10 Best Foods to Feed Dogs

As responsible, caring dog owners we know that what we give our dogs matters. Their food is what keeps them healthy, so we want to give them the best. Dog food can be a bit of a minefield, so “what is the best food to feed my dog?” Let’s find out.

What you feed your dog depends entirely on your dog. There is no ‘one size fits all’ food. Your dog may have allergies or a sensitive stomach. They may have a long-term illness that requires careful dietary management.

If you are feeding commercial dog food, the absolute best options are those that use fresh, local ingredients and a slow cooking process. This means the ingredients will be high quality and will not have lost many nutrients during the production of the food.

Natural brands also avoid using filler foods that dogs do not digest well. They also do not use any artificial additives or preservatives, you know there are no nasties.

You may decide that you want to prepare your dog’s meals yourself. This is a good option, but you need to be sure that you have the ratio of ingredients right to ensure your dog is getting enough nutrients and calories for his age and size.

Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the ideal daily meal sizes for your dog and how best to prepare them. For example, chicken and turkey are great protein sources and they are lean meats, which means they have a low-fat content and are easily digestible.

You will also need a carbohydrate source such as sweet potato or brown rice, plus fruits and veggies for all those essential vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.

What is the best food to feed my dog?

All dog owners wish to provide their furry friends with the healthiest dog food, but there are so many options for commercial foods that it can get pretty confusing. It is becoming increasingly popular for dog owners to prepare their dog’s meals from home.

1. Organ meats

They are a great source of protein, as well as vitamins B1, 2 & 6, magnesium and natural fats. Healthy organ options include the kidney, liver, heart, trachea, lung and brain. The liver should be fed in small amounts as it can cause diarrhea if fed too often.

2. Rice (white and brown)

If your dog has ever been ill, you will know that white rice and boiled chicken is recommended. White rice is easy to digest and doesn’t irritate the stomach. In a healthy dog, brown rice is best as it provides carbohydrates, iron, fiber and vitamins B3 & D.

3. Sweet Potato

Boiled or baked sweet potato is packed full of vitamins and minerals such as manganese, potassium, vitamins A, B6 & C. These essential minerals are vital for several bodily functions including energy production, maintaining a healthy immune system and regulating body fluids.

4. Strawberries, Blackberries and Blueberries

These “super fruits” are full of essential nutrients such as Vitamin C for a healthy immune system, enzymes that maintain good oral hygiene and antioxidants that prevent premature aging of body cells.

5. Chicken

It may seem a staple food for dogs, but it is one of the best protein sources thanks to its low-fat content and ease of digestion. Chicken also provides omega 3 and 6 which keeps the skin and coat healthy, plus various vitamins and minerals for healthy digestion, immune system and heart function.

6. Salmon

Salmon is an excellent source of fish oil, omega 3 fatty acids and protein. These nutrients help to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.

7. Eggs

Eggs are a great source of amino acids for protein production, calcium for strong bones and teeth, biotin for cell growth and riboflavin for energy production.

8. Pumpkin

Another superfood, pumpkin provides lots of vitamins and minerals, plus fiber to aid digestion. The oil from pumpkin seeds also helps to prevent urinary tract infections.

9. Natural or Greek Yoghurt

A great source of calcium for healthy teeth and bones, plus probiotics to maintain the good bacteria in the dog’s gut.

10. Green Beans

Green beans contain vitamins A, K and C, plus iron, copper, magnesium and protein.

FAQs on feeding dogs

How much should I feed my dog?

How much you feed your dog is based on their age, weight, activity levels and whether they are neutered/spayed. Young, active dogs require more calories than an elderly dog who only goes for short walks.

The ideal amount of food is just enough to keep a dog in hard muscular condition. You should be able to feel his ribs beneath a thin layer of fat just under the skin.

Follow the guidelines on the dog food packaging or, if you are preparing the food yourself, ask your veterinarian who will be able to advise you. Under or over-feeding can cause serious health problems for your dog.

You should monitor your dog for any weight loss or gain and adjust their portion sizes accordingly. If your dog does not show any weight fluctuations, then you are feeding them the right amount.

