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Read and learn
more about helping your dog health through good diet choices...
Certainly, one of
the biggest factors in your large breed dog's health and development
will be what you feed it on a daily basis. One of the best things you
can do for your large breed puppy/dog is to feed it correctly.
Growth rate in
large breed puppies is very rapid because they've got a long way to go compared
to smaller breeds. It is vitally important that a large breed puppy's growth be
monitored to insure a slow, steady growth that allows for properly dense bone
and solid joint development. One of the easiest ways to insure ortho issues
develop in your large breed puppy is to feed it a diet that does not keep its
growth slow and steady.
you're reading below that I'm sharing simply out of my experience and
experiences I know of in regards to dog food choices. I accept that not everyone
agrees with my thoughts displayed here. I hope my webpage here is just one of
many stops along the way to your dog food education.
I firmly believe food choices for my dog(s)
should be structured for the individual dog.
Although every dog
may be classified in a corresponding group (i.e., a Bernese Mountain Dog is
considered a large breed dog), every individual dog is still unique in its
dietary needs and abilities.
Quality Food does NOT equal Quality Nutrition. Don't understand? Then read on.
I am 100% convinced
(and have witnessed) that a well-bred large breed puppy with perfect structure
can be completely ruined skeletally/orthopedically by wrong diet. And this wrong
diet can be totally from wonderful, quality food resources. Why do I believe
this? I've seen it more times than I want to think about. Very often, a large
breed puppy grown on a continually imbalanced diet (with special imbalances in
important skeletal growth items like calcium and phosphorous) can grow to look
like a freakish genetic mess. If this shocks you, then you really need to keep
Diet is one of the
hottest topics in the world of dog breeding, and Berner breeders are typical
of this. Here are the current choices as I see them:
-Kibble: the dry dog
food you purchase that comes in a bag or box.
-Canned: the wet dog
food you purchase that comes in a can.
Appropriate Raw Food, aka Bones and Raw/Real Food.
Food: 'Human' food, raw and/or
cooked. (Included here is also 'Table Scraps')
-Or any variation
of the above.
Below, I'll try to
objectively portray each feeding method. Keep in mind that many people tend to
IMPORTANT: I feed my dogs twice
per day and I may offer a light snack midday.
This helps keep their system properly balanced. I've witnessed that the
stress put on dogs who are fed once per day can be intolerable for them.
And heck, I know what eating something once per day does to ME! So I
won't do that to my dogs. I feed two good meals per day, minimum (even
to those dogs who, like me, need to lose a few pounds).
Also, I do not free-feed my dogs (aka, leave
food in the bowl so they can eat any time they want to), because in
large breed dogs this promotes the deadly Bloat.
IMPORTANT than diet is the freshness and quality of your dog's
water. Many people never give dogs'
second thought. But many diet issues can be helped or even
cleared by providing fresh, high quality drinking
Also, a good
diet can easily be compromised (harmed) by providing lesser
the dog's body is primarily made up of
water. (And Berners drink an incredible
higher than most other breeds).
consider the daily quality and freshness of your dog's
All Kibbles Are Not Created Equal
Okay, so my first
foray into dog feeding (way back when) was to switch from feeding family table
scraps to the highly desirable Purina Dog Chow (and I write this with a slight
grimace at my ignorance).
I felt good
about this new commercial dog food because the marketing told me it was
prepared especially for my dog. I was certain that was far superior
nutrition to mere table scraps. And as special treats for my beloved
dog(s), I fed them the highly expensive dog treats called Gainesburgers.
Those who have been in dogs since the 70's will remember this horrid
product. I was certain 'expensive' meant 'best'.
sacrificed in order to afford good dog food for my beloved pets. It took
me quite awhile before I realized the Gainesburgers (and the Purina Dog
Chow) was giving my dogs itchy-red ears and paws, occasional diarrhea,
hairloss, etc. (aka, Food Allergies).
food and I have come a LONG way since then.
Its a fact
that commercially manufactured dog food has only been around since about
the 1950's or so. Many of us today don't realize that dogs lived on
OTHER foods (aka, non-commercially prepared dog food) prior to the
invention of commercial dog foods.
version of commercially manufactured dog food is generally called
Today, one of
the easiest ways to feed a dog is to use kibble. Its simple. A dog owner
can go to the store, buy a bag of dog food (kibble), dump some in the
dog's food bowl, maybe add some water and viola! the dog is fed. But how
well fed is this dog?
A good starting
kibble question is: "What kibble should I choose for my large breed dog/puppy?"
Here are my
Kibble Rule #1:
There is no such thing as the perfect
kibble for my dog.
also Rule #1 in Breeding Views)
Kibble Rule #2:
Quality ingredients do not always equal quality
nutrition for my dog.
The choice of kibble WILL impact my dog's
health (good or bad), whether or not I'm aware of it.
My Vet bills and my dog's general health
and longevity will directly reflect my education about dog diets.
