Whole Foods for Dogs
While working from home, you may be spending more time with your dog. While he or she is constantly noticing the food you are eating, have you ever thought about the food your dog is eating? In the field of nutrition, we are always advocating for a diet rich in healthy, whole foods. But what about the diet of our dogs? Have you ever wondered what nutrition is the best for your dog or how to balance their macronutrients? Operating under the belief that whole, nutritious foods are best for any living being – dogs or humans – nature can give us the best answers.
Mankind started domesticating the dog’s ancestors, wolves, about 30,000 years ago. Since then, the size and appearance of dogs have changed dramatically as different breeds have evolved. One thing that is essentially unchanged is the dog’s digestive system. To this day, the genetic difference between any breed of dog and wolves is only 0.02%, which means that dogs are best equipped to eat a diet that is similar to what wolves eat in nature. Research and years of observation of Canadian wolves and their primordial diet has shown that the overall ideal macronutrient break down for dogs and wolves is approximately:
7% carbohydrates (vegetation)
Based on this information, the following guidelines will provide a balanced and complete raw diet rich in protein, vitamins and nutrients:
Vegetation (5-10% of diet) – Blend raw fruits and veggies and freeze them in ice cubes to be added to your dog’s meals. This provides vitamins and beneficial phytonutrients, and the blending makes it easier to digest.
Bone (12-15% of diet) – Bones provide minerals, such as calcium, and keep teeth clean and strong. If the bones are meaty they should make up about one-third of the diet. All bones should be uncooked as cooked bones may splinter when chewed. Select bones that match your dog’s size and life stage. Some good choices are:
Chicken wings, necks, legs or thighs (great for small breeds too)
Beef tail bones (great for larger dogs)
Lamb or goat necks or ribs
Organ meats (10-30% of diet) - Raw organ meats are like multivitamins for dogs because they are rich in nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, E, Manganese, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Calcium. It’s important to provide as much variety as possible and no one organ should be more than 5 to 10% of your dog’s diet. Examples of organ meats include liver, kidney, heart, spleen, pancreas and brain.
Raw, lean meats (one-third to one-half of the diet) - These protein-rich components make up the rest of your dog’s diet and are needed to build strong tissues and to support hormones and enzymes for optimum health and digestion. Good choices for raw meat include:
Beef (ground beef, cheek meat, stewing beef)
Beef heart (but not more than 5% of the diet as it’s very rich)
Bison (ground bison, stewing bison meat)
Turkey (ground turkey, boneless thighs, breast meat, tenderloin)
Lamb (stewing lamb, ground lamb, shoulder or breast meat)
Pork (pork shoulder or butt, cushion meat, boneless rib meat, loin)
Chicken (boneless thighs, breast meat)
Fish (once a week to meet omega 3 fatty acid needs as fish is rich in beneficial EPA and DHA)
Fat – Feed your dog fat but not too much. Fat should be approximately 10% and certainly no more than 20% of the diet (not only will this cause unwanted weight gain, but too much fat cannibalizes protein and minerals). A good rule is to feed twice as much protein as fat.
The primordial wolf diet includes very few carbohydrates, aside from vegetation. Although dogs are able to digest carbohydrates, they do not need them like they need protein and fat. In fact, too much starch in a dog’s diet will spike insulin just as it would in humans, leading to higher risks of obesity and related health problems.
Overall, feed your dog about 2-3% of his ideal adult weight. So, if he weighs 50 lbs, feed him 1lb of food or a bit more. Some common concerns when feeding a raw diet is the possible exposure to pathogens in raw food, however, a dog’s digestive system is fully equipped to handle harmful bacteria that would make humans sick. When a dog is following a natural, raw diet similar to that of wolves, he has a stronger, more diversified gut flora. This means his gut is more acidic, which not only kills harmful pathogens, it also enhances absorption of vitamins and minerals. If you have extra time at home due to social distancing, it may be a good opportunity to try a raw diet for your dog or look into the ingredients of his food to ensure he’s getting the right balance of nutrients.
Written by: Abby Vallejo, Certified Raw Dog Food Nutrition Specialist and Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern