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Updated: Dec 29, 2023

In recent years, I learned a lot about the different types of foods sold in the market. It’s everywhere these days: in grocery stores, pet stores, veterinarians, raw meat, etc. But what is good for my dog? The choice is too big and what we see on bags say that it’s the right ingredients. In fact, most dog foods on the market are not safe, the ingredients are distorted, common toxicity recalls, etc.

From my animal health studies, I learned that what I fed my dogs in the past were not ideal. Why? My dogs had more frequent,larger and softer stools. Their hair was more dull, no shine, no silkiness, etc.  So they had bag digestion and bad absorption of the nutrients. Also, I had two big dogs of 60-70 lbs. Two bags at Walmart (Olroy, Pedigree, Beneful or other) lasted me two weeks because they ate 8 cups every day. They were skinny and were always hungry. According to and their study based on the labels of the bags, the most common foods sold in grocery stores are rated at 1 star. They calculate and evaluate according to the list of ingredients and the amount of meat in the kibbles. If the ingredients are poor in quality or unnecessary for the dog, the note drops down significantly. Often grocery dog foods have a lot of “fillers”. Less good ingredients found in the factory (non-approved ingredients for human consumption and others) to fill the bag. Too much flour, corn, animal by-products, etc. If you want to know in detail what are animal by products, here is a link that explains it well: Lots of food on the market have animal by-products and that is why they have a lower rating. In addition, there is often recalls in grocery brands (most common: Beneful, Purina and Kirkland). There is a risk for the dog to get sick. Then,  visits at the vet will be more frequent and in some cases, there’s sudden deaths. By cons, this does not mean that your dog can not eat grocery dog food all his life and never show any health problems. Most people go according to their budget or what is easier to buy; at the grocery store. People will not make the transition to a better food and see improvements like: small and hard stools, a beautiful coat, better energy, etc. For to understand if the food we buy is worth it. A few calculation should be made. Don’t look at the price on the bag but how much your dog each meal per day costs. Like that you have a better idea of how much the difference worth the change or not.

Subsequently, during the period I worked in a veterinary clinic, I fed my dogs with food sold in the clinics. My dogs had a better general health than the grocery food kind and we complained less to pick up feces outside because their was fewer and smaller quantities. OlRoy was costing me $ 80 a month versus $ 90 of the vet food ( buying a cheaper bag overtime but have to buy more often versus buying 1 more pricey that lasts longer). By cons, after 1 year, my dog, a jack russell terrier, began having allergies. With 3-month limitation tests, I knew she had big reactions to chicken. (Most common in dry pet food) So I put her on a hypoallergenic diet (for a small dog, it was costing me $ 130 a bag). I have remained stable on Royal Canin with laboratory modified protein (so that the immune system does not recognize the protein and thus no allergic reaction) for 2 years. The cause of allergies may be due to constantly giving the same protein to the dog and thus the immune system reacts. Varying the protein is now recommended to avoid allergy problems or intolerances in animals. Unfortunately, even with a veterinarian bag of food and with modified protein, my dog ​​still had irritated skin and she was constantly scratching. Veterinarians thought it was a mix of food and environmental allergies. After leaving the clinic and received training thereafter, I discovered many things that I will talk about later in the article.

Now veterinary diets and those derived also sold in pet stores (Royal Canin, Hills Science diet, Purina and Iams). Purina has several ranges from 1 to 3 stars. Iams is 3 stars. Royal Canin is 2.5 stars and I speak of those sold in stores, not medical diets. Hills Science diet is from 2 to 4 stars. So Iams is the ok one sold in grocery stores. It’s just ok for people on a budget, but we will not have the best results and sometimes it’s not the ideal diet for your dog. It depends on the signs they give you. As children today develop many allergies, it may be because of changes in the market: conservations, GMOs, animal unnatural overproduction, etc. The immune system detects these ingredients as villains and they become potentially intolerant to animal protein: allergy, gluten intolerance, lactose, etc. It’s the same situation for our animals. They become reactive to these changes and could cause health problems. Then for the other brands with similar stars, I think the price is expensive for the quality inside. The companies have resumed their medical range and redid a bag with ingredients of similar quality to be sold in stores. So, you pay mostly for the name and marketing on the bag. So if you have a choice between only choosing Iams, Purina, Hills and Royal canin, buy it from the vet. You will save money for a similar food and proven in the laboratories.

