5 Steps to Enhancing Your Dog’s Store-Bought Dog Food

Five things to do to improve your dog's diet if you feed commercial dog food.

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Whole Dog Journal readers have learned how to identify the best commercial foods when they shop for their dog’s diet. But whether you feed dry kibble or canned food, even the best commercial diets can be improved with the addition of appropriate fresh foods. We know that, when it comes to enhancing an already complete & balanced diet, real foods are often better than supplements.

Keep the following things in mind when adding fresh foods to your dog’s diet. Decrease the amount of commercial food your dog gets, so that you don’t increase the total number of calories you feed your dog, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Limit the amount of fresh food you add to about 25 percent of total calories consumed; if you want to feed more than that, you need to be careful to feed an appropriate variety of foods in order to keep the diet complete and balanced.

Improving Your Dog's Diet

Here are some of the best foods you can add to your dog’s diet:

1. Eggs

Few foods can beat the nutritional impact of eggs, with their combination of high-quality protein and fat along with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Eggs are inexpensive and easy to feed, too. Egg whites are more easily digested when cooked, while yolks retain more of their nutritional value if fed raw. Most dogs have no trouble with bacteria in raw eggs, but it’s fine to feed soft-cooked, hard-cooked, or scrambled eggs.

A large egg provides about 70 calories; this amount is fine for medium-sized and larger dogs, but smaller dogs would do better with half an egg daily, or one egg every other day, with meals reduced proportionately.

Do not include the shell when you feed eggs, as the shells contain far more calcium than your dog needs. Too much calcium can be harmful to large-breed puppies, and also binds other minerals, making them less available to your dog.

dog looking at eggs
© Meepoohya | Dreamstime.com
puppy eating yogurt
© Maximilian100 | Dreamstime.com

2. Yogurt

A natural source of probiotics, yogurt is another food that is inexpensive and easy to feed. Stick to low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt, as your dog doesn’t need the sugar provided in the flavored varieties.

The probiotics (beneficial bacteria) in yogurt provide benefits for all dogs, but are especially good for dogs with digestive problems. Use yogurt with live and active cultures. Varieties that contain more than just Lactobacillus acidophilus may provide additional benefits to the digestive tract.
Low-fat yogurt has less than 20 calories per ounce, so even small dogs can enjoy a spoonful without concern about reducing food portions.

3. Sardines

Fish supply omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that are good for the skin and coat. In addition, they help regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, and so can be helpful for dogs with allergies, arthritis, and autoimmune disease. DHA is also good for brain health, which can benefit both puppies and senior dogs.

One small canned sardine provides about 25 calories and 175 mg omega-3 fatty acids, a good amount for a small dog (20 pounds or less). Give larger dogs proportionately more. Use sardines packed in water (not oil). Feed soon after opening so the fatty acids are still fresh.

Other canned fish options, especially for larger dogs, include jack mackerel and pink salmon.

sardines
© Detzi | Dreamstime.com

4. Vegetables and Fruits

Berries, especially blueberries, are packed with antioxidants. Other good fruits to include in your dog’s diet are bananas, apples, and melon; some dogs even like citrus. Don’t feed the pits, and avoid grapes and raisins, which can cause kidney failure when eaten in large quantities.

Leafy green veggies are a much better choice for your dog’s diet than starchy foods such as grains and potatoes. Vegetables are more nutritious when fed cooked, but raw veggies, such as carrots, zucchini slices, and even frozen peas, make great low-calorie snacks. Non-starchy vegetables can also be included in your dog’s diets to increase the quantity you feed without adding significant calories. Cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, are especially nutritious, but watch out: too much can cause gas.

dog tries vegetables
© Ncn18 | Dreamstime.com

5. Healthy Leftovers

I know that pet food companies and often veterinarians discourage giving leftovers to dogs, but as long as you stick to healthy foods and limit portions, there is no harm in sharing your meals with your dogs. Feed the same foods you eat yourself, such as meat and vegetables, not fatty scraps that lead to weight gain and have little nutritional value. Keep amounts small, or reduce meal size to accommodate the extra calories.

It’s easy to overdo leftovers, particularly with small dogs; I learned this the hard way when my 11-pound Norwich Terrier, Ella, began gaining weight. Extra calories add up fast with our little guys, so keep portions small!

