what is the healthiest meat to feed your dog?

Choosing a healthy food for your dog can be time consuming but a good place to start is to consider the meat component. As facultative carnivores dogs don’t strictly need meat to survive but they do thrive best on a high-meat diet. From chicken to kangaroo, in this article we will cover everything you need to know about the healthiest meat to feed your dog.

why meat is best - meat as protein vs vegetables as protein

Before we get into which meat is best its important to understand why we believe a high-meat diet is best for dogs.

Dogs have evolved on high-meat diets for millenia and their digestive systems have adapted to get the most from this sort of diet. One of the main reasons being that dogs need a high-protein diet – proteins are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of life, being involved in generating energy, building and repairing cells and muscles, and generating hormones and enzymes.

Meat is generally a better protein source than plants because they generally have higher levels of more essential amino acids – something that can be measured by a ‘biological value’ (see below).

Dogs’ digestive systems also generally rely on an acidic environment to help kill nasty pathogens, digest their food including tougher materials like bone, and keep the development of diseases like bladder stones and UTIs in check. Meat, particularly red meat, helps create a more acidic stomach whereas plants are generally alkalising.

Of course its not to say meat should be the only protein source – plants, seeds and grains help provide lots of other nutrients and milk and eggs are great sources of protein too. It is also possible for dogs to survive on a vegan or vegetarian diet but its a lot trickier to mke sure they’re getting everything they need.

picking the best meat for your dogs - things to consider

There are multiple factors pet owners need to account for when picking the best meat for their dog. To help you decide we have created a brief list for you to follow:

Taste

One of the biggest factors is going to be ‘does your dog love it?’. If your dog is not a fan of certain meats it may not be worth trying to feed them instead of their preferred flavours. Often dogs prefer stronger smells as they do most of their tasting with their noses.

Expense

Not all pet owners can afford the luxury of a freshly caught salmon everyday to satisfy their pooch. You will find that meats such as wild caught tuna and salmon often are a lot more expensive than other meats. If you’re looking for a more cost-effective meat for Fido then choose something that’s poultry based like chicken or turkey.

Quality

The quality of the meat can often be more important than the type of meat when trying to pick the healthiest for your pet. Human grade or even free-range meats will usually be of higher quality and avoid those with added hormones or chemicals.

Healthiness and your dog’s specific needs

Obvioulsy a big factor is how healthy the meat is and we’ll explore more of that in this article. Its important to realise that some dogs, either because of their genetic build up or a medical condition, may be better suited to some meats compared to others. Dalmatians for example need meats with low levels of purine like white meats, while dogs with renal disease may benefit from lower phosphorous meats like red meats. Those dogs carrying a little extra lumber will do best on leaner meats. If your dog has an existing health condition, asking a vet or nutritionist can help avoid any difficulties.

Environment and ethics

You may consider the ethical and environmental impacts when thinking about which meat to feed your pet. Pescatarian pet owners for example will obviously favour fish while others may be concerned about overfishing of certain stocks and choose a farmed meat. In terms of environmental effects beef typically has a much larger footprint than chicken.

fish and salmon for dogs

Salmon, Tuna and Trout—these are perhaps one of the most commonly used fish based products in pets. And, why wouldn’t they be? Fish is not only an excellent source of protein but it is also low in fat, enriched with omega oils, and rich in vitamins and minerals. Because relatively few dogs are allergic to fish and its so high in omega 3s its also a great meat for hypoallergenic foods for dogs suffering from allergies.

There are a couple of slippery nutritional matters to watch out for with fish however. Make sure you avoid larger, pelagic fish like shark, broadbill, marlin and swordfish which can have higher levels of mercury. Make sure your fish is fresh or processed professionally. And lastly make sure any freshwater fish are used in a balanced, processed food since raw, freshwater fish contains a fair amount of thiaminases which has been linked to vitamin B1 deficiency in pets..

beef for dogs

Beef is usually one of the more affordable meats and is relatively healthy for dogs being high in protein, iron, zinc, selenium and vitamins B12, B3 and B6.

Although usually high in fat, red meat is not known to cause arteriosclerosis in dogs like in humans and there are plenty of beef sources that are leaner and low in fat.

kangaroo meat for dogs

If you’re Australian then you’ve probably heard about the amazing benefits of kangaroo meat for dogs. It is one of the lowest fat meats and rich in B vitamins, Omega 3s, iron and zinc! Kangaroo meat is high in protein and is always free range. As a result their meat is often a healthy choice for pets who suffer from food allergies or intolerance.

chicken and poultry for dogs

Today one of the most commonly found meat in pet food is chicken. As well as being very popular and generally the least expensive meat, chicken is also high in protein, B3 and B6 vitamins and phosphorous and selenium.

However, some dogs have developed allergies to chicken so its best avoided if your dog has a history of food intolerances.

lamb and venison for dogs

Lamb and venison have become quite popular among pet owners. This is because lamb and deer are often let out and fed on pasture. Therefore they are grown in a healthier environment and so their meat is often considered quite healthy for dogs and are rich in B12 and B3 vitamins, Omega 3 and Omega 6 acids and selenium and zinc.

Lamb tends to be a fattier meat however so may be great for active or working dogs or those looking to put on weight but less suitable for overweight or older dogs.

pork for dogs

Pork is not as widely used in pet foods but is high in protein, B vitamins, iron, selcnium, xinc and phosphorous. However it is one of the fattier meats and so may be less suitable for older or less active dogs. Make sure your pork is ethically sourced as pigs are highly sensitive to stress, suffering from a condition known as PSS (porcine stress syndrome), which can cause severe detrimental changes to the meat.

should I feed my dog organ meat?

Offal such as kidney, liver, and spleen is often considered quite gross to us humans! But, to our furry friends this can be a natural and excellent source of energy and nutrients. Liver for example is pound-for-pound one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet!

Its important when feeding offal to your pets to make sure it makes up only a small proportion of the meal (around 10%) and that is from human-grade facilities that screen for parasites. We also use offal from the same animal as the meat in our foods to reduce the chance of allergic reactions in dogs.

how to feed meat best: kibble, canned, home-cooked, air dried or raw?

To get the best nutritional value from the meat you feed your dog aim for as much minimally processed food as possible. Cooking or heavily processing food destroys some of the nutrition particularly for fragile nutrients like  amino acids and omega essential fatty acids.

Secondly make sure the food is balanced, containing all the nutrients they need, which means their diet should also contain additional ingredients like plants.

so what's the best meat for dogs?

Dogs thrive on high meat diets full of quality proteins that are the building blocks of life. All types of meat protein are great but generally leaner meats with greater nutrients like kangaroo and salmon are slightly preferable and a small proportion of organ meat is a great nutritional boost. Its important when picking a meat to feed to consider affordability, quality, the environment and ethics and of course your dog’s individual tastes and needs. So, make sure you see how your dog takes to their food and if they have any health conditions, seek a vet’s advice.

Balanced Life is an Australian-made range of air dried raw food and treats for dogs and cats. We want to give pets the healthiest nutrition possible for a happy, healthy life.

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