Dr. Karen Becker: How to Choose a Good Dog Food (Part 2)

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To see Part 1, please click Dr. Karen Becker Shows How to Choose a Good Dog Food.

For more help, watch Dr. Becker’s video to discover The Best and Worst Types of Food to Feed Your Dog.

  • Mary-Ann Kurucz

    Thank you :) I have kept a pretty good list of things she has tried. We just started the kelp and brewers yeast about 6 weeks ago. She has been on a very limited diet with each type of food but I will try to keep it even more limited. The vet suggested to cut out all fruit and veggies which I did but then she started to really lose weight. I give her a raw food diet which is just turkey and bone, then I puree kale, swish chard and a few other greens. I have kept the list of foods that are not good to give to dog’s who are prone to yeast infections out of her diet. I did research on that and found a huge list of foods. It makes it very limited on what she can eat. This of course seems to make her lose weight. I will definitely check out the website you mentioned. Thank you for your suggestions.

  • theBCnut

    She could be allergic to brewers yeast or kelp. Have you kept ingredient lists on foods you have tried? If not, try to remember what you have tried and gather those lists. They shouldn’t be hard to find on the internet. Compare lists and look for ingredients that they have in common. It’s not just meats and grains that you have to worry about, it’s anything that has protein in it. As an example, my dog reacts to chicken, eggs, flax, tomato, all grains, and now I’m retesting him for fish and beef. Others have dogs that react to peas, beans, pumpkin, potato, etc. Look for foods that have none of those in common ingredients. Chewy.com is a good place to find the ingredient lists for many different foods. I spent almost a whole day there looking over lists to make a list of all the foods they carry that I could try on my dog.

    You may have to try a strict elimination diet(that’s what I would do) which requires you use 1 meat that she hasn’t had before and 1 starch that she hasn’t had before. Feed that and NOTHING else until reactions subside(about 10 weeks), then start adding back 1 single thing at a time to her diet, and see how she reacts to it for a while before adding the next thing back in.

  • Mary-Ann Kurucz

    Hi, I have a 7 yr old Jack Russell. She has had huge skin issues for the last 2 1/2 yrs. We have spent a ton of money on vet bills trying to figure out the skin issues. She’s been on predizone, anitbiotics, benadryl, and other medications. She was on a hypo allergenic dry dog food. None of this stuff helped. We tried various dog foods suggested to us which were grain free, still no relief. We have had her on a raw dog food diet. First she was on chicken but the vet suggested we try something else to see if there was any change. Next we tried turkey but still no change. The one vet thought she had Atopy which showed negative with our new vet. She had allergy testing done and the only thing that showed up was Bermuda grass which does not exist in our region. The new vet noticed she had a severe yeast infection and put her on Ketoconazole. It seems like she has lost even more weight after we’ve had her on that. She was very chubby on dry dog foods and has definitely slimmed down on the raw dog food diet. Our Jack has been on Ketoconazole 2 months now and I haven’t seen any improvement. We have also been doing a bath with an anti fungal shampoo from the vet. It almost seems like her skin flares up even worse when we’ve bathed her with it. Prior to this one we tried Epi soothe shampoo which was suggested by previous vet. No relief on that one either. We have tried oatmeal baths, apple cider vinegar baths, etc. We’ve rubbed coconut oil on her skin but it just seems to make it more red. Her skin is red and bald in spots. The areas the worst are around her neck area which is probably from the cone rubbing at times, the belly, the elbow aeas, legs and feet. She has to have one of those cone things on her head to stop her from excessive licking and scratching. The vet suggested we keep it on most of the time until we get the skin issues under control, otherwise it’s a vicious circle. She seems to think it is food related but so far with all the strict limited food diets we haven’t had any luck. I put kelp powder and flax seed oil in her food. She also gets brewers yeast and evening primrose. Do you have any suggestions on what I should be doing? I am desperate for some help and at least some relief for my dog. There are times when it seems like her skin is getting better but then it is worse again. Thank you

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Shelly Hachey –

    It’s wonderful that you’re researching homemade foods – imo it’s the best thing anyone can do for their dog. Dogaware.com is a great resource and two great books with AAFCO compliant recipes are “Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet” by Steve Brown and “Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats” by Dr. Becker. The books are more geared toward raw, but raw recipes can easily be converted to cooked by omitting any bone and adding 1,000 mg. calcium per pound of meat. Until you’re comfortable making your own food from scratch you could also try a pre-mix. Pre-mixes contain all the fruits, vegetables and supplements, all you do is rehyrate the mix and add fresh meat. Some popular pre-mixes are The Honest Kitchen’s Preference, Sojo’s, Urban Wolf, Dr. Harvey’s and Birkdale Petmix.

