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What do you feed your dogs?

As I've lately been thinking about what I eat and about real food for humans, naturally the next question was how to feed real food to Taz, and what is real food for dogs?

eight acres: real food for dogs
Taz pondering the question of real food for dogs

I have gradually been paying more attention to the ingredients in dog food over the last few years.  We used to buy the big cans of dog food when they were on special at the supermarket and that's all Cheryl ate until I read Pat Coleby's "Natural Pet Care", which recommended a plain kibble, with minimum additives.  I couldn't find the particular one that she mentioned, but I did switch Cheryl and Chime to a plain kibble.  I got the "old fat dog" version because they were both a little overweight.  Strangely they never lost any weight on this high carb, low fat diet (I can't believe I didn't work that one out earlier).

When we got puppy Taz, she ate puppy nuts (as Pete calls dog kibble) for her first 12 months and then when it was time for adult dog nuts, the penny finally dropped, and I got "working dog" for both Taz and Cheryl.  This mix is high fat, low carb, and this did seem to help with Cheryl's weight.

Then as I started reading more about paleo and the reasons why it might be more healthy for humans to eat closer to their ancestral diet, I started thinking about what we were feeding the dogs.  Even the working dog nuts were full of various grains.  For example a typical composition of a high-end dog kibble, note that its only 23% meat:
Dried Chicken And Turkey (23%, A Natural Source Of Taurine), Maize, Wheat, Sorghum, Barley, Animal Fat, Dried Beet Pulp (2.8%), Hydrolysed Animal Proteins, Dried Whole Egg, Potassium Chloride, Fish Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Fructooligosaccharides (0.28%), Linseed, Glucosamine (432mg/Kg), Chondroitin Sulphate (43mg/Kg)

We know that a high carbohydrate diet in humans causes diabetes in the longer term, and yet we feed this to dogs and wonder why they get sick.  Cheryl almost certainly had diabetes and kidney problems as she got older, resulting finally in cataracts.  It makes sense to me that a diet high in grains is not natural or healthy for humans or dogs, in both cases they are just cheap fillers.

Then I started to look at grain-free options for dried dog kibble, and this was the best I could do, still lots of ingredients that I would rather avoid, including canola, peas (legumes are as bad as grains) and beets (high sugar):
Salmon, Anchovy & Sardine Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Dried Ground Potatoes, Canola Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Menhaden Fish Meal, Tomato Pomace, Flaxseed, Pea Fibre, Pumpkin, Natural Fish Flavor, Cranberries, Apples, Minerals [Zinc Polysaccharide Complex, Iron Polysaccharide Complex, Copper Polysaccharide Complex, Manganese Polysaccharide Complex, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Carbonate, Potassium Iodide], Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid], Choline Chloride, Papaya, Inulin, Salt, Blueberries, Pomegranate, Potassium Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (added to preserve freshness), DL-Methionine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Ground Cinnamon, Ground Fennel, Ground Peppermint, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus subtilis Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus licheniformis Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus oryzae Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus niger Fermentation Product, Lecithin, Rosemary Extract.  This is a naturally preserved product.

While this kibble did avoid grains, it seemed to maintain the same carbohydrate content and therefore present the same issues.  When I posted some of this on the Eight Acres facebook page, a few people recommended BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) and I also found K9 Natural, which is a freeze-dried raw product.  I stopped in at the local big-box pet food store and got a bag of the grain-free kibble, a box of BARF and a bag of K9.  These were not cheap and I was also hoping to find a homemade option, with these as back-up for when we didn't have time to make something.  I was also interested to see if the dogs would even eat them.  Here's a good post about feeding dogs dried food vs raw food.

BARF (Chicken for Dogs)
Chicken, finely ground chicken bone, beef liver, whole egg, cultured kefir, seasonal vegetables selected from broccoli, celery, spinach, carrot, ground flax seed, bok choy, dried alfalfa leaf powder, beef kidney, beef heart, unbleached beef tripe, seasonal fruit selected from apple, pear, grapefruit, orange, dried kelp powder, garlic, capsicum.
eight acres: real food for dogs

K9 Natural (Beef Feast) 
Beef meat, beef blood, beef bone, beef green tripe, beef liver, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, spinach (chard), cabbage, apple, pear, beef hearts, beef kidneys, eggs, green lipped mussel and garlic
eight acres: real food for dogs

I got these before Cheryl died, and I can report that Cheryl taste-tested all the options and 100% approved (but then she would almost eat anything, except for green beans).  It turned out that Taz does not like raw meat.  While Cheryl was happy to help Taz finish her BARF patties, it did make it difficult to make sure Taz was getting some food.  In particular Taz does not like raw offal and will pick that out of minced up food.  She will eat the kibble and K9 Natural though.  The problem was that BARF is about the easiest of the options for me to make at home!

eight acres: real food for dogs
Taz with the grain-free kibble (and gravy), she likes those, doggy junk food

