As an animal nutritionist I get asked all the time what are my favourite foods to feed my dogs on a weekly basis. While I have written a few blogs now on the types of food I like to feed, and there are certainly always plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and meats stocked in my fridge, I’ve made a list of the things I always keep on hand. These are things that make my life easy, particularly when I am often quite busy which would make it all too easy to reach for a bag of kibble!
Whilst fresh is always best, there are times when I just haven’t had time to get out to the markets and pick up fresh fish for my dogs, so a tin of sardines is my go to. You will always find them stocked up in my cupboard. When feeding a natural wholefood diet, it’s important to know you are balancing all vitamins, minerals, amino acids, EFA’s etc. and sardines are a rich source of many of these essential nutrients.
I don’t like promoting particular (big) companies, the sardines I do like to stock can be found at Woolworths, in a blue tin, for 65c a can. When buying tinned sardines be sure to read the label carefully for what they have been packed off in. The ones I just mentioned are packed in Spring Water. Olive oil is a good choice too, however make sure it is 100% Olive oil, and not an Olive Oil Blend. The people who create labels just love to hide the word BLEND, so it’s best to read the list of ingredients. The blends contain cheap vegetable oils such as Canola or Sunflower which can throw your dog’s Omega 3 / Omega 6 balance out.
I can hear you guys yelling a mile away! Oats? Yes Oats. We all know that oats are a grain and ‘grain free’ is best right? Technically, yes, grain free for your dog is best. So why do I add oats? Dogs, like humans, require some fibrous material in their diet for good digestion and gut health, and oats make a really wonderful prebiotic.
Sometimes inflamed skin conditions can be caused from GI issues and unhealthy gut flora. Personally, I add around ¼ of a cup once or twice a week, and I also mix in half a bottle of full fat Yakult. I like to do this when my itchy girl Piper is having a flair up. In fact, if you look at most commercially prepared dog foods, they will include a product called INULIN (plant fibre derived from Chicory root that effectively boosts digestion and other processes). Traditional Chinese Medicine also uses Oats as an alkalising and cooling agent.
**A word of caution on grain free commercial dog food. Often starchy additives, such as Tapioca, are included when grains are removed which may cause irritation if your dog is prone to yeasty skin conditions and pruritus.
I’ve blogged about my love of celery previously, but it really is a fabulous inclusion to a dog’s diet. Every week I buy one celery, chop it up (leaves included) and store it in an air tight container in the fridge. I add about one handful to each meal. In TCM, celery is known for having an alkalising / cooling effect, which is why Piper gets the majority of the leaves. As with anything, be mindful of allergic reactions and use in moderation.
Turkey Mince and Turkey Wings
Turkey is its own species so an allergy to chicken does not automatically mean your dog will have an allergy to Turkey. Because of Piper’s skin allergies, I like to stay away from Chicken. I use Turkey as an irregular, alternative protein source and the wings are huge which gives both her teeth and mind a good workout.
When feeding a natural / wholefood diet, it is a good idea to rotate protein sources so that you cover all essential nutrients. Whilst beef and chicken are popular (because they are easy to get hold of and relatively cheap!) you should also be rotating through alternatives such as Kangaroo, Duck, Goat, Seafood, Rabbit and Turkey. Smaller prey type animals are best as this is what your dog would feed on in the wild. Kangaroo meat should not be fed too often as it is high in L-Carnitine which is associated with artery damage (Koeth et al., 2013)
Where possible, please chose human grade, preservative free products. Many pet meats are ‘preserved’ using unknown levels of Sulphur Dioxide which has been implicated in pet deaths due to its role in thiamine deficiency (Malik, 2005). Sulphites are also known culprits for chronic skin allergies which may include itchy skin, rash, hives. (Please see below for some research links)
A treat for my dogs for sure, Duck Liver is something to feed a small amount, once a week. This organ is an excellent source of nearly all essential nutrients and each time I feed it I see it as a vitamin / mineral boost – a natural vitamin ‘tablet’ if you will. The reason we don’t feed this on a daily basis is because of the high level of Vitamin A it contains, which if overfed to your pet can lead to hyper-vitaminosis A and it is considered to be a ‘rich’ meat which can lead to upset tummies.
It’s inevitable that there are going to be times where making meals from scratch is inconvenient. I always keep a few packets of frozen vegetables on hand, and if I know I’m in a rush, I simply leave them out to defrost. Generally speaking snap frozen vegetables contain the same nutrient levels as fresh vegetables, and one study has even shown frozen vegetables have a higher level of antioxidants. (Rickman et al., 2007) When left out to defrost, they do go soggy, but I actually love this as they are simple to chop up and mix in with a meat source. My dogs have never complained. I always purchase the following: Frozen Spinach, Frozen Kale, Broccoli and Cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, Beans.
Cold pressed Oils
As any good wholefood advocate will tell you, rotation and variety are the key to success so I like to keep a few different oils on hand and rotate between them. One tablespoon per day of one oil (only) is plenty. Flaxseed and Olive oils are a good source of vitamin E and essential fatty acids. Flaxseed Oil provides a minimal amount of Omega 3 (dogs do not convert plant sources as efficiently as humans do) but is a good source of other vitamins and minerals, such as the B groups, Calcium, Copper and Zinc. I use coconut oil as a treat once a fortnight (it’s high in calories) and I like to make sure that I have some Krill Oil handy as a marine source of Omega 3.
So, there we go, my favourite foods.
Why not share with me and the rest of our Organic Pet Community what your favourite go to foods are for your dogs!
Have fun with your dog. Belle xx
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Allergy UK: Sulphites and Airway Symptoms. https://www.allergyuk.org/sulphites-and-airway-symptoms/sulphites-and-airway-symptoms
Healthline:Food Allergy vs. Sensitivity: What’s the Difference? http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/food-allergy-sensitivity-difference
Malik, R. and Sibraa, D., 2005. Thiamine deficiency due to sulphur dioxide preservative in ‘pet meat’‐a case of déjà vu. Australian veterinary journal, 83(7), pp.408-411.
Rickman, J.C., Barrett, D.M. and Bruhn, C.M., 2007. Nutritional comparison of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Part 1. Vitamins C and B and phenolic compounds. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 87(6), pp.930-944.
Timbo, B., Koehler, K.M., Wolyniak, C. and Klontz, K.C., 2004. Sulfites—a food and drug administration review of recalls and reported adverse events. Journal of food protection, 67(8), pp.1806-1811
Vally, H., Misso, N.L. and Madan, V., 2009. Clinical effects of sulphite additives. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 39(11), pp.1643-1651.