Weigh your dog once a month after giving him roughly the same amount of food every day. If he starts gaining weight, although already fully grown, he is being fed too much. If he loses weight, despite good health, he is underfed. It is better to underfeed slightly than to give your pet too much.

A dog’s appetite should be kept keen. If a healthy and well-fed dog will not eat what you know is a good, palatable and varied diet, then do not tempt him with special titbits, let him go without until his next meal is due. He will eat when he is hungry and a healthy dog will not be hurt by going short now and then.

A dog will usually eat all the food he needs in 10 minutes (and often in two). If he is given too much it may remain uneaten after this period. It is always best to remove it and offer no more till the next meal is due when fresh food should be given.

Manufacturers of canned dog foods provide helpful tables of the amounts required by various breeds of dog. The general rule for calculating how much food your dog needs is to allow 15g of food per day for every 450g he weighs, with perhaps less for an older dog.

Dogs are opportunistic by nature and will overeat if given the chance. Pampered house pets often get too many little feeds between meals: filling them up with cakes and doggie chocolates only adds to their calorie intake and causes them to suffer increasing discomfort as they gain weight.

What food should I feed my dog?

Variety is important because that way you are more likely to ensure adequate supplies of vitamins and minerals.

It is even possible to provide an adequate diet with no meat at all: for example, today we can buy complete feeds based on vegetable protein that look like a biscuit meal but need only water in addition. However, these are not recommended as a staple diet as a dog’s digestive system is designed to break down meat and bone alongside a small amount of vegetation.

Fresh meat is better given raw. Never feed cooked chicken bones as they splinter easily and can become a choking hazard or cause internal injury. Besides, provide some sort of roughage, wholemeal rusks, biscuits, dog meal. Fiber is necessary to help the passage of waste products through the intestine. The best sources of fiber include flaxseed, pumpkin, kale and broccoli.

Fish, milk, eggs, and vegetables are other useful basic dog foods, but remember that any new food should be introduced gradually. A meal should be of roughly one third to one half of meat and the remainder an equal quantity of vegetables, fruits and cereals for an adult dog.

Should I feed my dog wet food or dry food?

Dry dog food is the most nutritionally balanced and economical form of feeding. The ingredients are carefully chosen to ensure all the required nutrients are provided. Its one drawback is palatability or lack of it.

Some dog owners say their dogs will not eat it. This is due to the cooking process, which draws out a lot of the natural flavor. It is possible to add a small amount of gravy to dry dog food or to soak it in warm water for 5 minutes to soften the biscuits and enhance the flavor.

The storage of the dry food (meaning any of the kibble-type biscuit foods) is easy. It can be bought in 10-pound bags and easily kept in clean firmly lidded plastic garbage bins. It takes up no refrigerator space and it does not smell. There are no cans to be rid of or to open. Dry food has a long shelf life and can be stored safely for months after opening.

At $1 a day, the cost of feeding the dog for a week works out at $7. There is still nothing wrong with throwing in the baked dinner leftovers (veggies, gravy, meat scraps, or the tail of a lamb chop) to add to the diet.

In growing dogs, food requirements are higher per pound of bodyweight because food must be provided for growth and maintenance. (By maintenance we mean exercise and warmth). So that 1600 calories, $1 worth of dry food, will also be needed to feed a growing dog weighing 25 pounds.

A dog that is spending a lot of time running around with kids, would have a higher food requirement than a dog that simply lies around the backyard. You would have to increase the total dietary intake by 25 percent.

Owners should keep tabs on the growing dog’s weight.

They should see that the dog grows nicely and is not overfat, remembering that once a dog is fully grown its calorie requirements per pound of bodyweight drop, as they are not needing food for growth but only for maintenance, and in certain cases for exercise.

Once a dog is fully grown and has achieved a nice shape (meaning that it still has a waist) you should weigh that dog.

This is best achieved by first weighing yourself and then scooping up the dog and weighing the pair of you. The difference is the weight of the dog. Repeat this as a weekly exercise, and if the weight goes up it means you are feeding the dog too much.

This simple exercise saves money and alleviates a weight problem that so many people wrongly attribute to dogs being desexed.

