Category Archives: Nutrition

Is Corn Really Bad for your Dog?

Is Corn Really Bad for Dogs:

Of all the ingredients that are found in pet food, it is my own experience that corn is considered to be the worst. Many pet food companies now state on the front of their bags that their products are free of corn. Is corn really bad for your dog?

Corn Compared to Other Carbohydrates:

It may be hard to believe, but corn is not necessarily any better or any worse than other carbohydrates that are found in dog food. Dogs tend to do better on diets that are rich in animal products, such are poultry, meat, eggs, and fish. Any diet that is dominated with plant products will be inferior. It does not matter if the plant product being used is barley, rice, potatoes, peas, or corn. In and of itself, corn is no better and no worse than other grains.

Some dogs are allergic to corn. In these cases, owners should obviously buy foods that are free of corn. Again, it is not anything inherently wrong with corn. Dogs can be allergic to anything really, including but certainly not limited to chicken, rice, and beef.

The Kind of Food that Contains Corn:

The commercial pet foods that contain corn tend to be lower quality, not because of the corn, but because of the other ingredients that the foods made with corn usually contain. Generally, foods that contain corn are the same ones that are filled with unspecified animal products (for example: meat and bone meal, animal fat, etc.) and by-products. I have noticed that the better brands of dog food generally do not contain corn. I personally believe this is because the customers they are marketing to do not want to feed their pets foods made with corn for a variety of reasons.

With this being said, it is wrong to assume that because a food is corn free it is automatically healthy. As mentioned above a pet food manufacturer has a number of other plant products they can fill their bags and cans with, leaving little room for the animal products your dog craves. Many corn free foods are just as bad as corn containing foods.


Corn is one of the most commonly split ingredients in pet food. Ingredient splitting is when one particular food appears many times on the ingredient label. It is a way for manufactures to hide how much of an ingredient (usually a grain) is in the food. For example, a label may read: Beef, corn, corn gluten meal, corn meal…. If the corn was not broken into different parts, it would most likely come before beef on the ingredient list. The manufacturer effectively fools the owner into believe the bag of dog food is meat based, when is it actually very much corn based. Any ingredient can be split, but corn and peas seem to be listed on pet food labels much too often like this.

Plant Protein Concentrate:

Many dog and cat food companies add concentrated sources of plant protein to artificially inflate the crude protein amount on the label. Anytime an ingredient list includes corn gluten meal, this is probably the manufactures intention. Once again, this can be done with other plant-based ingredients as well. Watch out for any food including pea protein, pea protein concentrate, potato protein, wheat gluten meal, and similar ingredients. These are all tricks to make the buyer believe that there is a good amount of protein in the product. In reality, dogs (and people) digest and process animal protein much more efficiently than they do plant protein, so while the guaranteed analysis may boast a crude protein of 30%, only 25% of that protein may be digestible by your dog.


There is nothing inherently bad about corn, but there is a problem with feeding a carnivore a diet primarily of grains. Any diet that is plant based is not optimal for most healthy dogs. It doesn’t matter if it is corn, wheat, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, or peas. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that just because the food you buy for your dog boasts a corn free label that it is healthy for your dog.

What to look for in a book on homemade diets for dogs?

Feeding Your Dog a Homemade Diet:

This post is the start of a series of posts that will be devoted to offering tips on how to feed your dog a homemade diet. First, we will take a look at books that either have sections on how to prepare your pet’s food at home or are entirely devoted to the subject. I am only going to discuss books that I have read myself.

Note: Another website that has several excellent reviews of canine nutrition books is This website in general has excellent information on many dog care topics, and I would recommend the site to any dog owner that wants to learn about dog care.

What to look for in a book on homemade diets for dogs?

There are several aspects that should be covered in a book on dog nutrition. Sadly, many important components to a homemade diet are utterly ignored. Two things that are imperative in a homemade diet book are that the recipes contain animal products and that there are recommendations on supplementing calcium.