  • Shelley Hachey

    Hi I have 4, 2 year old newfoundlands and I want a better food for them. Looking for healthy homemade recipes. I am uneasy of feeding them raw foods.

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  • Emily

    I have two small dogs and the female had bladder stones.  My vet recommended a specific dog food and over the past 6 weeks the stones are gone.  What other type of dog food for Kidney s/o would you recommended.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    Hi mmbrod02,

    By the way, you mentioned that you felt the information you were given by the breeder regarding protein wasn’t completely accurate.  Presuming your breeder told you to avoid high levels of protein, you’re the one who is correct ~ protein is definitely not something to steer clear of… you do want a food that is higher in protein.  

    Like HDM said, controlling calcium intake is very important and controlling growth is super important!  Portion control is critical in keeping your pup from getting too big too fast, which is a major contributor to orthopedic issues as well.

    Hey, for your first pup, you sure jumped in with both feet!  Have fun!  : )     

  • InkedMarie

    HoundDogMom pretty much covered it all but I wanted to say bravo to you for looking for a different food. Welcome to you!

  • Hound Dog Mom

    mmbrod02!

    Congrats on the new puppy! And great choice to switch to a quality kibble raw combo. :)

    I have large breeds as well – three bloodhounds ages 7 years, 2 years and 6 months. My dogs are all on a homemade raw diet.

    What you’re going to want to do with your new pup is control her calcium intake and her weight – keep her very lean while she’s growing. Both excess calcium intake and excess calories can contribute to the development of orthopedic conditions such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia in large and giant breed puppies.

    If you head over to the forums, I’ve put together a list of 4 and 5 star grain-free foods appropriate for large breed puppies. There are also links to several articles on large breed puppy nutrition posted. This information can help you pick an appropriate dry food.

    http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/forums/topic/large-and-giant-breed-puppy-nutrition/

    As for raw, you have a few options:
    1) Premade Raw – Convenient and you don’t have to do any research however it’s extremely costly to feed (especially when you have a large dog) and you aren’t in control of the ingredients or quality.
    2) Semi-Homemade Raw – You can purchase “grinds” which contain muscle meat, organ meat and bone in the proper proportions and all you need to add are supplements or “pre-mixes” which are dry mixes containing all the fruits, vegetables and vitamins your dog needs and all you generally need to add is boneless meat. These options are usually cheaper than pre-made but more expensive than homemade and you have some control over the ingredients. Not as time consuming as homemade but more time consuming than pre-made.
    3) Homemade Raw – You do everything from scratch. Although I occasionally utilize “semi-homemade” methods I generally like to do homemade. It’s a little time consuming but it gives me complete control over everything my dogs eat. I believe homemade raw is the best way to feed a dog. It does take some research though. If you head over to the “Raw Dog Food” forum ( http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/forums/forum/raw-dog-food-forum/ ) you’ll find some good information. Under the “Suggested Raw Dog Food Menus?” topic I have several of my dogs menus posted there with all ingredients used and quantities.

    If you’re feeding raw you still need to be conscious of calcium levels. You’ll have to contact companies to verify the calcium levels before feeding (looks for 3.5 g. calcium per 1,000 kcal. or less). Most of the pre-mixes should have okay calcium levels (Urban Wolf does have appropriate calcium levels and it’s my pre-mix of choice). If you’re feeding homemade, green tripe should be your friend while your dog is growing! Green tripe naturally has a balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1:1 with very low concentrations of both (only about 0.33%). So you can always dilute the calcium level of anything you’re feeding with tripe.

    Dog Aware is a great resource for raw feeders: http://dogaware.com/diet/rawfoods.html#complete and if you’re interested in going the homemade route I would highly recommend Steve Brown’s book “Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet.”

    I hope that helps!

  • mmbrod02

    Hello, I have an 11 week old newfoundland puppy that I recently brought home.  She has been on Purina puppy chow which I know is crap food and I want to start switching her ASAP.  I thought when I went to the vet I would get some good suggestions (this is my first dog and she is a large breed so I want to meet her needs), but unfortunately the vet suggested switching her from chow to Purina Pro Plan or the Science Diet.  I am against any Purina products to be honest and am not really looking for a mediocre food, which I consider the Science Diet to be.  I have been warned about the protein levels by the breeder and told to stay away from Blue Buffalo, Canidae, Taste of the Wild, and various other better dry kibble but think the information I was given is not totally accurate.  I am very interested in starting my puppy on a mix of a raw diet, homemade food, and kibble.  Any suggestions for a good kibble and raw food that will meet the nutritional needs of a growing massive breed puppy is greatly appreciated! 

  • Mamalope

    i like the idea of eliminating the dry food, I always thought it helped with tartar, though, intelectually I couldn’t really see how if COULD help clean the teeth.  I’ve got a 10 year old Doxie who is losing hair, maybe it’s age, maybe it’s food…going forward, Im going to be more careful…can’t afford the best, but I can get better. Thanks

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Hi Mamayantra –

    If your dogs like canned food and as long as you can afford it, why not feed only a quality canned food or pick a quality canned food and a quality dry food and top the dry with canned? Canned food is much more species-appropriate than dry food – it has a higher moisture content and generally contains less carbohydrates and more protein. Tripett (canned green tripe) is great for enticing picky eaters, you could try that with any kibble and I bet your dogs would gobble it up. Raw foods generally are well liked by picky eaters as well and would also make a good topper for kibble. So I’d just suggest you pick out a high quality 4 or 5 star food and find a topper (canned or raw) that makes your dogs want to eat it, might want to pick two or three foods then you can rotate and your dogs won’t get bored.

  • Mamayantra

    Hello Dr. Becker,
    Thank you for clearing up what to look for on the label.  I’ve been looking on the labels and intuitively staying away from by-products, sugar and chemical sounding ingredients but now I realize that wasn’t enough.  Knowing the first 5 ingredients are the majority of the food is important and knowing some of the names of things to avoid.  But I have been trying to upgrade my 2 dogs food for the past month and they won’t eat anything I have bought unless I put some canned food in.  Before, they would eat their store bought food that I thought was good for them without adding the canned dog food.  I read the reviews about Wellness Core Dog food and they were really good but my dogs won’t eat it.  Plus the 4th and 5th ingredients are potatoes. It’s been a week now and they just won’t eat it.  Any suggestions about a dog food that I might stand a better chance that my girls will like it, would be appreciated.  But this is the third dog food I’ve tried and it’s messing with their tummys.  What to do?!! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    Hi Judy from Israel,

    Did you actually read back to Smadaravner’s original post?

    It was he who originally had pointed out the foods available in the U.S. were “different” from that available in Israel and that he wanted what was best for his dog.

    I know what’s available in the U.S. and not what’s available in Israel. I had simply said that I was curious about companies who could / or would ship to Israel.

    At no time did I ever say that the foods in the U.S. were superior to that which was available in Israel.

    If you choose to reply to me, please make certain that you aren’t attributing statements to me that I clearly did not make.

  • Judy from Israel

    there are plenty of pet shops in Israel that offer quality pet foods, there is no reason to ship from the US.

  • Mike P

    I do the exact same thing Sandy except for the soup cans.I use two plastic hand clamps from Home Depot and clamp the bag shut after I take out a weeks worth of food.

  • Pattyvaughn

    I do this too.  So far it has worked very well for me.  The food is always fresh smelling, even to the bottom of the bag.

  • sandy

    My 25 lb bag of food (another brand) has about 100 cups so your bag should be open for less than 6 weeks.  I keep mine in the original bag and roll the top down real good and squish the air out and put some soup cans on top to keep the lid down and keep it in a dog food bin.  I take out about a weeks worth of food into another small container to use.

  • Melissaandcrew

     Shannonb-

    As Labs said, be sure to keep the bag tightly closed. Some DFA folks with one or two dogs have mentioned putting a few days or a weeks worth into a tupperware type container for daily use. This way, they are not constantly opening the bigger bag exposing it to air. Then put the bigger bag closed, into an airtight plastic bin-that will keep it fresh and prevent any moths etc from making it a home : )

  • LabsRawesome

     You’re Welcome!  :)

  • Shannonb

    Thank you!!

