When it comes to feeding your Heeler, it can be confusing with all the many brands of dog foods flooding the market as well as the many perspectives on which dog diet is best. It makes good sense to understand the ancestral diet of dogs, and then to follow those guidelines. Once you understand the proper ratios in a healthy dog diet, it will be easier to choose the right commercial dog food, or know how to combine homemade healthy foods for your dog.
As it is most commonly believed, dogs evolved from wolves some 15,000 years ago. From this ancestral lineage, dogs are considered to be primarily carnivores in their descent from meat eating wolves. Dogs evolved in the constant companionship of man, and their survival became dependent upon the leftovers and food scraps from man as opposed to carnivorous kills in the wild. Though this fact indicates a more diverse omnivore diet for dogs, there is a notable and irrefutable carnivorous preference in dogs. Dogs are scavengers by nature, and while they may eat just about anything they find, their ideal dog diets require high levels of meat protein for them to thrive.
Commercial dog food manufacturers are banking on this resilient, diverse diet of dogs with the production of dry dog food that is primarily grain based and high in carbohydrates, More obvious reasons for the creation of dog kibble is the cheaper cost, the longer shelf life, the abundance of available carbohydrates and the convenience to consumers. As well, many canned dog foods include carbohydrate fillers such as rice and potatoes instead of pure meat content. Dogs, in fact, require very little carbohydrates, if at all, with the exception of extremely hard working dogs. Yet, carbohydrates have now become the main ingredient in most dry dog kibble. If we were to compare the natural ancestral diet of dogs to our modern day dry dog food, we would see something like this:
Ancestral Diet Dog Kibble
56% Protein 18-32% Protein
25-30%Fat 8-22% Fat
14% Carbs 46-74% Carbs
Dry dog food is so much higher in carbohydrates while drastically lower in protein and fat. Dogs fed these grain based, processed dog kibbles will most certainly develop health issues over time. Inflammation is the most common medical response to these diets of higher carbs, lower protein and fats. Another ancestral diet ratio is 49% protein, 44% fat and 6 % carbs. You can see how far off we are in feeding too much kibble to our dogs.
Dogs are designed to eat living foods that are unprocessed, raw and nourishing. The best foods are frozen raw, dehydrated, canned and then a high protein, grain free, dry dog food. A natural, healthy dog diet includes high levels of meat protein, fats, water and minimal carbs. A lifetime of dry dog food does not provide the needed water nor protein to maintain your dog’s health. If you choose to feed kibble to your dog, look for one that is lower in carbs, high in protein, grain free and use kibble as only 15-20 percent of your dog’s daily diet.
Your best choice in feeding your dog is a raw food diet which is fresh, living food, moisture rich and grain free. Though a raw food dog diet probably resulted from trying to simulate what a dog would eat in the wild, we have to be mindful that domesticated dogs have evolved beyond their original wildness. In fact, domesticated dogs tend to live longer than dogs in the wild. We are not trying to return dogs to their wild state with a raw food diet, but increase their health with the nutrients and enzymes found in raw food. If you choose to convert your dog to a total raw food diet, do your research in order to do it right as changes to a dog’s diet can create health problems like pancreatitis.
To sum up the ideal dog food, and what to look for, choose a brand that is:
- High in meat based protein
- Low in carbohydrates
- High in healthy, natural fats
- A good balanced ratio of Omega fatty acids
- Complete in essential vitamins and minerals
- Free of preservatives, unhealthy oils, fillers and by-products
In the end, the ideal dog food diet is an individual dog matter. No two dogs are alike, and no two dog owners will feed their dogs in the same manner. Active dogs require more carbohydrates than sedentary dogs. Some dogs will love raw food while other will prefer cooked, canned or dehydrated. Take your time, listen to your dog and let him/her help you decide what works best based on their own individual taste and needs.
Books to consider: