With the scare of 2007 and 2012’s massive pet food recalls and movies like Supersize Me and Food Inc., it seems as though America is starting to wake up to the importance of food; where it comes from as well as how it is prepared. More and more people are starting gardens, cooking at home, going to farmers markets and reading labels at the grocery store. Many are now even starting to realize that, despite what pet food companies and the mainstream media might say,  they can and should prepare fresh food for their pets as well.

“Well right on brothers and sisters!”  That’s what I say. If you are considering the idea of fresh food for your dog then congratulations! It takes a lot of courage to go against the current of the mainstream as well as time and effort; not to mention the energy to investigate. There are plenty of books, articles, websites, etc. out there for you. You’ll find recipes and tons of information about nutrition, the pros and cons of home cooked vs. raw diets and on and on and on. While it’s great to have all this information, it can also send the average consumer into a head spin. Judging by all the endless and conflicting “information” flying around, feeding a dog would appear to be some daunting task that only a scientist with multiple acronyms after their title could pull off.

Have no fear folks, it’s not that complicated! If you can feed yourself and your family you can certainly feed your dog.

After all, commercial dog food has only been around for about 100 years and in many parts of the world they don’t have access to it. Yet dogs have not only survived but thrived alongside humans for thousands of years. Part of the reason for this is because they can pretty much eat the same stuff that we eat like meat, bones, fruits and veggies….you know….food. We have been so cleverly marketed to the idea that “people food” and “dog food” are different. What if we were to break the spell and take a different view? If we are going to have two categories of food why not break it down into “food” and “non-food?” Think about that the next time you read a label and don’t even know how to pronounce half the words. We could go another step and make it even easier. Real “food” doesn’t even have a label!  These are the things you will find at the butcher or in the produce isle. You know, chicken, beef, bananas, carrots, spinach, etc.

This is not going to be an article about the details on how and what to feed your dog. This is just a glimpse into the idea of preparing fresh dog food. We will take a brief look at sanitation concerns and peak into the truth about commercial pet foods.

What about sanitation issues?

Home prepared dog food needs to be prepared with the same respect for sanitation as we would use for preparing human foods. After all, you will most likely be using the same kitchen, utensils, etc. that you use for yourself and your family. Here are some basic sanitation rules of thumb.

  • All surfaces and utensils should be cleaned before and after use.
  • Hands should be washed with soap and water before and after handling raw meat.
  • Raw meat should not touch any other foods that are not going to be cooked. (Unless feeding raw).
  • Fruits and veggies, even organic, should be washed with veggie soap and water or citric juice.
  • Meat should be handled with separate utensils then produce (or washed in between when sharing).

Wow! I don’t even do all that stuff for my family. Do I really need to go through all that for my dog?!!!

I am not suggesting that dogs need more sanitation considerations than people. On the contrary, dogs are much more resilient to bacteria than we are. These are simply textbook sanitation rules of thumb and honestly my concern would be more about the safety of the humans that may be using the same counters, utensils, etc. These rules become especially important when it comes to people and dogs that may have a compromised immune system. A healthy dog can eat some pretty rancid stuff and go unscathed, as can some people. My dad was notorious for eating things that had been in the fridge way too long! I personally am not germ phobic by any stretch of the imagination but even I have my limits. For instance: I don’t mind being licked on the mouth by a dog. I don’t have a problem with the 5 second rule when food falls on the ground. I don’t mind eating from the pretzel bowl at a dive bar. I do, however, have a problem when I see the chef come out of the toilet and go back to the kitchen without washing his hands. That’s just nasty and wrong!

Clean hands are very important, even when handling food that has already been cooked. Backpackers know this as do professional chefs. The number one problem out in the back country is digestive issues caused by a lack of proper facilities and people preparing food for one another….GROSS! I assisted in a professional high-class kitchen once and let me tell you, I have never washed my hands so much in my life. You are not even allowed to touch your face or you have to go wash your hands!  That may be a little over board for preparing dog food but still, it gives us an idea of how easily bacteria can be spread. But hey, don’t knock yourself out. Whatever you do for yourself and your kids will be more than enough for Rover. Just try to keep these things in mind when you cook for company, huh?


