me, “Don, what food do you feed your dog?” Based on experience, I find that many people expect me to say “I feed my dog brand X because it is the best food for all dogs!” Sadly, when asked the same question, this is often the answer they hear from pet stores, breeders, shelters, and even veterinarians. Since that is not what they will here from me, and since my response will not be that simple, I thought I would answer it here.

If someone sells or even gives away pet food, he or she has a financial interest in which food they recommend. Green Acres’ sells pet food, and we gain financially when you purchase pet food from us. However, one of the things that I believe makes us different from many purveyors of pet food, is that once people get to know us they understand that all of us in the store care greatly about nutrition and want to help you find the food that will be the best for your dog and your budget. In fact, because we all have different dogs, with different needs, if you ask each staff member what they feed their dog you will discover you will get different answers. There is no single food that is the best choice for all dogs and all situations.

So when I am asked this question I typically respond with; “I feed Muppy, a variety of foods from a variety of manufacturers with a goal of rotating the primary protein source every time I purchase food.”

Twenty years ago I predominantly fed my dog’s kibble. Additionally, I have fed; canned food (wet food), homemade diets, frozen raw diets and freeze-dried raw diets. In 2002, we started selling Steve’s Real Food for Pets, a commercially prepared, frozen, raw food in the store. At the time, we had five dogs, so economics dictated that we fed a raw meal once a day and kibble once a day. When we were down to two dogs, we switched to feeding 100% raw. I made this choice after a great deal of research.

My fundamental reason for feeding a raw diet is that it is primarily composed of muscle meat, organ meat, and bone. Depending on the brand there is very little or no soluble carbohydrates in these foods. A diet with little or no carbohydrates is the natural diet of a carnivore like a dog or a cat. Even the best kibble is going to be high in carbohydrates which are not a necessary nutrient for dogs or cats. Our Golden Retriever Tikken lived to be 16, and I attribute that was partially due to the nutritional choices that we made for her.

When Tikken passed, we decided that we would down-size for our next dog. Our target was a dog weighing between 20 and 30 pounds. We did that for two reasons. One, both my wife and I have some back problems and carrying a 50lb dog (Tikken) up and down the stairs the last year of her life was not always easy. However, even more importantly to me, I wanted to make sure that we would always be able to afford to feed our next dog the best diet possible throughout her life. That is easier with a small dog who eats less.

Since the day Muppy joined us, just over three years ago, she has been fed a commercially prepared, frozen raw diet, which we occasionally supplement with canned food or freeze-dried food.  She is fed a variety of frozen raw foods made by Bravo, Steve’s Real Food for Pets, and Vital Essentials. We rotate the primary protein source every time we purchase food and also rotate between brands because each has advantages. Vital Essentials and Steve’s both offer their formulas in small nuggets which make portion control easier. We also keep freeze dried diets from Bravo and Vital Essentials on hand for those occasions when we fail to defrost Muppy’s frozen ration in advance of meal time. We vary protein sources at every purchase, rotating between beef, chicken, pork, turkey, and turducken. Additionally, we supplement her meals with freeze-dried green tripe, coconut oil, a probiotic and Wysong Dentatreat.

So that is how I answer the question; “Don, what food do you feed your dog?” Is that what I would suggest you feed your dog? What I recommend will depend on your dog’s nutritional needs and what you are looking for in a dog food because there is and never will be a single brand of food that will be the best food for every dog.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (http://www.words-woofs-meows.com)

Pet Nutrition – Should I Feed My Pet A Raw Diet?http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/09/11/pet-nutrition-should-i-feed-my-pet-a-raw-diet/

Reflections on 20 Years as a Pet Care Professional – Changes in Pet Food and Nutrition – part 1http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/23/reflections-on-20-years-as-a-pet-care-professional-changes-in-pet-food-and-nutrition-part-1/

Reflections on 20 Years as a Pet Care Professional – Pet Food and Nutrition – part 2http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/12/15/reflections-on-20-years-as-a-pet-care-professional-pet-food-and-nutrition-part-2/

