Just like humans need proper nutrition to be healthy and happy, so too do our dogs.
But the decision on what to feed our dogs can be a confusing one. Grocery stores usually have a whole aisle dedicated to pet food with a large assortment of brands. The fact that there lacks regulations in pet food labeling only makes things harder for consumers. But with the very real concern of contaminated food from bacteria and chemicals, we need to put some effort into educating ourselves for the sake of our pet’s well-being.
This topic is especially close to my heart since I had a beautiful doberman die young of cancer. To this day, I wonder if it was my fault for feeding her a cheap dog food. I didn’t know better back then and there weren’t many options for healthy dog food. Luckily today things are different, we have some good dog food companies and information easily found about raw food diets. (FYI I’m currently feeding the Acana grain free dog food.)
So what doberman food should we buy?
Ideally we would want to feed our dogs home-made, human-grade, raw meat meals but this is just not practical for most people. As much as I’d like to, I don’t feed raw.
Here are some common reasons people don’t feed raw.
- more expensive
- need to ensure it’s “nutritionally balanced”
- can be more time-consuming
- the risk of salmonella
- MESSY! Who wants raw chicken being dumped on the kitchen floor?
- small freezer space
- and not practical if the dog is boarded or travels
A new option and alternative to raw food is dehydrated dog food like The Honest Kitchen.
Dog food sold at the grocery store is usually garbage.
Good dog food now exists, but depending on where you live, you might have to do some searching. If you’re going to feed a dry dog food, find a good quality kibble food and supplement it with other “real food” goodies to ensure your dog is getting a “balanced” diet. It also makes things more interesting for your dog.
When looking for a good dog food, you want to avoid kibbles high in grains (corn, flour, etc) and choose one with a meat or meat meal in the first three ingredients. Also, look that the label says “meat” and not ” by-product”. (But realize that not all by-products are bad. Dogs in the wild would eat most of an animal. It’s the non-digestible stuff that is bad, like hooves or hair.)
I’ll repeat this since it’s the most important thing to consider: You want meat listed in the first 3 ingredients. Find a company or farmer you can trust that uses quality meat, not diseased animals. And preferably from human-grade, grass-fed or free-range animals. Dogs are carnivores and need a high protein diet. A To help you compare different dog food brands, you can read our previous post for more tips.
- Add chicken broth, bone broth or natural gravy to dry kibble. This adds needed moisture, but avoid broths with lots of sugar, salt, spices or preservatives. Extra moisture is especially important if your dog doesn’t drink much water.
- Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top.
- Add low-fat plain yogurt, kefir or sour cream for probiotics.
- Add a teaspoon or two (depending on your dog’s size) of flax seed oil or fish oil to the kibble (omega-3 acids)
- My dogs favorite, add a can of salmon or sardines in water to the dry kibble. They start whining as soon as I open the can.
Don’t forget if you have a fast-gulping eater, get them a food dish that makes them work a bit. Dobermans are susceptible to deadly bloat, so take this seriously.
Buy them a good Slow Feeding Dish. I love mine, it’s stainless-steel with an anti-skid bottom and I can put it in dishwasher.
As for dog treats, if you can’t find a product that has organic, human-grade ingredients then try a home-made recipe. Dried liver treats are easy to make and dogs love them. Bake it in the oven and you have a cheap and nutritious dog treat for your doberman. But if you hate cooking, an easy alternative is to give your dog a vegetable or fruit treats like apple slices or green beans. Ideally you want to give protein treats instead of high carb/grain, store-bought cookies.
Instead of raw hides that may have preservatives, are bleached, and have artificial flavours and colors, ask a butcher for bones, chicken necks are great. To kill any surface bacteria, you can freeze them first or you can submerge the bones in boiling water for about 30 seconds, just long enough to kill the bacteria. Remember that cooking bones makes them easier to splinter so avoid giving your dog cooked bones.
Beware hard bones and antler chews!
If you can’t bend it or wack it on your own knee without hurting, it’s probably too hard for your dog’s teeth. Dogs love beef marrow bones, but they can chip your dogs teeth. Once he’s chewed the meat off the bone, throw it out! Don’t risk a tooth fracture. In the wild, dogs wouldn’t eat a large heavy animal like a cow, their teeth are meant for smaller prey. Again don’t risk your dog breaking a tooth. The dental vet bill will hurt your wallet and make you cry, seriously.
A good alternative for recreational chewing are Bully Pizzle sticks. These are great to keep dogs busy chewing and give you some quiet time.
Lastly, know which foods to never give your dog. Some foods to avoid include: chocolate, onions, macadamia nuts, grapes/raisins, soy, citrus and the sugar xylitol.
I don’t think anyone would recommend vegetarian diets for dogs. Domestic dogs are omnivores who favour meat. In the wild, dogs naturally eat meat, bones, vegetables, fruits and any grains present in the stomach of the dead animal. You should aim to give your dog a diet similar to what their wild family relatives eat.
Also don’t worry too much about whether your dog likes his food. Compared to humans, who have about 9000 taste buds, dogs only have about 1700 taste buds. They shouldn’t be picky eaters like we are. But of course, their sense of smell is better than humans, so try to make their food smell interesting. The stickier the better. Sardines smell great to dogs.
In tomorrow’s post, I’ll provide you with guidelines to find good quality dog food at the store for your doberman.