The Menu at Redstart Farm; Feeding Dogs

So many of you have asked what I feed my dogs that I feel compelled to answer. I sympathize, truly, nutrition is such a complicated and sometimes contentious issue. I’ll honor your requests if you’ll honor mine: Read the following carefully before getting to the menu!

1. I am not an expert on canine nutrition,  not by a long shot. I know lots of people, professional and committed dog lovers, who know much more about the topic than I do.

2. I don’t believe that my dogs get the perfect diet. I do the best I can, and I know that my dogs do better than most, but there’s no question that the way I feed them isn’t perfect.

3.What I feed my dogs changes, depending on the dog, the week, how busy I am and what article I read the night before.

4. I think diet is important, but so are genetics. My first Border Collie, Drift, lived 15.5 yrs on plain old supermarket Purina. Dry kibble, no additions, no supplements.  Lassie is the same age, and you’ll see that things have changed. I like to credit her longevity in part to her diet and how I take care of her… but how do I know what effect it’s having?

That said, here’s what I believe (then I tell you what Lassie and Willie ate last night.):

Variety is good. Dogs are omnivores, and they are predisposed to eat a variety of foods. Coppinger’s hypothesis that dogs derived from bold wolves who found a new ecological niche in human settlements (garbage and poop) seems to be the best guess that we have of how this whole amazing relationship started. Wolves specialize in large ungulates, but they’ll also eat anything they can if they are hungry. Dogs, specialize in, well… food. “Picky about food” does not describe their behavior or their digestive systems. (I know, there are exceptions, but they prove the rule because it’s news when a dog won’t eat chicken, right?)

I was profoundly affected when someone (Billinghurst? Don’t remember) asked “What would you think of a parent who fed their child the same food, day after day, even if it was “nutritionally complete?” Yikes! How would you feel if a friend of yours fed her children the same kind of cereal for every meal, every day? How could that possibly support health? I was talking to my vet about diet and asked him the same question. He now feeds his dog half commercial dog food and half table scrapes!

I know that allergies are often caused by repeated exposure to the same thing, and wonder how many food allergies are the result of eating the same food every day, year after year. I also always wondered when we were/are advised to change a dog’s food very gradually. In general, that just makes no sense, if you think about it. How could a healthy dog not be able to tolerate eating chicken one night and beef the next? You can, why shouldn’t your dog? Well… if they’ve only eaten one food and only that food for years, then it makes sense, but that hardly sounds healthy. (Of course, we should go slowly if making a radical change or we have a dog with a sensitive stomach, but those are special cases.)

Non-processed is good. Fact? Heck if I know. I subscribe to the Micheal Pollan approach: . “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants.” (see In Defense of Food, great book) The “mostly plants” is for humans, but the “eat food” means REAL food, not food that has been so processed and converted and changed that it is barely recognizable as such.

Fresh veggies are good for dogs. Again, is this a fact I can back up with research? Not directly. I can tell you that my DVM Chinese Medicine Vet read an article that dogs fed cooked, green veggies had lower rates of cancer. I haven’t taken the time to look it up yet myself, anyone out here seen it? I also know that the ‘new’ foods by some dog food companies that are supposed to extend the healthy life of a dog contain more of what I would call “real” food: vegetables, even fruits full of anti-oxidants.

Organic is good. Whether it is better for our dogs or not, I think it’s important to be benevolent to Mother Earth. We haven’t been doing so well on that score lately. Ideally I’d feed my dogs nothing but organic meat raised locally by producers who put the welfare of their animals over that of their own, but I can’t manage that much of the time, I just strive for it. When I can afford it and it’s available, I use organic, especially vegetables. I belong to a CSA, and they are very generous with seconds, so Will and Lassie get a lot of broccoli, green beans, squash etc that wasn’t pretty enough for the weekly shares. I collect it whenever I can and freeze it in my huge, chest-style freezer.

Pro-biotics. I started Willie on Pro-biotics when he was a pup. Three months of off-and-on projectile diarrhea will teach you a lot about a puppy’s gut. He still gets them every day, even though his digestive system has stabilized, but many of the people I respect in alternative medicine argue that Pro-biotics are important for any of us who don’t eat natural food most of the time. (I take them too now, for whatever that’s worth.)

