By Becky Pesicka, CPDT-KA, CNWI
If you follow my social media pages, you likely know that my dogs eat a raw diet. I continue to post about their diet because I get so many questions and think diet is an extremely important piece of each dog’s overall welfare. (And before you think it, no, I don’t feed raw because I’m super duper rich! It’s actually not that much more expensive per bag for quality kibble, and I spend way less on vet bills for allergies, anal gland issues, digestive problems, etc.)
There are generally two very segregated camps on the topic of raw, and whether or not you think feeding a raw diet is for you, here’s the thing – I really only want you guys to provide a better quality diet for your dogs.
Whether that is raw, a home cooked diet, or a high-quality, meat-based kibble, I just recommend you find what works best for your dog, and this article is intended to give you a few simple ways to improve your dog’s diet.
I work with a lot of behavior cases, anxiety and aggression. BUT almost ALL dogs I see, even those “normal” ones that aren’t behavior cases, could benefit from an improved diet somewhere.
If you’re feeding your dog kibble, there are a couple high-quality brands that I like and recommend. If you use another that you like, that’s ok, but these are just two that I’ve had success with: Acana and Orijen. (Before everyone freaks out, I’m not saying there aren’t other good ones, or that these work for all dogs, but I find they are great options for most dogs).
I just want all dogs on this planet to be off of crappy kibble such as Science Diet, Hills, Beneful, Purina, Pedigree, Cesars, Ole’ Roy, and basically any cheap brand you can buy at Walmart, your local grocery store, or Petco or Petsmart.
Canines are scavengers and have evolved to live with humans based on eating our scraps and leftovers (I can assure you, they did not evolve eating kibble!). Variety is extremely important, and ordering the same exact bag of dog food each month is not healthy over time, and is one main cause for developing allergies in adult dogs.
I just want to be clear on one point here: I don’t feed raw because I think my dogs are wolves and therefore I’m feeding them the same diet a wolf would eat. Domestic dogs are SO far from wolves, it’s the same as saying I like bananas because I evolved from an ape, which is just silly!
I just think that a varied, fresh food diet is best for all mammals, including dogs and people.
Add these 4 Foods to Improve your Dog’s Diet.
Sardines (wild caught and packed in water)
By now you’ve probably heard about Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids as a needed and important part of the diet. Omega-6 is readily available in a variety of foods, such as chicken and pork, and is generally not needed as a supplement.
However, dogs do need Omega-3 added to the diet, BUT this must be from an animal-based source, NOT a plant-based source, such as Coconut oil, which dogs can’t process (I’m not going to get into the science of why, but please trust me and/or do your own research).
Sardines are a relatively cheap and excellent source for adding Omega-3 fatty acids to the diet. Fatty acids support canine health a number of ways, including acting as a natural anti-inflammatory, helping skin conditions, improving arthritis, and improving intestinal health.
Give them whole or break in half, depending on your dog’s preference. The cans I buy have 4 sardines inside, so I split the can between both my dogs and pour the juice onto their food, then give the smaller dog 1 sardine and the larger dog 3.
Liver of all kinds can be found fairly readily at the grocery store or your local butcher, but chicken or beef liver are the most common I find in stores.
Liver adds additional protein to your dog’s diet, as well as a host of vitamins, including Iron, B vitamins, and Vitamin A.
Add a piece of liver onto your dog’s daily meal, or every other day, as desired.
Note that too much liver at one time can act as a diuretic so if you’re feeding liver and notice your dog’s stool becoming soft, decrease the amount you’re incorporating.
Fortified dairy products such as cottage cheese or plain yogurt
Among other benefits, cottage cheese or a high-quality yogurt add digestive enzymes and probiotics.
This is important for dogs on a kibble-based diet because so many kibble ingredients, particularly the carbohydrates, are hard to digest or unable to be digested. Incidentally, this is one reason why kibble poops are enormous and super smelly (by contrast raw poops are smaller and not very smelly because there is way less wasted by the body).
Yogurt and Cottage cheese can also add calcium and other minerals.
Yes raw, yes it’s ok, yes just crack an egg on top of your dog’s bowl. Yes maybe salmonella, but if you’re concerned about that, I bet ya didn’t know that there is salmonella in kibble!
Some dogs will eat the shell too, but I’ve found that to be far less common, so I typically toss the shell.
Eggs such an incredible protein source, in addition to providing a number of vitamins and minerals, including Iron, Vitamin D3, Vitamin A, Vitamin E and B vitamins.
All these vitamins help support the dog’s health in a variety of ways and are all essential to good health and longevity. Chicken eggs are obviously the most common and easily accessible, but duck eggs are a great option too, if you have access to that.
These can be added all in one meal, daily, or weekly. If you feel better, you can set a feeding schedule, such as 1 raw egg for breakfast every morning or MWF, cottage cheese for dinner, etc.
Personally I rotate all these things, and a few others, into my feeding routine on a daily basis, and really think it has helped my dogs in more ways than I can count.
If you’re interested in learning more about a fresh food diet, raw or cooked meals, or what vitamins and minerals dogs need, I highly recommend Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olson.
About the Author
Becky Pesicka offers positive training for all dogs, all behaviors, and all ages. She specializes in positively resolving aggression issues, the dog sport of Nose Work, and canine nutrition. You can follow her on Instagram @dogtastictraining or Facebook for more tips and tricks.
Olson, Lew. Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: the Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals. North Atlantic Books, 2015.