Good books on dog nutrition can help you design a diet that will serve as a foundation for your dog’s healthy life.


It is often debated whether or not dogs are carnivores or omnivores. One thing that is certain is that they are not herbivores. Dogs jaws and digestive tracts are those of an animal that is designed to handle meat. If a book recommends vegan diets, don’t use it to feed your dog. While some dogs have lived long lives on vegan diets, since the beginning of time dogs have been meant to eat meat. A book on dog nutrition should use animal products as the backbone of its recommendations.


This is extremely important. So many books, articles, and websites that talk about feeding your dog fresh food completely ignore how much calcium to add to the diet. If the homemade diet doesn’t include raw meaty bones, calcium must be added, because there is not enough calcium in any other food to provide the dog with how much they need.

Additional Considerations:


Some people prefer to feed a diet that is free of grains. Grains can help keep the cost of a homemade diet down, but they can be problematic for certain pets. Out of the three books that are recommended below, one used quite a bit of grains, whereas the other two do not recommend grains for dogs.


Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to this, salmon and sardines in particular are rich in vitamin D. If the fish includes soft bones, it is also a wonderful source of calcium in the diet. Books that do not use fish in the recipes should have instructions on how to supplement vitamin D.

Life Stage:

If you are feeding a puppy a homemade diet, assure that the book you choose either contains instructions on how to feed a puppy specifically, or that the recipes are designed for all life stages. Puppies require more protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus etc. than adult dogs do.

Raw Meaty Bones:

If you want to feed a diet that contains raw meaty bones, look for books that use RMBs to make up 30% – 50% of the diet.

Dog Nutrition Books that Stand Out:

The three books listed below are really good compared to many of the books available on dog nutrition. All of these books rely on animal products as the backbone of their recipes, and each also contain accurate information on supplementing calcium.

Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats

I don’t like all of the information provided in this book (non-nutrition related), but the diet section gives clear guidelines on how to prepare a homemade diet that is complete and balanced. The recipes do contain grains, which may make this book more budget friendly than other dog nutrition books. Nutritional analysis of each recipe is provided. Instructions are given on creating a supplement to add to the diet to assure all vitamins and minerals are provided.

(Note: The only tricky part is the information on providing vitamin D. This information is slightly vague. It is briefly included in the section on vitamin A.)

Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats

This book provides instructions on how to prepare a meat-based diet for your pet. No grains are included. Nutritional analysis of the recipes can also be found in the book. The instructions for this diet are very detailed but can be a little confusing. Despite this, the book is excellent. When fed as instructed, the diet is complete and balanced for all life stages. Instructions are given on creating a supplement to add to the diet to assure all vitamins and minerals are provided.

Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs

Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olson gives more guidelines than actual recipes. While sample recipes are given, the reader is encouraged to rotate through many different meats. Grains are not recommended. Unlike the other two books mentioned here, this book does not contain instructions on creating a supplement, but it does contain two chapters dedicated to vitamins and minerals, and which foods are naturally rich in them. It also provides guidelines on supplementing certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D. There is information on how to feed a diet containing raw meaty bones and how to feed one without. Nutritional analysis are not available for recipes. For this reason, a person new to homemade feeding may be more comfortable strictly following one of the other books mentioned above.

The only thing I don’t like about this book is that several of the raw meaty bones recommended are much to big for many dogs. Even if the dog is able to handle chewing and eating some of the bones recommended, such as pork necks, they may still become constipated from the high bone content.


It is good to read a variety of books on dog nutrition, but any one of the above recommended ones will give you a firm footing when getting started in home cooking. Always remember to consult your veterinarian before making changes to your pet’s diet.

Is Spoiled Meat OK for my Dog?

Can I Feed my Dog Spoiled Meat?

