Aim for the Ideal
Diet decisions are not a matter of right or wrong. If you understand what is ideal, you can then create a feeding program that will help move your pet closer to the healthiest diet options. In general, the more real food your dogs and cats eat, the healthier they will be.
The chart below outlines how our feeding choices for our pets (companion carnivores) can affect their health. The closer to the upper level choices, the better the chance for optimal health. You will likely be in the middle ranges most of the time. That is fine, as long as you always press toward the ideal.
Ideal - Healthiest
1. Hunted, raw prey (not realistic in modern society)
2. Fresh raw meats, bones, organ meats with very small amounts of fresh vegetables. Include a well-rounded vitamin/mineral mix and omega 3 essential fatty acids (salmon oil). You can prepare your own raw diet using meat/bone pieces and parts, or you can use pre-prepared ground products such as Bravo! and Nature’s Variety.
3. Fresh cooked meats, calcium, organ meat, with very small amounts of fresh vegetables. Include a vitamin/mineral mix, and omega 3 essential fatty acids (salmon oil). There are several books on the market that help you create your own home-cooked diet. It’s best to follow the recipes in these books.
4. Ultra Premium commercial canned foods and augmented with some fresh, raw foods. Canned foods, which are lower in carbohydrates, are much better for your pet than dry kibble. Some of the brands I like are Nature’s Variety, Merrick, and Evanger’s. These products are mostly meat, are usually grain-free, and very low in carbohydrates. The meat they use is human quality and they do not use by-products or chemical preservatives.
5. As in #4 above, but adding fresh cooked foods
6. Ultra Premium canned commercial foods WITHOUT fresh raw or cooked foods added
7. Super Premium canned foods are very much like the brands above, but they use more grains. They still use good quality meats and don't contain by-products. Brand examples:
Solid Gold, Innova, Pet Promise.
8. Super Premium grain-free dry food (kibble) like Instinct by Nature’s Variety
9. Premium canned foods. These brands use substantially less meat. Water is often the number 1 ingredient (in the Ultra Premium brands meat is the number one ingredient), they use meat by-products (poor quality waste parts) and they usually contain significant amounts of grains and chemical preservatives. Often, if all the grains are added together, they would equal or exceed the meat. The meat quality is OK, but just barely.
10. Super Premium kibble like Innova, Prairie, Canidae, and Timberwolf
11. Grocery store brands – canned or dry. These contain very little meat, are made with substantial amounts of meat by-products, and primarily consist of grain and grain by-products. The rendered meat used in these products came from condemned animals, ie – animals that were deemed unfit for human consumption. These products normally contain artificial colors, flavors and chemical preservatives.
Worst - Unhealthy