Why you should feed your dog fresh, real food

Nutrition

Have you ever stopped and wondered why for humans, the best nutrition comes from eating fresh real meat and vegetables, yet when it comes to our dogs, we often end up feeding them highly processed commercial pet food?

As humans, our diets continuously evolve and over the last two decades an emphasis on healthy eating has caused a shift away from convenient, processed foods back to eating more real, fresh food. The positive impacts of this shift on our own health, wellbeing and longevity has been immense and well documented. It comes as no surprise then that, as with humans, a dog’s diet plays a large part in their overall health and wellbeing. Yet our canine friends seem to have been left behind on our health mission as we continue to feed them highly processed and often low quality and unhealthy ‘food’ full of mysterious, and often artificial, ingredients.

Difficult-to-digest truths about commercial dog food

Commercial pet food has become popular over the last 50 years for a number of reasons. The first is convenience – we are often too busy to shop and cook for ourselves, let alone our dogs! Additionally, the commercial pet food companies spend a great deal of money marketing their products. In 1964, The Pet Food Institute (an American group of dog food industry lobbyists) launched a campaign to convince consumers that commercial pet food is the best option for dogs, specifically establishing dry kibble as the dog food of choice [1]. Further marketing strategies were then developed around niche products based on prescription diets and varying activity & life stages for dogs that helped brands to differentiate their products even further.

What many customers were, and unfortunately still are, blissfully unaware of is exactly what goes into commercial dog food and how it is made. A number of supermarket pet food brands contain a large amount of waste products leftover from manufacturing human food – including product deemed not suitable for human consumption. This could include expired meats from grocery stores, slaughterhouse wastes and livestock that is no longer fit for human use. Additionally, commercial pet food often contains cheap, bulk grain as fillers (corn, soy and beet pulp) that offer little nutritional value for your dog.

And, as if using low quality cheap ingredients wasn’t bad enough, most commercial pet foods (yes, even some that are labelled ‘natural’, ‘organic’ or even ‘fresh’) are highly processed and undergo a process called extrusion to make the product shelf stable. As part of the extrusion process, wet and dry ingredients (including many of the low-quality ingredients we mentioned earlier!) are cooked and combined in a liquid form and then pushed through an extruder, a machine that expands the food. The food is then cooked under extremely high temperatures before being cut up into small pieces that we recognise as kibble. While this processing method is required in order to kill bacteria, it also means that the food loses most of its natural nutritional value which is then added back in to the food through the use of artificial ingredients and preservatives.

So how is it that your dog can eat this food and still appear healthy you may ask? Well as we know, nutrition is not an overnight thing – just like with humans, the benefits of good nutrition and issues from poor nutrition accumulate and build over a lifetime for your dog as well.  While a dog can  live off eating commercial pet food in the same way, we humans could live off eating a diet of junk food), they are by no means living their longest, healthiest, or best lives.

The times – they are a changin’ for our pups

Dog owners around the world are waking up to the truth about commercial pet foods and discovering the enormous benefits of feeding their pups fresh dog food.  Despite what you may see marketed by dog food manufacturers, feeding the right real human foods is great for dogs and most vets would agree that fresh, real, nutritionally balanced food is the best possible thing you can feed...however before you start preparing another serve at dinner time we need  to understand that any diet must be nutritionally balanced with the right amounts of the right food. While dogs will benefit greatly from eating most fresh meat and vegetables, there are some foods they can’t eat (for example grapes, onions, garlic or rich spices, to name a few) and they also require a different ratio of macro nutrients and balance of vitamins and minerals than humans in order to have a nutritionally complete diet.

If you’re thinking about incorporating a little fresh food into your pup’s diet, we recommend substituting up to 10% of their daily caloric intake with dog-friendly food or snacks (some good options include fresh lightly cooked meat, eggs, raw or cooked carrots, sweet potato or blueberries) to ensure you don’t unbalance their diet from a nutrition perspective. If you’d like to incorporate more than 10%, look into our nutritionally balanced fresh dog food that can be delivered right to your door. No matter which way you start on the journey of feeding fresh, we guarantee that the benefits will be priceless for you and your dog!

The power of real, fresh food

Increased longevity and fewer trips to the vet

Similar to humans, a fresh diet that is rich in nutrients and antioxidants can help prevent and treat a number of serious ailments and illnesses, lead to a stronger immune system and a healthier heart. A nutritionally balanced, fresh food diet will also result in better weight management, a healthier coat and fewer tummy issues – all of which mean fewer trips to the vet over the course of your dog’s life.

As could be expected given the above benefits, one of the most compelling benefits to switch your pup to a real, fresh diet is the impact it has on a dog’s lifespan. A 5-year benchmark study conducted by Dr Gérard Lippert and Bruno Sapy found that dogs fed industrial food lived for an average of 10.4 years compared to dogs fed a homemade diet(based on food similar to what their human families were eating) lived for an average of 13.1 years [2]. That’s a difference of almost 3 years (or 21 dog years!) and in our view, makes switching to fresh real food a no-brainer!

Better digestion and smaller stools

As the saying goes – garbage in, garbage out. Commercial dog food is often made up of bulking agents, artificial ingredients, preservatives and a large amount of artificial fiber. Your dog’s digestive system isn’t designed to process a lot of these ingredients so you often end up with larger, smellier poops! A fresh diet that is free of preservatives, wheat, gluten and corn-based fillers will be more easily digestible and lead to less waste meaning fewer and smaller stools.

Shiny skin and healthy coat

Dogs can often suffer from skin allergies, dry fur or itchy skin – these symptoms are often a result of the fillers used in processed dog food. The natural omega 3 and 6 oils and fatty acids found real food help reduce irritation and keep your dog’s skin healthy and coat shiny.

A smarter, brighter pup

A fresh food diet has been shown to result in greater alertness and improved temperament in dogs. High quality human grade proteins that are filled with the essential amino acids, B vitamins and minerals will boost alertness and mental development while slow burning carbohydrates mean less energy spikes and overall improved temperament. After switching to a human grade diet, even older dogs have showed an improvement in playfulness and activity.

Peace of mind

With real, fresh food you’ll always know exactly what goes into your dog’s bowl. Fresh meat and vegetables sourced from trusted, local human-food suppliers and knowing that no artificial ingredients, preservatives, chemicals or fillers are in your dog’s food will give you the ultimate peace of mind about your dog’s health and wellbeing. 

As we start to wise up about canine nutrition and seek the best lives for our dogs, more and more humans are switching their dogs to a balanced, fresh food diet. If you’re now convinced that you also need to make the switch, you can order balanced home cooked dog food online that can be delivered to your door or you can cook for your dog at home – just make sure to do your homework to ensure your doggy’s meals are nutritionally balanced. There are so many benefits of feeding your dog fresh, real food – we guarantee that it will result in peace of mind for you and love at first bite for them!

Image: @thewholesomedog


[1] Patrick JS (2006), Deconstructing the Regulatory Façade: Why Confused Consumers Feed their Pets Ring Dings and Krispy Kremes, Harvard Law School.

[2] Lippert G and Sapy B (2003), Relation between the domestic dogs’ well-being and life expectancy, Statistical essay for the Prince Laurent Foundation Price.

About the author

Andrew is a certified canine nutritionist with a passion for helping all dogs live longer, healthier and happier lives through proper nutrition, care and owner education. Currently a doting Dad to Daisy, a loveable Golden Retriever. Over the years he has loved and cared for Australian Terriers, Border Collies and a particularly sweet Maltese Shih-Tzu.