Frequently Asked Questions
Some common, (and some not so common), questions
Why do I need a canine nutritionist?
Good nutrition is essential for the health of your dog. The better you feed your best friend, the healthier he or she will be and the longer he or she will be part of your life. Here, in a nutshell, is what a canine nutritionist can do for you and your dog.
Isn't my vet qualified in dog nutrition?
Almost certainly not. Except in only a handful of cases, vets are not trained in canine nutrition. What little training most vets do have in nutrition, only a matter of hours, will have been provided by commercial pet food companies. That’s why most vets are so keen to sell you so-called ‘prescription’ dog food. It’s what they’ve been trained to do to maximise profits for their practice and for the company that trained them!
What is prescription dog food?
So-called ‘prescription dog food’ is actually little or no different from normal commercial dog food. Except it will cost you almost double the price!
The legality of so-called prescription dog food is currently being challenged in the American courts. And you know what they say about things that happen in America. Things that happen in America will be happening here before too long.
If you are seriously considering a prescription diet for your best friend, please read this appalling review by independent pet food experts, All About Dog Food!
In terms of dog food, what does "complete and balanced" mean?
By definition, the term ‘complete and balanced’ when referring to dog food, means that, in theory, a dog’s entire nutritional requirement should be met by its diet. But there are a number of problems with this. Aside from the fact that the term is essentially a marketing term created by the commercial pet food industry!
1. Those requirements as they’re laid down are not based on real food but on purified nutrients as used in commercial dog food.
2. Those requirements are based on ‘minimum nutrient requirements’ which I personally don’t consider good enough for my dogs. Do you want your dog’s diet to meet minimum nutrient requirements or do you want your dog to be fed as well as you and the rest of your family?
3. Those requirements are based on an average, and make no allowance for your dog as an individual. Some dogs are active, some dogs less so. Some dogs have a high metabolic rate and burn calories quickly, some dogs have a slower metabolism and burn calories more slowly. Feed your dog a diet based on ‘minimum requirements’ and it stands to reason your active dog’s diet is going to be lacking somewhere. And that deficiency is likely to be reflected in your best friend’s health further down the line.
4. Those requirements don’t take into account bioavailability. The fact that nutrients, such as they are in commercially produced food using synthetic ingredients, are less bioavailable than nutrients from real food. In other words, your dog is better able to digest and benefit from the nutrients in real food than in commercial dog food.
5. Your dog is an animal with a digestive system not so dissimilar to yours and mine. You and I would not thrive on a scientifically based synthetic diet comprising exactly the same low quality ingredients provided to a minimum level every day of our lives. Why would you expect your dog to be any different?
6. No study has ever been carried out in order to establish what complete and balanced means in terms of a dog fed on a homemade diet. Neither is one necessary because the only healthy way to feed your dog is to feed real food using the same principles you unwittingly use when feeding yourself and your family. Balance, variety and moderation!
The recipes I have devised have been specifically designed to provide balance by variety, over time, in exactly the same natural way that we as humans achieve balance in our own diets by the variety of foods that we eat. That is to say, not every single meal has to be complete and balanced, but that that status is achieved, as with my own recipes, over time.
Importantly though, you do need to add a calcium supplement to your dog’s food every day.
Don't dogs prefer the same food all the time?
Think about it. If your dog lives to the age of 12 and you feed he or she twice a day, that’s 8760 meals in total. Wouldn’t you feel that you deserved better if you had to endure being fed the same boring, uninteresting food throughout the entirety of your lifetime?
No, Marketing Man invented that old line in order to keep you buying the same old kibble you’ve always bought for your dog.
Actually, dogs are a lot happier and a lot healthier if they are given a wide variety of food, just as they would if they were living in the wild. And, like human beings, they have a digestive tract which is designed to benefit from a wide range of ingredients.
So, no, dogs don’t prefer the same food all the time. Given the choice, they would opt for variety just as you and I would!
My dog is a fussy eater. What can I do?
No matter how great the quality of the food, some dogs, for any number of reasons, can decide not to eat on any given day. After all, don’t we all get days like that?
