Real-Life Confessions: The Dog Food Edition

I can’t be the only person who is so completely confused about what to feed my dog. Am I? I just find a lot of conflicting information out there. It’s really hard to sift through it all to find the real science. There are also a lot of conflicting opinions about what is best for a healthy canine. I don’t want to start any arguments but I do want to know more.

I will be brave and just put it right out there. We feed kibble out of a bag.

Yep.

We’re terribly lazy owners, I know. In the past I have considered switching to raw but it’s expensive. One also needs a lot of storage space. We don’t even have a deep freeze. Also, most of the time I am too tired to cook for myself. I really don’t think it’s in me to cook meals for my dog every single day. It’s a good thing I don’t have kids! They would have to exist on breakfast cereal as there is no human kibble equivalent. (Hmmmm, new business idea?) There are a few people in my acquaintance who would judge us for our choices so I don’t tend to broadcast them into the world. I have listened to a lot of broad generalisations about how home-cooked is the only way and everyone else is slowly killing their dogs. This must be true as my childhood dog ate kibble for seventeen years before she died.

The thing is, kibble works for us. Shiva will eat anything, obviously, and I like how easy it is. We use kibble for treats and for training on walks. It’s so handy and multi-purpose. Someone knocks on the door and I can dive for the bin. In many situations I don’t exactly have time to start boiling some chicken. Nor am I smart enough to prepare everything in advance.

However, even after deciding to feed from a bag, it doesn’t get any less confusing. There is a lot on the market. Dog food companies don’t make it easy to sort through it all to find “the best” variety. I am so tired of seeing that Blue Buffalo commercial where it looks as if the actors are in some sort of cheap dog food support group. The one woman says the word “corn” like I would say “low-fat cheese.” I know corn isn’t the awesomest filler in the world and many dogs have allergies. But, I am not so positive it is as horrible for dogs as some would like us to believe. This is my issue. Dog nutrition seems to be a very new science. It is so hard to determine what is actually best for our pets.

Honestly, I would much rather a dog eat crappy no-name brand food than nothing at all. All the judgment out there puts me on edge immediately. It is really no one’s business. I think most people want to feed something that is healthy, affordable, and tasty. It should be a lot easier to understand how to do so.

Besides, I could give Shiva the most elite, most expensive brand on the shelves, shipped from Sweden with micro-beads of pure life-extending essence, and she will still wolf down the first cheeseburger wrapper she finds on the ground. It seems a little silly sometimes. It may not be true for all dogs, but mine is a scavenger at heart. On our walk this morning I must have said “leave it” over thirty-two times. She listened to about a quarter of them. Does it really matter what she eats at home?

I try to make good choices. I look at the listed ingredients and I compare brands. Price doesn’t always play a role. I try to be smart; I try to look for food with more vegetables and less fillers. We switch it up a lot. That may or may not be a good thing. Right now she is eating a locally produced brand made up of salmon and oats. She seems to like it. I like the small-sized pieces and how it keeps her coat shiny. Maybe that is enough.

34 thoughts on “Real-Life Confessions: The Dog Food Edition

  1. I feed kibble out of the bag, too, and even though I stressed about it for a long, long time, I’m pretty confident that the food I choose does a great job. I do toss in fruits, veggies, and additional protein from time to time. It sounds like you’re doing a great job. I love that your food is locally produced!! I may have to look for something like that around here!

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  2. I know many people who feed raw, and they all seem to be very pasionate about it, to the extent of making us store bought people feel like crap! However, I know I myself once looked down on people who buy their dog’s kibble at the grocery store, rather than using a “premium brand”. Shame on me! I know better know. So many dogs do well on those foods.

    I believe there is more than one way to raise/feed a dog. People have to choose what is best for them, and not judge others for their choices. Myself included.

    I think proper exercise and good genes are more important to good health than food.

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  3. YES! At one point, I was researching my head off to find “the best” dog food… and I finally found <a href="http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/"dogfoodadvisor.com. This guy posts all the ingredients of OODLES of dog foods (no more spending forever in the pet store looking at ingredient labels!), then gives them a “star” rating. He’s just a dog-lover, a dentist and a chemist and, now, an expert at reading dog food labels, following the tragedy of his pup. What a champ. AND I recently read a book by the vets at Tufts (one of the top veterinary schools) saying that the raw food diet (despite popular opinion) actually lacks some key ingredients that modern dogs (not wolves!) need– and that are IN many kibbles. Feel better yet? 🙂

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  4. I’ll agree with Sara that good genes make a big difference. It’s the same with humans.

