Dinner Time- Choosing The Right Food for Your Primitive Dog

As you walk down the aisles of a pet store, it is very easy to become overwhelmed by all the choices. How do you choose when there are so many different proteins, food for small dogs, big dogs, puppies, overweight dogs, grain-free, natural… what does it all mean? The media surrounds us with contradictory statements about what a dog should eat. Companies often criticize other pet food companies but do not offer a much better product themselves. Therefore, as a pet owner it is your responsibility to do your own research on canine nutrition and feed your dog the best that you can with the means that you have.  

Photo by Couch Wolves group member A. Shuyler

Photo by Couch Wolves group member A. Shuyler

The Ingredient Label

Forget the way that the bag looks, and words like “natural” and “organic.” The first place to look when choosing a food for your dog is the ingredient label. The first seven ingredients are the most important as these are represented in the highest quantities. In kibble, at least the first three ingredients should be meat. You should see ingredients such as deboned chicken, venison, and fresh whole flounder. Protein meals that are defined by the animal type are permissible, such as lamb meal.

Avoid "meat" and bone meals, digests, and by-products because these ingredients contain any product that is rendered from an animal including hair, manure, hooves, hide, and stomach contents. These products may also come from 3D animals which means dying, diseased, or down. These renderings are not the type of products that should be nourishing your pet.

So back to those words on the bag, “natural,” “organic,” “human-grade.” These terms are not regulated by AAFCO, and there are exceptions and loopholes that allow pet food makers to put poor-quality ingredients in their products. Dog Food Advisor is a great resource to determine what the best option is for you and your dog.

One common mistake made by owners is that they choose a specific bag of food and continue to feed that exact type for the rest of the dog’s life. However, each meat contains a different set of proteins that benefit your dog. If your dog doesn’t have a sensitive stomach, switching flavors is a great way to get the variety of nutrients that your dog needs.

Photo by Couch Wolves group member N. Lam 

Photo by Couch Wolves group member N. Lam 

List of Ingredients to Avoid

  • Meat meal
  • Bone meal
  • By-products
  • Digests
  • Corn (whole grain, ground, starch, gluten meal)
  • Soybean/soy (meal, oil, flour)
  • Dyes (red 40, yellow 5, etc.)
  • Wheat (flour, ground, middlings)
  • Grains (sorghum,)

Biologically Appropriate Diet

Dogs are omnivores, but the majority of a dog’s diet should consist of meat. Therefore, unless there is a medically necessary reason, dogs should not be on vegetarian or vegan diets. These diets should be closely monitored by a veterinarian to ensure that the dog is getting enough protein. Kibble manufacturing was created as a temporary solution to metal can shortages in World War II, but quickly caught on with the convenience that it offered owners. Kibble is not necessarily the most biologically appropriate food as it doesn’t contain enough moisture and the proteins become denatured in the extrusion process. Canned food is a a better option due to it’s moisture content. However, it is still important to research different types of canned food to find one with quality ingredients.


Raw feeding is one of the most biologically appropriate diets for dogs. When feeding raw, it is important to balance the ratios of meats and bone, as well as rotating proteins frequently to maintain a nutritionally complete diet. There are many different brands on the market that come as a complete diet, so the owner doesn’t need to worry about balancing themselves. Although, many owners choose to portion out their own meals as well, which includes calculating ratios of bone, muscle meat, organ meat, and vegetables if preferred. Some owners prefer this method because they know the source of the ingredients that they are feeding and tailor the portions to their specific dog’s needs. But, if the ratios are not met, then the dog can suffer from nutritional deficiencies, so it is of utmost importance to do your research before choosing this diet. 

Raw food comes in different forms. You can opt for freeze dried which is able to be stored the same way as kibble, but is rehydrated at feeding time to maintain the proper moisture content. Frozen raw is offered by a growing number of pet stores and co-op groups. They come in tubes, patties, or cartons and are thawed in the refrigerator before feeding. The same meat handling precautions that you take in the kitchen will need to be applied to raw dog food to ensure proper safety.

Regardless of which type of food that you decide to feed your dog, it is important to research the quality of the brand and to monitor your pet’s weight and health. The best diet for your primitive dog is the one that they thrive on. Finding the right diet takes effort and research but the savings from health problems and the extended life of your dog will make it well worth it.


Are you interested in learning more about canine nutrition? Let’s chat about it in the group!