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December 3, 2015

The Best Dog Food for Every Dog

People often ask, “What do Eko and Penny eat?” “Mostly the other’s skull,” I reply Despite my truthful answer, people are usually more interested in what dog food they eat. There’s a short answer and a long answer . The short answer is Eko and Penny both eat
People often ask, “What do Eko and Penny eat?”

“Mostly the other’s skull,” I reply

Despite my truthful answer, people are usually more interested in what dog food they eat.

There’s a short answer and a long answer .

The short answer is Eko and Penny both eat ProPlan Natural – Chicken and Brown Rice

But the short answer isn’t a particularly helpful one. Eko and Penny are healthy, fit and active dogs, so I think many people assume my two eat the “best” dog food. But here’s the thing:

There is no single best dog food.

That’s the bad news. The good news is you can find the best food for your dog.

Like human nutrition, canine nutrition is a nuanced issue with a multitude of camps. From grain free to free range and from dry food to raw food, there are a plethora of canine diets people swear by.

Eko and Penny swear by their food, but they’d also swear by a meal of just treats. So I don’t let their tastes be the sole judge of their food

With Eko, I first tried to find the “best” dog food by buying the most expensive bag I could find. When that didn’t work well for him, we transitioned to a “Five Star” reviewed food. Eko’s stomach didn’t take well to that food, so we next tried a brand recommended by my vet. This bag was a dud too.

In each case I transitioned food appropriately and fed according to guidelines, but nothing worked. My impulse at the time was to label these duds as “bad” dog foods. But what I’ve realized is they were simply “bad for Eko.” I’m sure I could find plenty of dogs who thrive on those foods.

The ProPlan Natural is the goldilocks “just right” food for Eko and it’s worked wonderfully for Penny. But that’s no guarantee it will give other pups the same energy and bounce it gives Penny.

That’s probably a good thing

Every dog is unique, so finding the right food for your pup is a unique process. I will happily share info about what my pups eat, but I’m always quick to add there is no one-size-fits-all food. It takes time to figure out what food works for your dog.

And how much of it to feed. (Hint: Don’t listen to your dog’s suggestions)

While food is a central component to a dog’s health, there is no miraculous food which transforms your dog into Superpup. Proper nutrition, exercise, training, grooming and veterinary care are all invaluable.

Also, you should limit how many cigars your dogs smoke

I’m not a veterinary nutritionist so when asked, I don’t recommend an authoritative “best” diet or food. Instead I prefer to recommend people discover what’s best for their particular pup. As I learned, the right answer isn’t guaranteed by price, ratings or even veterinary recommendations.

The right answer is guaranteed by a commitment to discovering what food helps your pup be the healthiest and happiest they can be.

The effort is well worth the result!

Also, allow my mistakes help me save your wallet. If you want to try a new dog food, always buy the small bag!

I’m interested to hear from you guys. How did you discover and decide what food(s) to feed your dogs?

Comments for The Best Dog Food for Every Dog

  1. currently Easy is on diet kibble, but it’s a good one (if that’s pawsible). it’s no easy to find the perfect food, I always buy the small bags to try it and Easy eats it. As soon as I buy a big bag I can eat it alone, there is no way … if he would be a human I would say he tries to tease me…

  2. meANXIETYme says:

    We had a recommendation from Le Moo’s previous “owner”. But we felt she was itchy on that food, so we went to our breed rescue contact and they recommended grain free for her. At that point, we tried a grain free that worked for her, so we transitioned to that. Unfortunately, they came under a recall, so we transitioned to a very similar food–grain free, two different flavors for some variety–and we’ve been with that brand & flavor(s) since. Since it worked for Le Moo, we stayed with it for Butthead (who has a really sensitive stomach based on the treats we’ve tried over the years).
    It’s all very trial and error. So is the “amount” of food, which varies for Le Moo depending on winter or summer (active or not active). Our vet told us to feed a certain amount, then adjust depending on whether she was gaining or staying steady with her weight (she’s a little “fluffy”)…so that’s what we do!

