Where to find better pet food is not simple, because there are so many different types and species (the list below shows toxic foods, or visit Can I Give My Dog?)This is not a vet site, so speak to your vet about choosing the best food for your pet. However, you have to be careful as many vet surgeries get commission for selling foods that other vets say are not containing very good ingredients. Be very careful when switching foods: gradually add new foods, mixing them in over a few weeks. Older pets may need a few months to transition, in which case it may be best to just keep them on the food they are on, if you think changing could upset their digestive system.
First of all, get this book to keep your dog safe, which includes first aid for choking and also gives details on how to choose good food and the best bowls. The official advice at present is not to choose raised bowls to prevent bloat (which was previously given as advice). Always let animals feed slowly, and give at least an hour (preferably two) before allowing dogs to run (or travel in the car) after food. Other risks are gulping lots of water quickly, nervous or excitable dogs and large-breed dogs with deep chests.
Many chew items are dangerous like some rawhide chews and pig’s ears (antlers often break teeth). One vet says ‘never give a dog a chew you would not want to be whacked on the knee with’. Socks are also choking hazards. Never leave dogs unsupervised with chews (or balls, choose ones the right size for their mouth).
Recommendations are not given here for pet foods, simply because each species and pet is so different. A gentle prescription food may not be the most natural, but it could be a better choice for a medical condition, over an organic food which may be too rich for a pet with a sensitive tummy. Some people prefer raw, others cooked and others homemade. Be careful of online ‘experts’ out to take money for complicated recipes and fact sheets. If in doubt, talk to your vet. If no joy, see if there are better vets.
It is true that many pet foods have awful ingredients in, but as said above, if you switch a dog used to ‘rubbish food’ right onto the best organic foods, you may run into problems, even if you try to do it gradually. It can sometimes take months for older/sensitive dogs to switch foods safely – each animal is different. But if you have a new pup, then look for better brands. Some vets say to avoid grain, others say that dogs have evolved enough for it not to be a problem. Although some dogs are okay on veggie diets, others are not (especially cats who are ‘obligate carnivores’). Be careful with veggie foods (some pets can become ill on them, even if they have the right supplements).
It’s up to you to do your research. It’s best usually not to get your advice from the company selling you the food. The future may well be ‘in-vitro meat’ which is real meat, without the abattoir. Caring for a pet can be super-scary at the best of times. And unfortunately, choosing good pet foods and treats can be a minefield. Rather than keep switching, do your research, talk to your vet.
Toxic Human Foods for Dogs
Most dogs quickly work out that a pair of doe-eyes can yield the odd treat. Foods tend to also be toxic to cats, but they are more fussy with less of a sweet tooth, but still take care. However, it’s not just chocolate that is toxic to dogs. Many other foods are too including:
- Chocolate (dark chocolate is worse, but all chocolate is toxic, and white chocolate is too fatty, even though it’s not really chocolate)
- Caffeine & alcohol (obviously)
- Garlic, onion, chives, scallions, leeks
- Grapes & raisins
- Nuts (esp. macadamia nuts)
- Fruit pits & seeds
- Salt (bags of crisps, cured meats)
- Sugar (& sweeteners, see below)
- Nutmeg & mace spices
- Bread dough (can expand in the stomach)
- Green tomatoes
- Green & Raw potatoes
- Seaweed (can expand in the stomach as it dries, dogs like the taste and to play with the fronds)
- Corn on the Cob (the cob leftover can cause choking)
- Too much dairy, fat and salt (such as leftover meats) can harm if too rich. Avoid cured meats and gravy (too salty – also contains onion) and never give cooked bones (choking hazard). Some dogs eat raw bones, others may not be safe, ask your vet).
- The sweetener Xylitol is lethal to dogs. It’s popular in in foods as it does not harm teeth, but just a few crumbs in a dropped muffin could kill them. It’s also found in bags of sweets and chewing gum and many natural toothpastes, so choose a toothpaste free from xylitol (could harm if they licked your face or around a sink).
Unsafe Festive Foods for Dogs