Dog food: To Eat or Not to Eat

By Valdette Muller| October 30, 2013 | Blog

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For thousands of years, domestic dogs thrived on leftovers and scraps and before that, they hunted for their own food, surviving by mainly eating raw food. Despite their historic eating habits and the fact that dogs are omnivores, able to consume and digest both carbohydrates and proteins, dog owners are often confused when it comes to buying dog food.

Commercial dog food has only been around for the past century, however in South Africa alone, we have a choice of around 22 different commercial pet food brands. They range from cheap to expensive, holistic to gourmet, canned to dry. How do you choose dog food that will keep your pet happy and healthy?

 Here are some tips to consider when buying dog food:

1. Read the labels. If you know what is in the food, you can make an informed decision.

2. Choose a food that has a single ‘named’ meat source as main ingredient. For example ‘beef’ and not a generic term such as ‘meat’.

3. Make sure that the grains being used will benefit your dog. The best grains for dogs are rolled oats, barley, quinoa, millet and brown rice. Be aware of non nutritional fillers like processed corn gluten.

Orijen Adult dog 7kg4. Food manufacturers that are serious about nutrition will put more detail into their ingredient lists. Terms such as ‘meat’ and ‘fat’ will be specified by naming the source, for example ‘soybean fat’.

5. Avoid harmful preservatives such as BHA, BHT or Ethoxyquin. Instead, opt for brands with Vitamin E and C, which are natural preservatives that can actually benefit your dog.

6. Dogs require a minimum of 10% protein in their diet. To help balance the ratio it is advisable to add grain-free canned food to your dog’s dry food. But be aware that more than 30% protein can actually be counteractive. Again, read the label people!

7. Holistic dog foods contain human-grade ingredients and are 100% natural and highly nutritional. On the other hand, raw food diets are a controversial topic and it is best to discuss with a trusted veterinarian.

Adana Wild Prairie Dog8. Buy dog food from different reputable brands with different flavours and protein sources and rotate them frequently. Not only will your dog enjoy the variety but different foods offer different nutrients.

9. An unpleasant, but good way to establish if your dog’s diet is suitable is to check how the food comes out on the other side. A healthy dog’s output should be firm without any traces of mucus or blood.

10. Always remember that eating should still be fun. Experiment with food dispensing toys like the Busy Buddy Barnacle. Your four legged friend will love you for it!

Find out more about Acana and Orijen pet food on our online store.

43 Comments

  • Marc says:

    Hi

    I recent got two puppies. They from the same litter and they are a ridgeback x lab. I took them to the vet this morning and she said she thinks they are in excellent shape. But recommends i change their food to something better. I have been feedig them optiwoof for puppies. And they seem to take to it. I do however want to ask your opinion on OMEGA dog food as i have heard from a few people its better than hills. I did try and donsome research on it. But not much online really. Its an predominently ostrich for the meat source. On the puppy version its up to 27% protein.

    How does this compared to the larger brand names like: hills, eukanuba, vets choice and royal canin.

    Personally in would love tonput them on either orijin or acana. But they are a little out of my price range considering i would have to but for two.

  • Lizette says:

    Good morning, I need some advice. We have 3 Labradors & a Yorkie (2 of the Labs adopted). I had them all on Eukenuba which is the best but unfortunately due to circumnstances I cannot afford to buy that anymore. Their current food I can see is not up to standard as they stay hungry, their coats are not shiny and overall not up to scratch. I considered going back to Montego which I used many years before with our previous Lab, however then I wasn’t happy and after some of the reviews see that it is still not the best option. Do you have any suggestion as to what food that is affordable I can feed my Labs which will not break the bank – taking into account I have to buy 40kg of food a month. Hills, Royal Cananin, Vets Choice are all excellent brands but are all pricey and even if I wanted to cannot afford it.
    Looking forward to your reply.