Should I feed my dog canned dog food?

The problem with canned foods is the expensive packaging and the fact that you’re buying a certain amount of water in the cans. There’s a lot of water, in fact. One reliable reference gives canned foods as 28 percent dry matter, as against dry foods (the kibble type of biscuits) at 91 percent dry matter.

Some dog foods have a higher level of water than others. Still, you must understand that you are buying a fair degree of water which means that you are not getting the best value for money, especially if you have a big dog. A dog that has smaller food requirements doesn’t build-up to the higher intake and the expense.

We’ve also noticed that low incomes don’t necessarily mean little dogs. It quite often happens the other way around and feeding a big dog on canned food at $1.5 for a 15oz can or $2 for a 24oz one can become a problem. The two advantages of canned food are that it’s palatable and it’s easy.

To maintain a large dog satisfactorily on canned food and enable it to grow satisfactorily in its growth period would be quite expensive.

Canned foods are high in protein, but this in fact can tend to be wasteful. Dogs only require a certain amount of protein and convert the rest to carbohydrates which can be fed to them in the cheaper form at any rate. So with canned foods, you’re paying for a higher level of protein that may not be necessary.

Should I feed my dog table scraps?

With scraps, there is no planned diet and you don’t know what nutritional value you are feeding your dog.

Scraps in many cases are made up mostly of cooked bone and dogs do not digest cooked bones well. This is not widely known. Besides the obvious fault of feeding chop or steak bones, they can do damage to the esophagus (throat) or gastrointestinal tract.

It is common to get dogs, particularly older dogs, with severe constipation brought on by cooked bone not properly digested. This is expensive to relieve. Ordinary laxatives are completely ineffectual and the bony mass has to be broken down bit by bit inside the rectum. There can also be damage to the lower bowel caused by chips of bone.

It is critical of scrap feeding to large and quick-growing dogs. When young, German shepherd types, labrador types, and crossbreeds of this type have high calcium requirements. Scraps do not provide this.

You should also be mindful of giving non-meat foods from your plate. We cooked our meals using cooking oils, herbs and spices which can cause stomach upset for dogs. Only vegetables that have been boiled can be given as table scraps. Many veggies, including carrot, broccoli, spinach, kale and sweet potato are healthy for dogs and provide a lot of nutritional benefits.

Should I feed my dog meat only?

Meat has a high level of fat and dogs can handle this quite well – if you have a deep freeze which you are prepared to devote almost entirely to your dog.

For the growing larger breed of dog, meat has a bad imbalance or bad deficiency of calcium in relation to phosphorus.

It is necessary for the growing dog (being fed a 50 percent or all meat diet) to have a diet supplemented with calcium carbonate or gluconate. These are calcium supplements, and carbonate is the cheaper of the two.

Additionally, in the growing dog, dicalcium phosphate or alternatively sterilized bone meal is needed to provide a sufficient total of calcium and phosphorus to calcify their fast-growing bones properly.

For a natural source of calcium, it is healthy and safe to feed raw meaty bones. This includes the neck, wings and legs. Beef is the more traditional choice, but if you can get turkey, duck or rabbit these too can be fed raw on the bone. Larger breeds can be fed an entire rabbit or bird as a meal.

A lot of people incorrectly feed their dogs a straight meat diet. Dogs fed on such a diet without calcium supplements will have more brittle bones than dogs fed with a properly balanced diet. They will be more obviously susceptible to bone changes and to fractures.

What can dogs not eat?

While most fresh foods are healthy, there are some foods that should definitely be avoided. Dogs should not be given any of the following foods:

  • Onion, garlic or chives
  • Grapes, raisins or sultanas
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Citrus fruits
  • Xylitol
  • Raw yeast dough

Grapes, raisins, sultanas and xylitol are all toxic to dogs and can cause serious ill-health. onion, garlic and chives can cause digestive irritation and anemia. Macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, weakness, tremors and hyperthermia. The yeast in raw dough will be activated in your dog’s stomach, causing the dough to rise. This can leads to an obstruction or even a twisted stomach which may be fatal.

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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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