An Introduction to a Dog's Diet

14 CommentsWednesday, 14 January 2015  |  Kate

An Introduction To Diet

Don’t underestimate just how crucial a healthy diet will be to your dog and to you. What you feed her will help determine how long she lives, the state of her health while she’s alive and how long she will stay well. Remember, this crazy dog child of yours won’t ever grow up and leave home, and there is no NHS for our pets. So feed them well, keep their immune system strong and enjoy your bouncy, healthy dog for much longer. You’ll save money on vet’s bills into the bargain. I guarantee it.

Somewhere along the line, it has become acceptable to feed our dogs the same food, over and over again, day in day out for years. But why? Think about it, your dog lives, on average, to be 12 years old. You feed her twice a day. That’s 8760 meals she’s going to eat during his lifetime. Not including treats. 

That’s a lot of kibble. Let’s take the average dog (I realise there is no such thing but work with me here) I’m going to get myself an average dog, I think I’ll name him Charlie after my Auntie Lyn’s Yorkshire Terrier, lovely boy. Charlie weighs 25kg and, let’s say I feed him dry food, needs roughly 375 grams a day. If he lives until he’s 12, which he will because he’s, y’know, “average”, that will be nearly 274 sacks of 12kg dog food. That’s either a lot of good or a lot of bad food your dog will eat.

What if you were that dog? Try and envisage your own personal Groundhog Day. Imagine that you mosey on down to the kitchen everyday from the comfort of your snuggly dog bed to dine out on... garbage. You love garbage, it’s full of sugars, possibly added colours (which you can’t see well because you’re a dog, so don’t see colours as vividly as a human), it’s crunchy though and you like crunchy. Next you move onto the wet stuff. It’s got some nice tasting gravy going on there, but the ‘chunks’ of meat don’t pose much of a challenge so it’s soon dispatched and the bowl is licked clean. Yummers! Now, where’s my bed?

That’s all well and good when you’re young, you can eat what you like and still party like it’s 1999, stay out all night (if only you weren’t locked in the kitchen) and get busy giving the other dogs the run around in the park. No one catches the puppy! Having said that, your energy is a bit up and down, your skin itches and your ears are a bit gunky but you can live with it.

Give it a few years of eating the same cheap (or even very expensive) dog food with the low quality ingredients and you start to feel tired more easily. Your waistline has expanded. You don’t smell fabulous either, could be your gut, could be your plaquey old teeth, no one’s too sure. Your skin’s itching so you constantly chew your paws, frustrating your human no end and you could do without your anal glands being blocked up then manually squeezed empty by the vet. Oh, the humiliation! And because you’re middle-aged and rotund your joints have started growling, now you’re not the fastest dog in the park any longer, but that’s ok because you’re about as energetic as well, an overweight middle-aged dog fed a poor diet all it’s life.

Now don’t take this personally. This is just an example of what Charlie could end up like given the food he’s fed. I gave my two cats really bad food until I read the back of the packet one day and threw the whole lot in the bin. I know better. Now.

Dogs get what they’re given. But just like us, because we can eat whatever we like, which let’s face it is too much starchy, fatty, sugary and salty food, they are going on to develop diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, skin rashes, tooth loss, poor mobility, tooth decay, behavioural and allergy problems. And just like us, it’s astonishingly easy to reduce the risk of all these diseases. By eating properly and getting enough exercise. Yawn, I’ve heard it all before too, but this really is the nub of it. You are what you eat. Our beloved dogs are no different.

If you already have a dog you will know that, when it comes to feeding your charges, everyone’s an expert! In the blue corner we’ve got the supermarkets and large pet chains, backed up by multinationals, shouting loud and clear that their ready-made kibble is the best, that no one makes wet dog food like them, and the ingredients are second to none. 

In the red corner we’ve got devotees of raw, gushing about the benefits of feeding untouched chicken wings
and the size of their dog’s stools (teeny tiny) as a result of the dog’s ability to ‘utilise’ every scrap of said wing. 

Like having a child, having a dog is a very emotional thing and we take other people’s opinions to heart. We want to make sure we’re doing right by our four legged friends, opening ourselves up to a lifetime of guilt and easy commercial persuasion.

I watched a TV programme on life in a zoo recently. I’d never considered what all the different animals ate on a daily basis before or what a job that must be for whoever managed the zoo’s kitchen. Turns out the zoo has a full time nutritionist employed to look after the welfare of their furry, feathery, leathery charges and they must take everything about their lives into account before working out what to feed them. Species, activity levels, age, boredom etc are all considered before recipes, methods and timetables for feeding are made up for each animal. 

The nutritionist had a really interesting point that’s stuck with me. He said ‘these animals are in such good condition because of what we feed them. If we were in there and they were out here and could eat all they like we’d be the ones in amazing shape. They (pointing to a honed to perfection group of tigers) would be fat as all get out. Because they could eat what they want. They’re not programmed any differently to us.’

Wow. This could be the new craze – the ‘Zoo Diet’. Lock me up and hide the key for six months. Feed me what I need, only when I need it, and let me lounge about on a rock the rest of the day picking my feet, only moving occasionally to sidle up to a group of unsuspecting visitors and show them my backside, just like a Chimpanzee, ‘does my bum look big in this? Oh no, I forgot, I’ve lost two stone!’

It’s different for Charlie Average though. He will eat whatever I put in front of him. So I want to give him the best food I can afford to put in his dish. But how do I know what the best food is, I hear you ask.