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 1http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/06/01/nutrition-which-brand-of-pet-food-is-the-best-part-1/

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 2http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/07/01/nutrition-which-brand-of-pet-food-is-the-best-part-2/

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 3http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2014/08/01/nutrition-which-brand-of-pet-food-is-the-best-part-3/

Nutrition – Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense – http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2012/05/04/nutrition-why-rotating-diets-makes-sense/

Nutrition – Determining True Pet Food Costshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2008/11/08/nutrition-determining-true-pet-food-costs/

Book Review – Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack – The paradox of pet nutrition by Richard Pattonhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/03/16/book-review-ruined-by-excess-perfected-by-lack-the-paradox-of-pet-nutrition-by-richard-patton/

Pet Nutrition –Vital Essentials® Pet Foodhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/08/14/pet-nutrition-vital-essentials-pet-food/

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (http://www.woofmeowshow.com)

 

What do you feed your pets?http://traffic.libsyn.com/woofmeowshow/WoofMeowShow2016-06-04-What_do_you_feed_your_pets.mp3

Podcast – Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Pattonhttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/03/podcast-pet-nutrition-with-dr-richard-patton/

Podcast – Raw Diets and the Carnivore Meat Company-Vital Essentials-Dee Ferranti and Jodi Langellottihttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/04/17/podcast-raw-diets-and-the-carnivore-meat-company-vital-essentials-dee-ferranti-and-jodi-langellotti/

Podcast – The Rationale for Feeding Pets Raw Foods with Bette Schubert from Bravo Pet Foodshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/08/03/podcast-the-rationale-for-feeding-pets-raw-foods-with-bette-schubert-from-bravo-pet-foods/

Podcast – Bravo’s Raw Pets Food, Treats, Chewables and Bones with Bette Shuberthttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/08/10/podcast-bravos-raw-pets-food-treats-chewables-and-bones-with-bette-shubert/

Podcast – Feeding Your Pet A Raw Diet with Gary Bursell of Steve’s Real Food for Petshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/03/16/podcast-feeding-your-pet-a-raw-diet-with-gary-bursell-of-steves-real-food-for-pets/

Podcast – Feeding Your Pet A Raw Diet with Nicole Lindsley of Steve’s Real Food for Petshttp://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2013/03/23/podcast-feeding-your-pet-a-raw-diet-with-nicole-lindsley-of-steves-real-food-for-pets/

Books

Beginnings – Getting Your Dog and Cat Started on a Raw Diet by Melinda Miller and Honoring Your Cat’s Natural Diet by Terri Grow <Click here for a free download>

Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats – The Ultimate Diet – Kymythy Schultze

Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack – Dr. Richard Patton

See Spot Live Longer – Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

The Truth About Pet Foods – Dr. Randy Wysong

Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet – Steve Brown

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©10SEP16, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 2

<A version of this article was published in the July 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

Last month Don discussed how to evaluate the companies making the pet food. This month he discusses how to evaluate individual brands and formulas within a company.

After selecting companies you are comfortable with, the next thing a pet parent should do is to look at the individual foods produced by a company. In this day and age most pet food company’s manufacture and market multiple lines or brands of food. For example, the Natura Pet Food Company, which is currently owned by Proctor & Gamble, manufactures 5 brands of pet food: California Natural, Evo, Healthwise, Innova, and Karma. They do this to meet specific needs (hypoallergenic and grain-free formulas), marketing niches (organic) or various price points (good, better or best).

Pet food companies recognize that budget does matter to pet parents, and they try to offer a food brand in multiple price categories. Unfortunately, because people focus on the price per bag and price per pound, instead of the cost per feeding, these categorizations aren’t always logical. It really can save you money if you learn how to calculate the true feeding cost of a pet food (click here to read: Determining True Pet Food Costs). You will often discover that the actual difference in the feeding cost between the categories is often negligible and the food that costs more per bag actually is a better value.

