Dog Foods & Treats

There's an old saying that 'one man's meat is another man's poison'. This is true for dog foods too! While no food is perfect for every dog, there are many factors to consider when choosing dog foods and treats for your dog's optimum nutrition:

1. How old is your dog? Is he a growing puppy? Adult? Senior? What is his predominant breed?

2. What is your dog's current condition? Is he under- or overweight? Is your dog more of an 'outside' dog? How active is he?

3. Does your dog have any past or current health issues? If so, it's best to consult with your veterinarian to determine if your dog requires a special diet.

4. Consider your budget. While the best dog foods are usually the most expensive, there are good foods available that are more moderately priced. We'll show you how to read labels on dog food packaging.

5. Consider availability. Buster lives in the metro Detroit area, where high-quality, holistic dog foods and treats are readily available. If you and your dog live in a small town or a rural area, availability of certain products may be limited. Convenience is definitely a consideration for some dog owners when selecting a food for their dog.

6. Moist or dry? Both types can provide adequate nutrition for your dog. Sometimes it's a matter of what he prefers.

Big dog & little dog eating

If your dog is not currently at his ideal weight, you'll need to adjust the amount (and possibly the type) of food you're feeding him.

Don't be misled by the 'diet' dog foods in the supermarket claiming to get your dog back to his ideal weight. These foods have a lot of indigestible fiber added to 'bulk up' in your dog's stomach and supposedly make him feel more full. This works with humans, but not with dogs, since dogs are primarily carnivores and don't require all those carbohydrates. What happens is that your dog becomes nutritionally deficient. The best way to get your dog to lose weight is to feed him the appropriate amount of a high-quality dog food and watch the treats.

If you are feeding him a lot of treats because you 'just can't resist that adorable face' (I know that's MY problem sometimes!), you must factor the treats in your dog's daily food allotment. More treats=less dog food. It's that simple. Of course, if your dog is more active--particularly if he's involved in competitive sports, such as agility or flyball, you need to ensure he's getting enough good nutritious food to keep him at peak performance.

If you absolutely have to give your dog some treats occasionally, give him something healthier than the fatty, artificially-flavored junk that you find on most supermarket shelves. How about a carrot or an apple? Dogs usually love them, and they're a great source of fiber and vitamins. (Please cut up the apple before you feed it to him, and make sure he doesn't eat the core. Apple seeds contain cyanide.) You could also try a bit of canned pumpkin or sweet potatoes, or even some green beans. We give a solid 'paws-up' to pumpkin and sweet potatoes as they are a terrific source of fiber and vitamin A.

Don't look!

If your dog has a health issue, he may need a special diet. Your vet will give you the best advice here. For example, Buster has a known allergy to wheat--which is a common allergen for dogs--and may also be allergic to corn and soy. I must carefully read the labels of EVERYTHING he eats to make sure these ingredients are not present. He is also on a premium wet food/dry food combination that he loves and seems to suit him.

Believe it or not, chicken is also a fairly common allergen for dogs! Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy dog foods on the market that do not contain chicken or chicken products. Many of the best dog foods are also the most expensive--and may not be available in the 'pet supermarket' stores. Reading labels is extremely important. Look for a statement from AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) stating that the dog food is 'complete and balanced nutrition'. Although this is not concrete proof that the particular food is the best, it's a start. But what you really want to look at are the actual ingredients.

Ideally, meat should be at least 1 (preferably more) of the first 3 or 4 ingredients listed. A caveat: 'meat by-products' or 'animal by-products' don't count, since these are usually the waste left over from packing plants. Unfortunately, these can also include 'downed' animals unfit for human consumption. You also don't want to find fat or protein from an unspecified source. 'Animal fat' can come from leftover restaurant grease that has sat in drums for an unspecified time or temperature, so it may be rancid. And if you see 'animal digest' listed as an ingredient, pass this food up. 'Animal digest' is also known as 'animal waste'--something you scoop up in your back yard.

The food should also contain high-quality whole, unprocessed grains, such as brown rice or barley, and veggies, like carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, etc. Watch out for a substance called 'corn gluten' among the first ingredients. This is a filler and has little nutritional value. Ditto for brewer's rice or wheat bran--these are 'leftover' by-products from another food manufacturing process, again with little nutritional value. Another useless ingredient is 'dried beet pulp'. You may think that this is a good thing because beets are nutritious, but this pulp comes strictly from sugar beets--and sugar is something your dog doesn't need. Fruits such as apples or blueberries are good though--excellent sources of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.