  3. Victoria says:

    so true – Muffin who is 4 is the most finicky eater on the planet (well in my opinion) – i did the same as you the most expensive, then the highest rating from dogfoodadvisor.com, then grain free, then the cheapest (i was desperate) – stupidly i did not start buying the small bag until the cheapest one. Bottom line i found a great food at tractor supply (4 1/2 stars no less and about the same prices at the cheap foods) that has all the nutrition she needs and while she won’t eat that by itself she will eat it if i add a can of dog food that she likes. So i finally found the right mix but it took me years. Now Rigby would eat cardboard if i let him – he will eat any dog food i buy and has the constitution to take it as well. You are so right that each dog is different and BUY SMALL BAGS – wow i wish you had said that a few years ago – or i had come to my senses earlier.

  4. nerdgrl (Kim S.) says:

    With Steffi it was easy; because of her bladder stones she was on a prescription dog food. With Amara, I found a name brand made specifically for mini schnauzer puppies (they also have other breeds). Their wet/canned puppy food is not breed specific. I talked with my vet and she feeds her dogs the same brand. She emphatically did NOT recommend a raw diet. As Amara crosses the ten-month-old threshold we’ll transition her to the adult version of the puppy food. She does get some treats during the day but NO people food. We made that mistake with Steffi.

  5. I absolutely LOVE how you worded this “The good news is you can find the best food for your dog.”….(I may have to steal that line lol)…..more! Oh no! I typed this whole long comment and it disappeared. I feed another brand that you know about from reading Dakota’s blog. It is what works for HIM and he has been eating it a long time! He ate it for 3 yrs before he ever had a blog. It is what works for him. Would I ever change? Possibly, but not right now because if things “ain’t broke” I have no desire to fix them. My Vet feeds his dog good ‘ol Purina Dog Chow……..Cody eats one brand wet and one brand dry (2 different brands)…….I love how you handled this post. It was handled with honesty, logic, personal experience, tactful. That is why we all admire you. You are a trusted source. I hate when bloggers who aren’t nutritionists try and shove nutrition down my throat when they know nothing about it. My Vet admits HE is not a nutrition specialist and when I have those questions, he refers me to someone who is. Well done!

  6. Kismet says:

    If you gave Penny some of my bird seed, she’d really fly.

  7. Elyse says:

    Duncan had severe giardia when he was a pup. Every dog food made him sick, and he had about 6 months on fresh chicken and rice. We tried many small bags of different foods. Finally, our vet actually went to the pet store with us. Duncan was started on Regal Holistic Sensi Bites — which is poultry meal, oats and brown rice. It is the least expensive of this type of food and he loves it. We use it for most of his treats, too, and he’s happy as can be with it.

  8. dashlilly says:

    Great post. I have a picky eater and a “I will eat anything that I can in sight and all day” So the trial and error can be tough. But the small bag is the best advice. And, a little to start with … transitioning too fast is tough on their tummies too.

  9. Mona Sigal says:

    I am a physician practicing lifestyle medicine; I teach and coach patients on how to a dopt a whole foods plant based minimally processed eating style, (among other things) because this way of eating has the most convincing research backing. By the same token, I SWEAR by the same approach for my two dogs Solomon (92 lb) and Adam (53 lb), with the exception that they are omnivores/carnivores. All around me I see dogs die of cancers starting ages 6-8. And just like with humans, I blame it on the food. I do not care how expensive store bought dog food is, and how many health claims it makes: it is KIBBLE, hence 100% processed. Even the frozen raw foods are all processed. That is why I COOK FOR MY DOGS. Their food is 100% unprocessed, fresh, organic, and balanced. Also grain free. I have had bad experience with feeding grains to both dogs and cats, primarily severe dermatological reactions. My dogs eat meat, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

  10. Ellen Quilty says:

    Nikki does very well on a mix of a high quality kibble and a little bit of meat or fish and vegetables mixed in.This is what her breeder recommended and she does very well on it.And yes I do cook for her but what can I say.She is a true Ridgeback and will eat absolutely anything and fortuneatly has a healthy stomach.The key to all this is not to over feed.Eventhough she eats a huge variety of things I keep the quantities small and she is lean and healthy.

  11. You are so right about one size fitting all. We’ve switched Maggie to Honest Kitchen based on her holistic vet’s recommendation. She is doing super on it, but Jack…not so much, spent the day in the bathroom if you know what I mean. So he is back to his basic kibble and canned.

  12. Abbie says:

    We struck lucky with our first dog, and the first food we tried was perfect for her. My dog was harder because when raising him as a Guide Dog, we had to feed him one out of four food brands, and he didn’t agree well with any of them. He was ok on one, which is what we went with, but as soon as we adopted him, we switched him to what our other dog was eating, and it worked well for him, too! My brother’s dog is on a different food than the other two, since that food didn’t agree with her. Of course, I’d love to try feeding raw, but we can’t afford that right now, and I am glad that we have something that works for us!

