If you are fussy about the food your dog eats, this is the blog post for you. I will always tell my readers that the best dog food for your dog is the one that works best for them.
If you have no idea what food that is, we can help. Take a look at the photo below. The one on the left is kibble, while the one on the right is a fresh food diet. Which would you rather eat daily? Your dog is the same way.
Let’s hunker down with some dog food facts, and then I’m going to share a list of different foods for different needs, and you can be the ultimate decision-maker as to which food your dog should be eating.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I am also an Etsy and Chewy affiliate.
Dog Food History
In the mid-1800s, the Pet Food Institute reports that as horses died (they were a form of transportation), people purchased horse meat for their dogs.
Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution and the middle class coming into their own in the mid-1800s, and dogs were sharing life with people rather than simply working for them. A wise businessman named James Spratt developed the first commercially prepared pet food in England around 1860. He got the idea after seeing dogs being fed leftover biscuits from a ship. He concocted the very first dog biscuit using beef blood, beetroot, wheat meals, and vegetables. United States production of dog food began around 1890 when a British company took over Spratt’s formula.
Ken-L-Ration was the very first canned dog food to emerge in 1922 using, you guessed it, horsemeat. Meat was really expensive back during the Great Depression. People were hungry, so feeding dogs a quality diet wasn’t high on the priority list. Even prior to that, dogs were given whatever their owners could muster up: everything from dangerous onions to potatoes or cabbage, bone knuckles and bread crusts.
So, where did kibble come from? Would it surprise you to learn that in the early 1950s, the Ralston Purina Company began experimenting with different dog kibble formulas from cereal extruders?! The very same Pet Food Institute came up with a clever campaign in 1964 telling dog owners that this hard, crunchy stuff was what their dog needed to eat. Kibble began with and continues with advertising and marketing campaigns. You could have knocked me over with a dog biscuit when I read that.
We love this fact-based video from pet nutritional guru, Rodney Habib:
You Are Bad If You Feed Kibble
No, no, no, you aren’t bad. No one is a bad dog mom or dog dad for feeding kibble. It should be your choice what to feed your dog. As a responsible pet parent, it’s also your choice to learn the reality of what dogs should be eating instead of extruded cereal bits. Since my dogs have been consuming their food, treats, and supplements for over 20 years, I decided to become an ambassador for the Dr. Harvey’s brand. Here’s why: my dogs live longer, healthier lives and are able to fight off illness better.
I am frequently asked which of the Dr. Harvey foods is best for a dog. Like people, every dog is different. Dr. Harvey’s isn’t typical dog food, it doesn’t take forever to prepare, and you don’t need to visit a fancy store nor chop up raw meat (unless that’s your thing) for your dog to enjoy it. It literally takes me under a minute to prepare my dog a fresh bowl of food every day of his life. Refer back to that kibble vs. fresh food image above. He loves the smell and taste, I love that he’s happy and healthy for it.
Basic Dog Food Primer
The pet industry likes to throw fancy terms around while using trendy-sounding words on packaging. Here are a few:
Human grade refers to a finished product that is deemed legally suitable, safe, and FDA-approved for consumption by a human.
Feed grade refers to the quality of a finished product that is not suitable for consumption by humans according to FDA standards. It is only legally allowed to be served to animals because of the ingredients it contains or how it has been processed. Further, it may include by-products, chemicals, fillers, and parts from “4D” meats: animals that are dying, diseased, disabled, or deceased. (re-read that last sentence very carefully. Did you shudder as we did?)
Made with human-grade ingredients does NOT mean a finished product is actually legally human-grade. An ingredient might start off being fit for people to eat, but once it is shipped to a pet food plant and processed according to regulations for feed-grade products, the term “human grade” can no longer apply. By true definition, that ingredient is not human grade.
Now hold onto your hats, here comes the big news: Dogs have no nutritional requirement for dietary carbohydrates, yet kibble has a very high percentage of carbs. It’s not easy to find the carb content in dog food because it isn’t required on the label. Fun times! To roughly calculate the percentage of carbohydrate in a dog food, look at the guaranteed analysis on the label and subtract the amount of protein, fat, moisture, and ash from 100 percent; the carb content is what’s left over. (You may have to contact the company to get the food’s ash content; it’s not required on the label, either.) Not all carbs are bad, and we could write a mini-novel on the topic. Bottom line: the “ideal” carbohydrate amount a dog should consume varies by dog. Just like people! Carbs are not an enemy, but everything in moderation. Dogs with cancer should not be consuming large amounts of carbs or sugar, so there’s that.
What we do know is this: Fresh, whole food is good for dogs. Kibble loaded with corn and other fillers/sugars can lead to problems in a dog.
Dr. Harvey’s Whole Dog Food and Supplements
We recommend what we feed, and we have been feeding Dr. Harvey’s for a long, long time. When I sat down for a face-to-face interview with the CEO of Dr. Harvey’s, Wendy Shankin-Cohen, she told me this:
People call us and tell us they never feed their dogs table scraps. We ask them, why not? Wendy reminds me that Dr. Karen Becker often writes that veterinary medicine is the only profession that encourages telling patients to feed their pets processed foods. Dogs’ systems are not designed to process food in this way.
Here’s a primer on some of the various Dr. Harvey’s healthy dog diets along with what we feed our dogs:
Canine Health is the go-to formula for most dogs new to the line. It is a balanced pre-made mix that you add warm water to. Once it thickens, you add your choice of protein: from raw beef to cooked chicken, fish, eggs, etc. Add an oil like flax, fish, etc., and boom, you are done. It takes minutes a day to give your dog a fresh meal. Zero artificial ingredients and no by-products. I saw them package this by hand during my on-site visit. Ideal for all dogs’ nutritional needs. We feed this to Dexter and rotate with Veg-to-Bowl. Keep reading.
Veg-to-Bowl is made with ground or finely ground (your choice) dehydrated and freeze-dried vegetables. It is 100 percent grain-free and both our Cocker Spaniels have been fed this extensively over the years. Great for picky eaters, you add warm water, wait about 10 minutes, and then add in the protein and oil. That is it. Dexter thrives on this. Our choice of meat is grass-fed organic beef that we cook. Your choice of protein is up to you. All the vitamins and everything nutritionally is in the mix.
Now, beyond those basics, there are other formulas that dogs can enjoy but are geared with special requirements in mind. They are:
Paradigm is a superfood pre-mix. This is Dr. Harvey’s low-carb diet. Conscientious dog parents know that a low-carb, low-glycemic diet can help dogs prevent, manage, and overcome issues like diabetes, cancer, immune system issues, and even obesity (in conjunction with exercise). You add hot water, protein, and oil and you are good to go. No grains, no starchy veggies. Our friend Bernard at The Graffiti Dog serves his dogs the Paradigm diet with success.
Raw feeding is a very popular option for pet parents who wish to go this route. So often, however, it can be very time-consuming, and costly, and for many, it just plain looks ‘gross.’ Dr. Harvey’s Raw Vibrance puts an end to all that. You’ve got everything you need from green-lipped mussels to raw goat’s milk, shitake mushrooms, and eggshell membrane in this formula. You guessed it: You add hot water, your choice of protein, and oil, and wha-la: Raw diet! The protein can be raw or cooked, your preference. Like all their formulas, they are made in the USA. You won’t have to worry about grinding organ meats, finding the right nutritional balance, or anything like that. Raw Vibrance was released in the summer of 2018, and we are incredibly excited about this raw formula.
Garden Veggies Grain-Free or Whole Grain
Say you don’t want to cook meat and you want all the benefits of raw. You also are ready to travel and need to take the dog’s food along. Garden Veggies is your formula. It is perfect for puppies and active adult dogs. It has no salt, sugar, soy, and is comprised of freeze-dried meat, chicken or beef, along with fresh veggies and fruit. You add warm water and serve. Easy peasy, healthy, and nutritious.
Dr. Harvey’s Allergy formulas are designed for dogs with skin, stomach, and environmental sensitivities. It is a limited ingredient, grain-free diet, so dogs can easily digest the contents. It is minimally processed with raw turkey or fish as the first ingredient. Coupled with probiotics and prebiotics, this formula helps dogs have strong gut health and a strong immune system.
For dogs who need a bit of help managing their weight, Dr. Harvey’s Healthy Weight formula naturally boosts canine metabolism and is formulated for weight loss. My second Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, did really well on this formula for many years. Cockers are foodies to the core, and he gained weight over the years. Exercise and the right Dr. Harvey’s formula helped him take the pounds off.
You need not stick to one formula unless you want to. I also rotate proteins. I get bored eating the same thing, and so do dogs. I follow the teachings of Dr. Jean Dodds, DVM. She is the founder of the Hemopet, a blood bank for pets located in Garden Grove, California, and one of the leaders in veterinary medicine. She recommends a rotation diet for dogs to help prevent issues with food intolerance. Again, your call.
Get Free Samples
You can call and talk to Dr. Harvey if you have questions. He actually calls you back to help. Oh, and the fact that you can try a sample before you buy by just paying shipping, is worth its weight in healthy dog treats.
Let’s Go Shopping
If you head over to Dr. Harvey’s website and enter code FDRLUV2023 at checkout, you will save 10 percent off your entire order and free shipping over $59.
Keep in Touch
Stay in touch and visit DrHarveys.com, call them at 1-866-362-4123, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to tell them we sent you!
Read, and watch, my entire on-site visit and interview at the Dr. Harvey’s headquarters. We got our readers’ questions answered.