18 COMMENTS

  1. I have always suuplemented my dog’s food with nutritious foods I eat, like yogurt, pink salmon, and apple slices.
    HOWEVER, I had no idea that the salmon could predispose her to pancreatitis, due to the fact that it IS a fatty fish (which is also why it’s so good for us humans and animals). In any event, she developed acute pancreatitis that almost KILLED her. Thankfully, she pulled out of it, but it was a very frightening “close call.” For the next several months, she had to eat a VERY low fat prescription diet made with kangaroo, which thankfully, she LIKED! I now allow her only very small amounts of salmon infrequently. She loves cod fish, which is low in fat, so she has some cod whenever I cook it for myself, with just occasional small treats of salmon.

    • Lois, I’m so sorry this happened to your dog. Thank goodness she was OK. It’s always best to keep portions small when adding foods. Be particularly careful with dogs prone to digestive upset, especially when introducing anything new.

    • Anna, I’m not sure I understand your question. Yes, pink salmon is like sardines. As far as I know, it is OK to freeze either one.

    • Santana, yes, it is fine to feed frozen veggies after cooking. Just make sure they’re soft after steaming, not crisp, as otherwise they won’t be digested.

  2. So, how much dry dog food combined with yogurt, carrots, broccoli so he doesn’t gain weight. He’s a lab and already 10 pounds overweight feeding him dry dog food with rotisserie chicken. How much carrot, broccoli, egg, etc?

    • Bonnye, carrots and broccoli can be added in any amount. Broccoli in particular has very few calories; carrots not that much more. Both should be cooked in order to be digestible, but can be given raw as treats if your dog likes them. Too much might cause gas or loose stools, but otherwise you can give as much as your dog wants.
      When I give yogurt, I usually just give a spoonful. A large egg provides about 70 calories. Ideally, when adding things like chicken, eggs, or larger amounts of yogurt, you will reduce the amount of kibble accordingly so that calories are not increased. See my article on weight loss for more info: http://dogaware.com/articles/wdjweightloss.html

  3. if you are sharing your food with your dog, be careful not to add onions, garlic, grapes and other foods that are harmful to them. some people mistakenly think that garlic and onions are ok if cooked. they are not. they can cause anemia. check your spices and foods to make sure you aren’t poisoning your pet before sharing.

  4. I have a 2 month old husky, & he hardly eats unless we give him treats for doing good on certain tasks. What are some things I can do to get him to eat his kibble?

  5. I give my dog a cooked food diet. I will suppliment with blue buffalo wilderness or add it to his food I prepare. I noticed that when I started doing this his skin and fur became so much healthier! Plus his poop was so much better! For his snacks he getsfrozen blueberries, frozen strawberries, apples license, and carrots. Pumpkin is an absolute SuperFood!!!!! Coconut oil garbanzo beans they’re all fabulous! I am going to be adding some yogurt tonight and I’ll see how he does. I use all of these in his daily food I prepare. I usually prepare corn any once a week, and it doesn’t take more than a half an hour to make after the chicken isb boiled.

  6. I give my dog a cooked food diet. I will suppliment with blue buffalo wilderness or add it to his food I prepare. I noticed that when I started doing this his skin and fur became so much healthier! Plus his poop was so much better! For his snacks he getsfrozen blueberries, frozen strawberries, apples license, and carrots. Pumpkin is an absolute SuperFood!!!!! Coconut oil garbanzo beans they’re all fabulous! I am going to be adding some yogurt tonight and I’ll see how he does. I use all of these in his daily food I prepare. I usually prepare corn any once a week, and it doesn’t take more than a half an hour to make after the chicken is boiled.

  7. Help! My husband insist on feeding our dogs Blue Buffalo. We have 3 dogs. 2 lab mixes and an English lab. The only thing these guys have is common is the dry kibble.
    All 3 of them eat Grass and dirt daily. They are particularly interested in the clay, they scratch the surface and chow down. No, it’s not just a lick of the loose dirt. They use their teeth to get bits and yep, the chew and swallow it. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Any suggestions?

    • Cris, here’s my general advice when it comes to feeding commercial foods:

      Rather than trying to find a single, “best” food, I recommend that you choose at least two or three different brands, using different primary ingredients, and rotate between them, anywhere from a daily basis to every few months. Variety is always better than feeding any single food, as it helps to guarantee that all of your dogs’ nutritional needs are met and is more interesting for your dogs.

      The only warning I have about feeding a lot of variety is not to feed exotic proteins (duck, rabbit, venison, etc.); most of those should be reserved in case you ever need to do an elimination diet using foods your dog has never had before to test for and treat food allergies.

      If your dog has been eating the same food for a long time, or is prone to digestive upset, make the transition from one food to another slowly, substituting just a small amount of the new food for the old and gradually increasing the percentage of new food as long as your dog continues to do well. This gradual transition may not be needed in the future, once your dog is used to changing foods, though you may need to continue to be cautious with dogs prone to digestive upset.

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