Alternative dog food

So for a couple of reasons I have decided to explore some non-kibble food options for my dog (70 lb, 3 year old, male, neutered, pit bull). I’m not interested in cooking him dinner every night nor am I interested in the amount of work that seems to be necessary for the B.A.R.F diet that so many people recommend, but I don’t mind cooking a few times a week.

My friend said he had a Rhodesian Ridgeback that ate mostly brown rice and (canned) mackerel in tomato sauce, with occasionally an egg thrown in. How do I find out if this (or any other given suggestion) is nutritionally complete/appropriate? I am a bit worried about all the salt.

I’m finding lots of recipes online but they all say things like “Do your research and make sure the food is right for your breed/size/etc.” But what I want to know is - where do I find that out? I’ve found this page but it’s not as helpful as I would have hoped.

Should I just switch over or should I keep buying kibble for a while and make the change gradually? My dogsitter insists that changing a dog’s food isn’t upsetting to them (and he obviously enjoys the mackerel more than the kibble). (It may be relevant that we are moving next month, so now may not be the best time for another big transition.)

I plan to ask my vet at the next appointment (we are between vets right now). For now I am collecting opinions, because I feel that my ignorance on this subject is vast, but the importance that I get it right is also vast.

What are your experiences feeding your dog non-commercial pet food? Any tips for a newbie?

cowgirl - Thanks for posting this. I’m interested, too. I know I can get chicken legs and thighs for $.49/lb. Add that to rice, potatoes and veggies, it shouldn’t be too expensive to feed. I can cook dog stew every third day and refrigerate it, that’s not a problem. But they’ll eat as much as I let them, I bet. How much to feed? Can beans be added as protein? what percentage (and by weight or volume?) should the mixture be? I swear, I put a heck of a lot more thought into what my dogs eat than what I eat.


I feel the same way about my lovebird’s diet. :smack:

Ask a veterinarian.

You’re local vet down the street will be a good place to start, but there are veterinarians who specialize in animal nutrition.
**Cowgirl:**I’m guessing from your location that you are in Canada. There is an excellent veterinary school in Quebec that will have board certified veterinary nutritionists on hand to help answer basic questions. If you want to get fancy, they’ll design a diet specific for your dog for a fee.

You’ll find a lot of information online and in books. A significant portion of it is crap, and sorting the crap from the good is really, really hard if you are new to the subject.

Hie thee to an expert.

ETA: Get your friend to an expert too. Rice, tomatoes, and fish does not sound like a good diet. Unless the dog has some specific medical condition.

I had a dog with inflammatory bowel disease, and I can highly recommend this book:

Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: the Healthful Alternative, by Dr. Donald Strombeck

Dr. Strombeck is a veterinary gastroenterologist and professor emeritus of the University of California, Davis veterinary school. I learned a whole lot about nutrition from that book, and I’ve never found another book like it. Our vet recommended it if we wanted to try homemade food instead of a prescription kibble. The book contains recipes for both healthy cats and dogs and ones with various health problems - most of the recipes for dogs are targeted to those in the 30-lb. range, so you will need to extrapolate out different amounts for a larger dog - a dog that is twice as large doesn’t necessarily need twice as much food.

I can also recommend Monica Segal, who is Canadian and helped me A LOT with formulating a homemade balanced diet for my pup. I got a consultation with her, which wasn’t cheap but absolutely worth it. She also owns a free listserv you can join if you like.

With Idol we had to do an elimination diet, so we started off with turkey breast and buckwheat, with a few supplements added to make up for the lack of certain vitamins and minerals in that combo. I cooked probably twice a week for him and stored it all in containers, with each container being one meal.

We paid a canine dietician (okay, that was my wfie’s idea) to develop a complete, healthy, vegetarian diet for a dog with digestive trouble. I can dig up the recipe if you want it – it’s mostly sweet potatoes and tofu with vitamins, oil, and metamucil for fiber. The seafaring Polynesians fed their dogs a yam-based diet, if you like historical justifications.

We cook it, but in batches, so we only have to prepare it a few times a week, then just dollop it out and microwave it for feedings.


