What should I feed my dog?

People come into BONeJOUR everyday and ask me for recommendations for dog food. Over the last 3 years here, I've made it a point to learn as much as possible about the pet food industry, so that I can help you choose the best food for your dog or cat! Now I can use this blog to help keep you informed, but as always, feel free to stop by or give me a call so we can discuss your pet's unique needs. (This is generally dog-specific, but most of the info here can apply to cat food as well!)

This is slightly dumbed down, but I’m going to say there are basically 3 categories of dog foods. Economy/Generic, Premium, Super-Premium/Natural/Holistic/Organic. Let’s start with the gross stuff...

Economy / Generic Dog Food - (Grocery Store Brands, Old Roy, Purina, Pedigree, Purina, Beneful) WARNING: This is really yucky. Those with weak stomachs may just want to skip it.

Generic dog food can often be lower in nutrients and higher in fat products. This is stuff you buy in the grocery store or the corner store. From the generic Acme brand to Purina One, they are all in the bottom category.

Why are they so bad? Well, one major reason is their source of meats. Instead of the whole meats their beautiful labels and thousand-dollar commercials show, they are using meat by-products. These are basically the leftovers of the meat industry, otherwise known as Specified Risk Materials, bits of animals humans don’t eat (feathers, beaks, guts, etc) or 4D meats. The 4-D's are dead, diseased, drugged, and downed meat producing animals. Told you it was disgusting! STAY AWAY FROM BY-PRODUCTS!

Another reason to avoid generic brands is the percentage of meat to “fillers”. Dogs are omnivores that need a large amount of meat protein in their diets, and cats are true carnivores. Our pets have difficulty processing certain grains, and definitely should not be getting their protein from animal sources such as corn gluten, which is what most of these brands use to pump up their protein percentages.

Foods in this category often change depending on what type of meat is cheaper. This can wreak havoc on a dog’s digestive system. They often contain artificial colorings and flavorings, which your dog could care less about. These foods contain chemical preservatives and fillers like wheat, corn and soy.

We don’t carry any economy/generic foods here at BONeJOUR, and I urge you not to feed your pet any food in this category.

Premium Dog Food - (Hill’s Science Diet, Nutro, Iams)

Premium dog foods have higher standards in choosing ingredients and in processing methods. Premium foods still vary from brand to brand, but often the formula does not change from bag to bag like it might with economy brands. The ingredients are slightly better, artificial dyes are not added, but antioxidants and vitamins are, and the food is slightly easier to digest. All of these extra touches result in slightly higher quality nutrition for your pet, but with less food consumed.

The only brand in this category that we carry at BONeJOUR is Science Diet. I am conflicted about carrying this brand, because I don’t think it’s the best quality food. However, because of their amazing marketing and partnerships with vets and animal shelters, many people come in and insist on feeding their pet Science Diet. They recently came out with the Nature’s Best line, which is actually much better quality than the original. (Yay!) If you currently feed your pet Science Diet and you’re interested in switching to a higher quality food, PLEASE come see me! I’d love to help you!

Super Premium Dog Food - Canidae, Solid Gold, California Natural, Wellness, Innova, Evo, Orijen, Verus, Merrick

Super Premium foods contain better ingredients than in the Premium brands. Most brands use only human-grade ingredients. They also do not use synthetic preservatives like ethoxyquin, but use Vitamin C or Vitamin E instead. They do not use artificial flavors or colors. Super Premiums may be more expensive, but your pet is receiving concentrated nutrition packed into smaller portion sizes, which can be more economical.

Some of these foods are also grain-free (Orijen, Evo) and many are made with human-grade ingredients. It’s really quite a far cry from that store brand food we looked at back in the first category! Most of them are also all-natural, meaning that they do not use chemical preservatives, colorings, or flavorings. This is the good stuff. Give one of these foods a try, and you’ll see benefits such as shinier coats, increased energy, and better overall health. Less vet visits!

The majority of food we carry at BONeJOUR falls in this category. This does not mean all the foods are the same! There are still differences in type of animal protein (chicken, fish, lamb, etc), amount of grains (grain-free vs. traditional holistic foods containing digestible grains), and TASTE! All our dogs are different, they need different foods based on their particular needs and tastes. Hence the variety. But regardless of their differences, you can feel good about feeding your dog any food in this category.

There’s actually one more category that we didn’t really get into...

Veterinary Prescription Diets - Requiring a prescription from a veterinarian, therapeutic diets are usually used when a dog is taken into the vet because something is wrong with them. Science Diet (Hill's) makes prescription diets, as do other companies. Retail stores like BONeJOUR can't order these diets, because they are prescription only. The thing is, I've done quite a bit of research on these diets, and talked to quite a few vets, and I'm skeptical. In my eyes, if you feed a dog a high-quality food, it is very unlikely that they will need to be on these diets. I believe that the prescription diet "scheme" is exactly that - marketing. Pet food companies provide these foods to vets so they can "prescribe" them to people (at extremely high markups!) Many of these foods would be considered an poor quality food if you look at the ingredients - by-products, gluten, fillers, yuck, yuck, and yuck! I know there are a lot of great vets out there who know tons about dog nutrition, but I've been in situations where I specifically asked a vet what ingredients in a special food would be beneficial for a condition, and the vet had no idea! If your vet prescribes your dog a prescription food, please ask them what exactly about the food is therapeutic to your dog. Then come see me and we'll find a healthier alternative that serves the same purpose, is most likely cheaper, and doesn't support the pet food marketing industry.

The Difference is in the Price, and in the Poop!

The thing that bugs me the most about pet food you can buy at, say, Shop-Rite, is the price! If you're going to spend almost as much money, why not get something GOOD, and support a worthwhile pet food company company and a small, local business at the same time? It's always been my opinion that if you skimp on pet food, you will end up paying more at the vet later. Plus, feeding your dog a Super-Premium food will end up costing LESS per feeding, because you have to feed the dog much less to get the same nutritional power!

* 24 cents a day to feed a dog a Super-Premium brand
* 26 cents a day for a Premium brand
* 31 cents a day for an Econo brand!

According to Nan Weitzman and Ross Becker in The Dog Food Book, the main difference between Economy, Premium, and Super Premium dog foods is the clean up. The Economy brands had fewer nutrients per package and the recommended feeding portion was 6 cups a day. The Premium brand had more nutrients than the Economy packages, but less than the Super Premium. The feeding instructions recommended 3-1/4 cups per day. The Super Premium offered the best nutritional value and suggested an average of only 1-3/4 cups of food per day. All measurements were for a 40-lb. dog. "Thus, the big difference," state Weitzman and Becker "is in the poop!"


  • Brooke Willmes

    Thanks for the distinctions. I switched my dogs to Innova slightly before the dog food scare where all the dogs got sick/died…from grocery store to “premium” dog food brands because they were all made in the same factory! My dogs are now both Seniors, have great coats, great teeth for their age and are in tip top shape…as opposed to friends' dogs that haven't lived nearly as long in much poorer quality of life that feed them generic brands.

    To me, my dogs are truly my best friends and if it means more money to keep them around healthy for one more month, I'll spend the money! I'll never feed any dogs grocery store or “premium” dog foods again!

    My dogs couldn't stomach Evo—so it's good advice to try a few foods. My dogs love the Senior Enriched with vitamins Innova.

    Having two 70 lbs. dogs of varying activity levels, I always thought the portion sizes were made to make you think you need to buy more dog food…at the height of my dog's 6 year old energy level, he needed only 2 cups of day of back then, Science Diet. Now at 16, yes, 16 years of age, he gets 1 cup a day. My much more active 13 year old dog since I adopted him when he was 9 gets 2 cups now a day.

    I haven't changed feeding sizes at all…but I think I save a ton in vet bills AND I have much healthier, happier dogs!!!

  • BONeJOUR Pet Supply

    I agree! It makes a huge difference. Thanks for your testimonial, Brooke. You make two good points:

    1) there is no perfect food. Every dog has their own tastes, and their own digestive system. It will often take a few “tries” before you find a food that works for your dog. And here's something that's not said often… it's actually RECOMMENDED that you switch foods a couple of times a year! So the trial and error is something that unfortunately can be ongoing. But it's worth it!

    2) The feeding suggested guidelines on dog food packaging are just that… suggested. I recommend people start with what's recommended, but always keep an eye on your dog's profile… if they're looking a little skinny, add a little food. If they're looking a little chunky, take a little food away, or give them a day of fasting once a week or so. It's our job as responsible pet parents to monitor and adjust the amounts of food our dogs get as needed. And throughout your dog's life they'll need different amounts of food based on their growth, their activity levels, etc, too! So I find that keeping an eye on their bodies is really the best way to figure out how much to feed them.

    Thanks again, Brooke! Let me know if you ever want me to get in bigger bags of the Innova Senior for you and your best friends.

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