For cons, the downside is that there are many ingredients difficult to pronounce, because the foods are manufactured in the laboratory. There is again a lot of fillers, corn, flour, etc. More of everything except meat. It is not natural in itself. By looking at the dogs teeth and digestive system, They are carnivores just like wolves. So why feed them with a diet with barely no meat in it? My dog is also intolerant to grains. So no medical diet (even with hypoallergenic modified protein) were not working for her. Those veterinary formulas were manufactured for specific problems: counter plaque and tartar, for gastrointestinal problems, kidney problems, diabetes, etc. To finish, Dog food advisor couldn’t assess veterinary foods because companies have not given permission and we must fully understand that the purpose of vet food has laboratory studies that can show good results (without judgment of their choice of ingredients), but especially ideal for those with diseases. If you have a dog with a health problems, I’ll direct you to a Vet. Those vet foods are actually tested on dogs to prove an improved health. No bags on the market is comparable even though they write it on the bag. its just all marketing. Or, consult a animal nutrition specialist to guide you to what you can feed your dog depending on its problems and work side to side with the vet. By cons, if you have a healthy dog or puppy, we need a good start to avoid problems later (such as intolerance to chicken, grains, etc.) and lower veterinary bills in general.

Now, foods sold in specialized shops as Mondou and similar. If I called: Nutro (Natural choice), Eukanuba, 1st choice, Pro Plan, etc. The average is 3 stars. Keep notes that this is the opinion of Dogfoodadvisor and mine. So when you go on holiday in a 3 star hotel, are you well? Yes. But if you find the same price for a hotel with 4 or 5 stars, what will you choose? 4 or 5. They are recognized brands for many decades. They have more seniority; The more people know the name and the price increases. Again, a lot of flour, rice, beans and other less expensive ingredients to fill the bag of food. Then again, in general, these foods have chicken meal reduced to flour and not the actual chicken meat cooked in the kibbles. In addition, the cooking can be significant. The chicken cooked, loses all its water and becomes much smaller. Companies can put the lamb as the first ingredients on the package and is no longer the main ingredient after cooking. If vitamins, minerals or probiotics has been placed in the food, is it before or after cooking? These are important issues for store owners to ask the food company. If this was put before and registered on the bag, they were all destroyed by heat. If he subsequently adds on kibbles cooled off, we will have the desired effects of these added necessities. This is the reason why I limited myself to sell certain brands in my shop because I trust in the company and only sell 4 and more star foods: Canisource (dehydrated meat and ingredients for human consumption), Boreal, Horizon Pulsar/ Amicus (without grains more affordable on the market), Nutram and FROMM (lots of choices and flavors for dogs that tend to be difficult). Raw food soon available in store.

In a recent study in the United States by, they researched over 2000 formulas of kibble on the market and only 25 brands have made the cut according to their criteria (meat as the first ingredient, no flour without soy or without grains, no animal by-products,  study of recalls (frequent or abnormal) or complaints from pet owners. Plus, the best ratio of protein, fat, etc.). Those known in Canada are ACANA, Orijen, FROMM, Horizon, etc. These foods start at 4 stars and have meat as the first ingredient, have little or no grains, no by-products and a low rate of carbs (reduce the risk of sudden peak energy, reduce hypoglycemia in small breeds and reduce the occurrence of obesity and diabetes). I can direct you to those discouraged, but there is still more that they have not done a study on, especially the ones from Quebec or Canadian local ranges. I can send you my references on these studies and opinions.

There are the reasons why I do not hold ACANA and Orijen in my shop. My Jack Russell dog was eating Acana for more than six months last year. I was really happy with the results: regrowth of hair, silkier hair, good energy, less scratching, etc. By cons, it is a rich food that causes the most sedentary or senior dogs to gain weight. It is not for all dogs. Unfortunately, this is not the reason why I stopped feeding her ACANA. It was in the range of “Single ingredients” for dogs with food sensitivities or allergies. With the purchase of my new bag after 6 months, she got big diarrhea and an allergic reaction on her skin. I did not think it was the food so I gave her probiotics to help her digestive system. When stopping the supplement, she got diarrhea again. Subsequently, some of my clients came to me with the same case and it was also ACANA. All in the same week. I have recommended them raw meat and their problem got solved. I am informed that this company also paired with Orijen often changed ingredients (their origin) and modifies the recipes without notifying the stores. So for dogs with allergies or food intolerances, I do not recommend at all. it’s a shame because it’s a great Canadian food based on animal welfare and organic. They actually have good protein and good quantity of meat in their kibbles. Currently, all my dogs are on the Horizon Pulsar, all well: beautiful hair, beautiful digestion, beautiful energy, etc. (At a cost of $ 55-60 per bag. The cheapest on the market without grains) My dog for now ​​I mix between Boréal salmon, salmon and Pulsar Canisource red meat to avoid an identical protein feeding too frequently and cause new intolerance. She will be transferred to raw meat when find her a kind she likes. I can update on my Facebook if you guys are interested.

Lately what I discovered in the market is raw food or dehydrated meat. It’s the ingredients which must be obligatorily fresh. Most ingredients are human consumption, but it depends on the companies. Ideally, choose complete recipes where you are not forced to add vegetables or supplements to the meat. During the period when I was working with veterinarians, it was inadvisable. Why? Due to the risk of salmonella bacteria. It is present at all times. Even in kibbles theres lots of bacteria. Why did we barely saw any cases in consults? it’s more fear than harm. Leaving the clinic, I paired  to the group of dog trainers. Moreover, I have followed other training for the past two years where I started to see the beautiful results with raw meat. Even some veterinarians recommend raw meat. He who made me changed my mind is Dr. Joel Dehasse, Belgium veterinary behaviorism who comes to visit us to give training in behavior. I’ve seen pictures of dogs on kibble and raw, the benefits to the overall health and makes dogs that were rarely sick. More and more people are aware and which advises, more customers buy for their animals.

