When bringing home your new Gerberian Shepsky, one of the most important decisions to make is what to feed your dog. Several factors must be considered including your budget, the dog’s health and activity level, possible allergies, and the availability of high-quality dog food in your area. Diet plays an extremely important role in the health and happiness of your dog, so feeding the highest quality food is important. With so many dog food options available, what should you choose? The four main types include dry kibble, wet food, homemade food, and the raw diet. Each category has its own set of distinct advantages and disadvantages, which will be discussed.
A typical dry dog food includes ingredients such as a protein (typically chicken or beef), a carbohydrate (such as wheat or grains), and added vitamins, minerals, and preservatives. Ingredients are listed on dog food labels in order of most abundant to least abundant, with the first five ingredients typically comprising the majority of the food.
When choosing a quality kibble, look for one that has a protein source listed as the first ingredient. Be aware that not all protein is created equally. For instance, “deboned chicken,” “chicken meal” and “chicken by-product” are vastly different, in the same ways a pork chop is not the same as a hot dog. Pay attention to the filler sources in your dog’s food, as well. Avoid foods with corn or other ingredients that are not easily digested by dogs. Also, be aware that wheat and grains are common allergens that can cause skin rashes and irritation. A number of “grain-free” foods exist to bypass this issue and use rice or potatoes instead.
There are many advantages to a high-quality kibble. Often, dry food is suggested to be good for a dog’s teeth, because the hard bits can act as an abrasive cleaner and is less likely to stick to (and stain) dog’s teeth. If planning to travel often with your dog, dry food is much more convenient to pack and store than other food types, and can also double as training treats. High-quality brands remove the guesswork from determining how to give your dog a balanced diet, as everything he needs, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals, is neatly packaged in a small morsel. Indeed, a dog can live his entire life only eating one variety of dry food.
The disadvantages of kibble are just as diverse. Dry dog food is not as natural or instinctual for a canine, and may not fulfill his desire to eat as his ancestors once did. German Shepherds and Siberian Huskies both can be picky eaters, and less likely to want to eat “boring” kibble as opposed to raw or wet food. One of the biggest disadvantages is that a number of serious pet food recalls have occurred recently as a result of food-related pet deaths and have involved even the most reputable of brands.
Wet dog food can be more enticing for a dog as it is “smellier” and more similar in consistency to what a dog would eat in the wild. The ingredients are generally the same as in kibble but in different quantities. Canned food usually contains more meat, fewer carbohydrates, and also fewer preservatives because of the air-tight packaging. Like kibble, dry food is balanced for overall nutrition. Unlike kibble, however, wet food is nowhere near as convenient, and is also much more costly. Pet owners should also be aware that similar pet food recalls have occurred.
To avoid the risk of food recalls, some pet owners have turned to making their own dog food. This is also a popular choice for dogs who suffer multiple food allergies. To note, homemade food excludes table scraps, which can be harmful to a dog’s digestive tract and pancreas. Common dog food recipes include meat, such as chicken or beef, a carbohydrate source like sweet potatoes or brown rice, and the occasional fruits or vegetables. Dogs tend to prefer homemade food over canned or wet options, likely because of the superior quality. This type of food is far less convenient, especially when traveling. Pet parents must also be vigilant to ensure the meals are balanced, or else nutrient deficiencies can occur. Oftentimes, an expensive vitamin or nutritional supplement is recommended. Although time-consuming and expensive, for some pet owners these disadvantages do not outweigh the benefits of having complete control over a dog’s diet.
An increasingly common dog food type is the raw food diet, or BARF (bones and raw food). Exactly as it sounds, this diet primarily includes cuts of raw meat and raw bones, and occasionally fruits or vegetables for fiber. Also common for dogs with food allergies, this diet is highly touted among those who believe dogs should eat what is most similar to their ancestor’s diets. Additionally, a raw diet may retain more nutrients because vitamins and minerals are not lost in the cooking process. For the high prey-drive Gerberian Shepsky, raw foods may fulfill an innate desire. The disadvantages of raw food are many. For instance, a raw diet may be harmful to humans as bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella can be present before feeding, and then in subsequent feces.
While these bacteria will not affect your dog, they do have the potential to infect you or your family. Raw diets are the most expensive of the four types of food considered here and are also not as readily available. Feeding raw bones is safer than feeding cooked bones, however, they still may splinter and severely injure your dog’s digestive tract. Finally, bones and raw food are extremely messy, and any residue left after feeding must be promptly cleaned to avoid the risk of infection.
Choosing the proper dog food can be a difficult decision. There is no right or wrong choice, but a good rule of thumb is to buy the highest quality available that also fits in your budget. Always be sure to consult a veterinarian before starting a homemade or raw food diet, and do not hesitate to seek help in choosing the best food for your individual dog.