My doggie mentor started filling me in on the benefits of adding some raw or boiled meat to Phoebe’s diet.  As a former dog breeder, avid dog lover and owner of five spunky dogs, she has seen it all. Her knowledge is phenomenal, and I trust her when she tells me that nothing looks as healthy as a dog who has ditched the kibble.  She isn’t saying that there is anything remiss in feeding a dog a diet of high quality kibble.  She just vouches for the fact that dogs on diets that consist primarily of meat seem to have a glow that is not achieved with kibble alone.

The good thing about her advice is that she is not trying to talk me into jumping on any bandwagon. She feeds her show-quality dogs kibble and they are healthy as can be.  On the other hand, if she did not have five mouths to feed, she would ditch the kibble in a heartbeat. The point being is that when it comes to deciding on whether to feed your dog kibble only, meat only, or a combination of the two there is no right or wrong and  there is no all or nothing.

If you choose to feed your dog kibble, it does not hurt to toss some meat in when you are able.  Sure. Kibble is supposed to contain some magical (or is it scientific) perfect balance of nutrients, but that does not mean a dog has to eat kibble every day of its life.  Heck! My Wheaties cereal contains lots of vitamins and minerals, but I certainly would not want it to be my sole source of sustenance day. I’d welcome some berries or bananas once in a while just to shake it up.

After picking my doggie mentor’s brain about the option for Phoebe’s diet, I was most intrigued with the taking a homemade route. This was foreign territory and I had some investigating to do. I started by lurking on some raw-feed forums.  While informative, the forum conversations seemed geared towards those who already knew what they were doing.  It was hard to learn much or ask questions since the lexicon was unfamiliar. I decided to trek off on my own, do some old-fashioned research and then return to the forums.

Researching was not as easy as I thought. Nothing was straight forward, and there is little consensus among scholars, veterinarians, and nutritionists.  The only norm was contradiction. Oh boy! There was no easy answer. By this point the best I could do was identify my goals and start making a list of the pros and cons, as I ran across them.  By the time I reached this point, all options were back on the table – kibble, canned, raw food, cooked food, or whatever.  All I cared about was the end game, which was giving Phoebe a long-term diet that:

  • Is gentle on her stomach;
  • Is low in carbohydrates;
  • Provides required nutrients;
  • Boosts her immune system, and
  • Will not make her sick.

First, I identified my options. I already knew there were a couple ‘flavors’ of a raw diet – the whole prey model (mimicking what the dog would eat if they were set loose to feed in the same manner as their wolf ancestors) and the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones And Raw Food (BARF) model (a raw diet that is made up of ground meat, vegetables, and the addition of supplements, if needed). These may not be the exact definitions used by the proponents of each model; they are simply my interpretation of the difference between the two. There was also an option to feed a high protein homemade diet (basically, a cooked version of the BARF diet, sans the bones) and of course, good old kibble and canned dog foods.

That was enough analyzing for one day, so just for fun I wanted to see when my little buddy the kibble entered dogs’ diets (I snagged all of this from of Wikipedia). Beyond finding my answer about kibble, I was surprised to learn that the great debate over what to feed a dog has been going on for hundreds of years.  I recommend going to the site and clicking on some of the citations. Several of the links take you the original source of the info, which are posted in-full on Google Books.

Here is a little run-down of the info on Wikipedia  (I have added a few of my own links to help with some of the definitions.

Approximately 44-38 BC

The Roman poet Virgil speaks of a ‘nutritious whey’ as a dog’s food


French dictionary refers to a ‘pate’ as mixture of bread crumbs and little pieces of meat given to pets


French Encyclopedia refers to removing the liver, heart, and blood of a downed stag and mixing it with milk, cheese, and bread; and then giving it to dogs


English Sportsman’s Dictionary described the best diet for a dog:“A dog is of a very hot nature: he should therefore never be without clean water by him, that he may drink when he is thirsty. In regard to their food, carrion is by no means proper for them. It must hurt their sense of smelling, on which the excellence of these dogs greatly depends.Barley meal, the dross of wheatflour, or both mixed together, with broth or skim’d milk, is very proper food. For change, a small quantity of greaves from which the tallow is pressed by the chandlers, mixed with their flour ; or sheep’s feet well baked or boiled, are a very good diet, and when you indulge them with flesh it should always be boiled. In the season of hunting your dogs, it is proper to feed them in the evening before, and give them nothing in the morning you take them out, except a little milk. If you stop for your own refreshment in the day, you should also refresh your dogs with a little milk and bread


English Book, “The Complete Farrier”The dog is neither wholly carnivorous nor wholly herbivorous, but of a mixed kind, and can receive nourishment from either flesh or vegetables. A mixture of both is therefore his proper food, but of the former he requires a greater portion, and this portion should be always determined by his bodily exertions


A French writer warns against giving dogs tallow [greaves ] to dogs, and recommends a meat flavored soup instead“By a misguided economy dogs are given meat scraps and tallow [greaves ]; one must avoid this, because these foods make them heavy and sick; give them twice a day a soup of coarse bread made with water, fat and the bottom of the stew pot; put a half-kilogram of bread at least in each soup”

About 1860

In London, James Spratt (an American) launches the first food made just for dogs, the “Meat Fibrine Dog Cake”


Spratt’s dog biscuit operation starts in America


It appears as if other dog food hits the market; Spratt’s wins prizes:“The first three prize winners at the late coursing meeting at Great Bend were trained on Spratt’s Patent Dog Biscuit. This same dog food won no less than three awards, including a gold medal, at the Exposition in Paris which has just closed. It would seem that the decision of the judges is more than backed up by the result in the kennel. Another good dog food is that manufactured by Austin & Graves, of Boston. They, too, seem to be meeting with great success in their line”

“After WWI”

Ken-L-Ration introduced canned horse meat as a way to dispose of dead horses.In their famous little jingle:

“My dog’s faster than your dog,
My dog’s bigger than yours.
My dog’s better ’cause he gets Ken-L Ration,
My dog’s better than yours.”

Hmm – was the dog faster because it was made from a race horse?


Gaines Food Co. brings on dry meat meal


Spratt’s becomes part of General Mills

Post 1950

The flood gates open – food allergies, foods that are dangerous to dogs are identified, recalls, grain free and low carb foods the market, as well as alternative dog foods (frozen or freeze dried, dehydrated, fresh or refrigerated, homemade, commercially prepared whole-food, vegetarian, and probably a few others