Raw versus Cooked: I don’t feed much raw. I don’t have the time (or the energy?) to make it myself, and am not convinced enough in it’s importance to spend the money to buy it commercially. (Please, oh please, don’t write me and tell me that if I don’t feed my dogs raw food I am a bad person and a bad dog owner. I know lots of stories of dogs who truly have done beautifully on raw diets, including dogs who had serious health problems beforehand. I also know dogs who didn’t do well on them, and lots and lots more who thrive on other diets.)  I do give my dogs raw beef bones, usually the large joint bones or the long bones with lots of marrow inside. I am pretty conservative though, once they get eaten down a ways and start to look a little brittle I toss them out.

Kibble versus Non-Kibble: I don’t feed much kibble anymore. I add a bit to their dinners, but even high quality kibble is highly processed and lacks the moisture it seems dogs would need.

My favorite source for good information about dog food: Whole Dog Journal. Get it yet? If not, I highly  recommend it.

Here’s what Lassie and Willie ate last night:


A tiny handful of kibble (Natural Balance Duck and Potato, 20 pieces?) for crunch (she loves it); cooked, organic Steel-cut oats (her kidneys are challenged so she needs limited protein, cooked beef (stew meat on sale at the supermarket), 2 TB cooked green beans, kale and broccoli, an Omega 3 capsule + her meds and supplements.

I vary the protein between duck, fish, beef and eggs. (The duck, fish and sometimes beef is usually Natural Balance or Wellness canned.)  In Chinese medicine, duck and fish are ‘cooling’ foods, good for Lassie with her struggles with bladder infections and her kidney problems. Beef is ‘neutral,’ so I use a lot of that. Wouldn’t you know, lamb, which I have a freezer full of, is a “warming” food, and I am advised not to use it for Willie or Lassie either. Sigh. The dogs of my friends are very grateful.

I should add here that I have never seen any research about feeding dogs different types of protein based on their chinese medicine evaluation, but because I feed good,  high quality food and give them lots of variety,  I can’t imagine it would hurt them to follow that advice and it might help, so why not? (see Four Paws, Five Directions for more on this.)

I use Natural Balance canned food and Wellness most often for their primary protein if I don’t have something cooked up for them at home. I am always looking for specials at markets: last night I bought a somewhat obscene 10 pound roll of hamburger for $1.79 pound. I cut it up into one pound pieces and froze it.

Their veggies are usually some combination of broccoli, kale, spinach, green beans, celery, lettuce, potato, carrots and squash, all cooked.

Tonight I’ll give Lassie duck or fish, (canned), and since I’ve finished up her oats for now, she’ll get cooked Kashi for grains, (not the cereal, the grain) and cooked carrots and spinach for veggies. (I usually cook up batches of veggies for the dogs over the weekend. It helps to have TWO freezers at the farm!)


Last night Willie ate about a 1/4 cup of Duck and Potato kibble, about 2/3 of a cup of cooked beef, (much more than Lassie), 3-4 TB of veggies, a whole sardine (canned in water, no salt) and a Pro-biotic tab. Tonight he’ll get canned duck or fish and the same veggies that Lassie gets.

Both dogs get LOTS of water added to their dinners, even though there is so little kibble in it I basically feed my dogs soup in the belief that they need lots of fresh water. That may be crazy, but it can’t hurt them. They also are fed twice a day, getting only slightly more in the evening than the morning. In addition, they eat kibble and canned meat stuffed into a frozen Kong first thing in the morning.

I hope that is useful information to those of you who asked. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on all this.(And if you pay as much attention to your own diet as you do to your dog’s!?)

Meanwhile, back at the farm: I had hoped to add a video of leaping lambs that I taped this morning, but I’ve spent too long writing, and have 4 more papers to grade and hours more work on my UW lecture for tomorrow…. so here are some beautiful harbingers of spring for you, leaping lambs to come soon!


  1. Shannon says

    Thank you for sharing your dogs’ diets Patricia. Isn’t it a blessing to live close to fresh food that’s locally produced? I am very fortunate myself to live on the west coast of Canada where amazing organic fresh fruit and vegetables are readily available all year long.

    I feed a combination diet of raw food. I have a locally produced organic and non-medicated pre-made raw food available (Red Dog Blue Kat) to my dog that he mainly gets. I also rotate in raw meaty bones on a fairly regular basis for his teeth and for fun of course! I’ve also started rotating in a Canadian-made raw dehydrated food (NRG) that makes things easier when my dog has to stay with someone else. For my dog, switching to raw eliminated his picky eating (when on kibble), allergies and a strange mild seizure condition he suffered from for a while.

