Designer Diets Whats in My Dogs Food | VCA Animal Hospital (2023)

Dogs, unlike cats, aren’t usually finicky eaters. Dry food? Sure! Canned food? Yummy! People food? Wow! Despite their reputation for being easily pleased, not all dogs eat just any old thing. Nor should they! Most are happy with 'ordinary' dog food, but others require 'designer' diets.Designer Diets Whats in My Dogs Food | VCA Animal Hospital (1)

What are ordinary diets?

Ordinary diets usually contain a protein source (often chicken, beef, pork, or fish), a starch (often grains) and, perhaps a vegetable. Most traditional commercial pet foods are made from byproducts of human food production. That means your dog may have chicken in his food, but it’s probably not an entire chicken breast like the one on your dinner plate. Premium dog food brands usually cost more, but may contain higher quality, more digestible ingredients than lower cost foods.

Premium or not, all commercial pet foods should meet the requirements set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to be certified as 'complete and balanced'. AAFCO approved pet foods include all the ingredients necessary to provide adequate nutrition for the specified pet.

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What are designer diets?

Designer diets are ‘designed’ with a specific goal in mind. These diets target dogs or owners who need or prefer certain qualities in dog food. Designer diets may be grain free or gluten free to prevent complications in dogs with rare sensitivities. They may be totally organic to avoid contamination by pesticides. They may include a novel protein source such as venison, tuna, turkey, duck, rabbit, bison, or even kangaroo to reduce the effects of food allergies. Like ordinary diets, designer diets should be AAFCO certified.

What’s up with grain free diets?

Dogs are historically omnivores, meaning that they eat meat and plants, including grains; nevertheless, grain-free diets are popular among dog owners. Some people reach for grain free food in a misguided effort to reduce food allergies such as gastrointestinal (GI) upsets and itchy skin issues. While a small percentage of dogs may have sensitivities to grains, the vast majority of food allergies are linked to common proteins like beef and poultry, not carbohydrates like grains.

"While a small percentage of dogs may have sensitivities to grains, the vast majority of food allergies are linked to common proteins like beef and poultry, not carbohydrates like grains."

Pet owners may also mistakenly think that grain free diets control weight. As with high protein/low carb human diets, grain-free pet food can be lower in carbohydrates, but higher in fat and calories. That’s why grain free diets don’t guarantee weight-control or weight-loss. Also, manufacturers may substitute grains like wheat, oats, or rice with non-grain carbohydrates like potatoes, carrots, cranberries, sweet potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, beans, or peas. Regardless of the source, carbs are carbs and calories are calories.

Unfortunately, these alternative carbohydrates provide less fiber than grains and may precipitate GI issues. The fiber in grains aids in elimination and also contributes important nutrients to the diet. Iron, thiamine, calcium, riboflavin, folate, and niacin are all in grain. Grain free diets may result in a deficiency of these essential nutrients. And alternate carbohydrate sources cost more.

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Here’s yet another good reason to think twice about feeding your dog grain free food. Ongoing research is focused on the potential link between canine heart disease, especially dilated cardiomyopathy, and grain free diets. Dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) have enlarged hearts that do not pump blood properly. DCM usually affects certain breeds including Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, Wolfhounds, and Boxer Dogs. When cases of DCM were reported in dogs of non-predisposed breeds, a common factor was noticed…many ate grain-free diets.

Veterinary cardiologists, nutritionists, and the FDA are investigating how diet impacts cardiac disease. Some of the implicated diets containing grain substitutes such as legumes (chickpeas, peas, lentils) as primary ingredients may be a factor. Research is also looking into the rare relationship between taurine deficiency in dog food and heart disease. And, there is additional evidence that there may be food ingredients (exotic meats, fruits, vegetables) that are toxic to the heart.

Here’s the bottom line: research into grain-free diets and heart disease is in the early stages. The FDA wants dog owners to be aware of the potential link. On the other hand, there is no conclusive evidence that whole grains are harmful to the general dog population, so it may be prudent to feed your dog a reputable commercial diet that includes grains unless there is a medical reason to avoid them. As the investigation proceeds, updated information will be provided. Speak to your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the diet you’re feeding to your dog.

What’s up with gluten free diets?

