The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Dog Foods
One of the hardest and the most common questions we are asked is “What is the best food for my dog?”. To be completely honest with our customers, if we knew the answer with 100% certainty, every dog owner in the country, if not the world, would come to us for advice. Sadly, we don’t know everything and if anyone claims to, they are to be given a suspicious look. What we do know from years of experience in the pet food industry though, is that we know what to ask to help our customers decide on what is a good “fit” for them and their dogs. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is no ‘one’ good or best food for a dog. There are many different good foods such as those we carry but the best diet is made up with a variety. We like to remind our customers to keep changing up the diet and feed different foods so that their dog can get nutrients from a variety of different sources. In this blog post, we will help you learn how to pick out foods that are right for you and your dog and what to watch out for.
The following is a list of questions we usually ask our customers when they are trying to find the right raw food for them.
- What is your budget?
- What kind of a dog do you have?
- How is your dog’s health right now?
- Do you have any special restrictions?
- What does your dog like to eat?
With these questions, we can help the customers start on the right track. As we talk with our customers, we start to narrow down the possible foods for them by eliminating the ones that don’t fit. By the end of our conversation, we will be left with several options where the customer can choose a product depending on their preferences or better yet, feed a rotational diet where they would change the food how ever often they feel is convenient.
What is your Budget?
Budget is important. Even if we had certain foods that were perfect for a customer’s dog, if it is out of their affordable price range, it is a no go. This is why we like to start with this question. If a customer tells us they can spend $100 per month for their small breed dog, we can open up our whole arsenal of healthy raw foods for them. On the other hand, if a customer wants to spend $100 per month on an extra large breed dog, we will be limited to only a few brands of food.
Price range varies for different brands because of several factors, but the biggest factor is the serving size which equate in to convenience. For example, Buddies Natural Butcher Blocks that are made in Vancouver Island comes in 1 lb or 2 lb blocks and there are 10 or 20 blocks in a bag to make a 20 lb bag. These are definitely less expensive compared to a food from Primal, a brand that makes 3lb bags filled with 3oz raw nuggets. You can guess which one we would recommend for a Chihuahua and for a German Shepherd. Along with the serving size, the packaging also determines the price range as well. Buddies Natural are packed in a clear plastic bag with a sticker denoting the particular type of meat it holds and its ingredients. Primal has a very nicely designed and printed bag with a zip lock top.
More subtle price differences may lay in the quality of the product and the ingredients used. Some brands may grind vegetables in to their dog food mix and some may juice the vegetables, resulting in a higher cost for production but also of higher quality because juiced veggies are better digested in dogs. Prices differ by protein as well. Chicken for example is usually much more economic compared to a more novel protein such as Kangaroo. Other price differences may emerge when some brands use non-medicated meats and some brands use Grade A (which are human grade and the same grade meats are sold in grocery stores for people).
Some very cheap raw pet foods on the market sometimes warrant suspicion. As we always say, if the beef pet food you are buying is cheaper than the beef you are buying for yourself, you can assume that the beef they use in the pet food is of much lower quality. You can learn more about under-par raw pet foods on our separate blog post about our raw exposé here!
All these factors make up the price of a product. Taking our customer’s budget in to account, we try to recommend the brands that lay within their price range.
What kind of a dog do you have?
This is our next question and it focuses on the dog. Feeding amounts vary according to the dog’s weight and their activity levels. These two factors are actually almost all we need to know about your dog (unless there are dietary restrictions, which we cover in the next section) to help the customer choose a right fit for their dog.
If the customer has a smaller dog, we will first show them the smaller portioned brands such as Primal that we talked about. The convenience of serving small portioned nuggets usually outweighs the benefit of buying a large 20 lb Butcher Block bag to save a little bit of money. For larger dogs, we would show the customer the larger portioned brands first and work down from there.
Many customers want to tell us their dog’s breed and want to know what kind of raw food is the best for them. In our opinion, there is no meat that is better for some dog breeds and less so for others. On the other hand, supplements and feeding amounts are a different story. If a customer had a German Shepherd, we would recommend them a raw food regardless of their specific breed, but we may recommend a joint supplement to add to the food to prevent joint and back related illnesses that they are predisposed to. Another example is with Dachshunds. Their backs are very sensitive to weight and if they become overweight, they can hurt their backs quite easily. In this case, we would caution our customer to keep a close eye on their weight and feed them leaner meats or reduce the feeding amount if they seem overweight.
How is your dog’s health right now?
The most common reason people switch over to raw food for their pets is because their pets have been suffering from other diets. Many of our customers first came in to our store because they became tired of dealing with constant food allergy issues that dry kibble food brings up. Because of this, it is very important that we always ask the dog’s current health.
