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Diet - What to feed & why

Updated November 12, 2010 - After gas went so high and the economy crashed, we couldn't go an hour each way for Pro Plan Sensitive every week.  Here's what we feed now to adults, 2 parts:

Diamond Naturals Chicken & Rice Adult - 26/16
$28/40# - 70c/pound
Chicken, chicken meal, whole grain brown rice, white rice, cracked pearled barley, chicken fat, oatmeal, dried beet pulp, egg product, flaxseed, natural chicken flavor, fish meal, vitamins & minerals.

And rotate 1 part of the following grain-free kibbles:

Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream - 25/15
$42/30# - $1.40/pound
Salmon, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, canola oil, salmon meal, smoked salmon, potato fiber, natural flavor, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, probiotics, vitamins &  minerals.
Taste of the Wild High Prairie - 32/18
$42/30# - $1.40/pound
Bison, lamb meal, chicken meal, egg product, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, roasted bison, roasted venison, natural flavor, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, probiotics, vitamins &  minerals.
Taste of the Wild Wetlands - 32/18
$42/30# - $1.40/pound
Duck, duck meal, chicken meal, egg product, sweet potatoes, peas, chicken fat, potatoes, roasted quail, roasted duck, smoked turkey, natural flavor, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, probiotics, vitamins &  minerals.
Taste of the Wild High Sierra - 25/15
$41/30# - $1.37/pound
Lamb, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, canola oil, potato protein, roasted lamb, tomato pomace, natural flavor, salt, choline chloride, mixed tocopherols, dried chicory root, taurine, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, probiotics, vitamins &  minerals.

Mostly the Pacific Stream for the fish, occasionally the other three if the fish is not available.  

For pregnant/nursing  moms, either of the following:

Eukanuba Premium Performance - 30/20
$50/40# - $1.25/pound
Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Meal, Brewers Rice, Fish Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken Fat, Natural Chicken Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Dried Egg Product, Brewers Dried Yeast, Fish Oil, vitamins & minerals.
Eukanuba Puppy Growth - 29/18
$44/40# - $1.10/pound
Chicken, Corn Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Brewers Rice, Chicken Fat, Chicken Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Dried Egg Product, Fish Oil, Fish Meal, vitamins & minerals.

All puppies are weaned onto Euk LB Puppy and kept on for the first year.  Seniors who do not maintain weight on the adult mix above, are put back on the Euk LB Puppy.

Eukanuba Large Breed Puppy - 26/14
$44/50# - $1.10/pound
Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Chicken Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Fish Meal, Dried Egg Product, Fish Oil, vitamins &  minerals.

Dogs get raw bone-in, skin-on chicken quarters or raw whole hens 1-3x/week.  And fish oil capsules 3-5x/week.

I used to feed Pro Plan Sensitive, but since salmon has water in it, the actual ingredients would put salmon way down the list and push rice, canola and oats to the top of the list - grains as the top ingredients is NOT what this formula used to be, or should be for $40/34#.  There are much better foods for the same money.

Purina Pro Plan Sensitive - 26/16
$40/34# - $1.18/pound
Salmon, brewers rice, canola meal, oat meal, fish meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, salmon meal, pearled barley, brewers dried yeast, animal digest, vitamins & minerals.

This rambles. It's not organized enough to publish. But these are my thoughts on dogfood...

Before I go to what I feed and why, how about -- how is dog food created? There is an RDA for dogs (Recommended daily allowance) and the AAFCO guidelines mentioned on most kibbles follows the RDA through testing. However, the research that goes into the RDA was not looking for nutrient levels for THRIVING, but merely for SURVIVING. So if the food says it was tested by AAFCO guidelines you can rest assured it doesn't kill many dogs to eat it. If that's your concern, you can find any food "tested by AAFCO guidelines" (not "using AAFCO recommendations" which is a different thing -- you want the word tested in there. But you also have to know that the average feeding trial, and Purina is famous for them, lasts 18 months.......... I personally would like to know what my choice of dogfood does for 15 years or so.

We did very very surface feeding trials and looked at short-term results -- you can see some of that research on Feeding Trials.