  • Zahn says:

    Based on all the comments I hope someone can help me. I have a 2 part question. My dogs have bad breath, I give them dentastix and oral gel ext. Not working. Someone told me it could be the food they are eating, so now I have them on a 2month cycle, trying different food brands. Nothing has changed yet. Any advice? The current brand is Optimizor, but I can’t find alot of information or reviews on this food. Is it a good brand of food? They look healty and happy, but I just want to be sure…

    • Ayoob says:

      hi. do you know hows the quality of the brand canine cuisine. i have been feeding it to my 7 month old german sheperd and she seems happy with it, but i just want to make sure that theres no better alternative in a similar price range. i am currently paying 199 for a 6kg bag of the puppy food from checkers.thank you in advance.

    • admin says:

      Zahn

      Hope you are well.

      Your dog’s teeth and mouth is comparable to a human’s teeth and mouth. Bad breath is as a result of bcteria that builds up in the mouth and we get rid if this by brushing our teeth. If we do not brush our teeth we will have a bad breath and eventually our teeth will start to decay. This is exatly the same for your dog. Feeding a different food will not solve the problem. Some veterinary brands do however have dental benefits due to dental crystals that are added to the food but this alone will not solve the bad breath either. Daily brushing is the only thing that will in time improve your dog’s breath. When brushing, feeding a well balanced dry food and adding the dental treats and water additives as well as regular dental check-ups with your vet (they will advise when adental scaling is needed) you will have a better smelling doggy breath. Your dog may also have tooth decay and that is the reason for the extra bad breath. Keep in mind that doggy breath does smell worst than human breath (mostly because we don’t care for their teeth like we do for ourselves).

      Regarding the Optimizor food – I am not familiar with this food and also looked for some info on it but I could not find any and that says a lot. I would suggest looking at a veterinary diet that is balanced instead.

      Hope this helps. Look forward to be of assistance.

  • Tania says:

    Hi there. We have a 1 year old Lab with a skin allergy. We have taken him to the vet numerous times. The last time we took him to Onderstepoort professor who said that it could be the food we give him (apparently most dry dog food has a maize base or something like that) or he could be allergic to grass and even sun. We gave him the vet prescribed food, along with a 40 day antibiotics course and cortisone that the vet gave. His hair started growing back and the wounds from scratching healed. But he still scratched a lot. So I have to find an alternative or he has to live on medication forever. That can’t be good for him. The food however is almost R1500 for an 8 kg bag. We simply can’t afford it. I am looking for an alternative that I can cook myself that would be cheaper but still good for him. Hopefully if I can get his food right, we can heal him completely and he can be healthy. Any advice?

    • admin says:

      Tania

      Hope you are well.

      I am so sorry to hear about your struggle. Most food contain grain and this is a problem for many dogs. I am not at all clued up on home cooked or raw food, so I will not be able to assist you with this. What I could recommend is to look at the following brands of food which are all grain free and will not cost R1500 for 8kg. you can look at;
      Acana (whole range is grain free)
      Orijen (whole range is grain free)
      Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free versions
      Earthborn Holistic Grain Free versions

      From experience we have found that Acana works out the most cost effective for amount fed per day vs cost.

      Hope this helps a little bit.

      Valdette

  • Jessica Zeegers says:

    Hi There
    I am at a huge conundrum. I have a red toy poodle. When we got her she was eating hills puppy chicken. However I put her onto acana. She didn’t eat her food so I put her back into hills. Then she wouldn’t eat her hills pellets to the point where I was hand feeding her each pellet. Then someone recommended raw dog food to me. So we switched her yet again. Now my problem is she won’t eat her raw food it’s a nightmare constantly repeating. The raw is very difficult to feed as its defrosting it everyday and it’s a health hazard since she doesn’t eat immediately and has to be told to eat several times and by which point the flies arrive. So my fiancé says we should put pellets down and if she is hungry she will eat. So I would really appreciate your advice on what to do. I have had so many conflicting ideas with raw verse pellets and that pellets are so processed and all that but I can’t be hand feeding her pellets as well as raw. What are your thoughts on the way forward? Is there a soft pellet available in Origen? Or do I just buy acana and leave it out for her always and never tel her to go eat? Please help we are getting desperate in what’s best for her health. Thanks so much.

