Looking to boost your dog’s kibble meals with fresh foods? Consider a targeted approach as your best strategy to make the biggest nutritional impact.
There are different ways to boost your dog’s bowl - some dog parents want to reduce the commercial food and replace it with their own fresh foods, while others are looking to top up the current diet with fresh additions.
A general guideline is to not reduce the commercial dry food if you’re feeding ~15-20% below the recommended manufacturer guidelines. If you are feeding at or above the recommended level then it’s easier to make a food reduction and add fresh without affecting critical nutrients.
Note, many dogs are eating dry foods that are too high in calories for their metabolic and physical activity. Consider a lower calorie food if you’re unable to feed within 15-20% of the guidelines… your dog will be much more satiated with a bit more food and you aren’t shorting him/her on any nutrients.
Some considerations for making healthy additions to your dog’s bowl:
- Your dog’s base diet helps drive the focus for appropriate fresh additions. In general, a high protein, grain free diet is best complemented with antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables and foods that provide pre and probiotics. Broccoli, red cabbage, brussels sprouts, leafy greens, apples, berries, grass fed yogurt, raw goat’s milk are fantastic foods to try.
Primal Goat Milk
A lower to moderate protein dry food leaves more room for lean meat toppers- treat size amounts of chicken or turkey breast, fish, lean beef, or eggs combined with antioxidant rich foods are a great combination. Because of the high incidence of food intolerance I see, I recommend matching your meat topper, with the meat in your base diet. If there is ever a need for an elimination diet in the future you will need a novel protein – meaning a protein never ever fed before, even as a treat. Keep some affordable meats aside in case they are needed in the future.
- Consider your dog’s breed.
Here are just three examples of how to incorporate breed predispositions.
What do a Labrador, Golden Retriever and Beagle have in common?
They all love to eat and are prone to obesity. These dogs do well with fresh veggie
and fruit additions - they are low calorie so they can eat more and as a bonus, foods like broccoli, cauliflower, apples, watermelon, and leafy greens provide important cancer protective phytonutrients.
Is your breed prone to stones?
Mini Schnauzers, Bichon Frise, and the Miniature Poodle are prone to calcium oxalate stones. Ensure your food additions are all low oxalate foods like zucchini, cauliflower, eggs and yogurt.
Is your breed prone to food sensitivities/intolerances.
Dog parents of Bulldogs, Boxers, and Pugs keep your fresh additions to the same protein(s) you are already feeding in your base diet. Feeding every protein available doesn’t ensure your dog won’t develop an intolerance and if they do, you will have no novel proteins. If your dog has food sensitivities and/or environmental allergies also keep cross reactivity of pollen and fruit /veggie additions in mind.
For example, ragweed pollen in fall can often set up sensitive dogs for itching, scratching and hair loss. Ragweed cross reacts with bananas, melons, zucchini and cucumbers so avoid those foods. Feeding foods high in quercetin (a natural antihistamine) like berries, kale and apples can be good additions, if tolerated.
- Consider your dog’s age and lifestyle.
As our dogs age we want to include more anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich foods for joint and cognitive support as well as avoiding excess minerals in the diet. Broccoli, leafy greens, berries, fresh herbs like basil and dill, and bone broth are great additions. Turmeric and piperine, if tolerated, can be a good functional addition for inflammation and has a lot of research into its efficacy.
It's impossible to cover all foods and functional additions in one article but I hope this helps you take that first informed step to adding fresh foods to your dog’s bowl. It’s even easier to feed healthy fresh additions as various dog food and treat manufacturers have come up with premade, easy to add meal toppers. Bone broth for dogs, organic veggie mixes, goat’s milk/kefir, and meat toppers can all be found at many local pet stores. Remember always add new foods one at a time – all foods have the potential to cause upset if introduced too quickly.
Feeding our dogs fresh foods is one of, if not the most important thing we can do to improve their quality of life and longevity. People can not attain optimal health living strictly on processed foods and dogs are no different.
Ensure your dog is eating the highest quality, balanced diet that is appropriate for him or her, then look at using a targeted approach to upgrade the diet via fresh foods.
Jody is an experienced Canine Nutrition Consultant whose services include formulation of balanced diets for healthy dogs and those with health concerns. She works one on one with Calgary clients via (firstname.lastname@example.org) and worldwide at MonicaSegal.com.