In fact we had found that our local supermarket makes a product called "fiedo's friend", and when I asked the butcher, he said it contains only trimmings and offal (trimmings are the fatty bits of meat, some go into sausages, but this must be the excess), which is perfect mixed with some eggs, yoghurt, kelp, and at $2.99/kg, its more reasonable than anything from the pet food store.  Only problem was that Taz picked out the offal.  Eventually I gave up on Taz ever eating this raw and cooked it for her.  Delicious!  She has no problem eating the offal if it is cooked (like people food? sometimes I think that Taz thinks she's a people too).  I like this product because it is trimmings from meat that was intended for humans.  We have had the misfortune of sending a bull with eye cancer to the meatworks for dog meat (to the "doggers"), and I don't like to buy "dog mince" knowing that its probably minced up sick animals, if its not for human consumption, it shouldn't be for dogs either.

eight acres: real food for dogs

The past couple of weeks I have used about 1 kg of "fiedo's friend" minced trimmings and offal, with 2 eggs, a grated carrot and grated choko, and a sprinkle of kelp powder, cooked this in our largest frying pan (I tried to do meat balls, but the offal makes it too messy, so now just one large chunk works better).  I then make gravy from what's left in the pan.  Taz has a scoop of cooked mince and a splash of gravy and that seems to suit her.

It doesn't take long to cook this for her, but it is an extra chore, so when we don't have time, she can have the grain-free kibble.  I'm afraid I will have to cook the remaining BARF patties!  What a waste!  I think the raw diet is surely more natural and Taz still has a raw bone daily, but if she doesn't want to eat the raw offal, its probably better she has this cooked mixture than any of the dried food options.  I would love to feed her the K9 Natural, but being made in NZ, its very expensive and has excessive food miles.

What do you think?  What do you feed your dogs and why?


  1. Yes...Yes...Yes...Yes & Yes!
    I couldn't agree more with everything in this post, these thoughts have been on my mind lately too.
    I have started buying meat in a roll, there is one brand that claims to be grain free, we give that for dinner, and just a small scoop of dried food for breakfast with a bone a couple of times a week, plus he gets table scraps of all kinds...mostly veggies the kids don't eat.
    He is a Labrador Cross so very easy to feed...eats anything, I haven't seen him refuse to eat anything yet!! The kids even feed him their apple cores!
    I will look into making my own food in big batches that I can freeze. I think I mentioned to you once before my Pop used to have a big pot on the stove with veggie scraps, bones, and whatever else he had lying around, he'd cook it up for the dogs!
    I see the writing on the wall here, we will be able to buy Paleo Dog Food before long, but I'll still be making my own, because like you say it is bound to be pricey!

    1. :) we give Taz apple cores too, and carrot tops! There's not much left for the chooks! Making your own will definitely be the cheapest option, if you have time.

  2. As for me - I never buy dog's food. I cook food for my dog myself. I feed him once a day sufficiently, but , of course,he has some snacks during a day like a piece of bread,dried fish or fresh egg. I cook soups and porrige for him and give fresh bones with meat.I'm not a great specialist in dog's feeding. My dog lives in the yard, but he looks very healthy and neat. Thanks for Your post! Have a good week!

  3. I've got a 14 year of Labrador who is healthy and happy. She has been fed home made food for most of her life. I feed her commercial kibble in the morning then home made food in the evening. I buy the kibble in bulk to reduce packaging. The kibble is complete and balanced so I know she is getting all the vitamins and minerals she needs. The kibble also helps to keep her teeth clean.

    For her evening meal she gets cooked pet mince (which the local butcher makes, its ground chicken carcasses and scraps from human food grade meat) and vegetables and a grain. I put it all in a big soup pot, 2kg of mince, an equal amount of vegetables (anything except onions or things from the onion family), 2 litres of water and some grain (pearl barley is good) to soak up the juices. When its cooked I stir it together and put it in containers in individual servings and freeze them. I make a batch about about every 10 days. She also gets the occasional fresh egg on her breakfast or a dash of milk. The vet is amazed at how healthy she is. Both my dogs love this and look really disappointed if they don't get it for some reason.

    1. Thanks for that recipe! I'll be trying that out for sure!

    2. wow, 14, you must be doing something right! I'm sure she is disappointed when she has to eat dry food :)

  4. We've always cooked up a mix of meat (mince, chicken, turkey, whatever) vegies and rice or a combination of rice and oats and sometimes eggs, then frozen in portions. Our vet recommended it. I think it's more economical than bought dog food too and you can alter the proportions as needed. If they are getting overweight, dogs need more protein and less fat and carbohydrate.

