As an independent pet food retailer and educator, I spend a lot of time researching pet food and took note of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent statement about a possible link between grain-free dog food and canine heart disease. Its investigation centered on: “ … certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.”
This is a Big Story in the pet food world as the FDA investigatesg why a very small group of dogs has developed a specific heart disease. The theory is that it might be related to grain-free diets, but the FDA is still trying to figure it out, which may take some time. Personally, I look forward to its findings and whatever developments unfold for the pet food industry.
My advice to dog owners: Don’t panic. This is not a recall. There are huge numbers of dogs living healthy lives on grain-free foods that were formulated to remove troublesome (often itchy-scratchy) allergens such as corn and wheat.
You may now be wondering what to feed your dog. I encourage you to look at products with more meat-based protein. There are three main types: raw, freeze-dried, and cooked.
Fresh-Frozen Raw Food
These nutritionally robust diets are easy to defrost and feed. Based on years of customer feedback, plus the work of leading holistic veterinarians, my observation is that many dogs thrive on raw food.
If you’re worried about food safety, these products are carefully made. Just remember to use safe handling practices in your kitchen. The frozen brands I recommend include Stella & Chewy’s, Primal, Small Batch, and Answers pasture-raised diets plus their fermented supplements.
Freeze-Dried Raw Food
Convenient and shelf stable, freeze-dried foods are packed with meaty nutrition; simply add water before feeding. Dogs that don’t adapt well to raw food can often digest these products. Freeze-dried brands your dog may enjoy include Stella & Chewy’s, Primal, Orijen, and Rawz.
Some dogs do better with cooked products, which come in a variety of ways. In the freezer, look for My Perfect Pet, a gently cooked food with human-grade ingredients. On the refrigerated front, there are now subscription-based diets that you can order and have shipped to your door. While the ingredient quality appears good on paper, these products have little history and are quite perishable, which is why you won’t see them in pet supply stores.
Canned pet foods, also called “wet food,” have been delivering meat into dog bowls for decades. The quality of the premium brands is unbelievably good, but be sure to read labels closely. Some grain-free recipes contain small amounts of potatoes or legumes.
Popular canned products to look for include Merrick’s Grain-Free 96 Percent, Evanger’s Grain-Free Game Meats, Lotus Foods Just Juicy, and Rawz 96 Percent Meat, which is also free of thickening gums.
What About Cost?
Adding meaty foods to your dog’s diet will obviously cost more than plain kibble. What you’re paying for is quality meat protein. Since that meat isn’t rendered into tiny bullets, it doesn’t have to be combined with starchy fillers, like legumes or potatoes, to hold its shape and sit in a bag for a year. Kibble formulas rely heavily on all types of carbs. That’s why they’re cheaper.
If getting more meat protein into your dog’s diet is important to you, follow these tips.
• Use a small amount of meaty food as a kibble topper to tilt the meat percentage in your dog’s favor and stretch your dollars, especially in a multipet household.
• Feed a dedicated meaty meal a few times per week to increase the overall meat content of your dog’s diet.
• Serve a meaty meal in the morning, then offer a modest bowl of kibble in the evening. This is how I feed my own dogs, and I’m amazed at the results, especially
for my senior dog, Garnet, who bounds off the couch for her raw food breakfast.
Basic decisions about pet food have become more confusing than ever. If you’re new to the foods above, talk to your local pet supply store and ask for samples. If the staff doesn’t answers your questions, visit a store with a caring team that can.
If your dog has health issues of any kind, consider consulting with a holistic veterinarian who specializes in nutrition therapy. Whatever you do, be careful with online information unless you’re confident it’s from a reputable source.
In the meantime, bring on the meat. Your dogs will be as excited as mine to discover what’s in their bowls.
Main article photo by: WilleeCole-istock