Gluten free diets may be the current nutritional craze, but pet owners should be aware of a few facts. Gluten is a protein that is found in certain grains including barley, wheat, and rye, but there are grains that do not contain gluten. Gluten free does not mean grain free. All grain free dog foods are gluten free, but not all gluten free dog foods are grain free.

"All grain free dog foods are gluten free, but not all gluten free dog foods are grain free."

Some gluten may actually be beneficial. Gluten is sticky and helps bind food together into kibble pieces. Gluten sensitivity is rare in dogs, so gluten may be a safe, useful part of a diet that includes grain.

What about DIY designer pet food?

If you choose to prepare your dog’s specialty food, make sure the recipe meets your pet’s nutritional needs. Follow the directions carefully for preparation and storage. Home-made dog food doesn’t contain preservatives and needs to be stored safely.

There are nutritional resources with sophisticated computer programs to help calculate the amounts of protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins in a recipe. Some programs take into account a dog’s age, health status, and activity level in formulating an appropriate diet. But it can still be tricky verifying that your DIY pet food is nutritionally balanced, i.e., the bioavailability and metabolism of taurine is different in a lamb-based diet compared to a chicken-based diet. Also, the absorption of nutrients may vary with the amount and type of fiber in the diet. To be safe, you may choose to stick with a commercial AAFCO approved pet food.

What about commercially prepared designer diets?

Designer diets can also be purchased. Many pet food manufacturers offer a range of diets for dogs with specific needs. So if you don’t want to cook, you can still feed your pup designer food….even if you aren’t the designer.

As an added plus, when you feed your dog a commercial food, you are actually being ecologically responsible. Some pet foods are made with by-products of human food that would otherwise be discarded.

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What dogs need designer diets?

Whether home-cooked or store-bought, all dogs need food that contains proper amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients. But the proper amounts vary with age. For example, young growing puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs.

Medical status also impacts diet. Dogs with urinary problems eat different formulations than dogs with heart conditions. Dogs with sensitive skin have a different menu than dogs with sensitive stomachs. So, some dogs do need designer diets.

What about the average healthy adult dog? Does he or she need a designer diet? Do dogs on high end pet foods live longer? Are they healthier? Are they happier? For now, there is no documented research that definitively proves that designer diets have any health benefits over more traditional, commercially prepared diets. But keep watching, research is ongoing!

The bottom line is that dogs are usually easy to please when it comes to their dining options, so their food doesn’t always need to be ‘special’. But designer diets are beneficial for dogs with certain nutritional needs or medical problems. Determining which diet is best for your dog should include a discussion with your veterinarian.

Contributors: Lynn Buzhardt, DVM

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What is the healthiest food to feed your dog? ›

10 Superfoods for Dogs
  • Kale. This supercharged leafy green contains loads of vitamins, including A, E, and C. ...
  • Carrots. Crunchy and naturally sweet, carrots are loved by most dogs. ...
  • Pumpkin. ...
  • Sweet Potatoes. ...
  • Fish. ...
  • Nori (dried seaweed) ...
  • Chia seeds. ...
  • Quinoa.
31 Oct 2021

What should a dogs diet consist of? ›

While meat makes up the majority of their diet, domestic dogs can also derive nutrients from grains, fruits, and vegetables. These non-meat foods are not simply fillers, but can be a valuable source of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A good dog food will contain meat, vegetables, grains, and fruits.

Which dog food has the highest meat content? ›

PRIMAL dry dog food replicates the ancestral diet of dogs, providing the highest nutritional value from natural ingredients hunted or foraged in the wild. 80% meat from lamb, ostrich, chicken and salmon, PRIMAL is high in animal protein, providing energy and amino acids for muscle maintenance.

What does a balanced diet look like for a dog? ›

Vitamins dogs require include A (carrots, pumpkin), B vitamins (liver, green vegetables, whole grains), C (fruits and vegetables, organ meat), D (liver, fish, beef), E (leafy green vegetables, liver, bran, plant oils), K (fish, leafy green vegetables, fish), and choline (liver, fish, meats, egg yolks).

