Dog owners have a variety of ways in which to feed their dogs. Some use a Raw Diet. They make their own or buy pre-made raw diets. Others prefer to home cook for their dogs. They may make their own or order pre-made cooked diets. Some use dehydrated forms of raw dog food. And probably, the majority of people use commercial dog food, which is mainly dry dog food and also known as kibble.
Each method of feeding has issues of convenience, cost, time and interest of the person choosing their preferred choice. Making your own raw diet is generally less expensive than buying a pre-made raw brand. Cooking meals for your dog at home is also less expensive than buying pre-made cooked diets. And commercial dry dog food offers the product that is readily available and needs no preparation or freezer space. It offers the convenience of a one-step simple ‘measure out the meal amount’ that provides the convenience of providing your dog ‘a meal in a scoop’.
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A new concern about dry dog food is the issue of taurine. In recent years, some dogs have developed heart problems which have been pinpointed to certain brands of kibble. While more research is being done, there were some early conclusions that were found to be untrue. One was that grain free diets were the cause, however research has not shown this. I personally suspect this was done more for marketing purposes as no good data or information has been presented.
You need to understand how taurine is lost from animal-based products when heat is used or moisture is removed. When meat is cooked, taurine (an amino acid found only in animal-based products) is leached out during cooking. Many types of commercial dog food are heavily processed at high heats and the moisture is removed in order to make a dry product. Since a bag of meat and fat would have no shelf life, fiber is added to the food. This would include grains, rice, vegetables, beet pulp, rice bran, tomato pomace, flax seed and even peanut hulls. But the recent addition of legumes, potatoes, peas and pea proteins and lentils have added more of a concern as some research has shown that these may inhibit the uptake of taurine. It would also be wise to avoid commercial dog food that contains legumes, potatoes, peas, pea protein and lentils!
Based on this, dry dog foods (including dehydrated and freeze dried) could possibly have a lack of taurine. Many dog food companies have caught on and are now adding taurine back in to their products. However, what I recommend for those feeding dry diets, is to add some fresh food to the dry food you are feeding. A lot of people have asked me how to do that, so I have outlined it for you here!
You can mix fresh food with kibble. It does not affect digestion. That was a big Internet myth for some time. I do caution people, however, that it is probably wiser to feed raw meaty bones as a separate meal from kibble – at least in the beginning. Raw meaty bones are usually fatty and the heaviness of the bones may compete with the dry dog food for digestion in the stomach. I recommend any dry kibble be moistened, as moist food is easier to digest for dogs and is not as irritating to their digestive tract. Dogs are designed to eat raw meat and bones. It would be a rare thing if they ever ate anything completely dry. It is my opinion that eating dry food is what is causes so many digestion issues, including IBD, gastritis, reflux, an irritated intestinal lining and the ability to digest and uptake nutrients. People complain of their dog having allergies, stomach sensitivities, gas and diarrhea frequently and I believe most of this could be resolved with a diet that is moist and contains some fresh food.
With that said, let’s take a look at how you can improve a kibble diet.
Adding fresh food to kibble will only enhance it! But it MUST be enhanced with animal-based products only. Dry dog food is already too high in carbohydrates. As mentioned earlier, carbohydrates are added to extend shelf life and keep costs down. So, give your dog what they really need which is meat, animal fat, eggs, whole milk yogurt, cottage cheese, canned mackerel, salmon or sardines packed in water, organ meat, raw meaty bones and chicken or beef broth. All of these contain taurine – some more than others – and they help moisten the dry food. DO NOT add any vegetables, potatoes, grains or fruits. Dogs get no nutritional value from carbohydrates and they will only add to larger stools, poorer digestion, gas, and they add unnecessary calories.
You can add up to 50% of the total diet in animal-based proteins without any worry of adding additional calcium to balance the diet as long as you vary the proteins added, and use some dairy and canned sardines, mackerel and salmon packed in water to help balance calcium. Not only does adding animal-based proteins help to moisten the dry food for better digestion, it also adds important nutrients that your dog needs. Animal-based proteins include taurine, iron (dogs can only absorb iron from animal-based products), vitamin D3, B vitamins and vitamin A.
You can offer your dog a variety of foods with each meal. Any meats you add can be cooked or raw, with the exception of raw meaty bones. Do Not cook raw meaty bones. Raw meaty bones must be fed raw as cooked bones can splinter and cause injury to your dog, and raw meaty bones are easily digested. I do however, suggest only feeding raw meaty bones SEPARATELY from dry food in the beginning. And for extra digestive insurance as you start to add fresh animal-proteins to your dog’s dry food diet, I suggest adding the Berte’s Ultra Probiotic Powder to your dog’s meals to aid digestion. This is a very reasonably priced product at only $13.95 for a one-pound jar and it will support your dog through this diet change.
If you want a boost in taurine, the animal-based proteins highest in taurine include dark meat turkey, dark meat chicken, pork, beef and lamb. Yogurt also contains small amounts of taurine.
I hope you found this article helpful. You can find more information about feeding dogs on the K9Nutrition Facebook page, or in my book, “Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs”. I also have videos on preparing raw and home cooked meals for your dog at https://rawandnaturalnutritionfordogs.teachable.com