Choosing The Best Food For Our Dogs
When it comes to dog food, there are more bones of contention than we can shake a stick at. (all puns intended) There are dozens of brands of dog food and many ways of feeding. All claim to take the high ground, we have, Holistic, BARF, Raw, Free Range, Kibble, Complete, Tinned, Pouched, Organic and the list goes on………
One thing for certain, it is a extremely emotive subject and one that brings out many opinions. Go on to many of the canine forums and you will see half a dozen back threads where people have argued the merits of their particular way of feeding.
Food can have a serious affect on our pet’s behaviour, as well as their health; many have additives, ethoxyquins, colourants, preservatives, some of these additives can and do affect our pets dramatically. It is often obvious from its appearance that a food contains artificial colours. Some almost look as though they were made in Sellafield.
However, it is not so obvious when other additives are present. As Chairman of PAACT the Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers I get to discuss and debate food on our behavioural forum. Many members claim to be able to spot a dog that is on certain foods just by their behaviour.
Certainly, a number of well-known brands appear to create aggression and hyperactivity. The behaviour is quite marked and is not that difficult to spot to the trained eye. I am not saying these foods affect every dog the same way, some dogs are OK on them, but many are not.
Before making any appointment to see a problem dog, I always ask a whole series of questions, one of the first on the list is always what food are they feeding? Has there been any recent changes in diet? In some cases this simple question triggers awareness that the behaviour started when they changed brands of food. Therefore, a simple change of diet may be all that is needed to alter the inappropriate behaviour.
Because I have such a motley crew, sizes, breed, temperament etc they are good candidates for testing various preparatory foods including Kibble, Raw and Cooked meat. Though I am more than willing to discuss the merits of the food I found to be excellent, I do not intend to use this article to denigrate or attack other dog food providers, though I will give a list of all the different brands tested.
- Guinness The working Cocker Spaniel
Will eat anything total Gannet
- Kai the white German Shepherd
Is delicate in his eating habits and takes his time, he also has a sensitive stomach
- Edward the Springer Spaniel
Will eat anything and everything, I have to scatter feed him as he bolts his food, almost choking as he eats it so quickly. Though he does have a somewhat sensitive stomach.
- Jet the Working Cocker Spaniel
Total Gannet eats anything and everything cast iron stomach
- Charlie The JR/Dachund Cross
Is in between the two and enjoys his food but rarely has stomach problems though can be fussy.
- Arden Grange (Kibble)
- Bakers (Kibble)
- Beta (Kibble)
- Burns Kibble
- Eukanuba (Kibble)
- Forthglade (Wet)
- Forthglade (Raw)
- James Wellbeloved (Kibble)
- Iams (Kibble)
- Lifestage Menu (Wet)
- Naturediet (Wet)
- Natures Menu (Wet) and (Raw)
- Prize Choice Same Company
- Pedigree Tinned (Wet
- Pedigree (Kibble)
- Royal Canin (Kibble)
- Pro Plan (Kibble) Canin (Kibble)
- Science Plan (Kibble)
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These brands were tested over a period of 18 months. Obviously these tests were not under laboratory conditions. However, they did cover observable data such as: coat, stools, behaviour, general health and eyes plus a wagability tail test.
Of the foods I tested it became apparent that cost and quality tend to go together, but not in every case. A 15kg bag of dog food costing £14,95 could not possibly contain the same level of human grade ingredients as the £45.00 mor £60.00 a bag foods, they would run at a loss if that was the case. So as a general rule of thumb the more expensive the better the quality the ingredients.
This exercise also changed my opinion on some RAW foods. Before these tests I was actually strongly against all raw feeding, I was won over by the quality of some of the raw food available. I have changed my opinion on what was my first choice of kibble and Fish4Dogs now gets that pride of place. c2011
Kibble: Dry Pellet Type Food
Of all the brands I tested two came clearly at the top, they were Fish4Dogs and Royal Canin.
Fish4Dogs: They have a selection of large and small bite puppy and adult food. Prestige and weight control. One of the great things about this food is even fussy eaters and one of my dogs is a very fussy eater woofs it down , therefore this food with with it's high proportion of natural fish (over 55%) is ideal. There are three choices Salmon, Fish and Sardine My dogs seemed to like all of them. One thing I have noted about this food is the stools are small and hard and they do not smell.
The coats were very good and the general health and vitality were excellent. This is a food that will keep them fit. and with lots of vitality No adverse behavioural changes were observed, in fact the opposite was the case. I liked the consistency and ease of this food though it would be nice if it was available at some more outlets. Though any good pet shop will be able to get it in for you. The website is informative and up to date. And the people at Fish4Dogs are very helpful. Just give them a call and discuss your particular needs and they are more than happy to help. I now feed my own dogs this food. I also use their wide variety of treats. See at bottom of page.
