Per your request: What this vet feeds her dogs
You asked and I’ve answered. Enjoy and try not to get too rough with me in your comments.
So you want to know what I feed my dogs?
The short answer first:
At home I feed Iams kibble mixed with whatever else I’m eating (or cooking with). At work? Z/D wet (a hydrolyzed nutrient source food made by Hill’s) mixed with lunch leftovers.
And now for the long version:
Am I addicted (or otherwise attached) to Iams or Hill’s as brands? No. In fact, the only reason I feed manufactured foods is the same reason my son gets cereal in the morning. Cheap. Enriched. Impregnated with all kinds of [questionably bioavailable] nutrients. And, above all, convenient. If nothing else, it provides me a little insurance that they’re getting some of the most basic nutrients they need.
Getting back to the brand thing, though, I will admit that I tend towards well-researched brands over brands with immaculate ingredients (both would be ideal). That means the likes of Iams, Waltham, Hill’s and Purina—yes, Purina.
No one spends as much on basic pet nutrition research than Purina. Whether you buy their foods or not, your pet has doubtless benefited from Purina’s exhaustive research over the past few decades—as have the companies that produce the high quality foods your pets now enjoy. Even all you raw feeders owe a debt to the nine checks. Really. Basic canine nutrition has come a long way and Purina has been a leader since the beginning. (No, they don’t pay me. I just like to give credit where it’s due.)
As to the kibble: I like to buy small bags so they’ll fit in a plastic container in the fridge and so when I leave it out (for reasons of sheer slovenliness) I don’t stress so much over the potential waste of oxidizable nutrients—it’s only a small bag, after all, how long could you leave it out before your dog(s) have managed to consume it? If you have a teacup Maltese…well…that’s another story.
The bulk of my dogs’ food? Home cooked heaven. In case I’ve never mentioned it here before, I’m an avid cook and a die-hard foodie. One of these days I’ll even manage my own hobby farm…of goats. I’ll be sure to let you know when I do so you can order the occasional pat of cheese. But I digress…
Point is, my dogs eat very(!) well. If I’m working on veal and pork meatballs (yesterday’s special—all free range and “organically” grown) they get some before (while still raw) and after (with whole wheat spaghetti, fresh tomato and roasted garlic sauce and fresh-picked basil with a sprinkling of lip-smacking, 24-month old parmiggiano). BTW, mushroom lasagna with home-made ricotta is tonight’s special. Tomorrow is one of those delicious, home-made meal-in-a-bowl soups, Thai-style. Yummy.
Ultimately, I feed my dogs the same way I feed myself and my son: a basic high-end cereal breakfast (in case the rest of the day goes to hell), a wide variety of fruits, nuts whole grains, vegetables and meats from high quality organic sources—local and sustainable if possible. Another thing we all get? A glucosamine and chondroitin capsule, an omega-3 fatty acid gelcap and a Flintstone’s chewable vitamin—for good measure.
Disclaimer: Just because I feed my dogs this way does not mean that this is how I expect anyone else to feed their pets. For starters, each individual pet has his or her limitations. My Sophie Sue, for example, is allergic to rice and carrots (verified by repeat testing). Other dogs have serious GI intolerances or other disorders that preclude my kind of free-range feeding. So be careful before adopting any kind of nutritional program that veers (to any degree) from your dog’s current diet.
Let me also say that the way I feed is in large part an admission of the importance of human lifestyle in feeding pets. That’s where the kibble comes in. It’s also an admission of my not knowing what the optimal diet might be—for my dog or any other. The science here is fuzzy—to say the least.
Just kibble? Good enough for the basics of life for the vast majority of dogs. Want to maximize your dog’s coat, energy level, longevity and performance? I tend to think mixing it up and providing the most variety (within the commonly accepted framework of canine nutrition) is the best way to go—but we just don’t know for sure.
And there’s the rub: Everyone thinks they’re an expert and assumes the vet is clueless just because he/she tells the truth. What’s the truth? We just don’t know what the best diet is. Given that we don’t even know everything we need to know about human nutrition—far from it—anyone who says they have a surefire method of optimally feeding any kind of creature is almost certainly full of s---.
Want one example from my long list of feeding method pet peeves? Take the miscellaneous diets that advocate feeding dogs like wild animals: “But this is what wolves eat!” For starters, our dogs haven’t been wild for millenia. (I challenge anyone to find anything remotely wolf-like about my Frenchies.) Moreover, attempting to feed them as if they are wolf-like presupposes that we know what wolves eat. And, of course, we don’t really know what wolves eat, much less what’s best for them.
So while the battle rages (elsewhere, I hope), I plan to continue to feed my dogs this way until someone gives me enough good science (real, peer-reviewed research, not what passes for science among too many so-called experts) to make me change my ways. My advice to the educated dog owner? If it seems to be working for your dog (and you’re an attentive, careful parent) then keep doing it.
Over the next couple of decades, I expect many substantive changes in canine nutrition changes to come our way—so stay tuned. I’m sure to write more on the subject. In fact, I can’t seem to avoid it. In the meantime, I have a boiling pot of noodles to attend to. Bon apetít.
Dr. Patty Khuly