    So yes, I agree! I know people can get really passionate about this, and while that is awesome, I think that being open to the fact that what you think is THE thing to feed might not work for all dogs is vital. Just like for humans, I think that while it’s important to be knowledgeable about nutrition, it’s also important to not over think things. As long as we are doing the best we can, that should be enough. 🙂

  13. Karen Sharp says:

    Lots of what I feed my boys was also based on trial and error, and what we knew from our past dogs. I have kept them on a quality kibble that is as close to a raw diet as a busy person can do. Grain free as our first RR was allergic to corn etc. And the newf did better on a diet that was preservative free. Our 9 year old doesn’t do well with “hot” fish such as trout and salmon so white fish based can food. Duck and lamb also upset his tummy somewhat so I limit that.

    Both get kefir in their kibble in the morning. They both love it and it seems to have helped with any digestive issues.

    As you said what works on one dog may not be good for another. Paying attention to how they respond to what they eat instead of just buying for price or guilt is the most important thing you can do. I also talk with my boys’ breeder, other friends who also are breeders, and the owner of the small store where I buy their food for advice if something doesn’t seem quite right.

  14. DZ Dogs says:

    We dealt with a lot of allergies in the beginning with Dante, he was constantly itchy and breaking out in hives or having bad diarrhea. Took us a while to find a food that worked for his tummy, we ended up going with grain free, and then discovering he also has a protein allergy to chicken. After we switched to a grain free beef formula we hit gold!
    Then after adopting Ziva we dealt with another round of issues with her and discovered she has a beef intolerance. LOL
    So finally we switched to a grain free lamb diet and it’s the perfect in-between for both dogs. We also like to rotate food for variety and to change it up and keep it interesting so we switch between lamb and fish within the same brand, and occasionally rotate brands too. We like to change things up every 6 months or so, i’ve read a lot of great articles about why rotation feeding is good. They get a different mix of vitamins and minerals for example, and since we do flyball and lots of hard core activities we want them to stay as healthy as possible.
    We also have them on glucosamine supplements for injury prevention even though they are both young dogs.

  15. Emmadog says:

    We were on Pro Plan for a few years, but then working with Merrick, we got to trying their food and really liked it. We like the interchangeable flavors for variety too. As you say, every dog doesn’t do well on every food, so there is a bit of trial and error. Lately, we also rotate in the Natural Balance Wild Pursuit which is similar to our Merrick BackCountry. We figure Wild Pursuit suits Bailie quite well and it adds a few more flavors to rotate through every couple weeks.

  16. Tietser says:

    Luckily I was able to detect the symptons of leishmania (a chronic disease that most pups are infected with in the Mediterranean) at an early stage. One of the symptons is lack of energy and early aging. Because of this we changed her food almost directly from the junior to the senior variety which agrees much better with her stomach. When we got her at 10 months she was famished and really skinny. Now she weighs 38 kg and is about the same size as Penny. If she could talk then she would tell you that she never had anything to eat and you would believe her. Now she’ll tell you the same thing and she would put on her tragic face and her eyes would accuse you of starving her. She is mostly vegetarian as she prefers carrots and apples over meat and fish although she’ll go completely crazy when there is chicken on the menu. Still wondering who or what creature is living in that dog suit!

  17. I also eat ProPlan – for small adult dogs. Once a dog tasted my skull – not in a good way – and I needed surgery. He was big and mean. Not sweet and fun like Eko and Penny.

    Love and licks,

  18. Chris from Boise says:

    Thank for this post – it’s very timely, as we’re re-evaluating our feeding strategy. We’ve been enjoying “Dog Food Logic”, written by Linda Case, a canine nutritionist (M.S. in Canine/Feline Nutrition from University of Illinois and many years of experience in the field). It delves deeply into the science and the hyperbole behind dog foods. In addition to tons of good information, it’s a really good read. Just like you, the author doesn’t tell you WHAT to feed your dog, and she emphasizes that it’s not one-size-fits-all. She DOES give you a lot of tools to cut through all the marketing fluff on the bags; after reading the book, it was enlightening to take a field trip to the store to read labels . One big takeaway was the wide range of Kcal/cup among brands and varieties; I used to think they were all more or less calorie-equivalent. No wonder our two border collies prefer (for example) Nutrisource Grain-Free Chicken (471 Kcal/cup) over Nature’s Recipe Pure Essentials (370 Kcal/cup)!

    I convinced our library to buy a copy, as I’m sure there are a lot of people like us floundering out there amidst all the dog food advertisements.

  19. Jura says:

    Tala used to be a terrible eater in sudan and was always a bit under weight for the first 9 months. She just wasn’t interested – we even tried fillet steak as it was the same price as any other cut! When she moved to Vietnam the lady who helped us saw her as a child and felt it was her duty to to fatten her up so she used to feed her dry (royal canin) mixed with rice, and cooked carrots and meat. She wouldn’t touch the dry food if there wasn’t the meat element in it. When we got back to the uk I think she was probably a little over the ideal weight and I wanted her to be more responsive to recall in the park so I really reduced her food. Just one cup/large mug of dry food plus some cooked meat mixed in and now she eats her food voraciously and is far more responsive training wise plus she is a better weight of 19kilos. I have heard great things about raw though one in particular is a 12 year old Weimaraner who could no longer go up the stairs switched to raw and now can do the stairs and came on a 5k walk for us which is pretty good going for a dog that age! It’s sad that so many dogs are overweight as it is really not hard to to avoid over feeding them. It’s not like people who have to exercise the control themselves!

  20. Of course you would feed Purina ;). I love Purina my gang is on Purina Pro Plan Sport. It works for them and I love the results.

  21. T&S says:

    Purina ProPlan is a great food… we have it in Europe too 🙂
    (doesnt matter that its your sponsor).

    Every dog has a choice of its own.

  22. stephumina says:

    Love that you’re not trying to force the food you buy down other people’s throats 🙂 every food works differently for every dog and they wouldnt be on the market if they weren’t a balanced food. The only thing I can say is to always work out the calories and protien on a dry matter basis and beware wet food because the contents are usually higher on a dry matter basis than advertised as they advertise the whole product not they dry matter content.

    As for me … I’m a poor student and I get Hill’s Science Diet for 25% of the retail price through vet school.

    Nala has a sensitive stomach so I put her on the hills Z/d for sensitive skin and allergies and it works wonders, we havent had a diarrhoea incident since. I can really recommend it for those dogs that have terribly red skin and bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea where the owners cant find the trigger. Really settles the stomach down, the idea is that they take the protien and mooosh it up so that the body doesnt recognise it as protien and therefore they dont get the irritable bowel reaction they might get to certain protiens. I believe royal canin also has a hypoallergenic brand that ive heard works similarly.

    Sometimes, if you suspect your dog has a food alergy that doesnt resolve by switching foods, try changing the sort of protien they are eating i.e from beef to chicken or picking something not commonly used in dog foods, like here in aus we use kangaroo meat.

    I also mix Nala and Max’s food with The hills dental food have apparently been proven to reduce tarter in a couple of weeks of use and I tried it on Max and it worked really well. Even if its only a quarter of their diet it really makes a difference.

    Ehhh i didnt mean to sound like a poster ad for hills… I swear uni gives it to us really cheap!

  23. Donna says:

    Will, I was wondering if you could explain what you mean when you say several brands didn’t work. In what ways?
    Reason I ask is….Axel my black lab, is a picky picky eater….on top of that…he has a super sensitive system. And….he eats like he has all day long. He literally will take about 5 pieces of kibble….chew at least 5 times….then get 5 more….repeat. he evens stops several times to drink water. However, I have found he can’t have any grains or chicken.
    Then there’s Ariel, my German Shepherd/ golden retriever mix. She would eat cardboard if I spread Bacon grease on it. But, she is like a vacuum. I swear I don’t think she chews it at all. I even go so far as to throw her handful at the time so it scatters on the carpet. At least that way, it takes longer. I would love to know more about the dog dish you have….seems like that would help with the vacuum eating.
    Right now, I rotate between Taste of the wild and Castor and Pollux. I use the salmon and boar varieties from Taste of the Wild and the natural ultra mix beef from Castor. If I get anything with chicken or pork….severe diarrhea happens with Axel and even Ariel has “loose” poop. I can’t even give treats/chew bones made from pork skin. Have you found any chew bones that last for more than 5 minutes? Thank you in advance!!! Donna

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