• Heidi Dixner

What Do Dogs Eat?

People bring adult dogs to me--for rescue, training, or boarding--who eat food bought at the grocery store food... and they’re hyper or itchy. It’s common. So what’s wrong with that?!?!

Grocery Store Dog Food

Isn’t the grocery store where you buy food? The ads for these foods say they’re good for dogs. The dogs love to eat it! I enjoy eating candy, donuts, and chips because of all the sugar, fat, and flavor added. Doesn’t mean it’s good for me...

Fact is: dogs need healthy food just like people do. Our requirements are a little different. Dogs need more protein and fewer carbohydrates than we do. Dogs don’t need to eat as often. They are scavengers and better able to handle foods that have spoiled for humans.

Cleaner Mouths

Myth Busters swabbed for bacteria in a dog’s mouth and a human’s mouth in one episode. Know what they found? The dog’s mouth WAS cleaner. To me that indicates dogs are biologically equipped to handle spoiled food because I know they’re not exposing themselves to “cleaner” foods.

Ideally we all eat fresh foods: meats, vegetables, etc. I admit I don’t think I have enough time to do that all the time for myself, let alone my dogs. If you’re in the same place, read on! There’s hope.

Puppies may seem to thrive on all foods. Though by 2-3 years old many dogs eating these foods have developed skin conditions like hot spots, itchiness, chewing on feet, icky ears, and weepy eyes.

Itchy, Hyper, Unhealthy

Generally speaking healthy dogs aren’t itchy and few are hyper. It isn’t normal for dogs to have infestations of parasites like fleas and ticks either unless their environment is infested, and I doubt that you could live happily in a home that is.

Many years ago I got so much conflicting advice from store clerks that I got annoyed and motivated. Who could I trust?

I found The Natural Health of Dogs and Cats by Richard Pitcairn DVM. Dr. Pitcairn--his book is in the Red Rover library for your reference--discusses the industry and gives specific information on common ingredients, what to choose and what to avoid.

No Food is Perfect for Everyone

Even the best foods aren't perfect for all dogs. Watch your dog and see how she behaves when you try a new food.

Recently I added a new food to our three-food-rotation, we change protein source-beef/chicken/fish for example-and carbohydrates-rice/potato/grain with each bag I open. My dogs developed loose stool (poop) for a few days. When it didn’t improve I took the food out of the rotation.

This rarely happens! I don’t even have to mix foods for a while to get them used to it... I just switch when one bag is empty.

For the past nine years I’ve fed my standard poodles by rotating good foods. They’ve never had an ear infection-this breed grows hair in their ear canals that has to be plucked!, no itchy skin, perfect stools almost all the time. They can still eat grain without problems.

So, quick and easy, what should you seek out and what should you avoid?

Here are some great resources for you!

  • Whole-Dog-Journal.com publishes a food edition each March. They list current ingredients to choose or avoid, it also lists producers that use good practices. The publication is available online as a pdf for a small fee.

Standard poodle, toy poodle, and red dachshund eat raw, meaty bones on the porch.


  • Crossroads Pet Shop & Adopt

  • Wags and Whiskers in East Nashville and 12th South carry great foods, treats, and toys.

  • Nashville Pet Products, a local company with several locations, carries great foods including frozen raw diets.

Using information provided by the Whole Dog Journal in their annual food issue, March 2012, here’s what I can tell you--green means go (or good), red means stop (or avoid it):

  • Fresh “Meat” & “Meat” Meal (source identified ie. “chicken meal” or “beef meal”) is ideal in the first few ingredients. Meal is good to boost protein because fresh meats have a lot of water in them.

  • Meat By-Products is best avoided because it includes things that my be indigestible like floor sweepings, hair, and beaks.

  • Unidentified “meat”. If is says “meat” meal or “meat” run for the hills!

  • Whole, minimally processed grains like rice, millet, etc. C’mon, we know it’s better for US. Are dogs less alive then we are? Newsflash, we’re both not just animals but mammals. We’ve got a lot in common.

  • Natural preservatives like Vitamin E and mixed tocerephols. That means foods don’t last as long so look for relatively fresh food **.

  • Ethoxyquin and BHT (heavily regulated and/or not approved for human use) and BHA for which the jury is still out for humans too... are popular preservatives.

  • Rotate your proteins and carbohydrates, I see more dogs allergic to wheat and chicken than I can count. Why? Could it be because those ingredients, in a highly processed form--dried and extruded, are so prevalent? Anyone notice how many people are suddenly allergic to gluten? Did you notice that it’s in everything?

  • Beet pulp reportedly dries the contents of the intestines. The result is smaller, more compact stools; which is a good sell for pet foods if you can spin it so consumers believe their dogs are producing fewer stools because their food is more digestible...

#Nutrition #HealthyDogDiet #Rawdiet

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