That having been said, it would be a rare dog indeed who could resist a proper homemade meal. The term “fussy eater” really only relates to dogs who are fed mass-produced commercial dog food which, for most dogs, is kibble or dry dog biscuit. By making homemade food for your dog and providing a variety of ingredients and meals, you should find that your dog’s fussiness is a thing of the past!
If your dog is a fussy eater, you could try popping his or her meal into the microwave briefly just to warm it a little or at least take the chill off it. Or you could try sprinkling a little cheese over it.
If you’re still having difficulties, my Fussy Eater Feeding Plan can help.
It’s important to remember though that no dog will starve itself to death. Not all dogs are motivated by food. When your dog is hungry enough, he or she will eat!
Food & Feeding
Why should I make homemade food for my dog?
As witnessed by the internet, there are literally tens of thousands of documented cases of dogs whose medical conditions have improved by changing to a more natural, homemade diet. Everything from skin complaints to digestive problems, from seizures to arthritis and from allergies to ear infections. All have been improved or cured, simply by changing to a healthier diet. Don’t just take my word for it. Check it out for yourself!
Despite it being the major cause of concern for modern dog owners, most owners stick to their current dog food not because they’re happy with it, but because they don’t know how to go about changing it.
I hope to change this. I can help you make homemade food for your dog. Like me, you can make your dog’s meals and give your dog the kind of food he or she deserves!
Not since the advent of commercial dog food some 150 years ago has there been a wider variety of available diets for dogs than there is today.
And by variety, I don’t mean variety of kibble (dry dog biscuit). Kibble is kibble, end of story. Despite what manufacturers might tell you, there is little to choose between one brand of kibble and another. Here I am talking about the increasing variety of proper food for dogs.
Yes, freshly prepared dog food is marginally less convenient, but it is so, so much better for the health of your dog than nutritionally-compromised dry or canned dog foods.
Would you feel safe in feeding yourself or your family a dry biscuit that, without being frozen, can sit in your kitchen cupboard for a year or more without going off? Wouldn’t you wonder how on earth they managed that, and made it as nutritious and healthy as freshly cooked food? (The fact is of course, they can’t).
And wouldn’t you get just a little bored with the same food day in day and day out.
Despite what you may have heard, dog’s have a digestive tract very similar to ours and digest their food in much the same way as we do. Therefore they are able to benefit from many of the same foods as you and I.
Despite what the large kibble manufacturers along with many vets would have you believe, dogs were never, ever, designed to exist on one source of food alone. That’s the reason there are so many unhealthy and overweight dogs in the UK today.
What is your view on raw feeding?
The decision whether to feed raw or lightly cooked as I prefer is largely a matter of personal preference.
There is nothing wrong with raw feeding. Nothing whatsoever. It is simply not to everyone’s taste, and it does require considerably more in the way of food hygiene awareness as the potential for the spread of harmful bacteria is greatly increased by feeding a dog a raw diet.
In a study conducted in the USA, E coli was found in more than 50% of tested raw food products, and the consequences of the spread of infection can be catastrophic.
People should also be aware that there is actually no scientific evidence to back up the health benefits claimed by raw feeding proponents. None whatsoever. There is however considerable evidence to support the fact that many nutrients are only available to dogs once the ingredients have been cooked. This particularly applies to vegetables.
Yes, the forebears of today’s domestic dog did eat raw food, but that was more than 15,000 years ago. Since that time, and prior to the relatively recent advent of commercial dog food, most dogs would have eaten the scraps from the human table – largely left-over cooked meat and vegetables. Not dissimilar to my own recipes, except I formulate my recipes so that your dog doesn’t have to rely on potentially nutritionally incomplete table scraps for sustenance.
Bottom line, raw food or lightly cooked food is a matter of preference. But either is infinitely better than commercially produced dog food, no matter what the marketeers might tell you!
Do dogs need carbohydrates in their diet?
While it’s said that dogs have no nutritional need for carbohydrates in their diet, it’s a fact that carbs contain valuable vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are unquestionably invaluable to canine health.