Let's think about what a dog is built to eat. From teeth to tail, their digestive track is identical to a wild carnivore like a wolf or a coyote. There have been NO evolutionary changes (and nor would you expect there to be) since man domesticated the dog. The argument as to when the dog was domesticated doesn't matter, there are no changes. So what do wild carnivores eat? Anything basically. They are opportunistic scavengers. But that does not mean we should feed them junk. Surviving on junk is not what we want for our pets, we want them to THRIVE and flourish and be as healthy as possible, don't we?

Malamutes are not wolves, and I wouldn't presume to say they were. But of the domesticated dog breeds, Malamutes, Canadian Inuit Dogs, Greenland Dogs, and Siberian Huskies are the dogs that closest approximate the wolf -- a large canine that was developed to survive in the arctic. What do wolves eat? Well David Mech, the world's authority on wolves, says they eat meat, bone, organs, and an accidental amount of grasses found in the stomach of large ungulets like deer. Occasionally he has found wild berries in their scat (poop), and just about every other thing you can imagine. But by and large, they eat meat and bone and organs.

(Farley Mowat has retracted his published data about wolves eating mice, and has admitted he not only stole the data, but embellished it.)

There are schools of thought that feed just that -- meat and bone and organs. Their dogs appear to thrive. There are no tests of course because a homemade diet by definition varies from home to home, area to area, budget to budget. But looking at these raw fed dogs, they glow, they appear healthy, they have small firm stools, and they have pearly white teeth... all things critical to deciding if your diet is a good one, wouldn't you think?

Good digestion (the ability of the body to digest what is given to it as fuel) would logically seem to indicate that the body was reaping the rewards of that food. White teeth are a necessity because wild animals didn't have dentists (or the need) because the chewing and gnawing action of eating large pieces of meat and bone scraped the teeth clean.

But not many want to go to the trouble to prepare spreadsheets with all the known requirements for a healthy dog and then formulate their own food... I have, and for 3 years I fed raw, with the occasional kibble meal. However, its expensive and a pain in the neck to find sources, buy food, store food, and prepare it every day. 

You can read more about that at Raw Feeding. And no, dogs don't die from eating chicken bones. COOKING chicken bones is dangerous because cooking changes the temper or brittleness of the bone and leads to shards and splinters -- shards and splinters are the dangerous part of cooked bones, not the bone itself. My dogs ate RAW chicken quarters 3x/week for 3 years. You know the kind at Wal-mart in the 10lb bag? No problems. Because the bones were RAW. Did we die of salmonella poisoning? Not yet. If you can handle raw chicken for your own family, why can't you for your dogs? Wash your hands, wash your utensils, wipe down your counters and don't worry about it. Do dogs get sick from salmonella eating raw chicken? Stop and think a moment. Wild dogs don't have cooked food, in fact they frequently eat ROTTEN food with no problems. Why? Because the digestive track of a wild carnivore is short and extraordinarily acidic and they are BUILT to eat rotten bacteria-laden food -- just like their domesticated cousin the dog. So if you are interested in learning about a BALANCED raw diet, ask me privately and we'll discuss it some more.

But what about the owner who wants to feed the best they can afford -- but wants the convenience of a bag? Well, there are lots and lots of brands. I'll tell you what I feed in the end, but let me show you how I decided to feed what I do...

Free range meat/bone/organs -- that's what wolves eat. Plus a few bits of greens and maybe a little fruit in season. (None of the meat, bone, or organs came from factory farms, feedlots, or was topped off with antibiotics and grains. And research is very clear that non-grain, non-antibiotics, non-feedlot meat/bone/organ have a different chemical and protein analysis over what we generally can find in supermarkets.)

No wolf ever ate grains -- nor any meat source animal raised on grains. Not corn, wheat, barley, rice, or any other grains. Just meat and bone and organs.

Anyone know how dog food was originally created? Cereal manufacturers had all this excess stuff laying on the floor and during the world wars meat and bone and organs were in short supply, so they invented dog food in a bag. It had to be cooked and mashed to be extruded through their machines to make the tiny little similar-shaped pieces. And grains are cheaper than meat/bone/organs. So if you start to read dog food labels, you'll discover that the diet of a wolf would never be satisfied by ANY kibble.

Are kibbles evil? No, of course not. But most of them are disasters when it comes to feeding dogs. Read the labels. I have. Its sad what most people consider dog food. You should look for ingredients that make sense.