    I’m lucky that I’m extremely healthy. I never catch colds. I haven’t been to a doctor in 22 years. I’ve never broken a bone. Most people in my family live into their 90s. It’s just luck.

    My husband comes from a family of diabetics who die young. His food choices are probably much more important than mine.

    I think it’s the same with dogs. You do what you can do and what’s best for your dog at the time. I feed Honey premium kibble now (her breeder required the brand in her contract). But I’ve fed two dogs homemade diets in the past when they were coping with end of life health issues. I think it was the best decision I ever made. And it was hard as hell.

    Many nights we ate peanut butter and jelly because I couldn’t bring myself to cook one more meal after making 3 days worth of dog food.

    I have no doubt, Kristine, that you will always make the best decision for Shiva. If you found she needed something different, I know you’d provide it. It sounds like Shiva is doing great. The video evidence is certainly there.

    So crumple up the guilt and throw it away. It can do nothing for you. (Oh, and stop visiting dog blogs with lots of self-righteous foodists; they’re talking to themselves.)

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  5. I feed kibble form a bag too – anyone else feel like we’re forming some kind of support group here? 🙂 It kind of reminds me of people who judge how others parent their kids. In my opinion, no need to judge – everyone’s situation and reasons are different, and I hate when people don’t realize that. Pamela really hit the nail on the head with her comment, I think.

    We used to have Bella on more expensive food, but it honestly just made her sick. She has a sensitive stomach, and somehow this particular kibble works for her.

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  6. Poor Stumpy, she eats whatever i feed her and that’s mostly a brand that is easily available and viewable in a previous post. I was surprised (in a good way) that i was not judged. Stumpy does get raw meat, veggies and cooked meat and hotdogs (OMD! TONS of hotdogs!) regularly. Thank DOG she has an iron gut! Living out in no where land does not make it easy to feed anythng with any kind of regularity.

    Because Alf may have had digestive problems due to his unknown history (allergies?) and HIS food choices I fed him a higher grade of specialty food, for awhile. When I realized he, too, had an iron gut we down graded.

    My German shepherd, a working dog, required a lower protien food due to digestion. To complicate matters, the fact that he was working and burning calories he required a diet that would keep weght on him and feed his muscle mass.

    The, you go inot a vet’s office and they all sell Science Diet, the bane of a canine nutritionists’ existance!

    It’s a crap shooot, I tell you! A crap shoot!

    Shiva looks good and obviously feels good. keep doing what works!

    Happy, Waggin’ Tails, FUREVER!
    Stumpy and me

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  7. Eek. I’m a nutty raw feeder =-X.

    I tend to be an extremest when I get into something (raw feeding, clicker training, hiking, etc.) and when I started learning about raw feeding and the facts behind it, I couldn’t go back. There are even tiers of insanity within raw feeding.

    I promise I wont rant, vent, or try to turn anyone!

    In all honesty, it’s not that time consuming, and quite easy. I don’t cook any food for the dogs (or for myself!). They get only raw meat, edible bones, and organs. Because both of my pups are a bit on the separation distress end of the spectrum, once a week (usually during the weekend) I fill up all their stuffable toys with ground raw (which is like $2/lb from my source, btw) and stuff it in the freezer. This lasts me all of the next week. All I have to do every morning is pop a toy to each dog and they’re busy for the next hour. And I have extra toys, so if I ever need them to be busy (like when guests come over), voila.

    I’ve tweaked my style a few times but this seems to work extremely well for us. Though the dogs do have their own stand up freezer, it’s not a super duper deep freeze one, just a regular one to hold extra meat when I can get a good deal on stuff.

    And Emma has serious allergies (to like everything on the planet, including cotton and dustbunnies!) so this is the only diet that she can safely be on. I have no complaints, my ten year old Poodle can easily be mistaken for a three year old, and Emma is a completely different dog from the emaciated lump of missing fur and downtrodden spirit that came into my home seven months ago.

    OK I’m off my soapbox now.

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  8. I also feed kibble. Sometimes I supplement it with ground turkey that I cook them. It is soo confusing, every where you look someone is giving you a different opinion on what to feed them. I looked into the Honest Kitchen dog and cat food it is saposed to be the best thing under raw food but only one of my dogs liked it and the cats were like what the heck is this! Most of the time I just opt for a premium brand and I do think there is a difference in feeding them a premium dog food then the very cheap food.

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  9. Here’s another vote for kibble out of the bag. We started fostering dogs precisely because we wanted a dog, but didn’t have money for vets and other pet expenses. I always felt guilty feeding these dogs s**t out of a bag, but comforted myself by saying it was better than being euthanised at the shelter!