Just because one kibble works fine now doesn't
mean it will always be the appropriate kibble for my dog.
If all kibble choices are obviously NOT agreeing
well with my dog, try another feeding method (like BARF or Real Food). (This is
especially true for dogs with allergies and extremely sensitive digestive
manufacturers have poured zillions of dollars into studying canine nutrition and
marketing it. And it shows, because there is a vast multitude of kibbles
available on the market today. There are the old standbys, like Purina, and
there's yesterday's cutting edge kibbles like Nutros and Science Diet and
there's newer kibbles like California Natural, Innova and Canidae. And now
there's the newest, cutting edge kibbles like Wysong, Nature's Variety and
How the heck
does one decide which kibble to feed their dog?
Until recent years,
kibble was almost always designed to provide the nutritional needs of small to
medium dogs. Only recently have kibbles been available that are designed for
large dog breeds and specialty dogs (active, elderly, overweight, etc). So, for
years, most people who fed kibble to their large breed dog never realized it was
NOT designed to nurture a large breed dog or puppy. Accordingly, all kinds of
resulting problems were commonly seen with large puppies and dogs: too rapid
bone growth, early growth platelet closures, etc. One reason this kibble
effected the large breeds is because the nutrition was too rich and thereby did
not allow for the slower growth patterns needed to grow large breed puppies
thankfully, you can find many kibbles which are designed to meet the nutritional
needs of large breeds and other special needs dogs.
In case you don't read this
elsewhere, let me be certain to point it out: The Focus of feeding a
large breed dog is good nutrition that creates slow, steady growth.
And one of the
primary problems with kibble remains: the ingredients.
To give kibble
manufacturers their due, it must be really tough to produce a quality kibble for
a reasonable dollar fee. Many manufacturers pour in lesser quality or
compromised quality ingredients to cut costs. Many manufacturers also include
non-nutritional 'fillers' in their kibble to add volume since kibble is usually
priced based on weight (volume). Quite often, manufacturers will add in
artificial ingredients for a specific benefit: color, taste, preservative, etc.
Many people believe these factors in kibbles promote illnesses in dogs, like
cancer and allergies.
Today, other kibbles
have evolved to capture the market of the more discriminating kibble buyer.
Case in point,
consider the kibble called "Innova". To the uneducated observer, Innova looks
like a totally great kibble! And it certainly IS a quality kibble - no
question about that. It contains all natural, quality ingredients with nothing
artificial and the processing methods are state of the art for quality benefit.
And even better yet, these items are said to have have been professionally
balanced by a nutritionist. Doesn't that make it the perfect kibble for MY large
I concede that for
some small or medium breed dogs, Innova may be a great kibble choice. However, I
believe Innova is just too rich to feed to any large dog as it promotes a too
fast growth process and other associated ailments. I've heard of certain large
breed owners having good success with this kibble, but more often than not, I've
witnessed the opposite. Of course, I understand why many uneducated dog owners
buy it: the marketing of the quality ingredients makes it a show stopper for
many kibble buyers who never look beyond the quality ingredients to the factual
application in their large dog's diet needs. This is why I say: Quality
kibble does not automatically equal correct nutrition for a specific dog.
On another note
about Innova, I'd like to mention that I've used it with good success when I
needed to help a large dog rapidly gain quality weight.
You should be aware
that most every kibble on the market today uses an array of carbohydrates to
provide nutrition instead of organ meat resources. Carbohydrates are much more
economical to use to bring nutrition to the kibble. And carbohydrates are
necessary for the binding and formation of the actual kibble. Some of these
carbohydrates are more easily digestible than others. And some carbohydrates
used are downright difficult to digest. This is one reason why some kibbles will
agree with certain dogs while other kibbles will not.
You should also be
aware that the ingredient term 'meat by-product' usually means exactly that: a
part of the animal which is not considered human-food grade quality (beaks,
feet, eyes, etc). But I digress.
So the question
remains, what kibble should I choose for my large breed dog?
Test the kibble
quality: One of my 'kibble' quality tests is to soak the kibble in hot water for
between 5 and 10 minutes. Lesser quality kibble usually expands greatly after
soaking while denser, more quality kibble doesn't expand too much. Want to test
this for yourself? Get a free sample of Purina kibble (any one they make) and a
free sample of Canidae. Pour each kibble into separate bowls. Add hot water and
allow each bowl of kibble to soak as stated above. Then watch the results for
yourself. Purina will absorb to perhaps twice its size (or more, if soaked
longer) but Canidae will not expand nearly as much by comparison. Then think
about the fact that these expansions happen inside the dog's digestive system
after eating. And then think about the common ailment called 'Bloat' in large
breed (deep chested dogs). (Click
here for more info on 'Bloat') (editor's note: Bloat is thought by
many to be linked with food which swells in the dog's belly after its eaten).