For dogs with food allergies, we usually start with novel proteins that they haven’t eaten before. These meats include proteins such as Kangaroo, Ostrich, Venison, Rabbit, Salmon, or Pork. In starting with these novel proteins, we would normally choose just one protein and stick to it for 3 to 4 weeks. No treats that contain any other animal protein would be given. This way, if the dog responds well, we would know that he or she can eat the certain protein.
For dogs with other health issues, for example, pancreatitis, we would recommend meats that are very lean such as Kangaroo or Llama to minimize the fat content in their diet. Other health issues are dealt with either instructions from the veterinarian or from other sources.
Do you have any special restrictions?
This question can sometimes uncover an issue that may not have been taken in to account yet. If the customer does not want to use a certain animal protein for what ever the reason, this is the stage we would exclude them from the dog’s diet. If a dog is good to eat anything but his or her owner is allergic to salmon for example, we would recommend a diet excluding salmon.
What does your dog like to eat?
Lastly, this is the question we usually ask at the end. If any animal protein can be incorporated in to the diet, we might as well start with something the dog really likes! After the initial start, we would as always, recommend switching up the proteins and also the brand of raw foods to try to feed as various of a diet as possible for the healthiest result.
Other Frequently Asked Questions by our Customers
– Won’t my dog get sick if I change the protein too abruptly?
- This tends to happen mostly with kibble fed dogs. Dogs who eat kibble usually eat the same brand and the same flavour of the kibble for months, if not years. If they are introduced to a new food, they will often have an upset tummy. This is not so with dogs who are fed a rotational raw diet. When a dog is used to eating Chicken one day and Beef the next, their stomach does not become so used to one protein that it will have trouble when the food is changed. Our customers’ dogs who are given different meats each time or changed every week or month do not get sick even when the food changes over the course of a day.
– Do dogs need vegetables in their diet?
- Our usual answer is, not so much. Many brands use up to 25% vegetables in their raw food products and the veggies help supply the nutrients that the meats may be lacking in. Other brands use tripe instead of vegetables. Customers sometimes become worried that their dog may not be getting all the nutrients they need when they buy a raw food that do not include vegetables. This is okay because dogs do not need vegetables every day and for every meal. We often enthusiastically recommend adding tripe or if a dog requires vegetables due to a health issue, customers can add their own vegetables from the grocery store or from products that we carry that are 100% vegetables which are ready to be mixed in to foods easily.
– Where is this dog food made?
- We can tell you where each brands of dog foods are produced. Most of the pet foods we carry are made in Canada, some are made in the US, and some other dried raw foods we carry are made in New Zealand.
– Will eating raw meat make my dog vicious?
- We encounter this question rarely but periodically. The answer is no, and if anything, it will make your dog happier and healthier! The reason some customers may feel that a raw diet will make a dog vicious is because when they first tried raw at home, their dog became so enthused that they aren’t fed dry kibble and they gobble it up. This just shows how much your dog loves raw! If a dog growls or shows aggression when they are bothered during their meal, this is just a matter of training and building a relationship and it can happen with dogs whether they are kibble fed or not.
- Sometimes a customer is worried about whether feeding a raw ground rabbit meal to their dog or cat will make them want to hunt down a live bunny rabbit at the park. To our knowledge and experience, this sort of thing never happens. This could happen if your dog has a high prey drive, but it is not related to the diet. We actually have a few customers who feed whole rabbits to their dogs and they do not act aggressive towards other live rabbits.
– Will feeding a raw diet make my pet food shopping more tedious?
- Compared to an individual who picks up a kibble food from their grocery store (which are very very unhealthy. For example, you can read about Beneful here and Royal Canin here) while they are shopping for their family, we will be honest and say that you will be spending more time and energy shopping for raw dog foods. But this will be greatly outweighed by the benefit of a healthier and happier pet and most likely save on vet bills down the road!
- We feel that shopping for your dog or cat can be just like shopping for your human family members. Walking down the aisle of a store, you may see a nice steak that you could pick up for dinner or tasty treats for the kids. Perhaps there is a special on for pork chops. The same thing can be for your dog or cat! Being in a raw pet food store like ours, you can be excited about the different things you can feed your canine and feline family members.
- This way it’s not more tedious, it’s more fun and rewarding! Only at a raw or natural pet food store you can see customers get excited about what to feed their dogs. “My dog loves turkey necks!” “Oh a special on beef knuckles!” “Chicken hearts for my cat!” “There’s a new raw food mix with tripe!?” With kibble, you can hear the rustling of its plastic or paper packaging as it is being bought for a dog or cat who has been eating the same boring food for months and years.
Raw foods galore!
There are so many different choices of raw pet foods on the market and even more various ways to plan out a diet for a dog or a cat. We hope this article was helpful and pointed you in the right direction of choosing a raw pet food (or several raw pet foods) for your loving pet. If you have any specific questions you would like to ask us, please feel free to send us an email or give us a call. If you come in to the store yourself, we will be able to give you a full tour of our selection and how you can choose and plan your pet’s diet.
-The True Carnivores Pack