What is good for dogs to eat everyday? ›

What human foods can dogs eat for a healthy diet?
  • Chicken.
  • Turkey.
  • Pork.
  • Lean beef.
  • Fish—salmon and sardines are especially good for dogs.
  • Eggs—as long as they are cooked.
  • Cheeses—cottage cheese and hard cheeses in moderation are safe.
  • Yogurt—an acceptable snack in moderation.
22 Sept 2020

What dog foods do vets recommend? ›

The Top 4 Brands Of Dog Food Recommended By Veterinarians
  • Royal Canin.
  • Hills Science Diet.
  • Purina ProPlan.
  • Eukanuba.
12 Jul 2022

What protein is easiest to digest for dogs? ›

Some proteins are easier than others for dogs to digest. The sources with the highest digestibility are eggs (100%) and chicken, beef and lamb (92%), which are all meats taken from muscle. Proteins derived from organs, such as kidney, heart, and liver, are next with a digestibility of 90%.

What are the best vegetables to give dogs? ›

Dog-Friendly Vegetables
  • Kale. Benefits: Kale's key vitamins like K, A and Iron provide bone health, proper vision and immune function, fetal development and energy metabolism. ...
  • Spinach. ...
  • Carrots. ...
  • Green Beans. ...
  • Broccoli. ...
  • Beets. ...
  • Celery. ...
  • Cucumber.

What is the one meat that dogs should avoid? ›

Common meats to avoid are any processed meats like sausage, bologna, hot dogs etc. Also avoid giving your dog any rib bones as they are extremely brittle and can damage your dog's stomach and throat.

Can dogs survive on an all meat diet? ›

“Dogs require certain essential amino acids in their diets, and some proteins provide more value than others,” adds Dr. Klein. “Meat does provide all of those amino acids, but many plant proteins do not. However, a diet consisting solely of meat products will not meet all of your dog's dietary requirements.”

What are the worse foods for dogs? ›

The 10 Worst Foods to Feed Your Pet
  • Chocolate. Chocolate contains caffeine and a chemical called theobromine—both of which are toxic to dogs and cats. ...
  • Grapes and Raisins. ...
  • Onions and Garlic. ...
  • Bacon, Ham and Fat Trimmings. ...
  • Salty Snacks. ...
  • Macadamia Nuts. ...
  • Anything with Xylitol. ...
  • Avocado.
25 May 2021

Is Sweet Potato good for dogs? ›

Why Sweet Potatoes Are Good for Dogs. Sweet potatoes provide an excellent source of dietary fiber, which helps the digestive system function more effectively. Eating fiber on a regular basis lowers the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancers.

What food Cannot be given to dogs? ›

10 Foods Your Dog Should Never Eat
  • Chocolate. Chocolate contains a very toxic substance called methylxanthines, which are stimulants that can stop a dog's metabolic process. ...
  • Avocados. ...
  • Onions and Garlic. ...
  • Grapes and Raisins. ...
  • Milk and other Dairy Products. ...
  • Macadamia Nuts. ...
  • Sugary foods and drinks. ...
  • Caffeine.

Are carrots good for dogs? ›

Yes, dogs can eat carrots. Carrots are an excellent low-calorie snack that is high in fiber and beta-carotene, which produces vitamin A. Plus, crunching on this orange veggie is great for your dog's teeth (and fun) and it is included in many dog foods.

What fruit is poisonous to dogs? ›

Steer clear of: Cherries are toxic to cats and dogs, and grapes and raisins can cause kidney damage. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and grapefruit as well as persimmons can cause an upset stomach.

Can dogs have cheese? ›

Yes, dogs can eat cheese. In fact, cheese is often a great training tool, especially for puppies. But should dogs eat cheese? While some dogs can eat cheese, and most dogs love it, many dogs can be intolerant of cheese.

Are apples good for dogs? ›

Are Apples Good for Dogs? Yes, apples are good for dogs. Apples are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and antioxidants. They're chock full of fiber, especially in the peels, which helps dogs maintain a healthy weight while assisting with their digestion.

Is canned tuna good for dogs? ›

Many dog foods contain fish because it is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. But can dogs eat tuna? The answer is no. You shouldn't feed your canine companion the saltwater fish because it could lead to a number of different health problems.

Can dogs eat scrambled eggs? ›

Eggs should be cooked before given to a dog. Cook or boil eggs plain without oil, butter, salt, seasoning, spices, or other additives. It doesn't matter how your dog likes their eggs — sunny side up, scrambled, or hard boiled — as long as they are cooked.

What is most dog's favorite food? ›

Here are a few ideas of foods that dogs like to eat:
  • Meat. Chicken, beef, turkey, venison – the list goes on. ...
  • Cheese. Dogs are known to enjoy the occasional slice of cheese. ...
  • Fruit. ...
  • Vegetables. ...
  • Peanut butter. ...
  • Eggs. ...
  • Specially-formulated dog food.

What's the healthiest protein for dogs? ›

Eggs have the highest biological value and are thus the benchmark for this measurement; they are given a value of 100 points. Fish meal comes next, with a value of around 92. Among the various meats, lamb and chicken provide the most digestible forms of protein for your dog, with beef coming in after that.

What meat is best for dogs with sensitive stomachs? ›

Boiled Lean Breast of Chicken or Turkey

This is one of the best foods you can offer your dog if he has a sensitive tummy. Not only is the fresh meat very palatable, but also full of protein without too much fiber, fat, or seasoning that can be a cause of stomach sensitivity.

What meat is best for dog digestion? ›

Turkey. High protein, low fat, and low calories make turkey stand out for less active or overweight dogs. Turkey is rich in nutrients, helps build muscle mass, and can be good alternative for dogs with chicken or other protein allergies. Just like chicken and duck, turkey is a highly digestible meat.

What vegetable is not good for dogs? ›

12 fruits and vegetables that are toxic to dogs
  • Grapes and raisins. The first on our list has to be grapes and raisins. ...
  • Avocados. ...
  • Pips, seeds and stones. ...
  • Mushrooms. ...
  • Nuts. ...
  • Unripe tomatoes. ...
  • Onions and garlic. ...
  • Nutmeg.

Is yogurt good for dogs? ›

Can most dogs eat yogurt? Yes, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they should. While yogurt is not toxic to dogs, many canines might have trouble digesting it because it contains lactose. And plenty of pups have trouble with foods that contain lactose, such as milk.

What vegetables should I avoid giving my dog? ›

Onions, Garlic, Chives

These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage and anemia. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed.

Can dogs eat ice cream? ›

Dogs Don't Digest Milk Well

Ice cream can cause your dog gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or vomiting. Remember, your dog can't voice their concerns to you, so while they might look OK on the outside, they could be experiencing some major digestive issues on the inside.

Can dogs eat spaghetti? ›

Can dogs eat spaghetti? The good news is that dogs can have spaghetti too, but only the plain kind. Although the sauces we use are the best part about this dish, the ingredients in them can bring about a world of problems for your dog. It's not just because of ingredients such as garlic which is toxic for them.

Can dogs eat cucumbers? ›

Cucumbers are perfectly safe for dogs to eat, and offer a low-calorie, crunchy snack that many dogs love. Cucumbers only contain about 8 calories per one-half cup of slices, compared to the 40 calories in a single medium biscuit, and are very low in sodium and fat.

Can dogs live on chicken and rice? ›

Your vet will never suggest that you put your dog on a long-term diet of chicken and rice, as it does not contain all of the nutrients dogs need to survive. So, while it can do them good for a few days, if they spend a few months on this diet they will become deficient in other areas.

Are blueberries good for dogs? ›

Yes, dogs can eat blueberries. Blueberries are a great source of , minerals, antioxidants, and more. This fruit is a healthy snack for both large and small dogs, and most pups love them.

Is peanut butter good for dogs? ›

Most peanut butter is safe for dogs to eat, and in moderation peanut butter can be an excellent source of protein and healthy fats, vitamins B and E, and niacin.

Are bananas good for dogs? ›

Yes, bananas are good for dogs in small quantities. Unlike other fruits, which may have toxic components, every part of a banana is safe for your dog to eat, for the most part.

Is pumpkin good for dogs? ›

Digestive Upsets

Pumpkin is a natural source of fibre. Cooked and mashed pumpkin with no added salt can help settle down an upset stomach , improve digestion, reduce anal gland problems, prevent hairball build up and help dogs and cats with both constipation and diarrhoea.

