Allow me to preface this with a disclaimer. Fresh, real foods (whether raw or cooked) will always be more healthful for humans and animals than processed food. However, kibble is still the most common type of dog food, and the most viable option for most owners.
When discussing nutrition with dog owners (in fact there’s hardly an appointment where I don’t ask “What’s he on for food right now?”), I encounter a varied range of knowledge. Sometimes people have picked up something from mainstream media, the internet, or other dog owners. Usually they are adamant about what should or shouldn’t be (by-products, grains, chicken) in their dog’s food, yet very few can tell me why.
There are many great brands of kibble available at the pet stores these days, certainly more options than twenty years ago. I remember when Hund-N-Flocken (one of the original “holistic” foods, from Solid Gold) first appeared in Metro Vancouver, there were, like, two places you could buy it (I know this because I had my parents drove me across town to buy it).
We don’t stock any over the counter foods in the clinic, but do carry some prescription diets, and I have found many uses for them. Usually I will recommend a Medi-Cal/Royal Canin Veterinary diet, and sometimes a Hills or Purina diet.
Believe it or not, many people still buy dog food at the grocery store. There are some people who are simply not going to go to a pet store to buy a higher end brand of dog food. In this case, feeding a maintenance Royal Canin Veterinary puppy or adult food is a huge improvement. If I can start their small breed dog on Dental, all the better for preventative medicine.
For some dogs, the urinary health foods are a lifesaver. Owners may have difficulty preventing bladder stones with anything other than a prescription diet, or a very strict homemade diet. The very best food on the market may not be the very best food for your dog, if he needs surgery to remove bladder stones.
I have seen other dogs who have ongoing gastrointestinal upset, and a prescription “GI” diet is the best medicine I can prescribe. This is particularly true for puppies, especially those with a history of giardia, parvo or another intestinal cell-damaging disease. Owners often tell me they have tried every puppy food or they’ve switched their puppy to a “better” food, only to have unsatisfactory results (try housebreaking a puppy with chronic diarrhea-yikes!). I now tell them to try GI Puppy for one bag, and consider a slow switch to the diet of their choice once we have the gastrointestinal tract functioning normally.
What I love about nutrition is that it can be tailored to the individual, with the goal of providing optimal health. So please keep an open mind about what food might be best for your dog.