What’s really in that bag of dog food?

Unfortunately the real answer to that question is “who knows?”  There could be just about anything in there. Melamine (an industrial chemical, binding agent, flame retardant, fertilizer, etc.) can be misread as levels of “crude protein” and is what was killing dogs in the 2007 recall of over 100 brands.

The following statement was lifted off the FDA website:

“Based on the information the FDA has, it appears that melamine was added to the products handled by the two overseas suppliers to increase the apparent protein content in those products.”

Evidence of euthanized dogs and cats has even turned up in some studies. Seriously! This is not a drill people, this is reality. Never mind the fact that the list of ingredients is usually pretty weak. Who’s to say that what’s on the label is actually in the bag? The fact of the matter is that there is nowhere near enough oversight into the commercial pet foods that are allowed to be sold to the public in this country. Here’s a statement from the Global College of Natural Medicine literature that should be enough to scare any would-be commercial pet food buyer, and I quote,

“Unlike foods consumed by humans, the USDA does not inspect any of the ingredients in pet food unless it will be exported out of the country”.

Yes, you read that right! I don’t know about you, but I would feel better if the dog food being supplied to our dogs here in the States got as much care as the dog food being exported. It then goes on to say:

There is no federal government agency that monitors or inspects the pet food. Most of the routine regulation is done by the States. Some states are very involved in the pet food manufactured within their jurisdiction, while others are not”.

You can see how it starts to get far from warm and fuzzy as far as dog food safety is concerned. It is a fact that Menu Foods, the huge supplier of dog killing, melamine tainted ingredients had never been inspected by the FDA before the big recall. Again, quoting from the FDA’s website:

“There is no requirement that pet food products be approved by FDA before they are marketed.”

Ok, I better stop before I start a riot. Colorful narrations aside, I think there are enough facts in this article to make anyone question commercial foods and perhaps at least consider supplementing some fresh food into their dog’s diet.

So what’s so great about fresh food?

Fresh, whole foods are important for a dog’s well being just as they are for a human’s. Even the best processed food with all the best supplements will never have all the vital enzymes and co-factors that fresh food has. There are simply too many mysteries which Mother Nature has taken care of that get lost in the mix. You cannot cook the life-force out of the food and then try to add it back in with synthetic vitamins and minerals. It just doesn’t work. You can’t fake real food, at least not yet, so why not give fresh food a try. Changing over or even just adding some fresh food to your dog’s diet can bring about immediate and noticeable changes to your dog’s health, appearance and behavior. I speak from experience. Some changes I have seen with my own dogs as well as the dogs of clients I have converted are:


    • softer, brighter coat
    • better energy
    • less hyper-activity
    • alleviations of itchy skin
    • disappearance of chronic digestive problems
    • healthier joints, teeth and gums
    • elimination of fleas (able to discontinue flea medications)
    • arthritis relief 
    • avoidance of knee surgery

These are just the things that are outwardly and rapidly noticeable. There is also a host of benefits that live behind the scenes. How about overall lack of illness for a benefit? I see a lot of dogs and so many of them, even puppies and young dogs, seem to be having one health problem after another. Naturally fed dogs just don’t seem to have so many health issues. Once you change, chances are you will never go back. It’s like being born again! You will want to tell everyone about it. Some will get sick of hearing you preach about it but you won’t care because others will be saved. Go forth young Jedi and experience it for yourself.

If you do choose to continue with commercial food hopefully this information will inspire you to research the different brands more thoroughly and find the ones that you trust and seem to have the most integrity.

The message here is to realize the benefits of a fresh diet for our dogs as well as the questionability of the production and labeling of some commercial dog foods because as we have learned:

It is a matter of faith, not fact, as to what’s really in the bag.

Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware

Chad Culp–Certified Dog Trainer, Behavior Consultant, Certified Holistic Chef for Animals

Copyright 2005-2013 Chad Culp, Thriving Canine. All rights reserved. Chad@ThrivingCanine.com