The primary tools in
choosing a kibble are:
use common sense
don't get so picky
that you miss the goal
a large variety of
good-looking ingredients doesn't equal better nutrition (but it
may mean more allergic response)
ingredients often means poorer quality (i.e., glutens, animal
Kibble must be
geared to meet the specific dog you're feeding: nothing more, nothing
less. When in doubt, see
Kibble Rule #1
Here's a great
kibble website for you to visit and get lost in:
important to note that one kibble may not meet all the needs of your dog
on a continual basis.
I feel its best to occasionally alternate
kibbles. This could be my unique neurosis, but I feel it's better
nutritionally and the dogs seem to prefer this. Further, it's a great
way to find out which kibble works better AND helps avoid a dog building
an intolerance to a specific kibble (which commonly happens). When
kibble is alternated, however, there may be gastric upset. So slowly
altering kibble is the preferred method.
Large Breed Puppy
Kibble: Whatever kibble you choose to feed your large breed puppy, it is
incredibly important to monitor bone growth and development. Make it a habit to
look over your puppy's structure on a daily basis. This is your best
notification of when to change kibble choices.
I find there are two
most common errors to adjust in puppy feeding: too fast growth rate and not
common signs that bones are growing too fast for the joints to
compensate (and the kibble is too rich) is a distinctive turning out of
one or both of the puppy's front feet while in sitting position. Another
sign is the bending of the 'wrist' or knee of the puppy's front leg(s).
Some breeders choose to feed adult food to large breed puppies at a
young age. I believe the goal there is to moderate growth to a slow
also believe that puppy is missing out on some basic nutrition that will
affect it at some point, probably during adulthood. A great way to
monitor nutrition is to feel your puppy's coat: is it healthy? glossy?
vibrant? or dull, lifeless? Another symptom to monitor is your pup's
eyes: do they look healthy? How about activity and energy - is your
puppy full of life or slightly lethargic? (Note: level of activity can
be breed specific, so that's to be considered). Coat, eyes and energy
can all be indicators of the level nutrition.
Perhaps the best
method in evaluating how a kibble is performing for your dog is what I call 'The
Poop Test'. A dog's poop (stool) will tell the tale of what's happening in
that animal's digestive tract. Ideally, poop should be well formed, moist, not
very smelly (or not smelly at all) and should happen after every meal.
'Cow Pie' stools or
'Liquid' stools or stools that are formed but have a 'Greasy' appearance or
'Smelly' stools are all signs of digestive issues. These are common diet issues,
but don't rule out illnesses, parasites or bacterial infection.
transitions (like from one kibble to another), its important to watch the poop,
and understand that it may take a few days to re-settle a dog's digestive tract.
More than 7 to
10 days of fairly loose stools sends me and that dog to the Vet's. More
than 5 days of incredibly loose stools has us at the Vet's.
bloody stools - at any time - and stools that are almost completely
water and shooting out at lightspeed - send me and that dog to the Vet
very promptly (that day or early the next). Really bloody stools have us
in the Emergency Room asap.
ingredients in kibbles that you're changing from/to is perhaps the single best
thing you can do to help the transition.
However, its important to
point out this fact:
Just because one kibble says
'Chicken and Rice' and another kibble of a different brand also says
"Chicken and Rice' - this doesn't mean they have the same ingredients.
Ingredients sources and processing may be totally, completely different.
This is one reason why a dog may do well eating one brand of 'Chicken
and Rice' kibble but cannot tolerate a different brand of 'Chicken and
Rice' kibble. Sometimes, this difference even happens within one kibble
brand (hence the price difference).
So, how do you
adjust kibble to fit your puppy's current growth pattern? This is easy and can
be done without gastric upset if you choose a kibble with very similar
ingredients in both puppy and adult formulas (like California Natural). For
bones growing too fast, a cure I often choose is to swap adult food for 1/2 of
the puppy kibble - so the end result is the puppy gets 1/2 puppy food and 1/2
adult food. This commonly occurs somewhere between 4 months and 6 months of age.
I continue to monitor the bone development over the next few weeks (and the
feces) and may again alter kibble choices depending on what I feel is happening
with the growth pattern.
Be aware that
changing kibble can cause gastric upset.
This is of most concern when you're blending two kibbles that do not have very
similar ingredients. If you must blend two kibbles of differing ingredients,
blend slowly by adding only a small amount of the new kibble in each feeding
Slowly increasing volume of new kibble with every third or fourth day's feeding.
Be patient with this transition. If your puppy/dog still has major gastric upset
even after using this slow transition method, that's an important sign that that
kibble is not appropriate for that dog.
By the time 6 months
rolls around, my large breed puppy is usually on adult food. Certainly, long
before the 1 year mark, my large breed puppy will have been totally on adult
kibble for a long while.
exceptions, of course, like the puppy who is a picky eater and is
constantly underweight - that's a puppy who will probably be on puppy
kibble longer than 1 year.
large breeds, like Irish Wolfhounds or Tibetan Mastiffs, I usually
transfer from puppy to adult kibble by 3 or 4 months.
