Could A Cooked Diet Be A Game Changer For Your Dog?
The fresh food movement is in full swing just like it is in human nutrition. We know that ultra processed diets are not health foods but until we and our dogs have experienced a healthy whole foods diet over a longer period of time, we often don't see the immense differences they have to offer. What is an ultra processed diet?
Dry dog food aka kibble, semi moist dog food, canned foods and packaged treats are by large all ultra processed foods. The ultra processing these foods go through degrade the nutrients meaning that vitamins and minerals have to be added back in and in many cases they include synthetic nutrients. The ingredient panels on these foods include words you've never heard of, fillers, stabilisers, texture changers, preservatives and the likes - they certainly do not scream health foods but pet parents are not in the habit of reading ingredient panels and even if they did, they wouldn't often know what to do with that information.
Animals who consume these types of diets over a long period of time can develop sensitive digestive systems and any change in diet can cause loose stools and other digestive challenges, this is because these diets do very little for your dogs gut flora which is our dogs 2nd brain and where disease is thought to start. The discussion about multi-generational ultra processed fed dogs is a fascinating one too in terms of how your dog's parents diets impact their offspring. I'd like to offer this article by Clinical Nutritionist, Narelle Cooke for you to learn more about this because I think it's vital in moving forward to make better decisions for your dog. Raw Diets are great, but...
Raw diets are amazing, we love them, but raw diets don't sit well with all dogs and some Vets who don't have a great deal of education on them don't feel comfortable with them and therefore pet parents get scared off them - for these reasons, many pet parents stay on dry food and other ultra processed diets because they don't know what to do.
This is where cooked diets can be a real game changer for dogs. Dogs with dysfunctional digestive systems, elderly dogs, reflux dogs, fussy dogs, puppies with reoccurring upset tummies and some dogs with disease processes do remarkable on cooked fresh food diets.
In addition to cooked diets, there are some supplements that can really help support these dogs too where the problem hasn't been able to be rectified with the Vet:
Australians can check out Canine Ceuticals for these products.
So, let's talk about cooked diets
First thing we need to let you know is that the majority of recipes you find online will be for occasional feeding only as they are not balanced and they often contain unnecessary and unhealthy high carb ingredients such as rice. If you would like to learn how to DIY balanced cooked diet yourself, head to our resources here. For DIY cooked diets, we would recommend you use a balancing supplement, we talk about those here. If you're not feeding raw bones, you are going to need to cover off your calcium in another way either from a balancing supplement or a calcium powder/syrup.
Commercial cooked diets
In this article, we are going to discuss Australian brands given that is where we are located. When it comes to cooked diets, there are many options available but they're not all created equal and the price tag is often going to be the indicator but sometimes some greedy businesses use their brand name and marketing to make you pay more for cheap products. It's important you read ingredient labels too because these are going to tell you a fair bit.
For the purpose of this article, we're not going to get into cooked rolls, we've written about these before and you can find that here.
We recently went through all the brands available to us locally and sorted them into price per kilo and they ranged from $6.00 to $30.00. Now, price per kilo isn't always the most accurate way of looking at affordability as the calories each product contains is different which means you will feed a different amount flavour to flavour, brand to brand but it's a good place to start and works for this article.
The cheapest is V.I.Ps Chunkers Adult Chilled Fresh Dog Food Chicken Meatballs
The ingredients as listed as: Fresh Chicken, Selected Cereals, Salt, Fresh Eggs, Sugar, Essential Vitamins and Minerals (including Thiamine) Parsley, Food Acid, Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids, Preservatives (223). The top 5 ingredients I have put in bold are your predominant ingredients and in this case they are disappointing, instead of using healthy fruit and veg, they have used Cereals. DOn't get too excited about the "Fresh Eggs" because anything that is listed after '"Salt" can be assumed to be under 1% of the recipe. And yes, Sugar because your dog probably wouldn't enjoy this recipe too much without it. The use of preservative 223 is also disappointing. Would I recommend this? Not for a pet parent whose goal is to feed a healthier diet to their dog.
4 Legs just like Chunkers have a number of balls in their range too, let's look at their 'Angus Beef Meatballs' which works out to $7.00 per kilo.
The ingredients are listed as: Meat (Chicken, Angus Beef), Wheat Flour, Vegetables (Sweet Potato, Green Beans), Coating (Oat Bran, Coconut, Carrot, Parsley), Natural Gelling Agents, Vitamins & Minerals, Sunflower Oil.