    I wouldn’t say raw is for everyone, but I would recommend everyone be more educated when it comes to their pet’s diet. I read up extensively about the commercial dog food industry both in Canada and in the States and was horrified. Now, my dog eats better than I do!:) I wish everyone had access to meat and veg that is as safe, healthy and environmentally friendly as my dog’s is.

  2. sharon says

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on diet, disclaimer and all. I’m active on a border collie forum that regularly has heated discussion on cheap kibble vs premium, cooked, BARF or whole-prey model, but the scavenger/omnivore view makes most sense to me. In fact, my dog used to live on the streets, and for a long while after I got her she would scout around trash cans, more often that not finding something more or less edible.

    I do try to give her a good diet, and yes, I do fuss more over hers than my own. About once a week she gets a raw chicken quarter or turkey neck. Budget allowing, I’d feed raw more often. She mainly eats kibble, but rotated so that she gets a different formula each time (currently alternating Taste of the Wild duck and bison flavors), with yogurt or egg or food scrap toppings. She also gets a taste of whatever I’m eating, so long as it’s not on the ASPCA poison list. I’ve never known anyone to get so much pleasure out of a radish.

  3. Crystal says

    I’m the “bad dog owner” who feeds her dog Hill’s prescription food (Z/D for allergies, which she began developing at about 4-5 months). I’m not crazy about the ingredients, but I can’t deny she’s done amazingly well on it; much better than she ever did on the high-end kibbles. Would she do better on raw? Maybe, but I’m not willing to risk her skin integrity over it.

  4. Kevin says

    Thanks a ton for this. If anything it is just an opportunity to compare notes, but it also got me thinking a little bit more about what I am feeding myself.

  5. says

    Dear Patricia,
    May I first say yum to Willie and Lassie’s dinner last night. I feed my service dog an organic kibble produced in state. I also like to add a canned food, organic chicken broth, organic yogurt, eggs, fruit, and brown rice from time to time.

  6. says

    This was so interesting to read! I take the same approach to feeding and continue to try to learn as much about it so that I can make the best choices for my dogs (and for me!)

    Currently, I feed a raw mix that I get from a local supplier. The mix varies by the day from beef to chicken to turkey. For variety I add in yogurt, veggies, rice, table scraps and, like you, sprinkle kibble on top for the crunch. I like the idea of adding some whole grains in – and happen to have some steel-cut-oats in the cupboard that I’ll try out this week.

    I’ve always bypassed canned food, but based on your comments I think I should reconsider it now that so many higher quality products are available. It would certainly be nice to have some stashed for those days when I’ve forgotten to thaw out the raw mix. I’m sure my dogs would LOVE it as well.

  7. Nicola says

    to me you sound very dedicated – I have one of those picky eaters. In order to be sure she gets anything close to a balanced diet, she gets kibble, with bones once weekly. She is only 3.2kg (not sure what that is in pounds), but I spent some time trying to feed meat & veg & she just turned her nose up at most of it. She is still very healthy at 10 years old, so here’s hoping… And there is no way I spend anything like the amount of attention on my diet that I do on my dogs. Unless I have guests, I mainly eat frozen diet meals. So at least I am consistent.

  8. says

    I too, think real food is best based on how I feel if I eat too much sugar, processed food or fast food. If I notice the difference when I cook fresh for myself, I have to wonder about the dogs too. They eat fresh food better too and when you have an elderly or ill dog, eating is sometimes the first thing to go. My elderly dogs can’t afford to not eat, they just don’t eat that much usually and don’t have the body fat reserves the younger dogs do.That said, I have two that I am careful how much roughage (veg. matter) I feed to as it seems to loosen them up too much (grin). Just like a dog person to watch their poop, huh?

  9. Sabine says

    First off: Our dogs probably eat way better than some humans do.
    My way of feeding dogs evolved over the course of more than 40 years and I am convinced, that I still don’t “do it right”. **oops**
    The dogs I grew up with lived on a variety of foods. From table scraps over butcher scraps to oat flakes and Alpo. The dog who was my steady companion throughout my childhood was a German Shepherd and she lived to be almost 14. My first own dog (Shepherd Mix) lived mostly on butcher scraps (throat, tripe, bones, organs, etc.) and became immediately sick after I had to switch her over to commercial food. (That stuff in the yellow bag……….. I didn’t know any better. **oops again**) She managed to live almost 15 years despite the fact that she had to endure large doses of Prednisone. My vet’s answer to allergies. ( I’m still apologizing to that poor dog’s soul.)
    I started reading about nutrition and switched to better kibble. Subscribing to the Whole Dog Journal really helped me in my efforts to find the right food for my dogs.
    These days I am doing a mixture of BARF and dehydrated Food (Honest Kitchen) and the current bunch seems to be thriving on that mixture. **yeah !!! **