Fact: Chicken is perhaps the most easily assimilated meat for a dog's
Kibble Choices For
Large Breed Dogs (in order of my general preference)
I would feed either Wysong or Nature's Variety
ALL THE TIME if I could afford it for my whole crew. When I have a
problematic dog, I go to one of these kibbles (usually Nature's Variety,
but only because its easy for me to get). I do feed canned Merrick on an
occasional basis, but its price keeps it off my regular menu.
Certain foods like Natural Balance and Canidae do not have formulas specifically
for puppies. These companies feel that their 'adult' version is fine for
puppies, too, if increase of volume is fed. SageKeep agrees to disagree w/this
philosophy. I believe that very young puppies need higher caloric intake that a
higher quantity of food content just cannot achieve.
IMPORTANT: For a
large breed puppy like Berners, you want a Protein-to-Fat ratio of about
24% Protein to 14% Fat - or very close. You do NOT want a protein level
above 26%!!! (Yes, this means goodbye to EVO and similar foods).
Some of the above
kibbles are more expensive than others.
~ Shop wisely ~
information and Distributors on the above products, visit:
In the above
lists, you may note the absence of many popular kibbles on the market today.
I'll address some of those here and give my reasons:
Science Diet and
I am greatly
disturbed by seeing the amount of vets who sell and promote Science Diet. I feel
this kibble is a great balance of nutrition for many breeds but it has so much
other 'crap' in it that I simply do not feel good about feeding it to my dogs. I
am convinced this kibble - as it is today - lends itself toward promoting cancer
and other illnesses in dogs. This is simply my personal opinion.
HOWEVER, The Whole Dog Journal lists Science Diet in their Dog Food BlackList
(dogfoods they do NOT recommend).
In times past,
I successfully fed Eukanuba. Mostly, its been a great kibble to use as proved by
how well my dogs responded to it. However, due to recent changes in corporate
policy, the ingredients have been down-graded (typical of Purina foods). Today,
almost everytime I feed Eukanuba, one or more of my dogs exhibits allergy
symptoms right away (usually infected ears). So I don't feel great about feeding
Eukunuba to my dogs on a long-term basis. However, I still use this kibble from
time to time on dogs I feel can tolerate it well.
Note: Eukanuba is also listed in Whole Dog Journal's Dog Food BlackList
(dogfoods they do NOT recommend).
There are some decent kibbles left out of the above list like:
Further down on my food chain
list are some kibbles I will only feed if there's nothing else
Nutro (Premium or Ultra)
I've successfully fed most of the
above kibbles with good success.
To the cheaper pocketbook person who
lives with a very healthy large breed dog, perhaps these kibbles may provide a
decent alternative. I especially like Sensible Choice and Diamond.
Important Fact: Unlike humans, Dogs
need a simple diet.
Below are two of several types of
kibbles that go overboard with complex ingredients. These are designed
specifically to market / target human buyers who don't understand that dogs need
a relatively simple diet. Kibbles like these show lots of wonderful ingredients
- a variety of meats and/or garden vegetables - that look like a feast to the
uneducated human eye. Its been my profound experience that MOST of the time,
these types of kibbles cause allergy issues and worse, you can't readily tell
which ingredient is causing allergy symptoms because there are so many different
food sources (ingredients).
Chicken Soup for the Dog Lovers
Its important to note that the
quality of dog food can easily have a direct effect on the quality of your dog's
Important Fact: The FDA is cracking down on dog
food manufacturers who advertise that they use 'Human Grade' meats/ingredients.
Canidae is a perfect example of this. Today, although Canidae continues to use
human grade meats in their kibble, they aren't supposed to label it thataway per
FDA rules. These FDA rules say that once an ingredient - like human grade
chicken meat - enters the dog food manufacturing facility, it is no longer human
Some of my basic rules in choosing dog foods:
1. KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid)
(aka, the fewer the food resources/ingredients, the better)
2. Does my dog's breeder
3. Is it the right formula for
4. Human Grade food sources /
ingredients are much preferred.
5. How is it processed?
6. Is it easily accessible to
7. Can I afford to feed on a
regular basis? (Note: feeding a quality dog food generally means
fewer Vet bills, so consider this factor)
Below are kibbles I
will NEVER, EVER FEED any dog of mine:
Science Diet (although I
applaud and have fed Prescription Diet for sick dogs with diagnosed issues)
Kibbles & Bits
There are tons of
wonderful performance and other kibbles that I'm leaving out here. This is
because there are few of these kibbles I feel are appropriate to feed large
breed dogs long-term, especially not the performance kibbles. Labrador
Retrievers? Yes. Bernese Mountain Dogs, Tibetan Mastiffs, etc? No. For more info
on performance type of kibbles, ask a really good Lab breeder.
SO . . . Who should
you ask for advice on which kibble to feed your large breed dog?
1. Your dog's breeder - this should be your first resource for diet info.
(Unless its a puppy mill/pet shop - those people have no clue about nutrition or
want to know). Frankly, if you bought a puppy from a responsible breeder, then
you should also have enough sense to feed what they suggest. Resist the
temptation to go shopping and decide for yourself - you're not very qualified to
choose. The only reason to change should be if the kibble the breeder prefers
simply is not agreeing with your dog - and even in this instance, you should
confer with the dog's breeder. (Can you tell this is one of my biggest pet
peeves with puppy buyers???)
2. An experienced, responsible breeder of large breed dogs, preferably a breed
you identify in your dog.
3. A Veterinarian who understands nutrition. Surprisingly not all of them do,
unfortunately, but its worth getting their input. Plus, sometimes they're a
great resource for alternative food choices if your dog displays digestive
problems or food allergy reactions.
questions for me about kibble choices? I am NOT an expert, but I am glad to
share my experiences with you and to refer you to someone who has experience
with your dog's breed (especially if I do not). Email me at
Canned Dog Food
I believe canned dog
food can be a good supplement to a kibble diet. I feed canned dog food on a
regular basis, to compliment the kibble. The finished result is about 1/4 canned
and 3/4 kibble.
However, I do
not believe canned food alone represents a sufficient diet for a large
breed dog (or for any breed of dog).
For one thing,
this food choice does not require chewing and that's one important facet
in any dog's diet that mere chew bones cannot totally fulfill. A dog
needs to chew its food for better digestion, just like humans.
For a list of
canned dog foods, look above to my Kibble selections and see those
manufacturers I favor.
I have it on good
authority that there are people who feed their dogs via this diet method with
great success. I have personally used - and currently use - variations of this
feeding method to cure dogs with allergies and digestive disorders and because I
feel good about feeding fresh foods. A true BARF diet can be a great alternative
to kibble, if done correctly.
discussion, I should mention that I feed raw meat on a regular basis BUT
it is not as part of a traditional "BARF" diet. I feed raw meat about
every second or third day, although if I happen to have a great fresh
meat source for the moment, I'll feed it everyday for a week or two.
I feed raw
meat separately from kibble - as a separate meal experience. The meats I
use are, generally: chicken, beef, elk, venison, lamb, pork and whatever
other quality meat I come by that I deem feedable. Yes, these raw meats
usually have bones in them (although I don't feed raw chicken breasts -
my own unique neurosis). I make certain the meat is fresh, clean and
from a good source. So yes, I will feed raw meat as a meal in the course
of my dogs' diets. Again, I feed it separately from kibble as a separate
meal. For instance, during summer, I feed kibble/canned for breakfast
and raw meat for dinner (the raw meat is cold but not frozen, and it
helps cool-down my dog's body after ingestion).
Having said the
above, its tough for me to write objectively about a true BARF diet because I am
very opposed to it on some important levels. There is an incredible amount of
research, knowledge and work that goes into a nutritionally successful BARF
diet. And very often, people do not utilize enough knowledge and resources to
feed this diet correctly to a large breed dog. (This is why I prefer kibble,
which is already nutritionally balanced by professionals).
It's my view that
BARF diet works better after a large breed dog's growth cycles have finished and
the dog's physical development is at a mature stage. This is because its tough
to monitor proper nutrition throughout growth stages in a large breed puppy,
whereas an adult dog really requires just maintenance.
Another reason I
feel BARF is inappropriate for puppies is because of the potential that raw meat
carries harmful bacteria. Young puppies generally don't have the immunity to
fight bacterial infections from meat they've eaten. Puppies can get quite sick
fast - and even die - as a result of eating infected (bad or spoiled) meat. Do
some research on items like Salmonella and Cociddia if you need more
information. And the reason I know this is because I've gotten puppies from BARF
breeders who weaned pups on raw meat and the pups' digestive tracts were full of
bacteria when I got them (so this isn't something I just heard about).
witnessed large breed puppies/dogs whose structure and health have been severely
compromised during growth cycles by BARF method of feeding (especially when done
wrong). Again, this is something I've personally witnessed.
Worse, I've encountered many owners who feed via this choice who are
extremists and who refuse to acknowledge their attempts at this diet are
ruining their dog's growth/health. Their thought process is something
like: they're feeding quality real food they prepare and choose
themselves and so that must make it better than kibble. Right?
Anyone who refuses to see what's happening in the
dog from diet choices is someone who needs to give that dog to another home.
One of the
most ignorant reasons I've ever heard given in favor of BARF goes something like
this: 'After all, dogs have eaten raw
food in the wild since creation!'
I can only suppose that people who cling to this thought process must own a
primitive dog breed like a wolf, for certainly they can't be referring to a
domesticated dog breed like BMDs who've never lived on raw food as a breed.
Tibetan Mastiffs are a primitive breed and yet are not known to have survived on
raw, wild meat and other such food sources.
personally used a diet patterned after BARF to nurture dogs with allergies
and/or digestive disorders. This diet certainly saved those dogs' lives and
sanity. And I know of others who've used BARF to nurture dogs with allergies or
other illnesses and have had great results. Moreover, I do feed raw meat to my
dogs (albeit, not a true BARF diet).
know of many people who feed BARF method on a regular basis with great
results. It can be done. Most of these people tell me its a LOT of
additional work, but they feel its well worth their efforts.
interesting note that BARF people have shared with me: there's no poop
clean-up. Most of the poop from BARF dogs usually easily disintegrates
naturally over the period of a week or so. One BARFer told me that she
feels the extra work she puts in creating meals is balanced by the lack
need for poop scooping after meals. As a routine pooper-scooper, I can
appreciate her view.
The main problem
I've seen with certain people who feed BARF is that they just don't accurately
balance the nutrition. And this is a really tough feat without a degree in
nutrition! That's one plus for kibblers - it's professionally balanced already
(okay, well sort of - if you're feeding the right formula for your dog).
A lack of balanced
nutrition means that different body parts may grow at a much faster or slower
rate than other relating body parts. And the one body part may become damaged
during daily use because of compensating for the other body part which
experienced more rapid growth. This unequal growth pattern is easy to see in a
dog whose head is too small for its body, or whose legs look spindly under a
heavy body, or whose movement is sorely restricted while still a puppy. These
are typical ear marks of long-term poor puppy nutrition no matter how quality
the food resources are. Also, I've seen dogs die after eating raw chicken with
bones, which is a staple in a BARF diet. Another risk is the opportunity for
spoiled food poisoning (Ecoli). This is possible by the very nature of feeding
raw, uncooked meat.
Having said all
this, I once more freely acknowledge that there are many people who successfully
feed their dogs a BARF diet. And I applaud their efforts and successes.
I must mention that
I believe there's a scarily high number of people who attempt a BARF diet and
screw up their dog's skeletal development. I feel this is because many people
are unwilling to accept and acknowledge their ignorance by getting fully
educated and seeking qualified BARF mentors.
I believe to
accurately employ the BARF feeding method requires an owner's sufficient time,
dedication, education and being properly mentored by those who already have a
recorded history of BARF success stories.
To learn more about
BARF, please visit their website at:
choose to feed via the BARF method, please, please, please adhere to the
You must first know how to watch for signs of incorrect orthopedic development
in your dog.
(This applies to kibblers, too).
You must first know how to assess health issues in your dog. (And this applies to kibblers, too).
can be realistic enough to accept that you may be unable to correctly feed your
large puppy/dog via this method and thereby return to a professionally balanced
method (like kibble) for the safety of your dog. (Note: your dog's breeder will
probably be an excellent judge of this).
have at least two (2) very experienced BARF mentors you hold yourself
accountable to and learn from on a weekly basis until you've successfully raised
two or three dogs on this diet. Preferably, one of these mentors is the dog's
are able to put your dog's best interests before your personal asthetic
preferences (aka, let's say you are a vegetarian who eats only organic foods. If
its in your dog's best interest, will you then feed your dog kibble with
non-organic ingredients in it? If you can't agree, give your dog away to a more
responsible home today and get a cat).
there are several BARF chatgroups which act as support groups for people
wishing to feed this method. Go to Yahoo Groups (www.yahoo.com)
to find these groups.
continually amazed at the number of people who park their brain at the door and
choose to feed their dog some form of a BARF diet no matter what is happening to
the dog's development.
course, I am equally amazed at the number of people who continue to feed kibble
to their dog when its obvious the kibble does not agree with their dog's body -
like resulting allergies, digestive upsets and the like.
doesn't mention how amazed I am at the number of people who purchase based on
marketing and not knowledge of their dog's nutritional needs. I'm specifically
(1) people who buy low dollar kibble because they're cheap
(2) people who frown on anything less than high dollar kibble (because expensive
means better, right?) (wrong)
(3) people who buy kibbles with lots of good-looking ingredients (being
ignorant to the fact that dogs need a simple diet)
(4) people who frown on anyone who doesn't feed BARF
(5) people who frown on BARF without understanding its value when correctly
book, all five people are equally ignorant about dog feeding choices.
Long ago, before the
Bernese Mountain Dogs became a recognized breed, they lived life as a typical
Swiss Dairy Farm dog. This often meant a diet based on various milk products and
grains as these were staple items in the average Dairy Farmer's lifestyle (and
their dogs generally ate their left-overs / table-scraps). Meat was a delicacy
for Swiss Dairy Farmers in that era and so meat was probably not very common in
the diets of old Swiss farm dogs (like Berners).
Yet even on a
meager diet of primarily milk and grains (and generally lacking in
meat), the Bernese dogs were expected to be strong and perform rigorous
labors. I personally find this old Berner diet interesting because of
the general intolerance dogs have to lactose (they lack the enzyme to
process lactose found in milk).
people choose to personally prepare their dog's food themselves. This is
different from the BARF diet listed above. The resources for this diet
option are almost totally 'human grade foods' easily obtained at a local
grocery store, farmer's market and/or food co-op.