When choosing pet foods to offer in our store or for personal use, we also look for a brand that offers multiple, adult formulas, with different protein sources that support our philosophy of dietary rotation (click to read Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense). A great example of this would be PureVita’s formulas in which they offer chicken, duck, bison, salmon, or turkey formulas. When we first started talking about dietary rotation many years ago, we quickly became the pariah of many food companies and some local veterinarians. Interestingly, now some food companies also actively promote rotation and many veterinarians recognize that it is not harmful and makes sense.

Other factors to consider are the availability of a pet food brand. The small family owned companies we discussed in my last column typically and intentionally choose to market their products through independent, locally-owned retailers who are knowledgeable and passionate about sharing their knowledge of pet nutrition. They also typically offer a money-back guarantee – if you are not satisfied with the food return it to the retailer for a full refund. They also often offer frequent buyer programs that help that retailer build customer loyalty. Remember when you buy from a locally-owned store you are getting expertise and service and you are also helping your community.

In my next column I’ll discuss looking at the labeling on pet food, specifically the ingredients used.

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Nutrition – Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 1

<A version of this article was published in the June 2014 issue of Down East Dog News>

In this first of a three part series, Don discusses the importance of looking at the companies behind the foods.

Not a day goes by here at Green Acres without at least somebody asking us, “Which brand of pet food is the best?” And when pet food companies are in the news, either due to recalls, buyouts or lawsuits, we are asked this question with even more frequency. Unfortunately, there is no single commercial pet food that will be the best food for all pets, despite of what some food companies try to tell us. Individual animals have different needs and these may shift over time. Additionally, pet food formulas and the people and companies behind pet food brands can and do change; today’s great food might become tomorrow’s worst. This is why we choose to offer multiple brands of food in our store and why we are constantly monitoring the foods and the companies behind them. It’s also why taking a close look at the company is the first step in selecting a food.

Our first preference for a pet food company is one that is a family owned and primarily focuses on making pet food as opposed to pet food being a sideline business. These companies typically own and operate the plant where the food is manufactured,  know the farmers that produce the raw ingredients for their food, have tighter quality control measures in place, and also usually only produce their own food. These brands very rarely advertise on TV, preferring to spend their money on the ingredients that go into the bag. They know that when you have a superior product, nothing beats “word of mouth” advertising.

On the flip side pet food companies that we avoid are “marketing only” companies. These companies typically don’t have a plant or manufacturing facility, nor do they have a permanent research and development staff. Instead they contract a nutritionist to develop a formula and then contract out the sourcing of the ingredients and manufacturing of the food to the lowest bidder. Often the plants that manufacture these foods vary from contract to contract, and they are also often the plants making the lowest quality foods in the market; the generic brands and house brands for supermarkets and discount stores. These marketing companies focus on what they are best at, manipulating the masses to believe that their food is the single best food available. They typically do this by creating a website and TV advertisements that tug at your heart. Like a dirty political campaign, they focus their efforts on pointing out why other brands are bad instead of why their food is good.

In the middle are the other types of companies in the pet food business. Often held by conglomerates such as Colgate-Palmolive or Procter & Gamble, these companies will sometimes still produce high quality pet foods and fund R&D in their facilities. That being said, these pet food lines continue to always require close scrutiny because of less than positive histories in the pet food industry. Two huge candy conglomerates, Nestlé and Mars, own a number of pet food brands and by some accounts may hold as much as 78% of the market share for pet food in this country. Other pet food companies are owned by venture capital funds that typically have a goal of developing a brand until they can sell it, hopefully for an enormous profit. Now the fact that they may be investing in the food usually means good things, but that may be temporary.  The reality is that knowing who owns a pet food company and their motivations for being in the business is huge in selecting a quality, healthy pet food.

In my next column I’ll discuss looking at the various brands and individual food formulas offered by a pet food company.

