New Year’s Dog Diet Resolution: “I resolve that my dog will eat better in the new year!”

Your dog will be ecstatic about your resolution! Photo Courtesy of Cindy Staszak

New Year's Dog Diet Resolution: "I resolve that my dog will eat better in the new year!" Why not get on the “green dog bandwagon” and give your dog the new year’s gift that will last a lifetime? Your dog will be ecstatic about this resolution!

If you're having trouble sifting through all of the dog nutrition information and want to know what's good for your dog to eat and what's not--what's  essential and what's not--this article is written for you.

Veterinary nutritionist agree, a poor diet is the biggest obstacle to achieving canine health...from the ingredients, to the additives, to the processing. Buy food from companies that don’t cut corners but rather strive to provide the best quality food using ingredients produced and regulated in the U.S. Experts do not agree 100% about nutrition, however, an excellent holistic resource that investigates and reviews dry and canned food each year may be found at

Here're some tips to help you select dog foods that are both healthful and convenient.

The urban legend instructing pet parents to avoid feeding "people food" to dogs is only true if what you eat is not good for you! If you choose to home-cook, start with trustworthy recipes or prepare a healthy meal for yourself and cook a little extra for your dog. Be informed however, that raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, chocolate, xylitol and even onions are considered toxic to dogs, as are the pits of fruits. Home-cooked meals can be great for your dog... but not every good pet parent wants to cook for the dog.

If you choose to feed kibble, feed an organic super-premium quality kibble and rotate between specifically named meats within and between brands. A balanced diet requires variety. Feeding the same food continuously may create allergies and nutritional deficiencies. There are some excellent dehydrated and freeze-dried foods as well.

Transition from one brand or protein source to the next over the course of a week or two.  Always add water or a scoop of wet food to the kibble. Producing enough saliva to swallow dry kibble is hard on your dog’s digestive system. Chewing kibble does not clean the teeth.


Q. What’s best on the ingredients list?

A.  TV ads and food bags that proclaim “complete and balanced” may be misleading.
Look for a specifically named meat (or fish) as the first ingredient and as many named meat sources in the first three ingredients as possible. Unfortunately, you can’t determine the quality of the meat from the label. Look for natural preservatives, such as vitamin C, vitamin e, citric acid and rosemary.

Nikko, carrot connoisseur, tells us that carrots are not only a yummy treat, but nutritionally ideal for dogs. Photo Courtesy of Cindy Staszak

A more natural diet would include raw meat, ground and large raw bones, shredded fruits and vegetables, and organ meat. Most vegetables and some fruits can and should be a part of your dog’s diet. Add a human food-quality bone meal as a calcium source to balance the high phosphorus in meats if you’re not providing bones. Conveniently frozen raw meals of meat, bone and veggies are now available.

Q. What about protein vs carbohydrates in the nutritional analysis?

A. High-protein diets are generally linked to high performance and high simple carbohydrate diets are linked to obesity in dogs. Choose a food with a small percentage of whole grains, if any. Doug Knueven, DVM, renowned veterinary lecturer on dog nutrition and author of The Holistic Health Guide: Natural Care for the Whole Dog (2008) also warns, “High carbohydrate foods predispose dogs to cancer.” Canines have little dietary requirements for carbohydrates, however, up to 90% grains may be used in commercial dog food because they are an inexpensive way to increase calories.

Q. What ingredients should I avoid?

A. Corn gluten, wheat, soy, unspecified meats, by-products of all kind, and any ingredient ending in -ose, corn syrup and sugar.

Q. What are red flags in my dog's food and treats?

A. Artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, especially BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin which have been linked to a variety of diseases.

Q. What about the processing?

A. High-temperature dog food processing can destroy nutrients including vitamins,
enzymes and amino acids. Stay as close to natural and organic as feasible.

Q. Do I really need to add supplements?

A. No matter what type of diet you choose, supplements are important.  Be sure your supplement producer is a member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) which commits to stringent quality controls.

Supplements listed in order of relative importance:

A balanced multivitamin/mineral derived from whole food sources.
Fish oil. DHA and EPA are omega-3 fatty acids naturally found in fish oil and are important for brain function. A 2004 study showed that a measure of canine intelligence was more than doubled for a group with DHA supplement than a control group of puppies 9 -13 weeks of age. DHA is “cooked out” of heat-processed (kibble) foods.
Glucosamine/chrondroitin. Especially important for high-activity or performing dogs and to prevent and treat arthritis.
Probiotics--“good bacteria”. Provide at the change of the seasons, high-stress, and during and after any medication treatment, especially antibiotics.

Many illnesses, skin, and behavioral problems are directly affected by diet, so keep your Fifi and Bowser physically and temperamentally fit by meeting their canine nutritional needs. Consult your holistically-minded veterinarian or certified canine nutritional expert for more details.

Originally published in the Carmel Valley News. CA

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email: [email protected] for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at

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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


4 thoughts on “New Year’s Dog Diet Resolution: “I resolve that my dog will eat better in the new year!”

  1. Amanda Jane Finnell

    You hit all the essential points. It's really worth it to read the list of ingredients for yourself, expensive brands and brands recommened by professionals may use corn or other "avoidables" as their top ingredient. Sensitivities to artificial coloring and ingredients can often be overlooked as a cause for allergies and tummy upset. The NASC seal and membership is an easy way for consumer to recognize a reputable brand. Thanks for posting!

  2. Rebecca Kronenberg

    This article mentions all of the most important aspects of taking care of our dog's nutrition. Don't be fooled by the big brand names and the wholesome pictures on the front of the kibble bag! A little bit of research goes a long way for your pet's health, and you have steered us in the right direction for that. There are many dog foods out there that use other sources of preservatives instead of BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, and should be highly regarded in dog food decision making. Thanks to Whole Dog Journal and a variety of other websites, there is plenty of information out there for us to learn more about the ingredients listed in dog food. Your article lets us realize that we make resolutions each year to take care of our health, and we should certainly do the same for our dogs!

  3. Kim Brown

    We have been using Iam's Healthy Naturals on both our dogs and they love it. However, if there was something in the same price range that was better I would love to know what it is.

    I know I should cook for the dogs, but we have busy jobs and I don't even cook for my husband!

    I woudl if I had to of course. For both the dogs and the husband. 🙂

  4. maythewondercat

    OK, I make home made dog treats farely often, and the dogs I know love them. More recently, I am thinking about selling them to raise money for the rescue we gor our Cassie from, Atlanta Pet Rescue and Adoption, which I know Victoria is also affiliated with. Anyway, I know and have a basic understanding of dog, cat, lizard, and horse nutrition, and I have recently been reasurching about plant based diets, for pets, Now, I myself have been a long time vegetarian, and this year, intend to make the jump to full-vegan this year. I was wondering what Victoria and her workers thought about the subject.

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