  • LabsRawesome

    Hi Shannonb, As long as you keep the bag tightly closed, it should be fine.

  • Shannonb

    Hi,
     Can anybody tell me if I order a 23.5 lb bag of Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredients for one dog that will eat 2 cups a day-maybe another 1/2- will the ingredients stay fresh/ potent? I can get free shipping if I do that instead of the 4.4lb bag. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    Something else I was thinking… if you did have to order something and have it shipped, you might try a dehydrated food ~ you could get an excellent quality food and the weight would be significantly less; ie: one you mix with water like http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/honest-kitchen-dog-food/; or an “air dried” food such as http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/ziwipeak-dog-food-dehydrated/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    I live in the USA and try not to take for granted that I can pretty much find whatever I want, whenever I want; and in lots of cases, get it shipped for free.  I was curious about shipping dog food to Israel when I read your post, so I started looking for companies that ship to Israel.  Looks like this company does:  http://www.dog.com/dog-food/dry-dog-food/1476/, but it would be international shipping for you which would probably be crazy expensive.  I’m still looking…  

  • Oron

     Where do you live? Usually you can find a store that will deliver.

  • Smadaravner

    hi oron!!!
    thanks for the info!

    please please pease tell me where u buy your dog food- i think i looked everywhere and didnt find does 5 stars…. i have no problem traveling and buy them- please let me know :) i will try anything at this point.

  • Oron

     Smadar, there are a few 4 and 5 star foods available in Israel like – Orijen, Acana, Earthborn Holistic, Hi-Tek Naturals, Canine Caviar and a few more. So we do have some good options. I have a 1 year old Boxer and we had a hard time finding the right food because he would always get diarrhea. I tried Canine Caviar and it was good for him so for the past 4,5 months I’ve been feeding either the lamb or chicken and he’s doing great so you might want to try it. A lot of people feed Pro plan or Eukanuba and their dogs seem to do well but I would look for something with higher quality ingredients. I would love to feed Orijen but it didnt work for him, maybe Jackson will do well on it… Its very individual.

  • Smadaravner

    thank u for the help! but…
    i read the article below,
    no tipe of food is sent to israel…
    the sensitive stomach is mainly about diarrhea,
    i realy want to give him the best food for him to be big and strong and healthy….
    i have swithched from – pro plan large breed  to- natural balance large breed-
    ive heard that natural choice is a goot tipe of food – but again- imrealy confused.
    jackson (my berniz dog :) )- doesnt seems to like his food…
    is adding enzymes at this age wont be bad for him latter?
    thank u again….

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Calcium should be controlled until the dog is 3/4 of their adult size. I know I generally stop worrying around 8 months.

  • Shawna

    Also, read Hound Dog Moms post right under your post…

  • Shawna

    Hi Smadaravner ~~ without knowing what foods you have available it is hard to suggest a specific brand.  But some guidelines to look for — higher in meat protein.  He may need to have limited calcium due to his size — lets see if aimee or Hound Dog Mom can answer this. 

    HDM or aimee — is a 7 month old pup grown enough to be put on regular calcium foods?

    What exactly do you mean when you say sensitive stomache — diarrhea, noises, vomitting, pain?  It may be that there is an ingredient in the food that is not agreeing with him.  Have you tried other large breed foods?

    I would also suggest adding digestive enzymes and probiotics to his food.  This should help with the sensitive tummy…

  • Smadaravner

    hi
    im having truble choosing the right type of food for my dog.
    i have berniz mountain dog, 7 month, eating natural balance large breed.
    he doesnt seems to like it, and the “pu///” – well- i dont like it…
    he has a very sencitive stumace and he still needs to grow but i dont know what to feed him ….
    please help me….
    the type of food u have in the states is not the same in israel ….
    and i realy want the best for him! he is beautifull and such a cute dog!!!
    thank u….
    smadar

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Cynthia cahn –

    Coming from a fellow large breed owner – get off the puppy chow immediately. Read the review and you’ll see why. Second, do not feed a food that low in protein. It’s not appropriate. The myth that high protein diets cause growth issues in large breed dogs is just that – a myth. Bad genetics (getting a pup from a breeder that didn’t OFA test the parents), overexercising as a puppy, overfeeding and excess calcium cause growth issues. My advise would be to look for a high protein (>30%), grain-free food with 1.3% calcium or less that is approved for growth or all life stages. I fed one of my female bloodhounds (now almost 2) The Honest Kitchen (Love, Zeal, Thrive) and Tripett until she was 8 months old then I switched her to a raw diet. My current pup (4 1/2 months old) has been on a high protein, grain-free, controlled calcium diet since i brought her home at 8 weeks. Check out Dr. Mike’s Article “Hip Dysplasia Linked to Improper Diet” – it will explain how protein does not cause growth issues. Here is a list I put together of 4 and 5 star grain-free foods with appropriate calcium levels for large breed growth, this would be a good place to start picking a food:

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwApI_dhlbnFY183Q0NVRXlidWc/edit

    You may also find this article of interest:

    http://portais.ufg.br/uploads/66/original_Racas_grandes.pdf

  • Cynthia cahn

    We have a 14 wk old Swissy that is now on Puppy Chow as recommende by the breeder until 16 wks. Then gradually switch to large breed food with no more than 26% protein. I have been researching brands on your site but I’m so overwhelmed. Last Swissy we owned was on pro plan but we are not feeding it to this one. Any recommendations??

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Xshell –

    I think we’ve all been there. I fed my dogs Beneful, Dog Chow, and Dad’s for years because I was always told all dog foods are the same and if you get an expensive food you’re just paying for the brand name. I was horrified as well when I found out about the ingredients in the foods I was feeding. I now feed my dogs a biologically appropriate raw diet.

  • Xshell

        I was making mistakes in both my dog food choices AND treats!! I feel angry and duped by the dog food industry! Thank you SO much for this information. I just wish every single pet owner could see it!
         I love my dog so very much and I would have never knowingly subjected her to such a terrible diet. I am sure there are many other pet owners out there that are just like me BEFORE I saw this. I am buying new food FIRST thing tomorrow morning!

  • Val

    This is a great set of videos! Thank you for all the information and watch-outs. Much appreciated. 

  • Sgarvey

    Looking for better food and I learned so much.
    Thanks

  • Barbara

    Thank you so much. I am a nutritionist, Registered Dietitian, and just adopted a shelter dog. I was horrified by the foods recommended by the different vets I saw. This is the first time a Vet made any sense, and I hope the world hears more of you.  I can’t believe they allow the kinds of foods on the market, and it is very confusing to people to know. I thought teaching humans about nutrition for themselves was important, this is eye opening! Thanks again, [email protected]

  • Haynesjason7

    great information

  • Jeannie

    I had NO IDEA that the Iams brand dog food was not good for our PomChi. I will no longer buy Milk-Bone or Beggin Strips either!!!

    I shared this with my Facebook Friends as well. Thank you so much.

    Shanti’s Mommy!

  • Angeline Benjamin

    My dog is a very picky eater. I feed him high quality dry dog food (5 star brands, grain free). He rarely eat them after a week. He gets tired of eating the same kind of food even after a week. Can I switch his foods with different high quality foods often?
    Thank you.
    By the way your video is very educational.

  • BKeeley

    Thank you so much for this informative video. I have an older dog that I put on “big box” store food and he is doing terrible, I would have never know it could be from the food. We are making huge changes, thank you agian!

  • Nick

    Wow! After watching her vids, she educated me on what to look for and waht to avoid. Tomorrow, I’m getting rid of my store bought foods and replacing it with whole foods. My poor dogs…what have I been feeding them!! Thank goodness for these videos!

  • Meagan

    I am one of those that thinks, its just a small treat and not every day how can it hurt. Well not anymore, I think I will order some of those USDA PUREBITES. Thanks Dr. Becker

  • Gordon

    That’s right Dr. Becker. Ditto to everything you said except for only “USA made” comments, because I’m from Australia and the best harvests come from down under and still relatively genetically modified free.

    It is scary about the anonymous “meat meal”. In fact, for me, it is the scariest of all the controversial ingredients listed in dog food today, because of the very fact, that dogs fed this, may very well be unwitting cannibals, with possible ingestion of pentobarbital or sodium thiopental residue.

    By the way, damn, I can’t help but say, you are “hot” as joel said. ;). I was trying to avoid saying this, and to remain neutral, factual, and chivalrous, but hey, I’m only human too.

  • Monica P

    I completely gasped at the description of ‘meat meal’ !

  • joel

    Karen is VERY informative regarding the right type of dog food for my dog…and she’s Hot!!!…