I loved getting the email question below from Cara because it shows me how much people care about their pets’ nutrition and the realization that they can make a difference in their pets’ wellness and longevity by always striving to improve their diets. I am truly honored by Cara’s acceptance of my nutritional advice, and her understanding that while there are many brands of dog food, choosing Halo as I have gives you the assurance that the company holds itself to extremely high standards (and has never been implicated in a food recall).

Cara has embraced my belief that a diet of only kibble is too much highly processed carbohydrate for dogs – and needs to be balanced with some form of protein and vegetables. But her question about how to increase the real vegetable content of your dog’s diet (especially for a non-vegetable-loving pooch) is entirely individual, and needs to be flexible to accommodate each dog’s nutritional needs for his weight and activity, and the sensitivity of his digestive system. Here is her letter – my further comments are below it:

I’ve listened to your show CAT CHAT on Sirius for a while and love your advice. I have a 5-year-old rescue cat named Jelli and 2 English Bulldogs – 10-year-old Justice and 3-year-old Sophie. I switched all three to Taste of the Wild just before the recall so now I’m back to the drawing board. Fortunately, no one got sick other than Sophie having terrible gas. I’m hoping you will help me muddle through my confusion about what to feed them.

My real confusion is with the dogs. I’ve been very fortunate to have healthy bulldogs. Both dogs were raised on dry food only and as Justice hit his senior years, I switched him to senior food. Honestly, other than Justice gaining about 3 pounds as he hit his golden years, both dogs did well on those foods. I started looking into better foods because I’m trying to be more careful about the source of the food all of our family eats. (Plus I want them to live forever.)

It seems pretty clear that you’re recommending that the dogs eat a mix of kibble, wet food, and vegetables. If I fed them 1/3 Halo dry, 1/3 Spot’s Stew and 1/3 vegetables like pumpkin or green beans, would I be hitting their nutritional targets? Also, Justice has never been a veggie or fruit eater. Do you have any recommendations for dogs like him? Fortunately, Sophie eats pretty much anything you put in front of her, even begging for watermelon in the summertime.

Finally, one last question and I’ll stop bothering you, how do we know how much to feed them? If you go by the cans, you could go bankrupt! The pets and I thank you in advance!

First of all, questions like these are no bother to me – they are a fantastic validation that it is well worth it for me to keep putting out energy to get across the sensible, healthy recommendations I make about what belongs in a dog’s bowl. I admire any pet owner who questions and reconsiders all sorts of decisions they have to make for their pet’s wellness. English Bulldogs like Cara’s are notorious for having tricky digestion and producing a lot of gas if given foods they cannot digest well. Cara points out she has one Bulldog who adores fresh foods, even fruit (watermelon is actually awesome because it has so much liquid and relatively low sugar content) and Sophie does fine with veggies – Justice, on the other hand, is more like my husband, who never met anything green he wanted on his plate!

However, Cara has already hit on the solution and does not realize it – because she has chosen Spot’s Stew in a can for the protein part of her dogs’ meal, and that stew lives up to its name by containing whole pieces of real cooked vegetables. In addition, the Halo kibble she has wisely chosen for the dry portion of Justice’s meal has vegetable matter in the recipe, along with visible pieces of dehydrated vegetables in the bag, too. While those pieces appear small, keep in mind how large the piece of vegetable was with its full water weight, before dehydrating – because that is the true nutritional value your dog’s digestive system will extract from it. As it turns out, Justice is getting plenty of vegetables by using Halo kibble and the Spot’s Stew in a can – he is all set without Cara trying to heap more vegetables in the bowl of a guy (like my husband Edward!) whose happy face turns down at the corners when he “sees green”.

As for quantity, that is really individual, too, and in my book The Dog Bible I explain that both bags and cans recommend amounts that, if we followed them to the letter, would turn our dogs into hippos! Also, each brand of kibble has differing amounts of protein – no dry dog food is exactly equivalent to another. Different quality ingredients that go into a kibble can be more or less nutritious once they get inside your dog – and that is the “hidden” aspect of dry dog food that keeps me convinced that I am sticking with my choice of Halo because their brand is built on a dedication to putting only “good stuff” into their recipe, and having it made somewhere they truly trust. Quantity? Each of us needs to experiment with what is the most modest amount we can feed each of our dogs to keep them trim, but without leaving them so hungry we turn them into “starving beggars!” For these two Bulldogs I would say to start by dividing a can of Spot’s Stew between them at each meal, and then adding a scant cup of one of the HALO dry foods – I like the salmon or lamb, to offset the chicken in the can.

As for added vegetables, very soon I’ll share my own recipe for Dog Minestrone which I add a spoonful of to every meal – and allows you to “sneak” added vegetables into the bowl for a non-veggie-lover like Justice. As for canned pumpkin, I personally think it is highly overrated as an ingredient to add to the bowl – it’s expensive, it’s hard to find unsweetened, and all it really has to offer is that it is a form of low-calorie fiber.

Tracie Hotchner, author of The Dog Bible and The Cat Bible, guest blogs here every Thursday on healthy, natural choices for pets.

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  1. Kimberly says:

    I thought our dogs didn’t like veggies either. What changed my mind was when I started to research alternatives to rawhide chews. We have 3 strong chewers at home and bully sticks are just too smelly when you have three dogs working on them at once. Someone recommended carrotts – I gave it a shot and our dogs love them. Now I’m researching other veggies they might like. Green beans? Not a fan.


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