Where to find better pet food is not simple, because there are so many different types and species (the list below shows toxic foods, or visit Can I Give My Dog?) This is not a medical site, so speak to your vet about choosing the best foods. But be careful, as many get commission for selling foods that other vets say are not very good.
Switch foods by gradually adding new foods in small amounts, over a few weeks. Older pets may need months to transition, it may be best to keep them on present food, if you think changing could upset their digestive system.
First of all, get this book to keep your dog safe, which includes first aid for choking and also gives details on how to choose good food and the best bowls. The advice at present is not to choose raised bowls to prevent bloat (which was previously given as advice).
Always let animals feed slowly, give at least an hour (preferably two) before letting dogs run (or travel in car) after food. Other risks are gulping water quickly, nervous/excitable dogs and large-breed dogs with deep chests.
Many vets discourage rawhide chews, pigs’ ears and antlers (can break teeth). One vet says ‘never give a dog a chew you would not want to be whacked on the knee with’. Socks are also choking hazards. Never leave dogs unsupervised with chews (or balls, choose ones the right size for their mouth).
Recommendations are not given here for pet foods, simply because each species and pet is so different. A gentle prescription food may not be the most natural, but it could be a better choice for a medical condition, over an organic food which may be too rich for a pet with a sensitive tummy. Some people prefer raw, others cooked and others homemade. Be careful of online ‘experts’ out to take money for complicated recipes and fact sheets. If in doubt, talk to your vet. If no joy, see if there are better vets.
It is true that many pet foods have awful ingredients in, but as said above, if you switch a dog used to ‘rubbish food’ right onto the best organic foods, you may run into problems, even if you try to do it gradually. It can sometimes take months for older/sensitive dogs to switch foods safely – each animal is different. But if you have a new pup, then look for better brands. Some vets say to avoid grain, others say that dogs have evolved enough for it not to be a problem. And in nature, cats are ‘obligate carnivores’.
It’s best usually not to get your advice from the company selling you the food. The future may well be ‘in-vitro meat’ which is real meat, without the abattoir. Caring for a pet can be super-scary at the best of times. And unfortunately, choosing good pet foods and treats can be a minefield. Rather than keep switching, do your research, talk to your vet.
Toxic Human Foods for Dogs
Most dogs quickly work out that a pair of doe-eyes can yield the odd treat. Foods tend to also be toxic to cats, but they are more fussy with less of a sweet tooth, but still take care. However, it’s not just chocolate that is toxic to dogs. Many other foods are too including:
- Chocolate (dark chocolate is worse, but all chocolate is toxic, and white chocolate is too fatty, even though it’s not really chocolate)
- Caffeine & alcohol (obviously)
- Garlic, onion, chives, scallions, leeks
- Grapes & raisins
- Nuts (esp. macadamia nuts)
- Fruit pits & seeds
- Salt (bags of crisps, cured meats)
- Sugar (& sweeteners, see below)
- Nutmeg & mace spices
- Bread dough (can expand in the stomach)
- Green tomatoes
- Green & Raw potatoes
- Seaweed (can expand in the stomach as it dries, dogs like the taste and to play with the fronds)
- Corn on the Cob (the cob leftover can cause choking)
- Too much dairy, fat and salt (such as leftover meats) can harm if too rich. Avoid cured meats and gravy (too salty – also contains onion) and never give cooked bones (choking hazard). Some dogs eat raw bones, others may not be safe, ask your vet).
- Xylitol (sweetener) is lethal to pets (just a few crumbs from a dropped muffin could kill). It’s also found in bags of sweets and chewing gum and many natural toothpastes, so choose a toothpaste free from xylitol (could harm if they licked your face or around a sink).
Safe & Healthy Dog Treats
Safe and healthy organic dog treats are quite difficult to find, if you only shop in supermarkets and pet shops. The market is dominated by the big brands, which tend to be full of ingredients not to be trusted. Your dog likely is not that bothered, but long-term, these treats could do damage and many are choking hazards. However, others are very rich, so do your research first, as even pumpkin can upset some dog stomachs. And always give no more than the recommended amount, and have fresh water nearby.
Raleigh NC Vet says in moderation, safe treats include:
- Fresh green peas
- Bite-sized pieces of carrots cut to size
- Cooked plain green beans
- Watermelon with no seeds or rind
- Cooked plain sweet potato (never raw or green potatoes, nor with butter, salt etc)
- Bananas not too many
- Broccoli (raw or steamed, no seasoning)
- Cooked plain squash or pumpkin
- Strawberries and blueberries
Never give a dog a treat in the park without asking, as it may have an allergy or sickness. Preventive Vet is not a fan of using treats to train dogs, most good trainers don’t use them, they either just use skills or a clicker. He says treats should never make up 10% of meals, Just a few muffin crumbs if made with xylitol could kill a dog. Some treats can also be toxic to cats, but they tend to be fussier, whereas most dogs will eat anything they are given.
He suggests instead of treats, to use a good low-calorie kibble. Many don’t use this for food, but if you do or not, they are usually healthier than conventional treats, and you can swap them instead.
Booster Organic Dog Treats are lovingly handmade from wholesome, healthy and organic ingredients. These tasty biscuits are made with oats, sweet potato, peanut butter and a sprinkling of turmeric, known for its anti- inflammatory properties. The treats are packed in 100% post-consumer recycled brown paper bags and compostable certified parchment paper, with compostable paper tape and a recycled paper tag, attached with recycled twine. Also in a pea, mint & spirulina version.
Wellybix (Co Durham) began when the founder (a qualified chef) had to give up work to care for a relative. She began to bake biscuits for her own dog, which led to requests from local shops and holiday cottages. Today the biscuits have been approved by a vet and sold online. The best-seller is Peanut Butter & Oat which contain only peanut butter, porridge oats, spelt and water.