Alternative Diets for Dogs

You don't need to rely on commercial dog food.
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A well-fed, healthy dog is a vision to behold. His glossy coat, lean physique, alertness and high energy levels tell you and those around you that this dog is thriving. But different dogs have different dietary needs. Depending on his age, breed and health, your dog may benefit from an alternative diet. This is especially true if he’s not thriving on the food you currently feed. The best way to judge whether your dog’s diet is working for him is to monitor his energy levels and appearance. A glossy coat is a good indicator of internal health.


The biologically appropriate raw food, or BARF, diet was developed by Dr. Ian Billinghurst to deliver nutrients in a way that emulated the feeding habits of dogs in the wild. The theory is that despite domestication, the canine digestive system is still optimized for a hunter’s diet, with plenty of raw meat, bones and even vegetables. Although this diet is potentially beneficial, it is a messy and inconvenient mode of feeding. There are no tins, resealable pouches or bags with the BARF diet, just lots of raw meat.

Life Stage

Your dog’s nutritional requirements depend strongly on his age and size. The age of a dog determines his likely energy level. Put simply, puppies are a bundle of energy and require more fat than old dogs, who are more sedentary. Small breeds grow faster, so a small-breed puppy requires even more energy than a large-breed puppy. Life stage food caters to these variations in nutritional need, delivering the optimal blend of nutrients according to the life stage of the dog.


It’s easy to take “organic” and assume it means “healthy.” Organic is defined as being produced using “environmentally friendly methods.” This means that your dog’s organic food contains no synthetic products or preservatives. If your dog suffers from skin allergies, digestive problems or lethargy, his condition may improve with an organic diet.


If you’d prefer to be in control of exactly what your dog eats, you can feed an entirely homemade diet. Many foods you already have in the house, such as brown rice, chicken, potatoes and even hamburgers, can create a healthy, balanced diet for your dog. You can also save money this way. Offal such as liver, kidneys and heart, which are typically the cheapest products at your local butcher’s, are great for dogs. Lentils, beans and millet are a great source of protein if you want to reduce the amount of meat your dog consumes.