Healthy Pet Food Awareness Week (according to Dr. Becker!)

Dr. Karen Becker has decided that this week is Healthy Pet Food Awareness Week. I did a quick search and I didn’t see it anywhere else so I think this is the very first year.

I did find that August is RAWgust, a celebration of raw feeding for pets, so I think it’s very fitting!

The Healthy Pet Food Awareness Week is being held by Mercola Healthy Pets with a matching donation program this week for CANWI (Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute).

I’m not sure if you’re aware of the book coming out later this year from Dr. Becker and Rodney Habib, The Forever Dog, but it is their mission to help pet parents care for their pets better so they can live longer lives (sounds familiar, right?!)!

So, what is the best food to feed my dog?

That is such a great question, and the answer I’d like to always preface with this: do the best you can with the knowledge you have and the resources available to you. There’s nothing worse than a case of “keeping up with the Jones’ ” because when you beat yourself up over something you are trying your best at, no one wins.

Me, I’ve decided that I am a lifelong student and I don’t find any shame in that. We only grow when we learn, so keep learning!

In general, the best foods to feed your dog would be a balanced fresh food diet, while the worst would be an unbalanced diet of any type. Of course, the question then becomes, how do I know it’s balanced?

Well, that answer is not so easy. When you buy a commercially produced pet food that says “complete & balanced” that means that it meets AAFCO requirements (in the US) for minimum nutrition requirements for your pet.

Here’s the kicker when it comes to kibble – those nutrient requirements are also based on feeding guidelines, so if your vet decides that your pet needs to go on a diet so you need to feed less than that bag of food says to feed, then there is no guarantee that you are still meeting the minimum nutrient requirements.

When it comes to making your pet’s food, balance can be a huge obstacle. I know that it was for me, but I’ve been following Kimberly over at Keep The Tail Wagging for many years now and she has single-handedly given me the confidence in knowing that I can balance over time and feed the dog in front of me.

When I was new to raw feeding, the general rule of thumb that people used for balance was (and I believe still is) 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, and 10% organ meat (half of which should be liver). I don’t think that’s a bad starting point, but I do think that every dog is different and adjustments should be made for the dog you are feeding to provide the nutrients that your dog needs.

I think there are also great nutritional benefits to adding veggies, but again, it’s all about feeding the dog (or cat) in front of you. If you are feeding a cat and making their food, I would highly recommend having a balanced recipe as cats are much less tolerant of deficiencies.

A really great resource for cooked dog food recipes is Dr. Judy Morgan’s Yin & Yang Nutrition for Dogs. She also just came out with an online home-cooking for your dog course.

If you are wanting to get started with raw feeding, Scott over at Dog Dad has a great Raw Feeding 101 online course.

Why not just keep feeding kibble?

Look, I get it, feeding kibble is easy and convenient and chances are that your vet recommends one brand or another, possibly even a prescription kibble, but let me tell you something …

YOU ARE MUCH SMARTER AND MUCH MORE CAPABLE THAN THESE COMPANIES GIVE YOU CREDIT FOR!

Yes, I put it in all caps because I believe in you! We have been subjected to some pretty amazing marketing over the past couple of generations. There are literally millions and millions of dollars every single year being spent on marketing and how to get you to buy this product or that product and for the most part, you don’t need any of it!

Kibble was a product of World War II and it’s time we realize the price that we pay for convenience.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that the fact that we have kibble is probably a good thing, since we have so many animals in shelters across the country. It is easy and shelf stable and in many cases cheap. I wish all the animals around the world could eat healthy, nutritious, fresh foods, but until then at least we have something.

As for the dogs in our care, the price we pay for the convenience of kibble is poor health and astronomical vet bills. And often a shortened life span.

What can I do now, today?

I know that a diet change can be a daunting task, but it really doesn’t have to be. Even adding fresh foods to your dog’s current diet can provide significant health benefits!

Some of my favorite foods to add are:

– canned sardines (in water, no salt added)
– broccoli (blanched and chopped)
– eggs (raw or cooked)
– blueberries (crushed)
– raw meats (scraps or extras from your dinner are great!)
– organ meats (cheap and easy to find in Asian markets)

There are plenty more, but these are some of the easiest in my opinion! You can simply add small amounts to the top of your dog’s food, or remove a small portion of your dogs food and replace that amount in their bowl with the fresh food.

And don’t forget to use your dog’s daily food allowance for training and enrichment!

I hope this helps you and your pet, and I’d love to hear from you what you’re doing to help your pet eat more nutritiously!

Have a happy RAWgust and an educational Pet Food Awareness Week!