In the dog world, there are two things which will predictably provoke arguments: training methods and dog food. I’ve spent a lot of time discussing training on this blog, I haven’t really talked about what I feed my dog, so let’s do that today!
Maisy’s diet is kind of complicated. I feed a combination of kibble, pre-made/frozen raw, and whole/bone-in meats. Maisy also gets some fruits and veggies, both cooked/pureed and fresh, and of course, she has a supplement cocktail, too. So, not only is there a fair amount of variety, but I further complicate matters by keeping track of the rough amount of calories I’m feeding.
“Normal” people think this is excessive, but the truth is, I feed the way I do for a reason. I think the part that throws people the most is the calorie counting, but honestly, I think it’s the most important part. Argue all you want about the comparative benefits and risks of raw, kibble or home-cooked, but when it comes down to it, the best thing you can do for your dog is to keep her at a healthy weight. This is doubly true for performance dogs, as well as the long-backed among us. Both kinds are at risk of injuries, especially to their joints, and since Maisy has already had some back issues at the tender age of three, it is especially important that I keep her slim. And, at 17.2 pounds, she is on the slender side of normal. There is absolutely no excess fat on this dog, anywhere.
Okay, on to what I feed. The anecdotal evidence for raw food is pretty overwhelming, and in fact, my vet recommended that I consider switching to raw. My problem is that there are a lot of ideas of how to feed raw, with very little science to back up which way is best. This makes me hesitant to start with, but even more nerve-wracking for me is the idea of balancing the calcium to phosphorous levels, not to mention all of the other nutrients. As a result, I tend to favor the pre-made raw mixes that meet the AAFCO definitions of a “complete and balanced” food.
My favorite pre-made raw food is Primal. I chose it primarily because of the size and shape: it fits perfectly in a medium Kong, and Maisy gets one or two cubes every day for breakfast. She eats the duck variety, a flavor I picked for a couple of reasons. The most important consideration is that Maisy has food allergies to lamb and eggs (she’s also allergic to a whole host of environmental factors, ranging from grasses to wool to human dander, a fact I don’t believe I’ve mentioned on this blog before). Anyway, while many of the pre-made raw products include eggs, Primal doesn’t. It’s also one of their lower-calorie options, coming in at approximately 50 calories per ounce. And finally, it’s generally considered a “cooling” food in Chinese Medicine, and although I’m not entirely sure I believe in that, people I respect do, and since all of Maisy’s issues (physical and reactivity-wise) are ones that would be blamed on a heat imbalance, I’m willing to try it. Even if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t hurt, either.
For supper, she gets kibble in a food toy. I probably wouldn’t feed kibble at all, but Maisy loves the toys, and they provide her with valuable mental stimulation, so we keep them. Most of the time, she gets Taste of the Wild- Pacific Stream, which is a grain-free, fish based kibble. Maisy loves fish, and it’s generally considered a cooling food. Depending on what else she ate that day (including number of treats, and whether or not she asked for extra at breakfast), she’ll either get one-third of a cup (120 calories) or one-half of a cup (180 calories). Sometimes, though, I’ll give her Wellness CORE: Ocean instead. This product is also a fish-based, grain-free kibble. It has more calories, so she only gets one-third of a cup, for 150 calories.
I also add in some fresh foods. Although this isn’t “complete and balanced,” Monica Segal says you can replace up to one-fourth or so of your dog’s daily calories with other foods without unbalancing the diet. This includes treats, of course, but I use such small treats that it doesn’t make up that much of Maisy’s diet.
Once or twice a week, I’ll give her some raw meat, usually chicken quarters because I can pick them up cheap. I usually remove about half of the skin and any excess fat, plus I usually cut the quarters into three, with the goal being a 3-4 ounce portion. I do feed it bone-in, and although that was scary at first, she’s had no problems crunching through, and honestly, it’s kind of cool to watch her use her teeth the way nature intended. Sometimes she’ll get a bit of extra beef or turkey instead- whatever I’m eating that night.
Whenever I have leftover veggies, or just veggies I need to get rid of before they go bad, I’ll cook and puree them, then put them in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, they fit well in the Kong, and at 10-15 calories, make a perfect snack on the days she asks for more food. I’ve also done this with canned pumpkin and even ground turkey.
And that’s what I feed my dog. I don’t know that it’s the “perfect” diet, but I’m very comfortable with what she’s eating. I feel like she’s getting a nice variety of foods, and I don’t worry about there being a possible imbalance of nutrients like I used to. Best of all, Maisy loves everything she gets, and she’s very healthy right now. And really, what more could a girl want?
Anyway, I’d love to hear about what you’re feeding your dogs. Do you feed a “complicated” diet, or do you trend towards something simpler? And why do you choose what you do? Let me know!