There are several healthful options for dog food, including commercial dog foods. Better quality food improves the dog's health, including its teeth, skin and hair. Depending on the type of diet you choose for your dog, you might even affect arthritis and joint problems, such as hip dysplasia.
High-End Canned and Kibble
There are several canned and kibble foods on the market, and in this case, brand name does make a difference. A healthful canned or kibble food has meat for at least the first three ingredients (identified, not stated as "meat meal" or "by-products"). Some form of meat, i.e. chicken, pork, beef, emu, duck, lamb, goat, etc., should be the first ingredients. The more meat that is in a food, the more of the food the dog uses. (A benefit of this is smaller stools.)
Often, creating your own diet for a dog is less expensive than buying high-end canned and kibble foods. The cooked diet should be well-rounded and should not include whole bone. Ground bone or ground eggshell is commonly used as a calcium supplement in cooked diets. In addition to muscle meat, approximately 10 percent of the dog's diet should be organ meat (liver, kidney). Heart is considered a muscle meat, because the heart is a muscle.
The raw diet is a matter of much controversy, because there is no one right way to do it. Some people feed a prey model diet (feeding whole animals, and may fast the dog for a day or two after a particularly large meal), some feed as close to the whole animal as possible over several days, and some feed the minimum requirements. Some feed vegetables and others do not, depending on what the dog will eat or what might be left over in the household. Still others might add supplements. The most common use for supplements is for dogs with conditions such as joint or skin problems. Vitamin E and fish oil are commonly used supplements for dogs with skin problems, and glucosamine is commonly given to dogs with joint problems (arthritis, hip dysplasia).
One of the more common ways to feed the raw diet is 80 percent raw, meaty bones (muscle meat with bone, such as a chicken thigh quarter), 10 percent organs (liver, kidney), and 10 percent bone (chicken backs and bony cuts of meat).
Benefits of Healthful Diet Options
The benefits of all three diets include better skin and hair conditioning, smaller stools (the dog's system breaks down and uses more of the food) and, for the raw diet, whiter teeth (bones scrape the tartar off the teeth). A healthier dog means fewer veterinarian visits for teeth cleaning, skin care and, in some cases, joint care management.