No, dogs don’t need the cheap carbohydrates such as beet pulp used purely as fillers by commercial dog food manufacturers. But functional carbohydrates (fruit and vegetables) are the most abundant source of antioxidants which, quite apart from anything else, protect cells against free radicals which play a part in heart disease, cancer and other canine diseases. They also provide energy.
Just as carbohydrates play an important role in the health of human beings, they are massively important to the health of your dog. I most definitely recommend you feed your best friend his or her five a day!
Why do you recommend lightly cooking homemade dog food?
Because cooking your dog’s food does three things:
1. It increases its digestibility. It makes the food easier to digest.
2. It increases the available nutrients in the food. The nutrients in some ingredients are only released – made available for your dog to benefit from – once they have been cooked.
3. It decreases the risk of bacterial infection. Cooking meat for example removes the risk of the likes of E.Coli.
Why is liver so important to my dog?
Liver is one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet. It is one of the richest sources of vitamin A of any food, as well as having an abundance of all the B vitamins together with iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus and potassium. It also contains essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.
All that having been said, it truly is possible to have too much of a good thing. For that reason, and because liver is so rich in nutrients, I recommend adding just 5% of this meaty nectar to your dog’s homemade meals.
What is your view on grain free food?
Here is my view regarding grain-free food and whether or not dogs should be fed grains.
Is every ingredient you recommend canine safe?
Yes it is. Every single ingredient I use when making homemade food for my dogs and which features in my recipes, in addition to having been passed fit for human consumption (which means you can eat it as well), is also proven to be completely safe and beneficial to the health of my dogs and yours.
What about life stage feeding?
When you think about it, once a puppy has been weaned in the wild, it will thereafter eat exactly the same food as its parents and the rest of its pack. The only difference is that it will eat more because it is growing and needs that extra protein and those extra calories and nutrients.
Similarly, prior to the relatively recent phenomenon of mass marketed, commercially produced dog food, if a dog lived in the same environment throughout its life with its parents and its siblings – hunting dogs on country estates for example – it would once again have eaten exactly the same meals as the rest of its family.
It would simply have eaten more when it was young and growing, less when it was older and less active.
How do I change my dog's diet from one food to another?
Your dog’s digestive system needs time to adjust from one food to another, irrespective of what that change might be. To avoid unnecessary tummy upsets, it is best to effect this change gradually over the course of about a week. This is known as transitioning.
Start off by giving your dog 75% of its normal meal together with 25% of one of its new home cooked meals.
Feed this combination for a couple of days before introducing a 50/50 combination for a day or two, and finally, after a further day or so, just 25% of its normal meal and 75% of his or her new home cooked diet.
At the end of a week, your dog’s tummy will be fully adjusted to his or her new diet.
My Transitioning Guide can help further.
Which is best, brown or white rice?
Brown rice, the less refined of the two, is more beneficial in terms of being richer in fibre and nutrients. But it is also harder to digest, so if your dog has a tummy problem such as diarrhoea, brown rice might not be the best choice.
White rice however, although less nutrient-rich, is much easier to digest.
So if your dog has a tummy or digestive issue, white rice is the better option. If your dog is healthy and needs to gain weight or needs extra energy or fibre, brown rice is best.
Why do you recommend cooking fruit and vegetables?
Fruit and vegetables are covered in a protective cellulose shield, some more so than others. During the process of digestion, we as humans break down that cellulose in order to access the valuable nutrients inside. Dogs cannot.
Many dogs enjoy eating a carrot, for example, but one look at their stool will show that most of the carrot comes out the way it went in, complete with its cellulose shield and nutrients locked inside.
By lightly cooking the fruit and vegetables you feed your dog, he or she will be able to absorb the nutrients locked inside to maximum effect.
Why don't you recommend the use of bone meal?
As a garden fertilizer, bone meal is excellent. But bone meal not only contains ground animal bones, it also contains unregulated slaughterhouse waste and is frequently found to contain lead and other toxic metals. Since the 1980s, it is no longer recommended as a supplement for either humans or dogs.
Because every ingredient I suggest is of human grade quality (which bone meal most certainly is not), and because Eggshell Powder is an excellent and safe calcium source as well as containing other beneficial minerals, I recommend the use of my own Eggshell Powder instead. It’s produced by my own free-range chickens and I feed them well just as I do my dogs!