Recently I was watching a video by Dr. Karen Becker. Dr. Becker was talking about the benefits of feeding dogs raw, fresh meat. Briefly, she mentioned that there is a website now supporting the practice of feeding spoiled and rotten meat to dogs. The reasoning behind this practice is that dogs in the wild will often times eat carcasses of animals that are not freshly killed. (Note: just to be clear, Dr. Becker does not support this practice at all, she believes it is dangerous to feed spoiled meat to dogs). I had never heard about feeding dogs like this, so I did a quick search. While I didn’t find a specific website dedicated to this type of “feeding”, I did stumble upon forums filled with people who seem to regularly feed their dogs meat that is beyond edible. Here, I wish to explain why it probably isn’t a great idea to feed your dog spoiled meat.

People’s reasons for feeding spoiled meat to their dogs:

On the above-mentioned forums, people gave many reasons to justify giving their dogs old meat. Several people stated that if their dog will eat it, then it must be ok for them. Others had gotten the meat for free from people whose freezers had broken, causing whatever meat was inside to go bad. Some stated that it is completely natural for dogs to eat rotting food, as wild dogs often burry meat and eat it several days later. Some people saw it as a way to get rid of meat that they had forgotten about in the fridge. Let’s briefly address some of these reasons.

The idea that a dog can distinguish between what is healthful for them and what might possibly kill them is ridiculous. Dogs are notorious for wanting to eat things that can potentially harm them. For example, antifreeze has a sweet taste, thus dogs like it. Antifreeze will cause kidney failure. This one example is enough to prove that dogs are not capable of knowing what is good to ingest and what is better left alone.

On the forum I was reading, it seemed pretty common for people to get meat to feed their dogs for free from their friends if their freezers had broken. One owner seemed really excited to get so much meat to start feeding their dog raw food. This owner was well intentioned, but as we will see below, feeding spoiled meat is not a safe practice.

With moves toward feeding dogs more naturally, it may seem completely natural to feed dogs old meat. Wild dogs often bury killed prey and consume it several days later. The scavenging nature of dogs also means that unlike cats, they will eat dead animals that they did not immediately kill. Feeding dogs raw meat that has passed human food inspection often produces wonderful results. Fresh, raw meat can carry certain bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli. Unlike people, dogs with healthy immune systems are rarely affected by these bacteria. Spoiled meat contains other substances which can harm dogs, as we shall see below.

Why Rotting Meat is Dangerous for Dogs:

Rotten meat is a breeding ground for bacteria, and these bacteria produce toxins and spores that can be harmful (Lawrie’s Meat Science). While dogs can generally handle the bacteria, they aren’t always equipped to deal with the toxins present in spoiled meat. This is the problem with feeding dogs spoiled meat. They can become sick from food poisoning just like people can.

Another problem with spoiled meat is that even when it is cooked, it can still be dangerous for your dog. The microorganisms that produce the toxins and spores will die if the meat is cooked to the appropriate temperature, but the toxins and spores they produced may not be affected by heat at all (Lawrie’s Meat Science). Once meat has gone bad there is no way to be sure that it is safe to feed your dog.

Feeding fresh meat, whether it is cooked or raw, can provide many health benefits to your dog. Fresh meat contains proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals that are needed for good health. Spoiled meat contains no substances that are beneficial that are not found in fresh meat, but it does contain toxins that can be detrimental to your best friend.


There are simply no health benefits to feeding your dog spoiled meat. The toxins that may be in old meat can make your dog sick just as they can make you sick. If you would not eat the meat yourself, don’t feed it to your dog.

Cited book:

Lawrie’s Meat Science

Dog Food on a Budget

Feeding your dog well on a budget:

There is a lot of emphasis today about feeding our dogs better diets. Articles on the benefits of feeding dogs grain free diets, raw meat diets, and organic meats abound. What is often glossed over though in the quest to feed out beloved friends better is the fact that many people can’t afford these specialty diets, as they often have little money to buy their own groceries. Being a good pet owner does not require one to go broke at the pet food store or at the supermarket. Below are some tips on feeding your dog when you are on a budget.