For myself, I've
opted to feed a 'Real Food' diet to dogs with allergy and/or tummy issues (like
after surgery, after whelping pups, etc). Frankly, if this wasn't such a huge
time and money investment, I'd feed this method always. However, I do feed real,
raw meat very often but I don't feed the Real Food diet.
Many people who feed
this diet make up a 'batch' of food intended to last a few days or many days.
The batch is broken up into separate meals by placing 'one meal portions' into a
container that is then placed in a freezer. As needed, the meal portions are
taken out, thawed and/or re-heated, and served.
favorite 'Real Food' diet plan is this:
White Rice (replace w/organic pasta occasionally) (in a pinch, organic brown
rice may do, if the dog's digestive tract is sturdy)
-Some form of cooked
quality meat (and I even used canned meats when I was pressed for time).
Note: I usually feed Beef, Turkey, Lamb/Mutton, Chicken, Elk, Venison and
Pork - all de-boned prior to cooking. On some meats, like Beef and Lamb, I
will leave the bones in the stew pot while its cooking to add flavor. But
I'm careful to NOT give these bones to my dogs as cooking makes them brittle
and potentially harmful for them.
-Veggies: most any
kind (fresh, canned or frozen)
-Plain Yogurt Or
Cottage Cheese (or, in a pinch, Acidophilus Milk) (none of these are
included in stew - are added only just prior to serving)
Yogurt typically doesn't get too far in the digestive tract to be of great
help. But it can add some good bacteria to a normally healthy dog. If you're
looking to add good bacteria to an unhealthy digestive tract, consider
Jarro-Dophilus (click here for that website:
Basically, I cook the
meat separately to make certain its thoroughly cooked. Then I just throw it and
everything else into a large stew pot (except the yogurt or cottage cheese). And
I include items like the water from canned veggies, fat from cooked meat, etc.
Please note I avoid
feeding items with no or little nutritional value, like white rice, etc.
First, let me say that I feel the above recipe includes a great balance of
nutrition, and, as such, really shouldn't require much supplementation (if any).
From my own research, I am convinced most commercial multi-vitamins sold in the
US are completely indigestible, for humans and for animals. This is often
because of the binding agent used in processing to create the pill form. More
importantly, human-grade multi-vitamins include items that are potentially
harmful and even fatal to a dog. I don't feed my dogs a multi-vitamin
All my supplement choices are usually top quality products obtained from a
reliable health food store and are intended for human consumption:
pill form (cold processed)
-Garlic in pill form (preferably odorless kind)
-Organic Aloe Vera juice (calms upset tummies wonderfully
-Vitamin E (water soluble version, preferably)
-Glucosamine w/Chondroitin (without MSM)
Your local Health Food
Store is a great resource of Supplement information. Talk to their customer
service / sales personnel. Be certain to visit more than one store, as its good
to compare info and advice you receive. Once you learn how certain items are
manufactured, you know can begin seeking out cheaper resources of quality items.
Why Do I Feed
Basmati White Rice and not the regular White Rice found in a grocery store?
Basmati White Rice
is all natural, un-processed rice. The balance of nutrients has not been
tampered with. And it has not been exposed to contaminants.
Enriched White Rice
has been processed so that most of the natural nutrition has been eliminated.
Contaminants such as bleach have been used in the processing, which is never
completely eliminated from the rice. The manufacturer attempts to add back in
nourishment, hence the 'enriched' part of the labeling. However, its almost
impossible for the nutrients added back to reflect the purity and balance of the
original, natural nutrients.
interesting article on
Brown Rice versus White Rice
Nutritionist, Sue Gilbert, posted at
"...I eat a lot of veggies and whole grain breads, however, I eat white rice
rather than brown rice. When you look at the nutritional information on the
package, the white rice appears more nutritional because it is enriched, but
isn't brown rice really better?"
its natural state, compared to unfortified white rice, brown rice is a better
source of several nutrients such as riboflavin, folate, iron and magnesium. It
has three times the fiber of white rice.
Brown rice is naturally better
for you compared to white rice. However, because some important nutrients are
stripped during the process of manufacturing white rice, many companies choose
to put back what they took out. Often they overcompensate. Therefore, when you
compare a package of fortified white rice to a package of brown rice, the white
looks like a better choice. However brown rice has the advantage of having more
fiber, which is probably a bigger health benefit than the fortified vitamins,
since my diet tends to be more deficient in fiber than in the vitamins white
rice is fortified with.
Please feel free to
with any questions about how to feed this diet
plan and what I've witnessed from its long-term use.
If you'd like to speak with
another breeder who's fed her dogs a Real Food diet similar to this for many
years, contact Wendy at
Also, please NOTE: I am NOT a
nutritionist nor do I feel remotely qualified to be one. I am solely sharing out
of my personal experience, my dogs' experiences, my common sense and my own
research. I recommend that you contact a Certified Nutritionist with questions
about the merits of this diet plan prior to implementing it.