What are prebiotics and does my dog need them?
Prebiotics, indigestible plant fibres found in such things as chicory root, garlic and bananas, help create probiotics, the live bacteria and yeasts, often labelled ‘good bacteria’ or ‘friendly bacteria’ that help keep a dog’s gut healthy. Exactly the same as they do for humans oddly enough!
Do dogs need fruit and vegetables in their diet?
Unlike cats, dogs are not strict carnivores. In fact, like humans, dogs have the digestive tract of an omnivore, which means, again like us, they can extract nutrients from plant matter as well as meat sources.
For that reason, in the wild their diet would consist of fruit and vegetables as well as meat, with the fruit and veg either eaten fresh, or consumed when they eat the stomach contents of their herbivorous prey.
Besides, fresh fruit and vegetables provide valuable nutrients not found in meat and fish and their diet would not be complete and balanced without them.
Records show that this method of feeding domestic dogs has been practised by owners and breeders since at least the mid-1800s. There is no reason to presume that the fact that dogs need plant matter (fruit and vegetables) for vitamins was not known and practised by owners and breeders for many centuries before records began.
Either way, it was long, long, before Marketing Man on behalf of the large commercial dog food manufacturers decided that dogs needed nothing more than artificial ingredients made to look like meat (dog biscuit or kibble) to survive.
What about calcium?
Calcium is essential for your dog, and you need to make allowance for this if you make homemade food for your best friend. This either needs to be in the form of raw, meaty bones several times a week (not everyones cup of tea), or alternatively, a daily calcium supplement.
My own calcium supplement will provides your dog with the best possible source of calcium carbonate, second only to raw meaty bones. And remember, if you make homemade food for your dog, it is absolutely essential that you add calcium to every meal to avoid skeletal issues later on!
How much should I feed my dog?
A normal, healthy, adult dog should eat between 2 and 3% of its body weight a day. Older, less active dogs, have lower energy levels and therefore require marginally less food than young, fit and healthy dogs.
Remember. Overweight dogs are likely to live shorter lives. If your dog is overweight, feed 2% of its body weight until it reaches a normal, healthy weight.
How can I improve my dog's commercial diet?
1. If you wish to continue feeding your dog a commercial diet but would like to improve it in some way, add leafy green vegetables to it 3 or 4 times a week.
2. Instead of throwing away your own vegetable peelings, boil them up and give them to your dog complete with the vegetable water.
I offer a specially formulated, commercial dog food improvement plan which takes into account the specific dietary requirements of your dog by adding selected healthy fresh ingredients.
I'm concerned my dog may not be drinking sufficient water. What can I do?
There are a number of things you can do to encourage your dog to drink more water. You can dilute some of my bone broth which is a proven winner when dogs refuse to drink water. You could also try giving your dog some of your own vegetable water, as long as you don’t add salt to it. Simply boil and drain the vegetables for your evening meal, allow the water to cool and offer it to your dog. I haven’t yet heard of a dog who can resist either diluted bone broth or vegetable water, both of which are full of natural goodness into the bargain!
Do you have a natural remedy for my dog's particular health problem?
Is being overweight really such a problem for my dog?
Yes, it is. Studies have shown that being even moderately overweight – say 25% – can reduce a dog’s lifespan by up to 15%.
As well as enjoying a shorter lifespan, an overweight dog is likely to be more prone to weight-related health issues such as diabetes and arthritis.
That’s why I offer a bespoke Weight Management Consultation.
How often should I weigh my dog?
Ideally, you should weigh your dog once a month. Vet scales can be bought relatively inexpensively on eBay and the cost in any case palls into insignificance compared to the cost of the health of your dog if he or she gains excessive weight.
For further information, please see my Dog Body Condition Chart.
Consult with The Canine Nutritionist
You wouldn't visit a dentist to have your eyes tested, and you wouldn't go to a chiropodist to have your hair done. So why would you visit a vet in order to discuss your dog's diet? Vets are not trained in nutrition. A dog nutritionist is!