Feed dry food (If feeding a commercial diet):

Canned foods have the benefits of moisture, higher meat contents (usually), and palatability, but quality canned foods are also considerably more expensive than dry food. Dry foods that meet AAFCO nutrient profiles will provide your dog with complete and balanced nutrition just as canned foods will at a much lower price point.

To compare the cost of wet food vs dry food, we will take a look at Wellness. Wellness Complete Health Adult Deboned Chicken & Oatmeal Recipe Dry Dog Food cost about $32.00 on for a 15lb. bag (not including tax). This amount seems consistent with the price of this food in store near me, so it is the figure we will work with. The package recommends feeding a 45 lb. dog 2 1/3 cups of food a day. Assuming there are 4 cups of kibble in every pound, it will cost roughly $1.28 per day or $8.96 per week to feed a dog of this size this diet. This same size dog eating only Wellness Complete Health Chicken & Sweet Potato Formula Canned Dog Food will cost between $7.34 and $8.97 per day if feeding the recommended 3 cans a day. This works out to being between $51.41 to $62.79 per week! Clearly, unless feeding only one small dog, canned food is way out of budget for most people, even many people not necessarily tight on cash.

For small to medium size dogs, a good compromise is to feed mostly dry food with a little canned food. This improves palatability, and also the protein content of the diet (if using quality canned food, some low quality canned foods are actually pretty low in animal protein). It would cost a pet owner $2.60 per day to feed a 45 lb. dog the Wellness dog food listed above if feeding 6 oz. of canned plus 2 cups of dry food. This works out to $18.20 per week. This is more expensive than feeding dry alone, but considerably cheaper than feeding canned alone.

While dry foods are much cheaper, they also tend to have lower amounts of animal protein and higher amount of grains or starchy carbs. Kibble is also less palatable, and has very little moisture, which can be a problem for dogs who don’t drink enough water to compensate. There are ways to improve a dry food diet. These include soaking the kibble in water or low sodium broth and adding meat or other animal proteins. Use broth or water in the ratio of half to equal amounts of kibble. So, if you feed 1 cup of kibble per day, soak it in ½ to 1 cup of broth. We will look at ways to economically add meat and other fresh ingredients later in this article.

Feed food with grains:

While some dogs cannot tolerate grains in their diet, most do just fine as long as they are also getting high quality protein. Often, people assume that grain free = high protein. Many grain free diets cost more without actually having more animal protein. I have noticed many foods that are grain free are filled with peas and other legumes. These foods will inflate the crude protein content on the bag, making the food appear to have a higher meat content than it actually has. It seems to me that pea protein has become the new corn gluten meal in dog food. Its not that peas are necessarily bad, but I don’t see the point in paying more for a food to be filled with legumes instead of grains if the dog is not allergic to grains. If you think grain free always means high meat and high quality, you may want to read the label and see what is really in the food. If the first ingredient is meat, but the next four are a variety of legumes and pea protein concentrates, the food is high in vegetable content, not meat, so why pay more money for it?

Shop for Bargains:

I would not recommend feeding foods that have passed their expiration date, but many stores mark down foods that are close to expiring. If you have a large dog and go through food quickly, this can be a great way to save money, as you can easily use all of a bag before it expires. For smaller dogs, I would be a little more careful to make sure you don’t buy a bag that will expire long before you can feed it all. Many smaller pet food stores have frequent buyer programs. Generally, after purchasing 10 – 12 bags of food, you can get a free bag. Ask your store if they offer such programs.

When Feeding a Homemade Diet:

Feeding your dog a homemade diet on a budget is possible, it just takes some planning. Up to half of a homemade diet can come from grains and starchy carbs. This leaves plenty of room for a variety of animal products, but also leaves a little more money in your wallet.