    A very important factor in proper digestion when feeding kibble is the supplementation with digestive enzymes. Those of us who do feed raw don’t have to worry about that, but dogs who are on a kibble diet should be given digestive enzymes (i.e. ProZyme) to ensure proper digestion. Even if the food analysis on the bag says that it contains digestive enzymes – the dosage is way too minimal to show any effect.

    Another thing I supplement my dogs with is bonemeal, seameal (available from Solid Gold) and for tick/flea prevention they do get some garlic (make sure to remove the green center stem – that’s the part that contains the toxins) and coconut oil. Addtionally, they wear raw amber collars. (

    I have to share this little snapshot with you all:

    My little puppymill rescue fallen asleep more or less gnawing on her bone. She had a broken jaw and now, little by little, is gaining strength by working on bones. It’s just very tiring it seems ! :)

  10. Amy says

    Yep, pretty much the same here. I feed limited kibble and tons of other stuff. I was raised on a working organic farm and our farm dogs ate everything and anything and lived good long, healthy lives. My MinPins eat all kinds of stuff. The only thing I try to prevent them from eating is the rotten/moldy corn in the fields after the farmer plows up the corn stalks. That can contain aflotoxins and make them sick. Not sure why they deer, and other critters don’t get sick from it? They probably do.

    A big part of the MinPin’s diet right now is old, dead rodents that didn’t survive the winter and are found in the dry fields right now. In the summer I might say 15% of my female’s diet are those big green grasshoppers that are everywhere late summer and fall. She can’t get enough of those! My male MinPin probably gets 5% of his diet come summer from the rodent parts after the cats have had their fill. Heads, butts, whatever is left he scarfs up.

    Ewwwwww……but they are hardly ever sick!

  11. Jody says

    Hi Dr. McConnell,
    Just found this website… love it!! I really enjoyed your menu blog. This is great information that I hope many pet owners will read and that it will actually make them think about what they are feeding their “best friends”. You mentioned supplements, I’m wondering what supplements you give to your dogs. Is there a brand that you prefer? Thanks again for a great read!!

  12. Mcappy says

    HAH I love your last statement…
    (And if you pay as much attention to your own diet as you do to your dog

  13. Kate says

    Great information – thank you for sharing this. A trainer told me that dogs don’t have the enzymes to break down raw vegetables, so feeding fresh veggies is a waste of time and effort. Then I read that if you puree them (or chop into tiny, tiny pieces), they’ll get the benefits. I’m not sure what to believe anymore :). Anyone have any further thoughts? It certainly doesn’t seem to do any harm…

  14. Funder says

    Thanks for sharing your diet with us! It’s always interesting to read how other conscientious owners decided to feed whatever they’re feeding. My lab eats raw with healthy scraps. She’s grown from a tiny puppy to a 65 lb ball of shiny happy energy without getting kibble more than once a month (when I forget to shop for her!) She’s my second raw-fed dog; I’ve been feeding raw since 2000.

    The staple of her diet is chicken, usually leg quarters. I think they have a good balance between fat, meat, and bones, plus the price is good. She gets goat and lamb heads from a halal butcher about once a week, and she gets pork neckbones, meaty “stew bones,” yogurt, eggs, bread scraps, and a taste of whatever veggies I cook that night. I have some good kibble on hand (Timberwolf, if I remember correctly) for clicker training treats and for emergency backup. I keep that Michael Pollan quote in mind when I pick out treats for her – almost all her treats are real animal parts.

  15. says

    Thanks. I’m going to start adding cooked veggies to my dog’s daily food. I’m a vegetarian and don’t cook meat for my non-vegetarian husband, but will look for organic cooked meat at my local natural food shop’s carry out section to supplement. My pooch has done pretty well with kibble, we got him from a shelter 16 years ago. He was over a year old then, and is still doing very well, BUT a little turkey more than at thanksgiving might be nice for him. (yes, my husband cooks a turkey at Thanksgiving!)

