It’s probably no surprise that I feel fresh food diets formulated to NRC and customized to the dog are ideal, but just like many of my clients, I think about life’s “what ifs”
Responsible dog ownership includes having a plan to manage life when the unexpected happens. In the fresh food arena people are focused on the variety of foods, but what if that’s suddenly not possible? What if there’s a power outage for days, or you’re in the hospital, or recuperating and can’t stand for longer periods? What if your pet sitter cancels and your dog must be boarded somewhere they can’t make food for him/her? Even fun things like going on a car trip with your dog can translate to an inability to have her/his regular fresh meals available. What about staying with family out of town and not having the time or space for food prep?
Clients who have grown their puppies with me know that I believe in developing a backup plan, so it’s always nice to have that conversation about lifestyle (do you go camping or stay in hotels? Is the pup a show dog possibility, so s/he needs a plan during show seasons, etc.)
Kibble can provide good back-up and buys a little insurance in the event the dog ends up living with someone else for a time. Best bet: find a kibble with ingredients that are like the fresh foods in the diet you make. Feed a few pieces as treats. Assuming the dog eats it happily and poop remains good the next day, you might choose to feed a few pieces daily or every few days, so the GI tract acclimates and you’re certain that a transition, if needed, would go smoothly. A dog can be transitioned to a full kibble diet in 5-7 days and transitioned back to fresh food in the same length of time as needed/warranted.
For dogs being fed out of food puzzles (frozen Kong or Toppl), layering foods and kibble works well. I find crushing the kibble easy to mix with some apple sauce or yogurt. Layer this between fresh foods and freeze. In this case you don’t have to feed more kibble as treats.
*Worried about combining kibble with cooked or raw foods? Don’t be.
Our dog’s digestive system deserves much more credit than thinking a simple variation in foods fed at one meal could completely confuse it. Many things influence digestion, transit time and gastric emptying- in addition to the physical aspects of the diet (density, particle size), there are many other factors such as body weight (large breed dogs have a slower transit time in general), the nervous system and hormones.