Dry food or canned food. Those used to be the two basic options people thought of when they thought about what kinds of food to feed their dogs. As people began to spend more on their pets we got the brand wars. Each brand claiming to have healthier, tastier, better food than the next.
Today if you walk into a specialty dog store the choices can be nearly overwhelming. You can still choose from the basic dry or canned food. There are the premium food brands, and now there are brands specializing in using only natural ingredients and using human-grade foods. I have seen wheat-free foods, gluten-free foods, and even vegan dog foods.
Though each of these choices may seem vastly different they all have one thing in common: they reflect what we (the humans) need or want. They do not take the natural diet of our furry loved ones into consideration. Dogs are naturally carnivores. They are hunters and scavengers. What they don't eat are nice round bits of kibble that have been processed with high grain content and preservatives.
With that thought in mind there is still another choice when it comes to dog food. It is a raw diet, sometimes referred to as the BARF diet. It aims to be as close to natural as we can get when feeding our dogs.
A raw diet consists of raw meats and vegetables. The largest part of the diet should be made up of "raw, meaty bones" or basically bones with a good amount of meat on them. This may be chicken backs, turkey necks, oxtails, etc. Dogs on this diet should also be given organ meats (liver, hearts, kidneys), muscle meat (hamburger, ground turkey, ground pork, rib-eyes, tenderloins, etc.), and vegetables. The vegetables need to be ground in a food processor as dogs have a hard time digesting whole vegetables. The vegetable matter they get in the wild would generally be partially digested by the animal they have hunted.
There is a lot of information available on the specifics of a raw diet. This isn't a diet that should be started without the proper research. Read books, talk to your veterinarian, and see if you can find anyone else who feeds their dog this diet.
Because this diet is designed to be similar to their natural eating habits it can lead to cleaner teeth, a healthier coat, healthier weight, and better overall health of a dog. It is also easier to identify any food allergies your dog may have and remove it from their diet.
Another great aspect of this diet is you can shop for your dog using the same standards you would use to shop for yourself. You can buy organic food, locally grown foods, or go to the farmers markets. You don't have to feel bad to feed your dog well.
Remember there are still things dogs should not eat. Never give a dog bones that have been cooked as these can shatter and cause serious damage to your pet's digestive system. Dogs should also avoid chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, some nuts, as well as other foods. The ASPCA has some wonderful information on hazardous foods on their website at www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/.