Its my thought
that, in the beginning, man seduced the dog into friendship by his offer of free
food hand-outs from a human may have seemed a good alternative to a dog's hard
work at foraging for food on its own. Besides, the human-grade food probably
Perhaps the exchange
of 'free food' forged the original human-dog bonding? (note: this is one theory
I use to justify feeding my dogs occasional treats from the dinner table, a
human behavior understandably deplored by most knowledgeable dog trainers)
At any rate, I doubt
there are very many dog owners who've never, ever fed their dog a sample of
'human food'. Some of us have been educated that many human foods are
inappropriate for canine consumption. Some of us have been educated that dogs
can/should live somewhat/mostly/solely on human food scraps.
Its very important
to know there are items in many human foods which can be harmful and/or fatal to
the dog if ingested.
most dogs (and cats) lack sufficient quantities of the enzyme lactase
needed to breakdown the lactose in milk products. So basically, the
average dog is 'lactose intolerant'. Chocolate, tea, coffee and other
caffeine infested products can be toxic and affect the dog's heart and
nervous system. Grapes, raisins and macadamia nuts contain unidentified
toxins which can be fatal for a dog to eat. Eating too much salt may
lead to dog's electrolyte imbalances. Fat trimmings from meat can cause
pancreatitis. Some citrus items can cause severe vomiting. And the list
dogs may tolerate (tiny) amounts of milk chocolate but most dogs find
dark chocolate potentially fatal.
Some people feel
that plain 'kibble' simply isn't good enough for their dogs. And by giving
their dog some table scraps in addition to the kibble, they alleviate the
feeling that somehow their dog is missing out on a great meal.
Sometimes, they're actually creating a nutritional problem.
Even if you're
feeding your dog 'good table scraps', moderation is still the key here.
Too much of a good thing isn't always good. For instance, when you add
table scraps to an already nutritionally complete kibble diet, you're creating
imbalances to an already balanced nutrition source.
If you're feeding
table scraps to your dog, here are four good rules of thumb to apply:
1. Do your research
to learn what food items can cause gastric upset and/or be fatal if ingested by
your dog. Additionally, try to learn what food items may actually compliment
kibble (like certain meats, or veggies, depending on what kibble you're
2. Use your research
and careful consideration when feeding table scraps to your dog.
3. Don't allow more
than 10% of your dog's overall food resource to be via table scraps.
4. If you notice
certain items that cause your dog problems (excessive gas, diarrhea, etc), even
if these items aren't supposed to cause those problems, DON'T FEED those items
to your dog again. (duh!)
In case you're
wondering, YES, I've fed my dogs some table scraps. For instance, before I knew
better, I'd feed them the fat trimmings from my cooked meats. My dogs loved
these tidbits and usually lived long lives despite my lack of wisdom in choosing
scraps to feed.
Today, I still feed
a few select table scraps: usually certain cooked vegetables and leftover meats.
But I don't feed table scraps to be anything close to a main source of
I try to be
careful to not overbalance the nutrition already present in my dogs'
Feeding your dog
is not an exact science. There will never be, should never be, only one right
All a mere human
can do is to put their best effort toward feeding as appropriately as possible
and using their dog's body's response as the gauge of correctness in food
Most successful dog
owners I know feed their dogs a combination of kibble and real food. They mix a
broth with kibble and sometimes add real cooked meat/veggies. I also know of
several successful dog owners whose dogs have done very well on either a
strictly BARF diet or a strictly kibble diet or a strictly kibble and canned
Let me leave you
with some closing thoughts about food choices for your dog:
1. Its NOT how good
you feel about what your dogs eats, so much as it is how good your dog's body
and mind respond to what you're feeding.
2. Every dog should
be fed based on its unique needs given the whole picture: breed, size,
structure/orthopedics, health, temperament, weight, coat, lifestyle and
3. Do NOT assume
that just because your dog likes the taste of what you're feeding it means it's
the right food to feed. Case in point, many dogs are fond of dumpster diving for
food but that does not equal good nutrition.
4. If your dog does
not like the food choice (i.e., won't eat the stuff), try blending with or
totally going to a different food choice. Don't cheat your dog in nutrition
because you're too stubborn (and cruel) to feed a quality food the dog actually
5. No matter what
method you end up feeding, make certain its the one your dog's body responds to
6. Because a food
is: expensive; cheap; fast; raw; organic; hand prepared by you :does NOT
necessarily make it better nor more appropriate for your dog.
7. Respect the
breeder's advice on diet. Let their experience teach you. Even within breeds,
growth patterns are unique to a pedigree. Your breeder knows what's worked well
with other dogs in the pedigree. Wisely use this input for your dog's best
Best Wishes on
your food choices.
welcome to email me with any questions:
Note: The above
represents only my experience and my resulting opinions.
Another Note: All
emails with derogatory comments about my food choices will be happily deleted