Well, read on and I’ll tell you. Basically, when it comes to feeding your dog there are three main schools of thought: commercial dog food; home-cooked dog food and raw dog food. Which one you choose will depend on your particular circumstances, preferences and those of your dog. But by the time I’m done, I assure you, you’ll be able to sniff out great dog food at a hundred yards. You will know the difference between a carrot and derivatives of vegetable origin and you’ll regard most pet food marketing as laughable hype. The staff at PetsPetsPets will know not to try it on with you! Oh yes


Excerpt from the book Top Dog by Kate Bendix published on November 6th 2014. Available to pre order now from Amazon.




Sarah Hendy
Monday, 1 September 2014  |  16:15

Arrrrrggghhh! I've just stumbled into a (not completely unexpected) dietary obstacle and could do with reading the rest of this RIGHT NOW, you big tease!!

Monday, 1 September 2014  |  16:18

Ha! What's up Sarah. Email me and I'll do my best.

Sarah Hendy
Saturday, 6 September 2014  |  21:03

Thank you so much for your help, Kate xxx

Fiona Whitehead
Tuesday, 7 October 2014  |  7:42

I've just found your site - I have an itchy dog surprise! she suffers from mites at this time of year and is allergic to them. She has had the Advocate, no change. She is also on a raw diet - eek I thought it was good for her but have just read your extract! I also feed her trout and rice and veg, my husband is a fisherman i get sick of trout! and vary her diet, never kibble. Think I need to give your shampoos a try for the mites before I change her food.

Saturday, 15 November 2014  |  11:32

Hi, I'm a raw feeder. Stop giving rice. They don't need it and it does them no good. Feed offal, once a week. Give half a clove of garlic a day. Clean the ears with half water/half WHITE vinegar. Are you positive it's mites and not a yeast issue?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014  |  10:23

Hi Fiona

Raw is not necessarily bad, neither is prepared or cooked. If it's mites I'd got onto Billy No Mates in the long term and treat with Skinny Dip shampoo and Skinny Spray in the meantime to get rid of them.

You can also wash bedding and spray it onto clean bedding.

Saturday, 15 November 2014  |  21:53

hi there, I hope you can help with a problem my 9.5 year old whippet has. she has a sore on her ear, it just appeared one day half way down the ear flap, scabbed over, scab fell off, rescabbed, etc. Each time it seemed to move nearer the edge of ear and has now reached the tip and is splitting the ear flap. There are also smaller scaly lumps on the flap and along the edge of the ear. The skin is dry and scaly. The flap is also red and hot. The vet, (after 3 visits) and steroid cream, no good, admits she doesn't know what it is. Have bathed it in saline, dilute t tree oil, savlon, liverine unction, dermavet, running out of options. She doesn't scratch, has no fleas or ticks, eats Burgess hypoalergenic kibbles, no wheat, same as she has always had. She's a velcro dog so if she had been bitten I would have known. She has had this for about 5 months now. Any advice, before I buy any more mistakes would be very welcome.
Many thanks

Friday, 4 December 2015  |  10:19

Hi Lucy

Just had a shower of lost blog comments drop into my inbox. So sorry this is a year late!

I hope you're sorted by now but if not then Ekoneem will sort it out. It's sorts most things out.


Joanne Lister
Saturday, 28 February 2015  |  16:19

Advice please1
I have been buying your products for Pilot our Gordon Setter and was very pleased with them Sadly we lost Pilot to illness on Feb 11th. We used to feed him on Burns Sensitive with a supplement of fresh cooked meat or fish and your Yumega fish oils. I must say when Pilot died his coat was in the best condition it had ever been in. Anyway, we have decided to get another Gordon Setter asPilot has left such a huge hole in our lives, To that end we are collecting Keeper on April 9th, he was born the day after Pilot died. Now, Keeper is from a Mother who is fed a raw diet and when we pick him up he will have been weened onto raw food. Now heres the conundrum, Im not sure if "raw" will fit in with our lifestyle, Im not sure about the "balance" you need to achieve between bones, meat and green stuff and I'm no longer sure that Burns is the premium food I once thought it was. How do I change from a raw to Burns if thats what I decided. Help, I seem to be going round in circles.

Monday, 2 March 2015  |  14:19

Hi Joanne

If you would like to move over to raw feeding a good way to start is by trying commercial, prepared raw food. Try Natural Instinct or Nutriment. Also, Natures Menu do good raw too.

I like the Facebook page A Raw Start Explained A.R.S.E (sorry) as I've found them very helpful.

Good luck!

Margaret White
Sunday, 8 March 2015  |  10:56

Have just found your website very interesting. I have an 18month old Golden Retriever Maclary in the first few months he had a bad stomach he went from one bacteria to another at the vets suggestion I put him on Millie's Wolfheart and have not looked back since his coat is great no doggy smells no wind and is slim he weighs 26 kilo and I feed him 310 grams a day. Hope you find this interesting.

Monday, 9 March 2015  |  11:15

Hi Margaret

Hooray for forward thinking vets! Good to hear you now have a very healthy dog. And that you have worked out the best way to feed her.

Saturday, 14 March 2015  |  15:19

Our 7yr old German shepherd has been on low dose steroids for about 5yrs. Skin, biting hair loss getting worse. On ABX approx every 6mths. Vet advises blood test for allergies-over 500. Have tried raw diet, yumega oil, various shampoos, all no difference. Sick of seeing my beloved dog chewing himself!!

Friday, 4 December 2015  |  12:45

Hi Annie

Sorry for the reply months later. We had a deluge of blog comments that were stuck in the ether somewhere.

How is this now? If it's still happening email me or call 01903 256373.