Is broccoli good for dogs? ›

Yes, dogs can eat broccoli. Dogs can eat the vegetable both cooked and raw, as long as there are no seasonings or oils added. However, this vegetable should always be given in very small quantities, especially because the florets contain isothiocyanates, which can cause gastric irritation in dogs.

Can dogs eat oatmeal? ›

It is a great alternative carbohydrate for dogs that may be sensitive to wheat or grains.” Oatmeal contains vitamin B, which helps maintain a healthy coat, and linoleic acid, which is a type of omega-6 fatty acid that helps to maintain the strength of dogs' skin.

Which is better for dogs sweet potato or pumpkin? ›

Pumpkin: Pumpkin has much of the same nutrients as sweet potatoes do, and has the added bonus of often regulating a dog's digestive system.

Will one grape hurt my dog? ›

Can a Single Grape Kill a Dog? Unfortunately, even consuming one grape or raisin can be fatal. Ingesting the fruit could potentially lead to acute (sudden) kidney failure in dogs.

Is rice good for dogs? ›

Yes, dogs can eat rice. In fact, you may have noticed rice featured as an ingredient in commercial dog foods. However, a rice meal on its own should not be a daily affair – rice should only be part of a varied diet that offers all the nutrients your dog needs.

What are 5 foods that can not feed to dogs? ›

It's important to know what foods are toxic to dogs and avoid them.
  • Chocolate and Caffeine. It's a pretty well-known fact that chocolate is harmful to dogs. ...
  • Grapes and Raisins. ...
  • Alcohol and Raw Bread Dough. ...
  • Xylitol. ...
  • Onions and Garlic. ...
  • Other Foods Harmful to Dogs.
1 Sept 2022

Can dogs have popcorn? ›

Plain, air-popped popcorn is safe for dogs to eat in small quantities. Buttered popcorn or popcorn with other toppings is not safe for your dog on a regular basis, although eating a few dropped pieces here and there probably won't hurt them.

Is spinach good for dogs? ›

Yes, your dog can eat spinach. Because of its nutrient-dense properties, spinach can be a healthy addition to supplement your dog's diet.

Is celery good for dogs? ›

Celery is listed among the vegetables that are safe for dogs by multiple sources, including the veterinary website, and is often recommended as a weight-loss treat. Celery is very low in fat and cholesterol and is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, folate, potassium, and manganese.

What can I feed my dog instead of dog food? ›

Here are some things you can feed your pooch from your fridge or cupboard:
  • Bananas.
  • Blueberries.
  • Broccoli.
  • Carrots.
  • Cooked boneless lean meat (chicken, beef, or turkey)
  • Onion-free gravy for taste.
  • Plain boiled rice.
  • Plain, unprocessed oatmeal.

Can I feed my dog rice and chicken everyday? ›

Can Dogs Eat Chicken And Rice Every Day? It is not a good idea to keep your dog on a daily diet of chicken and rice for long. While this dish is extremely healthy for dogs, it does not contain all of the nutrients they need, which they get from other sources such as red meats and vegetables.

Are scrambled eggs good for dogs? ›

Eggs are perfectly safe for dogs, Eggs are a great source of nutrition for your canine companion. They are high in protein, fatty acids, vitamins, and fatty acids that help support your dog inside and out. Remember that eggs are only as good as the chicken they come from.

How many eggs should a dog eat? ›

Large dogs can safely consume up to one whole egg in a day while smaller dogs should be limited to one small egg per week, and no more than ¼ of an egg per day. Make sure to factor in the extra calories you're feeding—remember one egg is about 70 calories—and don't exceed your dog's daily caloric allowance.

Is pasta good for dogs? ›

Safe: Cooked White Rice and Pasta. Dogs can eat plain white rice or pasta after it's cooked. And, a serving of plain white rice with some boiled chicken can sometimes make your dog feel better when they are having stomach problems.

Can dogs eat cheese? ›

Yes, dogs can eat cheese. In fact, cheese is often a great training tool, especially for puppies. But should dogs eat cheese? While some dogs can eat cheese, and most dogs love it, many dogs can be intolerant of cheese.


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