What’s in your dog food?

For the last couple years, we’ve tried to eat a healthy, natural diet.  It’s been a progression as we learn more and more and figure out what things are worth the time and money, and which aren’t.  Our diet is far from perfect, but at least we’re headed the right direction.

A few months ago, it occurred to us that while we were trying to feed ourselves the right foods, we were feeding Dee-Oh-Jee, our Australian Kelpie, a diet of processed, hard to digest grains, preservatives, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and low quality animal byproducts of unknown origin.  In short, we were feeding him food that we would never eat ourselves.

Most cheap dog foods use a lot of grain and plant byproducts as fillers.  Dogs get very few nutrients from grain and have difficulty digesting most grains efficiently.  Higher quality dog foods contain more meat, but it’s usually meat from a sick or diseased animal that wasn’t fit for human consumption.  The highest quality dry foods will have a high meat content made up of quality meats, with little or no grain as filler.

We switched to a more expensive, higher quality dog food without artificial ingredients.  The better food made a huge difference in Dee-Oh-Jee’s energy level and temperament, but we still didn’t feel right about the grain and carbohydrate content.

With a little research, we quickly came to realize that the BARF diet was a better choice than the dry food we were using.  BARF originally stood for Bones And Raw Food.  It now is generally called Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.

A few days after deciding to try the BARF diet, we were given several cases of chicken hearts and gizzards.  We weren’t too interested in eating them ourselves, so we served them to the dogs.  (By this time we had adopted Tank, a lab/pit bull mix.)  It took some coaxing to get Dee-Oh-Jee to eat the chicken raw, but once he did, we saw an improvement in his skin and fur, and in his energy level within 24 hours.

Since then we’ve been feeding the dogs whatever raw meat we can find.  Chicken from the store, roadkill, rabbit, old steak from a neighbor.  We don’t always have raw meat for them so they have to eat dry food some days, but we’re working toward producing our own natural raw meat for them.

The dogs even eat the bones.  I was hesitant about it at first, but I’ve never found even a tiny fragment of bone that didn’t get digested.  Never feed dogs cooked bones – they will splinter and cause dangerous blockages and infections.

The argument against the BARF diet for dogs is that we aren’t scientists or nutritionists and don’t know how to design an appropriate diet for our dogs.  That’s ridiculous.  Do you buy a big bag of dry food for yourself because a scientist put all the right ingredients in it for you?  Of course not!  Why should you do that for your dog?

See how your current dog food ranks at Dog Food Analysis.  Even if you’re not willing to feed your dog the BARF diet, at least consider switching to a high quality kibble or try your hand at making your own dog food.

For more information on the BARF diet, check out Barf World.


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Husband, father, jack-of-all-trades.

One thought on “What’s in your dog food?”

  1. I feed the chi-girls Blue which is “supposedly” a better dry dog food.

    I did try several natural, holistic, physically prepared by me dog foods…

    #1 Moo is about 4 pounds of dog. She is so tiny and dainty – the only dog I know who makes a huge effort to walk around puddles or even sheets of paper on the hardwood floor. She won’t even sit on any surface unless it is carpeted. Really demanding little girl. For whatever reason she has decided that raw meat isn’t girlie-girl enough for her refined palette. Moo has told me point blank that she would rather starve to death than eat raw chicken.

    #2 Clementine (who is bigger – weighing in at 10 pounds) was rescued from a breeding facility. She was kept pregnant in a pen for the first 6 years of her life. As such… honestly watching her eat is heart-breaking. It is exactly like watching a game of hungry-hungry hippos. Except that she stops and chokes and gags with deep ragged breaths every few bites… it hurts me to watch, but there isn’t anything I know of to prevent it. The raw meat was a serious choking hazard and more directly harmful to her health.

    Secretly, I’m thrilled they spared me from that for their respective reasons. I cannot image giving them a vegetarian diet – everything I’ve read suggests that while humans probably don’t suffer harmful effects – maybe dog’s bodies don’t work well without meat.

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