  16. says

    Thanks so much for those stunning pictures of farm flowers. I love the vibrant colours and the delicate nature of them. I just love flower pictures :)

    Thank you for sharing your insight on diet. Diet is such a touchy, touchy subject and it can ignite passion and fires all over. I think the key for everybody to remember is that what works for my dogs may not work for yours, and vice versa. My dogs eat primarily kibble, because that’s what I can manage. I don’t cook for me (culinary-challenged is the polite term for it LOL) so I don’t cook for the dogs, although when my old dog was sick I did cook for him (well, my mom and I did).

    My dogs get a little bit of whatever we’re eating added to their evening meals . . . fruit, veg and sometimes meat, depending on the source. I use supplements that include pro-biotics, as well as other “good stuff.” I know it’s not the ideal diet for my dogs, because there is still some tear-staining (I have blonde American Cocker Spaniels), but their weights are healthy, the teeth are clean, and the stools are small and firm. So for now, I compromise. I live in a fairly remote Canadian community, so don’t have access to all of the foods that others use.

    Anyhow, as always, an excellent post. I really am addicted to this blog!

  17. Liz F. says

    Question regarding feeding but not specifically nutrition:

    Is it true that some dog breeds must ‘work’ for their food in order to want to eat?

    I have a sixteen month old mixed breed that is used to going on long before-meal-walks. She did not eat her breakfast every time we missed a morning walk. When dinner rolled around, I made her do every trick she knows twice, or we played games, and she ate.
    I skip breakfast occasionally, ouch, and don’t want that for Nala so now I always fall back on the tricks for treats method if we can’t walk.

    But what’s the culprit here: Deviation from routine or breed characteristic?
    Just very curious about this potential dog myth… Thank you

  18. Karen says

    My dog eats better than I do. I care more about what she eats. I feed her a dry wholistic kibble that is very expensive but she is a small dog and only eats 1/4 cup per day. I won’t feed raw, not going to risk it with my beloved dog. I never give bones either, raw or cooked. An excellent website for information is Dr. Remillard is a Certified Veterinary Nutritionist. Read what she says about bones and a raw diet. Another good website is

  19. says

    I do home cooked and my dog is healthy and thriving.

    He gets a wide variety of protein, including yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, canned salmon, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb — including heart and liver.

    Some well-cooked veggies are added in at every meal. I’ve not read any definitive answer as to whether or not dogs fully digest veggies but they at least add fiber. He gets calcium added to the diet to balance out the phosphorous as well as a multi vitamin.

    Combined with that are home made snacks used for training treats on walks.

    I never get sick of talking about dog food!

  20. Mary Lou says

    I’d feed raw if I could afford to, but I have 4 medium size dogs and without a freezer the cost of raw is prohibitive (and I dont have anywhere to put a freezer right now.) So, I feed high end kibble (I am currently rotating Wellness and Taste of the Wild.) I moisten the kibble, I add enzymes (Now Super enzymes), cranberry, Vit C, fish oil and Slippery elm. I add a scoop of either canned (Wellness or Natural Balance) or ground beef or scrambled egg or yogurt. I give bullies, dried tripe, or trachea as chewies.

  21. Marguerite says

    I also feed a mix of commercial and home cooked and I do add fruits and veggies to the food. I have six dogs here and I give them a variety of chicken, beef, canned mackerel, lamb, organ meats, eggs, yogurt, and sometimes other meats and organ meats. The veggies are pretty much the same as you and I give them applesauce, blueberries and cranberries from time to time.

    I do want to mention that when Purdue University did its long term research on Bloat, one recommendation was not to mix water with the food. I believe the theory is that a stomach that is heavily weighted down on a regular basis causes the ligaments that hold the stomach in place slowly become stretched over time, allowing the stomach to roll on its axis. I think if you contact someone at Purdue to ask about it, they should be able to give you better, more complete information. There was so much information that came out of that study, that I cannot remember it all, and I can’t be sure that I am remembering everything with complete accuracy.

  22. Janet Camp says

    I came to your site because I have been listening to you on the radio for years and as I just acquired a mini-doxie from a rescue, and haven’t had a dog for years, I thought I’d see what you might have to say about feeding and training.

    Well, what a shock to find all this “alternative” wackadoo absolutely scientifically unsupported claptrap. Sorry, but I am offended that someone with so much training does “chinese medicine” for her dogs. I’m okay with organic for the same reasons as Michael Pollan, but pro-biotics, etc., I mean people don’t need this, let alone dogs. Our guts (dogs and humans) evolved to work fine as they are. Perhaps it does no harm as you say, but why spend all that money? You should give it to the shelters instead so they can offer food of any kind to dogs truly in need. There isn’t a shred of evidence for anything you advise or do with your own dogs. This is a terrible disappointment, but at least I found out before buying a bunch of books.

    I am sorry if I sound rude because I know you are a nice person, but I am sick to death of all this “alternative” nonsense. Alternative to what?? To good hard scientifically proven facts?? I will consult a vet who doesn’t dabble in the occult (just a term to lump all this nonsense into). This is a lot of people having more money than sense. Do you have to take a biology class to get a PhD?

  23. says

    Applying the Pollan quote to pet food is quite clever; I’ll have to remember that (love his books, too). Out of curiousity, what do you feed Sushi? Our cat has recently been diagnosed diabetic, and we’ve switched over entirely to canned food (thinking about raw, but that seems like an awful lot of work). Read Elizabeth Hodgkin’s book (which I heard about on Calling on Pets), and it has been very interesting and enlightening.

  24. Jennifer Hamilton says

    I love all the advances in understanding about dog nutrition. So many options, so many opinions, so many things to consider. As much as we struggle over what to feed our dogs, I wish we would focus as much attention as how much to feed them. Recent studies have shown that we can add 2 years to our dogs lives…that’s 2 years…if we keep them slightly underweight (versus somewhat overweight). This to me is just as critical, if not more critical than what we feed them.

    And yes, I eat worse than my dog. And unfortunately we’ree both a little overweight. We both have some work to do…and it has to start at my end of the leash. Off to the agility course for both of us!

  25. Sabine says

    This is addressed to Janet, and if I may quote: “Well, what a shock to find all this

  26. Liz F. says

    Just wanted to add another “Thank you” to all for being bold enough to talk about nutrition and food, which can often be a more personal subject than we realize (and why I think it can get people so upset).

    Human food is deeply personal to me, at least, and just to think of family recipes my mom used to make before she passed away gets me all choked up. Anyway, I’ll just say that I try to make a solid effort towards nutrition, but that sometimes schedule, energy level, and unconscious emotion get the better of me, effecting both my dogs and myself.

    In defense of Eastern Medicine, I had many acupuncture treatments following a car accident and the treatments were wonderful… no pain and more relaxed than ever, seriously. Many other success stories I know of, too. Eastern cultures have thrived long before Western-Scientific-Type Approaches found their way, and to shut the door to either way of thinking only limits us all. If you or your animals are ever in great pain, please keep an open mind and consider acupuncture.

    Thanks again to all.

  27. Mary Ellen Hluska says

    Hello and thank you for writing about your food choices for lassie and Will. I would love to keed a combination of cooked and bones to my guy, but I seem to have stomach challenged dogs (well the last 2). My PWD had some issues when I got him, and has difficulty with gnawing because he never learned it. When I got him at 3 he had eaten only kibble, so when I gave him a raw marrow bone, he broke it and gulped down a chunk, had colitis for a week and so on. Note to self: the next dog will learn to gnaw on some raw bones as a pup! Anyway, after a year of trying this and that, I discovered anything beef or pork, anything fatty, anything like tendons and dried muscle that could break and be sharp were bad things for him. I like to say anything “cooked in it’s own juices” will give him the runs.

    So now he eats lots of veges (yes he too is a tomato thief), fruit, sardines, sometimes Atlantic Salmon, or Whitefish. He will steal apples and pears, drool like a Saint Bernard if you eat a granny smith in front of him. His general food is Kibble, which he thinks is the best thing, (Eagle Holistic lamb) and he gets various wet foods form Wellness or Eagle. He gets half the breakfast in a frozen kong before I go to work, with loves Duck and potao, sardines and fishy foods. Why a dog that can eat an entire can of sardines or makeral in spring water (both high in oils) without even gas, but not one teeny bit of fat, pork, beef, it’s grizzle, hooves or bones—is beyond me! I no longer try, I just give him what he can eat and what he loves. I have to watch him at shows and stuff, all those hot dogs people use getting ready for the obedience ring are horrible for him.

    My own diet, so so on some days, better on others,…..

