When readers ask me, “What’s the best dog food (or cat food)?”, I have to chat a bit about what’s known about where our domestic pets come from. That foundation will always help you be a wise consumer.
We know from genetic mapping now that domestic dogs share some 99% of their genes with the wolf, their nearest wild cousin and ancestor. Similar overlap must exist with the domestic cat and the wild cousins and ancestors they have come from.
We, as the human species, have selected for very, very little other than appearance in our breeding of pets. (Much more selection takes place in dairy cows, for example, for the suspension of udders, production of milk, strong legs, etc.)
So, you find yourself attracted to certain breeds more than others, because they appeal to your heart, your mind, your intended “use” of that animal, etc.
You might be a person who rescues a certain breed. You feel good around that breed, and like being involved in rehoming those waifs that ended up homeless.
You might like the dogs that are big and trained to work, like in search and rescue, herding, seeing eye guiding, guarding, etc. There are breeds that just fit for you in your chosen avocation.
Small pets that can go with you and don’t cost much to feed or medicate might be your cup of tea.
Your goal in choosing animals might be entirely based on form over function. Or vice versa. Or temperament, like affection seeking, or protectiveness, etc.
The bottom line is,
It would take careful selection over many generations to do this and it hasn’t been on our priority list.
So, who are we feeding then?
From the tiniest Chihuahua to the ginormous Great Danes, from the feral cat to the most pampered long haired Persian, we are simply feeding
Wolf. Mountain Lion.
[I have a harder time convincing my tea cup Poodle owners of this, and it’s easier with the German Shepherd owners, but it’s true across all breeds]
We are feeding predators who live in our midst.
So, what does a predator “expect” to eat, genetically speaking?
Prey, of course.
And prey is always fresh, raw, and warm, right? It hasn’t conveniently run through a campfire before getting eaten!
Prey has muscle, bone, organs, vitality — it’s alive and gives life to the eater.
That vitality, common to prey, is lost in cooking. That’s a big loss.
So, the obvious choice of what to feed dogs and cats is a food most closely resembling prey. The best dog food or best cat food is raw. And balanced.
Closest to what the wildness inside your dog or cat expects and is looking for.
This can be accomplished in a couple of ways:
- Buying it ready made
- Making it homemade
The choices for raw food have nearly exploded in the past several years, as you, and many other pet owners, have understood this truth and voted with your pocketbooks in the marketplace. There are several brands available that base their products on this understanding, that we must feed the genetic expectations. While a wolf in a Shih Tzu body could survive on starchy, processed food-like chunks, she will thrive on a wolf-like diet!
Convenience and Raw Food Benefits
For folks who don’t care to start from scratch and completely make their own raw food, I offer two excellent choices.
- All Raw (and WILD!), Delivered to Your Door!
It doesn’t get any easier than this, for all raw, truly healthy prey-like food. These fine folks send you Raw Wild direct to your door so fresh and solid, you can be assured it never did the repeated freeze/thaw/refreeze cycle that commercial raw foods can go through on their way to your pet’s dish.
Dave Sabey, a hunter himself, realized what a huge resource wild elk and venison was for dogs. Hunters know there is no better meat than that of wild grazing animals who are drinking from mountain streams.
In my mind, “best dog food” equates to “best wolf food,” keeping those huge genetic overlaps in mind. And wild game is what those wolves eat, solely.
Wild sourced meat means no GMOs, no hormones, no antibiotics, grains, or preservatives.
And if your dog is itching and scratching and allergic to a shopping list of proteins? You can bet elk and venison are better than anything to help that wildly over reactive immune system to find a balance once more.
Others frozen raw diets that are on my short list of recommendations are Darwin’s (a great rotation with Raw Wild, and also ships all over the US), Aunt Jeni’s, Answers, and Small Batch, available at better pet shops.
There are many, many others, but you have to be a label detective here, as with any other food purchase for yourself or anyone in your care. I remember a client showing me a label of a raw food years ago that had only meat and vegetables. No calcium source like bones, at all. How close to prey is that? Obviously, not close at all.
- Dehydrated, Home Delivery
Sojos entered the natural pet food market with human quality ingredients way back in 1985. Their original product was based on the teachings of Juliette de Bairacli Levy, herbal medicine’s grand dam, who pioneered natural treatments for animals.
Sojos offers high quality dehydrated food in packets that cost little to ship due to the water removal, yet are high in inherent nutrients, including enzymes, that are retained in low heat processing.
You can choose from products to add your own raw meat to (my preference) or products with freeze dried meat already inside (great for camping and travel). Sojos makes diets for both dogs and cats, and, as this is not a heated kibble, would qualify as an easy cat food source for occasional use.
If you really want the closest thing to prey, you can actually buy prey animals, sold for pets to consume. I’ve got a client buying frozen rabbits for her Springer Spaniel and I know there are facilities raising rodents for cat consumption. I’ll have links on my Resources page if you’re interested in going this route.
If you’d rather not deal with whole prey species (and I’d totally understand if you didn’t), you can make raw food at home.
It’s best to start with a book or two, so you have some frame of reference. Unbalanced homemade food is, in many ways, worse than store bought food.
Here’s one for dogs that’s elegantly simple. If you trust that “balance” need not be in every bowl, but happens over time (as I do), you’ll love this approach.
For cats, here’s a woman who’s really put her mind into researching and calculating complete meals for cats. Several recipes, great info, and a forum of holistic cat owners is here.
Here’s some great equipment, should you embark on this path of homemade, especially is you’re using large meat sources for small mouths, like cats. A meat grinder that makes it through the toughest of bone and sinew!
Feed ’em like their ancestors and wild cousins, and watch their health bloom!