Shop for meat on sale, just be sure to cook and freeze it as soon as you bring it home so it doesn’t spoil. Oftentimes in the summer I am able to find good deals on chicken thighs and legs. Chicken leg quarters are usually a decent price, just make sure you remove the skin before feeding unless your dog requires a high fat diet (most house pets DO NOT need high fat diets). Thanksgiving time usually comes with very good deals on turkeys. While poultry is usually cheaper than red meat, red meat is nutrient dense and has a different fatty acid profile, so make sure it still makes up a good amount of the dogs diet.

Avoid buying the highest fat meat available. While high fat ground beef appears to be a good bargain, the fat content is way to high, and will create problems in the diet. If you drain the fat, you are left with less food, so it makes sense to pay more for leaner ground beef.

Buying grains in bulk can also save you money. A freezer is extremely beneficial when feeding a homemade diet, as it allows you to shop for sales better.

Adding fresh food to dry dog food:

As stated above, feeding dry dog food is the most economically way to feed a dog. The best way to improve a dry food diet is to add fresh foods. It is important to not add too much fresh food, as this can unbalance the diet. If you want to feed high amounts of fresh ingredients plus kibble, that’s great! Feeding this way will just require more attention to nutrient balance and will also require supplementation of certain vitamins and minerals, including calcium. For this article, we are going to look at adding fresh food to account for 10% of an adult dog’s daily caloric needs. This amount should not throw off the nutrient balance of the commercial food being fed.

There are many ways to calculate your dog’s daily caloric requirements. I like the calorie calculator on The Ohio State University’s Veterinary Medical Center’s website (here is the link: According to this website, my spayed dog who weighs 32 lbs. should get 832 kcal every day. If adding fresh food to account for 10% of her daily calories, I need to feed 83 kcal of fresh food and 749 kcal of commercial food. Fresh foods and their protein and fat amounts meeting close to these calorie amounts are given in the chart below.

  Amount Calories Protein Fat
Boneless, skinless Chicken Thigh 1.5 oz. 89 11 g 4.6 g
Egg, extra large 1 whole 85 7.3 g 5.8 g
90/10 lean ground beef 1.75 oz. 86 9.8 g 4.9 g
Plain Greek yogurt 3.5 oz. 86 8.6 g 4 g
Chicken liver* 2.5 oz. (raw weight) 82 12 g 3.4 g

 Data from,, and

*Liver is rich in nutrients, so while a very healthful food for dogs, too much can upset a dog’s stomach. For this reason, be careful not to over do it. Feed liver at most twice a week and stop feeding if your dog has problems with it.

Your own dog’s caloric needs will vary, so ask your vet if you are unsure how to calculate how much your dog needs.

When choosing meats for my dogs, I rarely if ever buy organic. Its not that I don’t think organic food is beneficial; I simply can’t afford to feed such products to my pets. Any fresh, human grade meat is beneficial to your dog, whether it is organic or regular meat.

If you want to add vegetables to your dog’s diet, that’s great too. Most non-starchy veggies are pretty low calorie, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about it unbalancing a commercial diet since you shouldn’t have to reduce the amount of commercial food fed to avoid weight gain. Steamed and finely chopped vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini and yellow squash are all good choices. Other options include parsnips, brussel sprouts, green beans, and romaine lettuce. Here are my recommendations for amounts of veggies to add; feel free to adjust this amount based upon what works best for your dog. Don’t add too much all at once, as this can cause loose stools.

Dog size Amount of veggie
Less than 10 lbs. 1 tablespoon
30 lbs. 3 tbsp – ¼ cup
60 lbs. ¼ cup – ½ cup
90 lbs. or more ½ cup to ¾ cup



When reading about ways to best feed your furry friend, it is easy to feel like a lousy dog owner. Many of the foods that are boasted to be the best are also the most expensive. Your dog won’t think less of you if you can’t afford the most premium food on the shelf, and you shouldn’t think less of yourself either.