    • admin says:

      Hi Jessica

      I do sympathise with you, as this I understand this is very difficult. I personally don’t see anything wrong with biologically appropriate dry food – yes these foods have been processed, but they are very well balanced and an excellent food to feed. Raw food can be very tricky and I am going to be honest – I am not that clued up on these to give you the best advise on which are balanced and good to feed. They do become tricky to feed as you have experienced yourself.

      In my experience it does sound like your little one is now manipulating you quite nicely and it is usually these toy breeds that are experts in doing this. She has now learnt that if she refuses to eat you will handfeed her – which is obviously extremely pleasant to her. I do agree with your fiancé – she should eat if she is hungry, the only problem with this is – some of these little determined dogs are so stubborn that they just don’t eat for quite lengthy periods in order to try and get you to feed them that they run the risk of getting dehydrated / hypoglycaemic etc. which can be dangerous.

      It might work if you tried a little bit of ‘tough love’ (I really don’t like the term though) and see how this goes, remember that she has you perfectly dancing to her tune now and it is going to take determination from your side to show her you mean business. Please just keep an eye on her health and make sure that her health does not suffer.

      Get a bag of Orijen dry food / Freeze dried food (very high in meat which should entice her to eat – even more than in Acana), see how it goes with either just the dry food (don’t hand feed her, put it out for her to eat and leave if she does not and ignore the bad behaviour – i.e the not eating behaviour), you can either just do the dry food or mix a small amount of wet food with it aand over time decrease the wet food until she is just on dry food (this does put you in the same fly boat as with raw food though). I honestly think (if she seams healthy and active etc.) that this is now a learnt bad behaviour only.

      I do hope this helps a little bit at least, I know this is very difficult and keep faith – you will get there!

      Valdette

    • Yolande says:

      PS. I also have a fussy eater (a nine-year old boxer). For the first 7 years of her life we had to switch brands every month or she just stopped eating. And then, as a result of complications resulting from over-vaccination, she developed an allergy to dry food (probably the preservatives or colourants because an elimination diet didn’t indicate any specific food ingredient). Now she’s eating Paleopet Pure (raw food – meat, bones and pureed veggies) for breakfast and Vondi’s (cooked grains, meat, herbs and veggies) for dinner. If I try to give her only one kind, she refuses to eat it after a few meals – behaves like a celebrity when it comes to food … You may have a little prima donna on your hands as well 🙂

      • Yolande says:

        One more thing – the ‘leave it out and she will eat when she’s hungry’ doesn’t work. I’ve tried it with the boxer. She would rather go days without eating than eat something she doesn’t want to have.

        I have wondered whether she’s not extra sensitive to when food start going off, because it was always towards the end of the bag that she started to refuse the food…

    • Yolande says:

      Try adding a teaspoon of oil to her acana pellets. E.g. olive or canola or salmon (make sure it’s not rancid) or flax seed (must be kept in a fridge) or coconut oil. Dogs have a preference for fat – fats taste like sweets to them. And all of the above oils are good for them in one way or another.

      • Jessica Zeegers says:

        Hi Yolande Thanks so much for your messages and advice. I spent over half an hour chatting with our vet about all the options and explaining her behaviour. We decided to put her onto hills pellets with a teaspoon of hills puppy tin (she is very small) so once this is mixed in with some hot water she surprisingly ate it all up. I was expecting her to be trouble the next meal but again she ate. We are now on meal 5 and she is still eating so touch wood we have found the right meal plan for her. Also, each time she ate we cleared the room or went to shower leaving her alone as if we in the same room she would not go eat. weird and wonderful behaviour lol. Also regarding your boxer getting fussy towards the end of the dog bag- we were also advised to buy smaller bags or store the food in an airtight container so we have done so and its a lot more affordable paying for the smaller bag- with that been said she only needs a small amount. But instead of buying a 2.5kg we buy a 1kg witch will last two weeks and always be fresh. Thanks for all your advice! Jess

  • Janice Maltby says:

    I have 1 3 month old Biewer/Yorkie. started him on Montego puppy as per instructions. No good. bloated and flatulence galore! Changed to Hills puppy science diet (pup came with a bag). I have been told Complete is very good. As good as Hills ? Whats the comparison (or where can I find it) between the dry foods and which, overall, is best ?

    • admin says:

      Hi Janice

      Hope you are well.

      Montego and Complete are grain based diets – and dogs can’t digest grain at all, so you are spending money on an ingredient that does not benefit your pup. I would suggest you feed the best food your budget can afford. Grain free food is best. Your puppy is also old enough to move onto adult food (from 12 months of age). Acana and Orijen are grain free, which I will highly recommend. Hills and Eukanuba are also great foods.

      Hope this helps.

      Shinga Team

  • Veronicw Boniiface says:

    Hi there,
    I have a dog with a bloat problem,who is alsoexpelling air anally and burping exceessuvek, he is a Labrador. I have tried numerous dog foods, the last was Montego. When the symptoms continued, I switched to Lionels Choice. This doesn’t seemed to have helped! ! He also drinks lots of water.He has a habit of putting his head up and licking the air, and he has been an obsessive licker of material, eg the seats in the car…don’t know if any of these things are connected! Have you any suggestions. I’m desperate – my vet doesn’t seem able ot help? Thanks

    • Yolande says:

      Hi Veronicw. A dog prone to bloat needs to eat wet food, not dry. I suggest Vondi’s or Paleopetpure. Vondi’s is based in Cape Town but they courier food to Gauteng and other centres. And there are also a few stockists in Gauteng (check the Vondi’s website). Vondi’s is cooked whole grains, seared meat and fresh herbs & veggies. Paleopetpure is a BARF diet, consisting of raw meat and bones (finely ground) with pureed fruit and veggies. Paleopetpure is based in Gauteng and delivers province-wide (also a few stockists where you can buy directly – check website). It is also worthwhile to invest in a feeder that slows down eating – check out the Northmate interactive feeder in Shingavet’s online shop.

    • admin says:

      Veronica

      Hope you are well.

      Regarding the food you feed – we would suggest feeding a better quality food as the foods you have mentioned are all grain based and this can also contribute to his gas. The excesive licking etc is a behavioural problem, which we would suggest you discuss with a behaviourist.

      You can try to add FartEze to his daily food which will assist with the smell of the gas.

      Hope this helps a little bit.

      The Shinga Team

  • Duran Pillay says:

    I have a black sheperd cross german sheperd he is 3 months old he currently eating ultra dog optiwoof puppy. He eats a 8kg bag in about 20-25 days as he has 400-450g a day.Is there any other dog food that could be recommended for him obviously at a similar price to the optiwoof which is as good or better the optiwoof is R240 for a 8kg and R520 for a 20kg
    Please Help!!!!

    • admin says:

      Duran

      Hope you are well.

      Can you please supply us with your puppy’s body weight in order for us to work out which other food might be suitable for him?

      Kind Regards

      The Shinga Team

  • janine Michael says:

    Hi there I’m in port Elizabeth,I can’t afford,vet food,what other food would you recommend,that is close to LIONEL’s choice.I have a yorkiepoo and he loves the LIONEL’s but I’m not working and can’t buy it anymore,he was on cortisone injections and since I started using the LIONEL’s he does not need the cortisone anymore.Pls help,.Thank you GOD bless.

  • Dienie says:

    I have two Jack Russells, 6 years and 4 years. They are currenty on Bob Martin Dry Food and like it a lot. They have a skin problem on the tummies and sometimes keep on licking between the toes – goes red and itchy. Scratch the tummies on the grass.They are constantly on Prednizone tablets as well as antibiotic and cortizone which I don’t think can be very healthy. (given by the vet). Do you think it can be as a result of grain based pellets? Would love to hear your comment.
    Regards
    Dienie Muller

    • Valdette says:

      Dienie

      Hope you are well.

      The food you are currently feeding is a grain based diet, I would suggest trying a better quality food. Your dog’s skin and coat is made out of protein and in order for their coats to be healthy, they need high quality and quantity meat protein available in their diet to ‘feed’ their skin & coat. Even better would be is to change to a grain-free diet. You can then always taper off the cortisone dosages if the skin looks better (with the recommendation of your vet). So many dogs do much better on a high quality diets and grain free formulas without any antibiotics or cortisone.

      Hope this helps, look forward to hear from you.

      Valdette

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