A few months ago we switched from commercial dog food to home made. I did a lot of reading online, and there doesn’t seem to be much consensus on what’s best (we don’t seem to have that much of a handle of human nutrition, either, but we manage to survive.) It seemed like most people were over thinking it–dogs don’t need every meal to be exactly balanced to be healthy any more than humans do. The raw food people frankly seemed a bit overzealous, and the regimen sounds like a pain, but we do give our dogs raw chicken wings and raw beef rib bones as snacks for the calcium and teeth cleaning. So basically we feed somewhere in the vicinity of 50% ground beef and/or turkey (and whatever other meat scraps we have) 25% veggies (carrots, cabbage, whatever we have on hand) and 25% potato or rice. I add a bit of salt and some vitamin E, and sometimes some yogurt or cottage cheese.

The cost of this is about the same as a mid-grade bagged dog food, and I spend about 20 minutes once a week putting it together.

Since we started doing this, our dogs, who used to shed a TON of hair, hardly shed at all. They also only poop about half of what they used to. They look great and love the food. I was pretty dubious about the home cooking thing when I started, but it turned out to be a very good thing, and it really isn’t that hard.

The vet student in me compels me to warn you about the risk of Salmonella infection and foreign body digestive tract obstruction when feeding your dogs either of these.

That is all.

Have you considered cat?

Fantastic. Thanks for the tips, all. I will buy that book immediately.

Re my friend’s dog - that dog is sadly no longer with us. The owner was not the most responsible dog owner I’ve ever heard of, so I am not surprised that her canine culinary skills were not the greatest. I am gratified to know that I can now safely write off all the helpful advice that came from that particular dog owner.

(There’s actually a really funny story about that dog. She was a Rhodesian Ridgeback who was not properly socialized. She bit someone (!!) and it was decided that she was to be put down. So as her last meal my friends gave her a whole bunch of meat (which she wasn’t used to eating). Then they got talked out of putting her down, so the dog got a reprieve, and as a result of all the meat she had eaten, she had horrible diarrhea for days, resulting in the destruction of my friends’ carpet and furniture. Karma moves in mysterious ways …)

I’ve been mixing kibble with people food (root veg and brassica, canned fish, leftover meat) and the dog has fallen in love with me all over again. It’s pretty sweet. Except that I could do without the dog breath laced with fish odour.


… except that my dog wants to be FRIENDS with cats, not eat them. (Cats usually feel somewhat differently about it.) He cornered an injured bird the other day and his response was to stare at it and wait for me to come do something about it.

Yahoo rawfeeding group. No cooking involved but still involves careful research. Join & lurk for a bit to see if it’s for you.

(PS, your scooby is adorable.)

Update! - or - Raw Dog Food for the Lazy

Sorry about the zombie thread.

I have discovered a number of things and wanted to report back. First, I bought that Strombeck book recommended upthread. It contained some information I found a bit dubious (for instance, it said to feed whole grains, and then included recipes based on pasta; recommends adding what seems to be a lot of salt, etc) which I couldn’t confirm in other venues. Nevertheless, I fed him approximately according to the guidelines given (about a 40/40/30 mix of meat, veg and carbs). He did well for a while, shedding and shitting way less, and enjoying his suppertime way more. Then my dog walker grew concerned about his diet and recommended a holistic vet in my area, who I saw the other day.

Vet recommendation: He should be eating more like 60-80% meat, the remainder veg, and NO grain is required.

But the main thing I learned, which I wish someone had told me when I first started this journey, is that there really is a cheap and easy way to do the raw food diet. Specifically, I can buy frozen patties of ground up chicken necks (or other kinds of raw meat / bone) and feed him for about the same amount of money as I would pay for high-end kibble (between $1 and $1.50/day). There are at least half a dozen respectable brands available in Toronto so they’re probably not hard to find in other major cities.

There’s something else that I noticed that might sound strange at first. In the past, I have noticed that my dog smelled like corn chips. My amateur investigations (googling “My dog smells like corn chips” and getting a lot of hits) reveals that this is not uncommon. However, now that he’s not eating kibble any more - get this - he doesn’t smell like corn chips any more.

Guess what a very common ingredient in kibble is?

Is that a surprise? It is pretty clear in the label, if you read it.

BTW, I’ll reiterate everything Pullet said upthread. Including the visit to a veterinary nutritionist. And the warning about handling raw meats (risk of food borne diseases for you).

American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition

American College of Veterinary Nutrition

Think about it. When humans go on diets, or have specific questions, where do they go? Ok, they go anywhere, but many people (and I assume most on this board) woudl recommend the person talks to a dietician, nutritionist, or other medical person with better information and background. Why should your pets be any different?

Huh. I’ve noticed the corn chips thing and thought it very odd, but never connected it to diet.

However! double checks labels Sorry to dash your theory, but unless the labels are lying, I don’t actually feed them any corn.