    When we realized that Our Best Friend had shifted from foster to family member, I started buying a better brand of kibble, but not much. It’s just not in the budget to spend $100/month on dog food. No WAY am I cooking for him.

    My friend used to have a cottage up north. One summer they had a boil-water advisory for about 10 days. When I saw her put tap water in the dog’s bowl I got very concerned and said, “But aren’t you supposed to boil that?” She gave me such a look, and said, “Lori, she drinks from the LAKE.” Good point….

    Shiva will survive on kibble. So will OBF. Let the support group begin!

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  10. Another kibble feeder here! I’m lazy and I’m afraid I’m not capable of making a balanced diet which contains all the right nutrition that my dogs need if I fed them raw.
    I think I give them something so called ‘medium priced range kibble’, not the most expensive brands but it definitely is not a cheap range either. Eva and Mika love their food and they are alright with it so I will leave it as it is!

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  11. We feed Gus commercial dog food. He ate homemade for years before he developed allergy issues and we were forced to make a change. We were mortified at first, but all but his seasonal allergies disappeared! We’re now grateful for the food we found for him and it also freed up an extra two or three hours/week of our time!

    In my opinion, there’s no shame in what you feed your dog, as long as they’re happy and healthy.

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  12. I think it’s up to each dog owner to determine what to feed according to their own beliefs, priorities, budget and pet’s health. I feed kibble. I recently switched from a grocery store brand to a higher quality kibble. For 2 reasons: First, my Maggie has mild skin itchiness. I’m trying to figure out if it’s food, environment, lack of nutrients. So far, the change in food has made an improvement. Second, I realized that I wasn’t feeding my dogs in a way that was reflective of how I feed myself. I wish I had the time for a home-made diet but the reality is that I don’t. So I have compromised with a higher quality kibble and now we have “Meat Sundays”, the one day a week I have committed to cooking them a home-prepared meal. It’s a compromise but it’s one I can live with.

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  13. I feed a combo of grain-free kibble and Stella & Chewy’s (which is a freeze-dried raw formula with fruits and veggies). I have found this combo works great for my needs — reduced waste, firm stools and a healthy, happy dog. As with most pet-related subjects, I don’t give advice to people about their pets unless they ask and I refrain from judgments when it comes to anything short of mistreatment. You should contineu to do what you find best for you and your family.

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  14. I do really think it’s a personal choice. Shayne was fed a premium brand kibble until I lost my job. I’d been interested in raw but didn’t have the time to get started. After I lost my job I decided I had the time to try and figure it all out. Once I had a system down and had worked out all the kinks it wasn’t too much more difficult than feeding kibble. Once every 3-4 months i get a bulk amount of meat products and i spent 3-4 hrs portioning out meals and then it’s jsut grabbing a bag from the freezer for each dog. Now that i have a process and the kinks worked out, I feel i could easily feed raw when i get another full time job. With local sources, it’s actually less expensive than kibble for me (and WAY less when I add in the free venison i get from hunters cleaning out their freezers periodically).

    That being said, I still use grain-free kibble as training treats periodically and my mom’s dog eats kibble (with raw treats) and any foster pups i have will eat grain free kibble.

    To me it’s not about the choice one makes (kibble/raw/homemade/etc) but that making sure that choice is an educated one.

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  15. MayzieMom here. I agree. The whole “what to feed my dog” question is really difficult. After doing lots of research, it seems that the general rule of thumb is to try to get a food that has a meat (not a meat by-product) as its first ingredient. We’re currently feeding Taste of the Wild kibble, which is a grain-free product. The dogs love it and we’ve been happy with how they’re doing on it. I also add a little pumpkin, olive oil, and green tripe out of a can. Green tripe has tons of amazing benefits for dogs. It’s easy just to add a dollop of it and the dogs go NUTS for it.

    I would actually love to become a raw feeder but like you said, it seems like a lot of work. Plus, when we travel with the dogs – what then? I’m sure it’s like anything else. When you get used to it, it’s not hard anymore. I just don’t think I’m willing to take the leap just yet.

    I have family members whose dogs all live to be anywhere from 13-17 years old and they feed their dogs absolutely crap. So who really knows?

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  16. I was so confused about dog food when I first got Riley!! I didn’t know that some brands were considered “feeding your dog poison” (which I don’t really buy too much into…I think it depends on the individual dog).

    I feed Riley kibble and always will. Riley is like Shiva, she will eat ANYTHING!! She’s happy on her kibble, and I’m happy with it. I feed her Innova, which is one of the more premium foods, but I think it’s more to make myself feel better than to make her feel good!! 🙂

    Elyse and Riley

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  17. First, I commend your bravery! This subject always gets so much attention.