They're definitely a step up from the Chunkers but they're still using Wheat Flour as their binder. Whilst the food is called Angus Beef, it also contains Chicken because Chicken is cheap. No preservatives in this one but I'm not totally stoked about the Sunflower oil and the Gelling agents. Would I recommend this? If this is the best you can do budget wise then it's not awful, I'm more likely to use this for training treats if anything if I'm being lazy and don't have Prime100 cooked rolls at hand.
Natures Gift also has a range of balls, we're going to look at their 'Chilled Fresh Dog Food Meatballs With Chicken' version which works out to $8.57 per kilo.
The ingredients are listed as: Chicken, Wholegrain Flour, Lamb Liver, Salt, Potato Starch, Sweet Potato, Brown Rice, Peas, Carrots, Sugar, Essential Vitamins & Minerals, Liquid Pediococcus acidilactici Fermentation Solubles, Dried Pediococcus acidilactici Fermentation Product, Garlic.
I like the inclusion of Lamb Liver and the ingredients that support gut health: Liquid Pediococcus acidilactici Fermentation Solubles, Dried Pediococcus acidilactici Fermentation Product. I don't like the flour, sugar, the brown rice and the potato starch - so many carbs just there as fillers and to make it cheap. Would I recommend this? No.
Prime100 have recently released a new slow cooked product, let's look at their Chicken & Brown Rice which works out to $16.92 per kilo.
The ingredients are listed as: Australian Chicken, Brown Rice, Bamboo Fibre, Functional Oils (Flaxseed, Algae), Salt, Vitamins & Minerals, Chicory Root Extract, Trumune® Postbiotics, Algimun®, Taurine, Glucosamine, Chondroitin. There's some good gut health stuff there but the brown rice and lack of any other fruits and veggies is disappointing. Would I recommend it: I think it's boring and I'm not thrilled about the brown rice but if it works for your budget then sure but I think you could DIY for this price.
Lyka - a local company that has Vet on the team that definitely gives them street cred, ethically sourced meat, lightly cooked aka not cooked to death, low GI, carbon negative & human grade ingredients - expect a higher price tag, this one comes in at around $17-$22 per kilo.
The ingredients are great, they have a number of recipes to choose from, they do use a higher percentage of plant matter than I generally recommend but their non-meat ingredients are likely far less than others in this space.
It's a great product, there's no denying that and their vitamin and mineral mix doesn't include synthetics nutrients.
What I don't like is that it's a subscription service vs ust buying what you want when you want and for anything larger than a small dog it's going to be outside the budget of the average Australian.
Google or ask around for a discount code, they usually offer 20% off for first timers.
Premiyum can be found at Woolworths and Coles, we're going to look at their Slow Cooked Chicken Protein Bowl that comes in at $18.00 per kilo.
Ingredients are listed as: Chicken, Rice, Sweet Potato, Spinach, Broccoli, Pumpkin, Vegetable Fibre, Chicory Root Powder, Sodium Alginate, Hempseed Oil, Essential Vitamins & Minerals, Natural Colour.
The Rice, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato are your high carb binders, they're also using Sodium Alginate which is a gum to help with the texture.
Would I recommend this? Well, not over Lyka that's for sure! Whilst it's available at the supermarket which makes it easy to obtain, Lyka is far superior in this price point.
4 Legs also has a slow cooked option, let's look at their 'Slow Cooked Beef Pumpkin Broccoli & Cous Cous' which works out to $20.00 per kilo.
The ingredient are listed as: Meat (beef), vegetables (pumpkin & broccoli), couscous, vinegar, vitamins & minerals, pea fibre, natural gelling agent, flaxseed oil, fish oil, green lipped mussel meal, natural colour.
Would I recommend it? Again, not over Lyka in this price point. Don't get too excited about the green lipped mussel meal, there would be barely any in there especially as the 2nd to last ingredient. I'm not excited about their gelling agents, they're also using couscous as a filler instead of more expensive ingredients.
Petbarns the 'The Nosh Project' is the most expensive at $27.00-$30.00 per kilo, we're going to look at their Digestive Support Adult Dog Meal.
The ingredients are listed as: Rice, chicken, broccoli, carrots, spinach, chicken liver, canola oil, vitamins & minerals, algal oil (EPA, DHA), psyllium husk.
Wow, Rice is the #1 ingredient, we can stop here - no, I would not recommend this to anyone, this is so overpriced that it seems completely unethical.
Here is my complete list of price per kilo of those that are locally available to me but you may find other brands in your local area: