Healthy Food Makes for a Healthy Dog

Lucy likes ice cream
Lucy likes ice cream, but it’s not good for her, Photo: Colleen Peterson

The life expectancy of dogs has increased dramatically over the years. This has been attributed to advances in veterinary medicine and improved diet—dog owners are spending more money on better food, and some are even cooking for their best friends.

Cooking and preparing your own dog food allows for total control over all ingredients, which is definitely not the case with commercial pet foods.

A balanced diet for dogs should comprise 50 percent protein, 25 percent carbs and 25 percent vegetables, but the road to proper nutrition should probably begin with knowing what to avoid.

The Dog Bible by Tracie Hotchner explains (among many things) the true meaning of the ingredients on pet food labels, and you’d be shocked to discover what’s contained within. Hotchner says the cancer rate in dogs today is directly caused by what “resides inside bags of dog food,” which she notes to be “bottom of the barrel” from our chemical-laden and carcinogenic food industry.

While cancer is the leading cause of death among dogs, obesity is the biggest health problem—and that is due to human behavior. Almost one half of all dogs are overweight, yet the problem can be as simple as buying or cooking better food, and feeding your dogs less of it.

Our dogs learn quickly who is most likely to spoil them with treats, and people are busy and take less time to exercise their dogs. Adding to those problems, dog food usually suggests inflated servings—as much as double the necessary portion—ignoring animals’ welfare for their own financial gain. A dog’s activity level and size should help determine the needed portion. For example, older dogs tend to put on weight because their food intake doesn’t decrease in step with their falling energy level.

Dry food is more convenient and less expensive than other options, but people tend to overfeed when serving it. Many dogs that eat dry food suffer from skin ailments because the skin and coat require certain oils and beneficial fats, and this food is cooked at such a high temperature that these healthful ingredients break down.

“Kibble,” or dry food, is dehydrated and doesn’t have dental benefits. You wouldn’t eat pretzels to clean your teeth; why would this be different for dogs? Pet food companies have owners believing wild untruths. Dry dog food actually sticks to teeth and causes tartar buildup.

Rather than trying to clean your dog’s teeth with food, use enzymes, which will help eliminate tartar and extend your dog’s life. Fruit, vegetables and meat provide these enzymes, but Leba III Dental Spray is a unique product that will also help accomplish this, and turn back the clock on existing tartar and the early stages of decay.

Bones can clean teeth, but can splinter and pierce internal organs. Instead try deer or elk antlers, which will help rub dogs’ teeth clean and are safer because they wear down slowly over time.

Try feeding your dog wet food from a can. Each can contains one to four servings, depending on a dog’s size, so it’s more expensive, but it won’t dehydrate your pooch and it retains more nutrients.

Some owners choose raw diets, but many believe all dog food should be cooked, since raw meat can be contaminated with harmful bacteria that could be spread from dog to owner.

Dehydrated or freeze-dried raw food is a safer alternative to the raw food diet because the good nutrients are preserved while the harmful bacteria are destroyed. Try Stella & Chewy patties, which can be rehydrated or served dry. They can be found at 1 Stop Pet in Southampton and Amagansett.

Home cooking is the best option of all, but some avoid it for fear their dog won’t get the necessary vitamins and minerals that are found in prepackaged dog food. An easy solution to this is feeding your pup a multivitamin and/or supplements. The Whole Pet Diet: Eight Weeks to Great Health for Dogs and Cats by Andi Brown offers a holistic approach that is easy to follow.

Other great and easy foods include frozen spinach, broccoli, boiled chicken breast, seafood, oatmeal, quinoa and more. Parsley is said to improve breath and help fight cancer in dogs.

Just remember to avoid the danger foods. A complete list of food that is harmful to dogs can be found on the ASPCSA website, but standouts include chocolate, grapes, raisins, avocado, certain nuts and onions.

Owners considering any diet change for their dog should first discuss it with a veterinarian, but choosing the right food and portions will result in a healthier, happier dog and more quality years to enjoy their love and companionship.

Colleen Peterson is Red Cross-certified in canine first aid and CPR. She is the owner and operator of Petite Dog Care in Water Mill, a home-based dog care business for small breeds. Call 631-726-0183, email [email protected] or visit for more info.

Lucy likes ice cream 2
Lucy likes ice cream, but she knows it’s not good for her, Photo: Colleen Peterson

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