What is the benefit? Unlike some commercial foods, most raw recipes contain no cereal. The stomach of the dog is not designed to digest cereal. Due to a quick and easy assimilation, it will keep the digestive system in good general health, resulting in reduced risk of torsion and / or gastric distention by 95%. Raw strengthens the immune system, thus improving to a longer life. Their teeth will be more beautiful, because there will be little or no tartar buildup. The same, you will save veterinary costs for the maintenance of teeth. It promotes a dense, shiny coat, reduces hair loss and odours. It can even be a simple and natural solution to certain skin problems or allergies. The stools will be much less abundant and less frequent. Weight control is easier. Veterinary fees will be reduced very significantly ( if the right raw meat is giving and good care in feeding at home). The food is very appetizing and nutrients are not destroyed by heat. Ideally a puppy or adult dog in good health should be on raw and those with health problems to go to veterinary foods to increase longevity of life. Dogs have a very acid stomach so with te raw meat and bacteria, not to worry, they will all be destroyed. Unless the dog has a weak immune system, better be careful. The only disadvantage is believed handling. It must be prepared to thaw before serving, prepare the exact portion and clean everything with warm water after a meal (scale, knife, bowls, where he ate) salmonella will not become dangerous for us or dog if everything is cleaned up. And when you travel, you can feed him on Canisource or other dehydrated meat to facilitate handling for the guardian without any transition problem.

Due to overproduction of popular breeds, this created genetic health problems (hip dysplasia, food intolerance, herniated disc, etc.). As an example, the German shepherd. If it is not from a recognized breeder and tested for hip dysplasia and good general health of breeding, there is a risk of adopting a dog that will develop behavior problems (bad genetics parents), health (hip dysplasia or elbow, skin problems, extreme food sensitivity) or others. All the most common breeds arrive in the clinic and this is often the same consultation reasons. For the German shepherd, if given since his youth raw, it decreases his risk of developing food sensitivities and bones/ joints will be stronger there to further increase its longevity. We must not encourage the purchase of animals in pet stores because often come from individual or worst, puppy mills (animal abuse, abuse of reproduction, etc). These dogs closed in a box increases behavior problems and poor genetics increase the risk of health problems. There are already enough animals for our population. There is too much neglect in shelters. Encourage adoption in shelters to save a life or adopt from a passionate breeder who will guarantee a dog with good general  health and genetics.

You have a very limited budget? Iams is what’s ok compared to most bags sold in pet shops or groceries (3 stars). But if your dog experiences digestive problems (vomiting, diarrhea) due to the food, by visiting the vet or not, I advise you to change the food for better quality and restrict certain ingredients that are often intolerated. Dogs can go well for years and will not tolerate their current food. We have to find a specialty store that can you suggest what is best for your dog depending on its activity, age, energy, intolerance, etc. Sometimes give a worse quality risks a dog to get sick more often as we humans if we always eat “fast food”, we risk permanent disease possibly later on. So the $ 5 (or more) per month that you can buy for better food diminishes medical bills. You come to the store and you ask me what is best out there? I’ll tell you the raw meat. I prefer the question: how dedicated and how much are you willing to spend per month to give good food to your dog. if you say to me “I have no budget,” If  you lead me to believe disinfection manipulation is too much work for you, I direct you to the Canisource. This food is a bit expensive ( due to factory machines and process costs a lot fo money), but you give less in quantity, because the quality is there. So a 25-pound bag can last you one month? Well, the box Canisource will last you a minimum of 1 month and a half. The raw meat can range from $ 40 to $ 140 per month. this is what is best. Our monthly grocery costs more than that. We also cook some home meals for our dog. He must know the list of these nutrient needs and prepare food according to the vet list. The most expensive and longest preparation. It’s up to you. To that extent are you willing to invest for your dog? There is no judgment of it. Just be careful to false advertising, marketing and ask the professional (counselor and not salesman) to suggest you a food according to your budget.

There’s still so much to say, yet giving you advice for your dog is very personal and I will have more things to tell you when you visit. This was an article to give you an idea of what’s out there and maybe question yourself if the food you feed them is good for them. Lend me a call or visit, it will be a pleasure for me to clear out about anything related to your dogs ( health, food, grooming, behaviour, etc).

Thank you for reading my article and I hope I have opened the eyes of our food market for animals, with lots of poor foods, which could harm our dogs. Make the right choice in your next bag. Our pooch is for life and mostly carnivore, give them the good life they deserve!

Melanie Ferreira

Behavioural Trainer

TSA, Animal Health Technician

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