______________________________________________________________________________
Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at http://www.wzonradio.com/ every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at www.woofmeowshow.com. Don also writes about pets at his blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.

 

©2015, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>

Nutrition – Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense

By Kate Dutra

Change – not a word that many pet food manufacturers wanted to hear, but definite music to our dogs’ ears and overall heath. The change that we are referring to is dietary rotation. When we first began discussing dietary rotation several years ago, many of our pet food manufacturers were livid! Today however, largely to meet consumer demand, many pet food manufacturers now are producing diets within their food lines that are designed for convenient rotation.

For years, the pet food companies have been successfully convincing many of us that changing our pet’s diet will result in digestive upset. And if you ever did try to switch foods, they were quite often proven correct and you would never make that mistake again! But when you step back and think about it from a canine evolutionary standpoint, does it even make sense? Dogs are scavengers. In its feral state a dog’s gastrointestinal tracts should be equipped to handle a variety of different foods in rapid succession – there is nobody providing a slow transition to a new diet.

So what has caused this change in our domesticated dog’s gastrointestinal tract? The answer in short is that, with the help of the pet food manufacturers, we have caused it. Let’s say for example that you purchase a 30# bag of dog food and it takes your dog 6 weeks to eat it. So for 6 weeks, aside from the occasional snack here and there, your dog eats nothing else. You were so pleased with the results of this food, that when you returned you purchased another 30# bag of the same food again and again. So now, for several months your dog has consumed only that one specific type and brand of food. Now I ask, if you were to only eat one thing for several months, even if it was of great quality, and you suddenly changed, would there not be a high probability that you too would be suffering from digestive upset?

The benefits of dietary rotation are many. The first that comes to mind is simply a decrease in food boredom; imagine what it would be like to eat the same thing every day for a week, yet we often ask our dogs to do it for a lifetime. Secondly is that by alternating diets we have the opportunity to broaden our dogs’ exposures to other meat, fat, grain, fruit and vegetable sources, thus introducing different macro and micronutrients for optimal long-term health; with increased exposure comes a healthier gut and the ability to handle a wider variety of foods without digestive upset. Thirdly, by rotating diets we can potentially decrease long term exposure to harmful pathogens and microbes found in some grains which can lead to chronic illness that may not appear until later in life.

Thankfully, many of the pet food companies are now offering lines that give the consumer the ability to easily rotate diets. This however does not mean that you need to stay within a specific brand line, even though the manufacturer wants you to. We actually would encourage the rotation of brands as well as food ingredients whenever possible, as different companies make use of different vitamin packs and sourcing for their primary ingredients. But if you are not comfortable with this, your dog will still benefit from change within a brand as opposed to no change at all.

When you do change you may notice some differences. In some case stools may be smaller and firmer, other times larger and softer. There will be some foods your dog prefers over others and you can note that preference. (I actually had a lab that HATED the duck formulas – go figure)! As you and your dog try out the foods, you will find that you will both develop a preference for certain ones and use those in your rotation. The key is to not be afraid to try something new; the pet food industry is always coming out with great new stuff, it’s not just chicken anymore! Remember, if your dog has a healthy gut and is accustomed to new foods, they will be able to handle the change.

Diet rotation is not for every dog, however. Although rare, there are some dogs with true food allergies that may be best left on the same diet. Others are on prescription diets or have specific health concerns and dietary changes should not be attempted until discussed with a veterinarian. But if you believe your dog would benefit from dietary rotation we encourage you to start today. If your dog has been consuming the same food for an extended period of time, chances are you will have to slowly transition to any new diet, but hopefully with a little patience and some yogurt you will be able to help your dog’s gut develop and regain optimal health, allowing you to transition foods rapidly with little to no mixing.

NOTE: We typically do not encourage rotation of dry diets for cats, particularly neutered males as there is the potential for a change in the pH of the urine which could lead to the formation of crystals in their urine.

 

©2015, Green Acres Kennel Shop, All Rights Reserved <Click for Copyright and Use Policy>