    I’m one of those crazy raw feeders, and will recommend it to anyone when asked. But I haven’t been asked, so I’ll put the soapbox away. Or keep it to a minimum.

    Actually, we used to feed kibble – Origen, which is high-protein and grain-free and a brand I would recommend to anyone who prefers to feed kibble for any of a variety of reasons.

    Because it’s true – raw costs more. Moses gets 5lbs/day, which sets us back just over $200/month, since we found a bulk provider (way cheaper than many of the raw food brands out there). For travel, we just go with dehydrated raw, or even back to Origen if we have to, but the quick transition back doesn’t do him (or us) any favours.

    But the $200/month really isn’t that more than we paid at 6 cups/day of Origen, and we feel the nutritional benefits are worth it. Our provider is very convenient, though – the food is human-grade, has fruit/veggies in it, bones in the chicken/turkey/fish ones, comes in 5 lb bags, and no cooking involved – just thaw and serve. Admittedly, the clean up required after is definitely more.

    Someone above mentioned the page http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com, which I found very helpful when sorting this issue out myself.

    Though I’m not a fan of the self-plugs, generally, if you’re at all curious what it looks like when I go full soapbox, it’s here: http://backalleysoapbox.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/the-beef-on-raw/

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  18. You know, if you find any kibble “from Sweden with micro-beads of pure life-extending essence” let me know so I can start eating it for my bfast! LOL

    I feed a grain free kibble. I went grain free to see if it would improve Bella at all and I did notice her yellowish eye goobers clear up. Also, Daisy has the itchies really bad and I think the grain free helps.

    I won’t ever do raw. Where I live it’s expensive (plain raw meat) and premade raw is way to expensive for large dogs. I am a little too OCD to not feed the same things to my dog everyday. I would be worried about not enough bone, too little bone, ect. Not to mention that is seems most raw feeders tend to bargain shop all over town, place ads online, call hunters and all sorts of things to find cheap meat. With all that time I could be doing something with my dogs, not for my dogs.

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  19. I’ve been on dog forums and watched people attack others for what they are feeding their dogs. Like we don’t have a right to chose. I would love to do raw, but I raw meat disgust me and to do it for 6 dogs, forget it! Not to mention how expensive it would be. So we are kibble people too. I tend not to mention the brand as I would surely be codemned. LOL But we once went to a higher grade because a trainer said so and all the dogs were sick from it, so we went back.

    I really think it comes down to your own personal perference. I too, would like better info than just what comes from the fantics. I hate how confusing it is and it doesn’t take telling someone what brand we use to tell us it is a low grade food. But I think it’s better I feed them something than nothing. I’m not going to go broke and not be able to take care of ourselves because I’m paying for an expensive dog food. We have never had any problems with the dog food we use, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Just my experience.

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  20. My story is much the same as Pamela’s. We used to feed Jordan and Rufus a good quality kibble (royal canin) topped with some fresh meat, canned tuna, veggies, egg, cheese, etc. It was 80% kibble.

    Then Rufus got pancreatitis and we had to quickly switch to a no-fat diet. These days, like Pamela used to, I spend so much time cooking for the dogs, I’m too tired to cook for us humans.

    We go through 9 kgs of meat, 500g of offal (the numbers seem to be increasing all the time), tons of veggies, oatmeal, lentils and 4kgs of rice every week. None of it (except for carrots, celery and herbs) are fed raw because Rufus can’t tolerate it. So you imagine the amount of time I spend in the kitchen. It’s not fun. Sometimes (if you remember me posting about it), I feel very sorry for myself. I wish I could find a no-fat kibble. But that doesn’t exist so I don’t really have a choice.

    The good side of the switch is…it really has made a difference to their health. Rufus is no longer at death’s door. His many ailments seem to be under control. Both their skin issues have calmed down to almost zero. Georgia managed to lose the excess 5kgs she was carrying very quickly.

    So yes, vie become a fan of home cooked food. When Rufus goes, I don’t think I’ll be returning to commercial dog food. I’ve been trialling a holistic organic kibble as a topping (a reverse %age to previous diet) but I don’t honestly see any difference (compared to something like royal canin) so this will likely be my last bag.

    I don’t think you should let other people feel bad or guilty about how you feed your dog. Sometimes, circumstances drive you in certain directions and you discover things for yourself which you may or may not choose to heed. I could feel guilty that my dogs eat better than many humans, but why go there?

    From a cost point of view, I’ve done some calculations (based on weekly consumption) and find hardly any difference between their old diet and their current one. It surprised me no end! Here in Sydney, we go to meat wholesalers and Asian butchers. The prices are much lower than at the supermarket and are negotiable, the more we buy. We don’t have a deep freezer either and live in a small house so the quantities CAN’T be much more than what it is now, much as I’d love to buy half a cow at discount.