    1. You must have a good vet, so many want to sell you the packaged products, they are just doggy junk food...

  5. raw, all mine had raw bones mostly but there was a time when i was ignorant of their food needs that i fed dried & wondered why my dogs ended up with horrible sores all over them especially down the legs, food allergies, dry food & some tinned.
    i've never heard of a dog not liking offal or raw, then most dogs will bury anything fresh & you see them or rather 'smell' them a few weeks later, dogs seem to prefer 'off' food over fresh, well, the few i've owned seemed to.
    when i get another dog it will be fed a raw diet only, not sure what will jump that log when i get to it. won't ever go back to dry food of any sort.
    great post
    thanx for sharing

    1. yes, I was very surprised that Taz wouldn't eat it! I would prefer to feed her raw, and she does get bones, but if she won't eat it, then I have to cook it for her :)

  6. Our dogs get a dry, grain free food and scavenge, they eat plenty of raw food. I would be worried about the garlic in the BARF. Garlic is a big no-no for dogs.

    1. yes, I'm always confused about garlic, Pat Coleby recommends it, and a quick google tells me its "controversial". Apparently your dog would have to eat a lot of it to get sick. I definitely don't feed onion. Garlic has a lot of good things in it too, so I guess its one of those things where you have to balance potential harm with potential benefits. More here:

  7. Our dachshund has some raw meat and veg mix that I buy from a pet food supplier, a handful if dry food and a spoonful or two or whatever leftovers are skulking around the fridge. He's pretty healthy on that eclectic diet, but I have to be pretty strict on portion size as he is not exactly a high energy dog.

    1. sounds like a good system, and nothing worse than a fat dachshund, so its good that you have some control over what he eats!

  8. Hi Liz,

    Our dogs get the raw minced chicken from IGA, some dry kibble for non-working dogs (sofa loafers) and a mixture of vegies and rice from time to time. Interestingly Jessie our older dog came to us not liking raw meat either but over time has come to eat it quite happily. Perhaps Taz will change also. Ours also get a 'kicker' each day in the form of a bone or chew for their teeth.

    1. Thanks Barb, I do occasionally try Taz with the raw mix before I cook it to see if she's changed her mind, but not so far :) I am hoping, as it would be quicker!

  9. We have a cat, which we raised on raw meat because we wanted her to eat a natural diet. Only problem was, she sustained an injury we thought she mended from. But then all of a sudden, if she jumped or twisted the wrong way, she started to keel over in pain and we couldn't touch her. After speaking to a professional, which dealt in fixing ligaments in animals, they told us to put her on the most expensive cat kibble. I was doubtful, as it wasn't what I read about the benefits of raw food. I was converted though.

    The pain she had struggled with for months, subsided within the first day. Three days later, she was like a normal kitten again, jumping and pouncing. What the specialist told us was, young animals need the vitamins they put in expensive kibble. Those vitamins aren't present in raw food - especially when it comes from the butchers, not wild game. I wonder if Taz is able to detect what she needs in the dried biscuits?

    Our cat took to the biscuits like she was starving, when we first gave them too her. Which we suspect is because she could sense it had what she needed in them. We haven't taken her off them, in fear we might ruin her health again - but also because she won't touch raw food now. Though she is starting to put on weight now, a few years later, so we may have to reconsider our options.

    If you are going to go raw, especially for young, developing dogs, consider the vitamins. Especially for young working dogs. The specialist worked with a lot of horses, so saw a lot of injuries just from their normal behaviour - let alone what their owners were getting them to do. The more an animal uses their ligaments and muscles, the more important vitamins become to repairing them.

    If you can source wild meat, instead of farmed, it will contain many of these nutrients, naturally. If you can only get farmed meat, then consider adding vitamins which you can buy in capsules from the pharmacy, and add them to the meat before serving.

    As for Taz's preferences in cooked meat, as opposed to raw - this is quite common in small dogs. My mum had two small dogs, of different breeds, and they didn't like raw meat either. She figured out that they would eat it however, if she spread the meat thinly on a plate, and poured boiling water over it. This blanched the outside of the meat, but not the inside. She would wait for the water to cool to warm, before feeding it. They loved the meat, but more the water. They always licked their plates clean!

  10. I love, love, love anything to do with dogs. I also love the name Cheryl for a dog and giggled through the whole post. We focused on a more protein based diet for Ella (our aussie mix) as soon as we adopted her. She does well on a lamb/wild rice kibble. I actually tried to feed her some of the chicken organs from our birds, but she turned her nose up at them. I looked online for other stories of dogs refusing and people said that some dogs will turn their nose up at raw liver..strange...cause I've seen her eat garbage before...Anyway! Great post. Definitely something we go back and forth on from time to time (how do we improve Ella's diet?)

  11. Haha yes both taz and Jessie think they are peoples. We feed Jessie Advance Active dog food which is not grain free but she does not over eat and often does not eat all her dinner so it just gets taken away. We sometimes add eggs for an extra treat and we also give her fish oil capsules in winter as she seems to suffer from dry skin. Jessie will eat offal and heart is her favourite. She will eat the liver from our most recent cow but she did not eat the liver from the last one an I wonder if that was due to her age or if the taste was different.


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