Royal Canin: Do not have a variety of recipes, what they do have is a selection for specific breeds and sizes, they claim that the ingredients are tailored to specific breeds, ages and size. I found Royal Canin Sensible the best of their choice for my dog’s. as it is formulated specifically with sensitive stomachs in mind. This is a very palatable food and one of the ones that my dogs liked for taste. Coats were good and the stools were fairly firm, though not as firm as with the Arfen Grange dry food. The one downside is it contains BHA, which is a preservative that allows it to have a longer shelf life, apparently 2.5 years. Some people feel that any preservative is unacceptable. I do not totally agree as BHA is a permitted additive especially in these quantities. There were no behavioural changes with this food, unlike some of the others. Website well laid out and generally quite good.
Tinned or Pouched Wet Food Cooked
This included pouched, tinned, tray, sachet type meals that are primarily wet rather than kibble which is dry. I found that the packet pouched, tray type food were the most natural and enjoyed most by my dogs. All of this food is cooked and the ones I chose have vegetables mixed in.
Forthglade Natural Lifestage Menu: The dogs really liked this, It was their favourite of all the wet type foods and they really appeared to look forward to it, wagbility was very evident and the stools were good,. though slightly more smelly than say Burns. Coat and eyes bright. These adult and puppy cooked complete foods come in chicken or lamb with brown rice and carrots peas and herbs. The puppy version has chicken lamb and tripe for extra protein. No preservatives or additives are listed or are evident. The packaging used to be a bit of a downfall with this particular brand but they have improved them greatly and are now much easier to store and use. Website is almost non-existent though it is apparently being upgraded.
Naturediet: This is another tray type food. And as stated before I found them better than the tinned food tested. The dogs appeared to like this food though not as evident as Forthglade. Stools were good but slightly smelly. Coat looked good eyes bright, The choice is wider than Forthglade, they include Chicken, Fish, Chicken and Tripe, and a lite version for the overweight dog, and of course a puppy version with higher protein.
Naturediet have a food supplement called Naturezyme, which I did not test. If the food is good enough why would you need a supplement? This food is palatable and the dogs enjoyed it.
Though I have some concerns. Naturediet has apparently had some recent manufacturing problems and the seals on their packaging have been suspect. Two of my clients have had problems with their batches and Naturediet apparently did not respond as well as could be expected. One of the dogs became ill. I did not find any of that when I tested the food, but I feel it only prudent to mention it. Web site is boring.
This included minced and free-flow chunks and raw frozen blocks mixed with vegetables and rice and in some cases maize. I have never really been a fan of raw food for my dogs, though I have to say I have been swayed somewhat by these tests.
Natures Menu/Prize Choice: This company has a fairly wide range of different choices which include Tripe, Chicken, Lamb, Heart, Liver,. There minced menu in frozen blocks that also include peas and carrots and rice. Prize Choice the sister arm offer chunks which include Tripe Chunks, Poultry Necks, Beef Chunks, Liver Chunks, Breast Trim, Heart Chunks, Fish Fillet, Roast Chicken, Chicken Wings. My dogs loved the minced blocks with rice and vegetables mixed in. there favourite was Tripe and Tripe and Chicken . Stools were good small and had very little smell, coat and eyes shining and bright. The favourite of the chunks were without doubt the Tripe. I did not feed the necks or the wings though I fed all the rest. If you are going to feed raw I think the frozen block offers a very good compromise. The tripe chunks were popular. The website was quite good.
Forthglade Frozen: This is the second time Forthglade have been mentioned, this time it is for their frozen rather than cooked food, A very good choice of different menus, though it must be said that they do not include vegetables or rice in their frozen blocks as do Natures Menu. The blocks are beef, heart, tripe, chicken, liver, and a nice touch, rabbit and mixtures of these, such as beef and heart, The free-flow version can be served raw or cooked and includes most of the same ingredients. Once again the dogs really enjoyed this food.
Stools very good, coat and eyes shining. Very little smell from the stools. Their favourite was Tripe yet again, though they did like the rabbit and I believe they preferred the free-flow. Behaviour was normal and they were not hyper in any way. The website is rubbish though I am reliably informed that it is being looked at.
The above tests were observational only and were not carried out under laboratory or scientific conditions.
December 27, 2006
I have been asked on many occassions what treats I use. If I am training I use cheese, frankfurter, and fish4dogs. These are small star like treats, called superstar training treats. I use these little star shaped treats because they are easy to carry, dogs love them, and you can leave them loose in your pocket, or in a treat bag and they do not go off like cheese or frankfurter.
They are made by Fish4Dogs a company that does numerous fish based treats. Which range from fish and calamari treats to compressed fish skins. What I like about them is they are all natural and packed full of Omega 3. I found these treats enhanced the coat and skin and the dogs love them. Since doing the dog food tests above I have still got the same dogs almost five years later, they were not young when I did the tests. Yet they are still healthy and active.
Since 2006 I have added two dogs to my little pack. Guinness my black and white working Cocker Spaniel and Jet also a working Cocker Spaniel See below.
Fish4Dogs. click on the logo. They also do Kibble that is high in fish content.
Updated September 2011