-- “Salmon” means whole salmon, not by-products, not flavoring, but the whole fish. This is good. But it is farm-raised fish and you have to know how it is preserved as some preservatives BANNED for human consumption are still AOK for dog food.  Also, when looking at the label, salmon, chicken, lamb -- this is by weight and unless it says salmon MEAL, chicken MEAL, lamb MEAL the ingredient has about 80% WATER.   When reading dog food ingredients, "salmon meal" gives the dog more salmon than "salmon" does.

-- “By-product” means the parts that are not fit for human consumption -- the dead, dying, diseased, and the waste like feathers, hooves, horns, etc, that don't have a lot of nutritional value in them, but are cheap.  A good food will not have by-products, not even things that are by-products but not labeled as such -- brewer's rice is the junk left over once it is no longer needed for brewing, it is mostly filler and has little or no nutrition in it.

-- “Meal” just means ground up whatever.  Salmon meal is salmon without the water.  By-product meal is ground up junk like hooves, feathers, etc. By-product salmon meal means they took the best parts for human canned salmon and ground up the bones, scales, fins, etc for the dog food. NOT the good parts.  What you want to see in a label is several of the top 5 ingredients containing a named meat meal like "chicken meal" or "salmon meal" or "lamb meal."

-- “Animal flavoring/animal fat”... want to take a guess? If it were turkey they would say turkey. If it were turkey and chicken they would say poultry. If it were turkey and beef, they would say poultry and beef. Manufacturers love to put the good words on labels because it helps sell their product. But by law, they can use the word "animal" if they want to instead. Why would they want to cover up turkey, chicken, beef, fish, lamb, etc? Because that's not what is in animal flavoring/fat. It is anyone's guess what is NOT turkey, chicken, salmon, or lamb and is in those bags.... horses or other dogs and cats maybe?  Dead zoo animals?  Who knows. Canada has finally outlawed the rendering (cooking) of pets into pet food after the mad cow disease scare (diseased cows were fed to healthy cows and the healthy cows caught the disease). The US has not outlawed the rendering of dogs into dogfood, and in fact the AVA has bulletins out to vets indicating that current research indicates that you may have to use more Phenobarbital to euthanize because dogs and cats are becoming resistant to the drug because its in their food... I know, I know, you don't want to believe this. Neither did I. But I did the research. And it's not pretty.

OK, so we have this little horror in cheap dog food. What about the good dog food, what about the expensive stuff. Is it better?

Sure, some is better than others. Some is better for our breed than others. Lets talk about grains. Malamutes are not herding dogs raised on milk and oats. They were raised in a land where there was no firewood, therefore there was no cooking. There were seals, whales, caribou, & a few birds. No grains certainly since grains are NOT grasses, but a manmade agricultural exaggeration. So they would have had no exposure to corn, wheat, rice, barley, etc.

But dog food companies are made for profit. They are businesses first. They have stockholders to answer to and market share. So.... its a sad fact that in dog food, as in everything else in life, you get what you pay for. And in order to extrude dogfood into those consistent little shapes, you had to first cook the food, and you had to have lots of grains. Cooking destroys enzymes and even some temperature-sensitive vitamins so manufacturers would add those things back in. Then you have the consumer influence and consumers love to be able to pronounce the ingredients of what they are feeding, so the more "holistic" fruits, veggies, nuts, and berries started showing up <G> And dog food companies are not stupid, and they know that there is a section of their consumer that WANTS a great food and will pay for it...

Which gets me back to which dog food do I feed and why? If you can find it on the shelf at your grocery store, it's not worth taking home. Yes, that's a broad statement. Tell me a brand in your grocery store that has more meat in the top 5 than grains, that doesn't have corn in the first 5 ingredients at all, and isn't most or all grains after that? 

Corn is the one grain that many dogs tend to react to. It has an extraordinarily LOW digestibility rating, and it's cheap, so dog food companies use a lot of it.  Wheat as well, white rice, brewer's rice -- these are not things dogs can digest well.  They have little nutritional value and are used as mostly fillers.

Good grains, if you're going to have grains, are things like oatmeal, whole grains like brown rice.