You don't want to find a lot of artificial colors or preservatives (although natural preservatives like Vitamins A and C or rosemary are fine), and colors don't matter to dogs, who can't see them anyway! The same thing goes for 'cute' shapes. Your dog doesn't really care if his food is shaped like a bone or a cat. Added sweeteners, such as corn syrup or sucrose, are also unnecessary. Some dog food manufacturers spray sweeteners or fats on dog foods to make an unpalatable product tastier. Many of the chewy-type dog treats sold in the supermarkets contain a lot of sweeteners, artificial flavors, and artificial colors. Even though most dogs love them, I'd stay away from them. There are much healthier alternatives.

Dogs share much of the same DNA as humans, so, just like us, they won't be as healthy on a constant diet of poor-quality foods. In my opinion (and Buster's), the best dog foods are holistic, organic dog foods. There are many excellent brands of holistic dog foods available.

When it's treat time for your dog, follow the same criteria as when you're selecting dog food. Watch the sugar/fat/sodium/artificial stuff content. Dog treats that are mostly meat are best. Crunchy dog treats help to keep your buddy's teeth healthy. Some dogs also enjoy raw veggies and fruits as treats. Our Lab/Shepherd friend Ty loves carrots! Healthy AND tasty too!

But be careful--there are some fruits and veggies your dog cannot have. Grapes, raisins, and onions are three items that are harmful to your dog. I've also heard avocados aren't good either--but then again, I've heard that they're okay. The jury seems to still be out on this one. I'll try to come up with a definitive answer soon.

If you give your dog rawhide dog treats to munch on, read the label first to ensure the rawhide is digestible and not over-processed with chemicals. Dogs should be supervised when chewing rawhides or any other chew treat to avoid choking. (This happened to Buster a couple of years ago. A piece of rawhide got lodged in his throat and he couldn't free it. I had to reach down his throat to pull it out. Buster no longer gets rawhide treats.) Greenies are a very popular dog treat that not only taste good, but clean teeth and freshen breath too. They've recently been re-formulated to enhance digestibility. Greenies Senior Dental Chews REGULAR 12oz-12 pieces A good alternative to rawhide dog treats are real bones. We buy frozen beef bones that are from Amish-raised cattle (no hormones or antibiotics!) that still have some meat and fat attached. Buster enjoys these yummy frozen dog treats for hours--and all the tasty marrow too! I refer to these as 'pupsicles'...

Remember--balance rules. If you're feeding your dog lots of treats, you must adjust the amount of dog food you feed him at mealtimes so he doesn't get pudgy. You must be careful when feeding your dog 'people' food as well--some things that are fine for people are very toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, onions, grapes, and raisins. Many dogs are also lactose-intolerant, so dairy products may cause an upset tummy. There is a non-dairy frozen 'doggie ice cream' called Frosty Paws that Buster enjoys during warmer months; however, it's high in fat and should be considered a special treat. If you're in doubt about any dog treats, consult your veterinarian.

Homemade diets are another option for feeding your dog. Again, it's imperative that you get the right balance of good animal proteins, nutrients and fiber from veggies and fruits, and the right amounts of fats. Organic ingredients are best since they will not contain the hormones or antibiotics usually found in most supermarket meats and produce. Of course, this can be a more expensive way to feed your dog, but you also have total control over what is in your dog's dinner! There are several good books available to advise you on preparing homemade meals and treats for your dog.

If you're a vegetarian and would like to try this type of diet for your dog, I wouldn't advise it. Even though dogs technically are omnivores (meaning they can eat from all food groups), their teeth and digestive tracts are designed to process a diet that is primarily animal protein. Dogs require an amino acid known as taurine that is only found in animal products. A taurine-deficient diet can lead to serious heart problems such as cardiomyopathy. Even though your dog may seem like he's doing well on a vegetarian diet, you can't be sure of the internal long-term consequences of feeding this type of diet. It's best to stick with a diet that is high in good-quality animal proteins. Always ask your vet before making changes in your dog's diet. Especially after the recent pet-food scare, in which many dogs became ill (cats too), and unfortunately, some died, I recommend feeding your dog the absolute most pure, natural, unadulterated food you possibly can.

Here is Buster's 'paws-up' list of great organic/holistic dog foods and treats!

Pinnacle (from Breeder's Choice Pet Foods)--Buster currently enjoys the Trout and Sweet Potato Formula. Other varieties are available in both dry and moist forms.

Prairie (from Nature's Variety)--this comes in both dry and moist. Buster found both to his liking.