    Well, that’s my Very Long Story. If Shiva is doing well on her diet, it’s the right diet for her. Circumstances and her needs may change at some point but, being the conscientious owner that you are, I have no doubt you’ll be on the case in no time at all 🙂

    Have a great weekend, Kristine! xox

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  21. The more research you do on dog food, the more confusing it gets! I know raw feeders are really passionate about that choice, but it’s not for us. We feed kibble, too. There’s only so much time in the day! By the time you start reading all the stuff they need to have a balanced diet, it’s so confusing. We’ve got a system that works and by golly, we’re sticking to it!

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  22. Add me to the confused list.

    I tried to find the best dog food for Remus and Riley, so when they were 4 months old, I bought Flint River Ranch. FRR is a human grade organic dog food that makes my heart happy to offer it to my puppies.

    My puppies on the other hand … HATE IT!!!!!!!

    I have to add things like steamed carrots or green beans to to get them to eat. If I give them the FRR with some water, chances are that they will skip that meal and hope for something better for the evening meal. I think almost 6 months is long enough. I kept hoping that they didn’t like it because they were teething.

    However now that they are almost 10 months, I have spent all week searching (again) for a new dog food.

    Why is this so difficult?

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  23. I make my own dog food for Jersey. She is such a princess that she will not eat any kind of kibble, regardless of quality, as a whole meal. She likes the high grade canned food like Tripet and Before Grain, but at $4.00 a can, it’s just not feasable for me.

    There are a lot of good kibbles out there, and my favorites are Before Grain and Orijen. I use them for Jersey’s treat ball when she needs amusement.

    Feeding is such a personal thing for a lot of people. I learned a good piece of advice a few years ago when I read the Puppies For Idiot’s book, authored by canine training superstars, The Volhards. When choosing a kibble, of the first three ingredients, two should be meat. Go easy on the corn and you’ll do okay. It sounds like you’re doing okay with the locally produced food, though.

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  24. It all comes down to finding a food that your dog does well on. I also feed kibble from a bag, but also give some raw treats (which also helps with cleaning teeth, see a recent post for some easy ideas). I show my dog, and work her so I need something that not only keeps weight on, but keeps the coat nice, without breaking the bank. I found a great food, that was cheaper than some of the “premium” foods from petco, so I said so long Nutro and went with Great Life. I agree there is TONS of options out there, and opinions to go along with them. the thing with fillers is it creates more poop, and I feel takes up space that could be given to digesting the good things about the food. I too don’t have the time (or money) for total raw diet so I compromise with raw treats, but my dog has also not needed me to do so, it’s more for my peace of mind.

    Good luck! go with what works for your dog and the bank
    Anna
    http://www.akginspiration.com

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  25. I think it’s funny that this has become a big deal because all of our family dogs had ordinary food and lived perfectly happy and long lives. I think you could get the best food or the worst food and a lot of the outcome would be the same. We have been dabbling in pre-made raw food for dinner. Though we haven’t been that consistent. Kind of like how I eat junk food, I think really good food helps somewhat, but it’s not the end of everything.

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  26. Pingback: Cereal = Human Kibble? « Back Alley Soapbox

  27. Bam. Kibble feeder, here.

    And you know what? I’ve worked at a shelter, had dogs all my life, and I’m training to be a dog trainer – and that, for me, has included taking courses on nutrition and veterinary issues along with a ton of other topics, because while you don’t require any kind of credentials to call yourself a dog trainer, I intend to know what I’m talking about for any question or situation that comes my way BEFORE I take people’s furry family members into my hands. (That was a run on sentence.)

    I have nothing against raw – I know the risks and the benefits of both raw AND kibble diets, and I still choose kibble. And I wholeheartedly agree with you Kristine – it’s a personal decision, I won’t judge anyone either way, and I don’t think anyone else should either.

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  28. I also find choosing a dog food completely overwhelming! The ingredients don’t make any sense and it’s impossible to compare from one brand to the next. There is a tool on the K9Cuisine website that rates dog food, if you’re interested in an unbiased assessment. Their customer service reps are also really knowledgeable and helped me find a new dog food after the one I was feeding was discontinued.

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  29. Pingback: Feeding my Havanese – Dog Food Variety vs Allergies | Bison Havanese

  30. Another good resource is DogAware.com
    The lady who put together the website advocates for a raw diet, but has very good instructions on feeding a kibble diet as well. Even for my vegan pup, it has been somewhat helpful. 🙂

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