Which leads me to my journey of dog food discovery. I started with the feeding trials, evolved to feeding raw, for while I fed a mixture of kibble and raw with a select three supplements (below).  But now I am feeding Premium Edge adult formulas with raw meaty bones (chicken, pork, beef) 2-3x/week...  Why Premium Edge?

1) I can get it locally without having to drive an hour every time I need food.
2) The ingredients impressed me
3) I can afford it.
4) The dogs do well on it.

I have tried a 100 combinations of supplements and protein sources and done all the spreadsheets. What you want is something they THRIVE on, glossy coats, energy, small stools, bright eyes.... <G> I've finally found what works for my dogs. And of course it turned out to be very simple after all the complicated ways I tried to do it.

Note: 3/2009 - can no longer get Premium Edge locally, or reasonably.

((EFA (essential fatty acids) is something you can look up on the net, but suffice it to say they are CRUCIAL (and are something of a miracle with aching joints).))

Wayeh's Weekly "Nearly Ideal" Diet, puppies & adults

4-5 meals Pro Plan Salmon (Sensitive) or Eukanuba Large breed puppy

1-2 meals RAW bone-in skin-on chicken quarters, or pork necks, or turkey necks, or turkey wings -- something with BONE IN, usually chicken quarters

1 meal sardines (in brine), whole eggs in shell, fruits & veggies 

cooked veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, leafy greens, whatever is in season

very ripe fruits like apples, bananas, pears, whatever is in season

Plus Supplements

7 days/week 1000mg seal oil, wild caught salmon oil or fish oil

2 days/week 200mg Vitamin E caplets

After trying many many ways of raising puppies, I fell back to the old standard because it WORKS to raise strong, muscular, heavy puppies who are not fat.

Eukanuba Sporting 30/20 or Eukanuba Puppy Growth 29/19 for pregnant moms until puppies are weaned and then mom & pups are switched to:

Eukanuba Large Breed puppy 26/14 until pups have most of their expected adult height

Nupro is a great supplement if you're going to feed one.  Here are the ingredients: 
Desiccated liver
Norwegian kelp
Bee pollen
yeast culture
flaxseed & borage seed
calcium citrate

Here are the ingredients for Premium Edge adult Chicken, Rice, & Vegetables (which I can no longer get):

Chicken, chicken meal, ocean fish meal, whole grain brown rice, cracked pearled barley, white rice, oatmeal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherals), potatoes, tomato pumice, egg product, flaxseed, natural chicken flavor, choline chloride, dried chicory root, Glucosamine hydrochloride, kelp, carrots, peas, apples, tomatoes, blueberries, spinach, dried skim milk, cranberry powder, rosemary extract, parsley flake, yucca schidigera extract, minerals & vitamins.

Chicken is the first ingredient and contains about 80% water, so nutritionally chicken meal is the first ingredient -- that's OK, that's meat, as is ocean fish meal.  Rice is next, but it's whole grain brown rice and one of the best grains if you're going to have grains, then cracked pearled barley, white rice (mostly filler in this position), oatmeal is another nutritional grain, then chicken fat -- which is not something you really want to eat.  Potatoes have lots of nutrition in them, tomato pumice is a filler and fiber, egg product could be better if it were whole egg, flaxseed is a good EFA.  Natural chicken flavor is not a great thing, chicken would be better, but there you go.  The rest of the ingredients are very minor additions, but some of them are whole fruits (even tho the amount is miniscule this far down the list).  All in all, it's the best food I can afford and find locally.

Here are the ingredients for Pro Plan Salmon (Sensitive):

(text here, Sid)

The dogs are thriving! The raw chicken quarters help clean teeth -- I stopped them for 2 months and am appalled at the formerly white teeth now yellowed. Yuck. Back to raw chicken quarters to fix those gunky teeth.

But the most important things about which food you feed are:

Can I afford it?

Does my dog thrive on it?


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Contact Wayeh    *    423-365-6039    *    Spring City, (East) Tennessee
Wayeh Alaskan Malamutes last updated 07/18/2011

Member Oak Ridge Kennel Club since 1996, member TN Working Dog Association since 2008

Temperament, health, structure, working ability, and then type --
because a good Malamute has to be a good dog first.