Canidae (from Canidae Corp.)--another of Buster's favorites. Canidae also makes an excellent dog biscuit. We have a friend who is the proud parent of three dogs: a 14-year-old, a middle-aged adult, and a 5-month-old puppy. She recently switched her dogs from a 'supermarket' brand of dog food (which will remain unnamed) to Canidae and is amazed with the results, especially in her senior, who is acting like a much younger dog and whose coat is shinier, thicker, and darker than it has been in years. Another satisfied dog parent...

Newman's Own Organics (from Newman's Own)--the 'Newman' in the company name is late actor Paul Newman, who forged a second career in manufacturing and promoting organic foods for people and pets.

Natural Balance (from Natural Balance Inc.)--another actor, Dick Van Patten, has come up with a wonderful pet-food formula. The Natural Balance Sweet Potato and Venison Dry Dog Food Formula 5lb is sure to please your pup.

Wellness (from Old Mother Hubbard)--another excellent choice. One of the great things about Wellness is that there is a Wellness Complete Health Super5Mix Limited Ingredients Whitefish & Sweet Potato Recipe--great for dogs with food allergies. This company also makes a venison-jerky treat that Buster loves.

Fromm's--this company, in existence since 1904, produces several different varieties of wonderful holistic foods, such as Four Star Chicken A La Veg Dry Dog Food 5lb , Lamb with Cranberries, and Four Star Pork and Applesauce Dry Dog Food 5lb Yum!!

The Honest Kitchen (from The Honest Kitchen)--this is one of my favorite foods. It's a dehydrated raw food made from the best human-grade ingredients--fresh meats, vegetables, and fruits. The food is easily rehydrated with warm water (although Buster prefers his with organic chicken broth!)to become just as nutritious as a homemade diet. Although most varieties contain meat, it is recommended that you supplement with fresh meat (and extra veggies if you like). There are also grain-free varieties (great for Buster and his wheat issues) and The Honest Kitchen also makes cat food. The Honest Kitchen can be purchased online at, but we purchase ours at Specialty Pet Supplies in Plymouth, Michigan. They ship everywhere, but we drive, since we're only a few miles away. They carry lots of other holistic foods and treats too. You can check them out at

Orijen--this is a new dry food that we recently discovered. Orijen is made from fresh ingredients and is free from any rendered animal fats. Their 6-Fish Formula contains 70% premium fish ingredients, as well as all kinds of fruits, veggies, herbs, and vitamins--30%--and no grains whatsoever. The fish used in this formula are salmon, herring, lake whitefish, walleye, flounder, and lake trout. (Actually, this sounds almost good enough for me to eat!!)

Wysong--this food is one of the best. Varieties include raw, canned, and dry. Their raw foods are manufactured via their patented 'TNT' (True Non-Thermal) method and are safe and biologically appropriate. We've fed Wysong canned food to Buster. He really loves it--and unlike most dogs, Buster is very choosy!! (Maybe he likes it so much because it's made in Michigan!) Click on the following link to learn more about the great foods from Wysong. Synorgon

By the way, Wysong makes products for humans as well, such as supplements, cleaning products, and personal hygiene products.

Grandma Lucy's Artisan--this is another dehydrated food that is processed in a plant that also processes food for humans. It's loaded with good stuff like fresh veggies, whole grains, and chunks of meat. It smells like a yummy soup when it's rehydrated. It's bowl-lickin' good.

Weruva--this is a canned food that is made from human-grade ingredients in a plant that also processes human food. There are several different varieties, all made with 'whole' ingredients. When you open a can of Weruva, you would think you were opening a can of casserole or a good soup--and in fact, you could eat this stuff if you wanted. I know--I tasted some as a challenge and actually liked it. (I did heat it up and added a little salt and pepper.) A close friend has a 13-year-old Golden Retriever who is in the final phase of his life and had not been very interested in eating...until a dish of Weruva Grandma's Chicken Soup was placed in front of his nose. Can you say 'inhale'?? Buddy is now eating Weruva with gusto and enjoying every savory bite.

Blue Buffalo--these products are a bit more moderately-priced than most premium foods but still deliver great nutrition with real meat and veggies and no by-products--and there are varieties with limited ingredients for dogs with allergies or sensitivities. You can find Blue Buffalo at PetSmart. Blue Buffalo Basics Salmon & Potato Recipe

This is only a brief list of what's available in holistic/organic dog foods and treats. Again, make sure that the primary ingredients are meat or meat meal. Feed your dog the best dog food and you'll be rewarded with a wagging tail and glowing good health!

Now that you've got the 'bones' on dog foods and treats, click on the menu at left for a new page--or click here to see some great dog beds!
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