  28. Trisha says

    Thank you all for continuing this interesting discussion. I am going to write next about ‘alternative medicine,’ because it plays an essential part of my and my dog’s life, and I find the topic interesting and important to those of us with the resources to treat our dogs as well as many of us do. Keep up the conversation about diet (and do think about taking care of yourself as well as you do your dog!). One of the things that comes out loud and clear in your comments is that every dog is different. That is one of the reasons that I don’t ascribe to ‘this diet’ or ‘that diet’ as the road to health for all dogs. My Tulip had many digestive challenges, and although I did lots of cooking for her, almost every day she was fed a commercial, canned food from vet clinics, and it clearly helped her, so I would never want someone to feel badly for using a food that some people dismiss. Just like people, every dog is different and anyone who does what they can to support their dog’s health should be supported, not criticized.

    (And I like the idea that discussions about food get emotional because food is so personal. I think Liz is right.. and would add that it’s not only personal, it’s primal. I have been amazed at how getting food all summer and fall from the CSA down the road has changed my relationship with food. Eating local, seasonal and organic food has enriched my life in ways I’d never imagined.. mostly, it makes me feel connected and balanced in a way that food from the supermarket can’t.

  29. Wendy says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve fed raw to a dozen working Border Collies plus more for over 10 years now. It works great for us but I’ll be the first to say it’s not for every dog, or every owner.

    I definately applaud any addition of fresh local species appropriate foods that owners make just as much as a do the selection of a quality kibble. If it makes your dog better, then it has value!

    Have you noticed the things we are willing to try to help our beloved dogs ends up changing how we treat ourselves? Better living thought pet-istry :)

    Please post more on the Chinese medicine and food. And give Lassie and Luke a big scritch and a bone from all of us here!

  30. Linda says

    Wow, such wonderful detail from so many amazing dog owners! Thanks Patricia for your honest opinions and ideas. I currently live in Bangalore, India (usually we reside in Cincinnati, OH) and can only find Iams and Pedigree dog food here. Unfortunately, trying to ship dog food to India from the states costs about $50 per 40 pound bag. So our 5 year old Golden gets Iams with a variety of other foods. Thankfully he is not a food connoisseur and will basically eat anything. He had Iams, salmon and whole wheat rice this morning. Tonight he’ll have Iams with more rice and green beans. His snacks during the day are pretty much what I eat (though only a couple of bits for him): bananas, mangoes (in season here), tomatoes (he picks these himself from our garden), low salt bacon, green pepper, cucumber, etc.

    I really do believe in variety and when we get home (in another year) he will go back to organic food (and so will we!).

    Great to have such wonderful information from everyone! Thanks!

  31. Dena Norton says

    I feed kibble, because it’s so much easier. I rotate between Wellness, Canidae, and Costco’s Kirkland, (which is made by Diamond, and I believe is their “Natural” formula). But my dog also gets supplemented with canned food and table scraps. He loves tomatoes, and has to be kept away from the garden, or he’ll scarf up the tomatoes before we can pick them.

  32. Debra Burke says

    My Kuvasz, who has both inhalant and food allergies per MSU specialist, has done best on a grain-free diet. I typically feed about 3/4 cup of Nature’s Vartiety Instinct (rabbit) mixed with about 1/8 of a can of EVO (venison) and feed 2X/day. She also gets protein table scraps and freeze dried lamb lung treats:-) I have had her on a homemade diet and the MSU vet recommended an osterich and rutabagga diet. It was very difficult to maintain that routine, so I searched for a grain-free kibble, of which there are now several choices. Oh, she also gets fish oil capsule and plain yogurt every day.

  33. Janice says

    Hi, I just found your website and think that this is an interesting discussion, with many of your ideas paralleling my own. Like you, I also raise sheep and I imagine that also like me, you have had to deal with your ewes getting older and needing to be culled from the flock before they suffer. I have wondered about taking my old (but still healthy) ewes to the custom butcher to get humanely slaughtered and then making this into dog food. My preference would be to cook it up along with veggies and freeze in batches, if I could find a recipe. Have you ever done this and have you any suggestions? I have no interest in feeding raw–I have enough of a biology background to know that carnivores and ruminants share parasites (or trade them back and forth is probably a better description)and I don’t want any parasite amplification to occur between the farm animals and the carnivores on my farm.

  34. Trisha says

    I thought I might mention that I’ve changed Willie’s diet a bit in the last week. (I did warn you, didn’t I, that “this is what I feed THIS week!). Will seemed to be losing weight on little kibble/lots of canned and fresh, so I am giving him more kibble now along with the same amount of the other food. We’ll see if he puts on some weight (also will be doing his usual spring check for heartworm, etc, will probably worm him for tapes because they are so common at the farm, even though I have seen no sign of them.)

    I also am putting less water in his meals based on Jennifer’s very interesting comment (in another post?) about research at Cornell that suggested adding too much weight to a dog’s meal (and we all know water is heavy) can stretch out the ligaments that hold up the stomach and create a higher likelihood of bloat. The water was always mostly for Lassie, due to her compromised kidneys, and partly to compensate for dry kibble, so Willie is getting just enough water to mix everything up (which is undoubtedly completely uneccessary but it sure makes it look better to me, silly me). Lassie still gets water added to her bowl, but I don’t add quite as much as I did, especially since she gets so little kibble.

    Right now I’ve run out of canned food, so today the menu is cooked ground chuck (on sale, have bought 20 pounds in the last few days!), cooked white potatoes, spinach, broccoli, green beans, oatmeal for Lassie and a sardine for Willie.

  35. Jen says

    I love this discussion on what to feed. I feed mostly Natural Balance kibble with a beef bone for teeth cleaning once or twice a week. Some yogurt and pumpkin as well. I have tried raw but my old hound mix got pretty sick so I have steered clear of raw since then. I have found the freezing yogurt and pumpking in icecube trays is a great way to keep that handy for easy feeding. And work great for dogs of very different sizes, two cubes for some, one cube for the smaller ones. (if it ain’t easy, I don’t do it, which was the other problem with raw for me) Anyway, thanks for all the great information. Keep it coming.

  36. Kat says

    This topic is fascinating. I’ve been experimenting with Ranger’s diet for the last few weeks. He’s basically a very healthy dog eating high end Kibble (Acana and Orjens) but whenever he get hold of something (and I have no idea what it is) he ends up with a bout of gastro-enteritis–four bouts in the two years we’ve had him. Several people suggested that switching him to a raw diet would strengthen his digestive system and put an end to the stomach upsets. I started reading about feeding raw and it made intuitive sense so I decided to experiment. What I didn’t reckon with is that he prefers kibble. After a couple weeks of feeding him a raw diet I offered him a choice between chicken backs and necks mixed with fish oil and pureed veggies and yogurt or plain kibble. He fell upon the kibble like a starving thing and totally rejected the raw food. My observation of him during the two weeks he ate raw was that his poop was smaller, firmer and less smelly–which implied to me that he was making better use of what he was eating. His coat actually glowed in the sunlight. He’s always had a shiny coat but this was beyond shiny to actually glowing. His water intake diminished dramatically even when it was hot or he’d been playing hard–so he was apparently getting the water he needs from what he was eating rather than having to drink it. I also found that I was saving money over all because, although the raw meat was a bit more costly than his kibble I wasn’t having to supplement it with chews which was a significant savings. He’d always gotten beef femurs to chew on but would get bored with the same old chew day in and day out so I was buying bully sticks, flossies, ears, etc. on a regular basis. Now I’m experimenting with a mix of raw and kibble feeding one raw meal and one kibble or some cooked foods or whatever we’re having if it seems appropriate. Where I struggle is with all the lists of foods that are toxic to dogs. Ranger loves dried apricot and when I asked our vet about it she said it was fine in moderation. Then my husband brings home a list from a reputable source that says Apricot is a respiratory toxin. I don’t want to be poisoning my dog but there’s so much conflicting information out there that it is hard to figure out what’s true.

    Ranger probably does eat better than we do since I’ve very strict with the junkfood and fastfood where he’s concerned and less so with the rest of us. Still our meals are generally fairly healthy so we don’t do too terribly bad.

  37. sarah says

    Completely support home diets. Having fostered and shared life with dogs for many years – and thru so many terrible illnesses – nutrition is something I am always learning about.
    I have fed homemade Raw, homemade cooked, kibble etc thru the years.
    I see you add a supplement – and thought I would throw in a bit of information- for a home diet.
    Calcium – very important. At one time bonemeal was the choice – now the movement seems to be eggshell instead. Bone meal being very high in phosporous. Calcium/Magnesium/Phosporous all need to be in proper balance. Phosphorous is found in organ meats and bone.
    Also the cruciferous vegg’s. Uncoooked do block iodine. As does oats. Not so sure of their status when cooked but believe do not compete as highly.
    Just a few pointers – and only what I have come across myself.
    A homediet is one of the healthiest for our pets, yet it can also be one of the worst nutritionally if it is not in balance.
    Educating ones self when feeding a home diet is something i believe never ends:>)

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