Supercharge Your Dog Food: What is in your dog food and what is missing?
Pet food is probably one of the most difficult & confusing categories to shop for our furry friends.
We have all seen statements such as “Complete & Balanced”, “Grain Free”, “High Protein Diet” but do we actually know what they mean?
Dogs need protein, that’s in their DNA, but what is equally or even more important is the source of that protein as well as the right balance of essential fatty acids, 12 vitamins, and 12 essential minerals.
We decided to de-mystify the language and needs and went to see Amanda Falconer, founder of Bestie Kitchen.
Tell us how did you end up founding Bestie Kitchen?
In many ways, Bestie Kitchen is an ode to our old dog Mondoe and his pack mate, 20 year old Alfy. A street-smart, pedigree mongrel (with a lot of Jack Russell and something indefinably long) Mondoe lived to 22 – and I’m convinced that’s largely due to his diet of fresh food for many years.
It was our experiments on Alfy and Mondoe over a decade and the increasing amounts of research I was doing into what dogs really need for great health, that led me to found Bestie Kitchen.
What I really wanted to do was find a simple, foolproof way of making complete and balanced fresh meals for our dogs – and, because they were getting older, really give them a boost in some other areas.
That led to our first product, the Bestie Allrounder Balancing Supplement for dogs.
There are many claims in the dog food market but what really matters in our dogs’ diet? Protein, ingredients, fat, vitamins, grain free…
Firstly, there are nutrients and there are ingredients – the two aren’t the same thing.
So when it comes to what matters, I’m going to talk nutrients first, and the simple truth is that dogs need a lot of protein.
Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, and dogs need 22 of them to stay healthy. There are 10 amino acids that are essential, in that they can’t be produced during metabolism by the body and must be provided by diet. The others can be produced in the body from other proteins.
Aside from these amino acids though, dogs also need a balance of the essential fatty acids, 12 vitamins, and 12 essential minerals.
So where do these proteins, vitamins and minerals come from? Does it matter what the source is?
Well, I believe it does. For example, research shows that dogs are particularly efficient at extracting nutrients from meat-based protein. A study with beagles also showed that fresh mince had a significantly higher digestion coefficient than the commercial diet. The digestion coefficient expresses how the protein is best utilised in the body.
And then, when we come to vitamins for instance, many of the vitamins in commercial food are synthetic. While there’s ongoing research into this area, I believe that natural vitamins are more bioavailable and effective due to what’s known as ‘food synergy’. (And no, that’s not some hippy thing.)
Isn’t my dog getting all of the essentials from high quality kibble?
So let’s define essentials. Most pet food complies with the nutrient profiles laid out by AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials). These profiles set out practical minimum and some maximum nutrient concentrations for dog and cat foods, formulated from commonly used, non-purified, complex ingredients.
“Would you want to eat highly processed food every day of your life?”
But I emphasise the word minimum. That minimum is based on what it takes for a dog or cat to survive; that’s not the same as thrive. In addition, there are some vitamins that the AAFCO profiles DON’T include, but where research has shown a benefit, like vitamin C.
For example, when dogs are stressed or as they age, they become less proficient at producing their own supply of vitamin C, so including dietary vitamin C (and a range of other antioxidants) can support good immune and cognitive health.
Aside from that, ask yourself, would you want to eat highly processed food every day of your life? I know I wouldn’t. Kibble typically uses by-products from the human food supply chain because that’s efficient, but those ingredients, combined with high temperature processing, do not spell good health to me. Add the fact that dietary diversity is good for health – for us and our pets, and I really don’t think you can go past fresh food with rotating protein sources. (Oh, and bestie of course to make it complete and balanced.)
My dog eats raw food so there’s no need to balance or boost his/her diet?
Well, that depends. At Bestie Kitchen, we make balancers and we have two pure boosters. The balancer does what the name says: it balances meat. So when you add the balancer to lean beef mince for instance, then you’ll have a complete and balanced meal. If your pre-made raw is already complete and balanced, then you wouldn’t need the balancer.
The boosters are something different – and they can be fed with any kind of food. For example, the Tropical Wonder – with superfungi! – is great for boosting the immune system, so it’s good at times of stress – for you and your dog. It’s rich in phytonutrients and adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms, that have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.
The Fruit Salad with supergreens is a bit different and would be a great booster to kibble for instance. It’s particularly rich in carotenoids and flavonoids, that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
What makes Bestie Kitchen different from other supplements?
There are a few other supplements out there, but there aren’t many that are truly designed as balancers (if it can be added to any kind of food, it’s an enhancer, not a balancer). Think about a see saw or a set of scales; you need to know what’s on the other end, before you can balance it.
“We only use natural food-based ingredients, no synthetic vitamins”
In our case, our animal nutritionist, worked with a range of protein sources, worked out what they don’t have that dogs need, plus the extras we wanted to include, and then developed the formulation to fit. In contrast, our booster supplements are just that; boosters. They CAN be added to any food.
Aside from that, we’re different from most in that we only use natural, food-based ingredients; no synthetic vitamins or pre-mixes.
And we also provide detailed feed quantity guidance, tailored to the dog, lifestage and activity level, via our free app. It’s available at https://thebestie.app/ – just go to that url on your phone, table or computer browser (not the app store), create a profile, and then get your meal plans. You can save that to homescreen on phones and tablets, and bookmark it on your computer.
What if my financial situation does not allow raw meat & supplements diet?
Feeding a good kibble (usually cheaper) and a booster like the Fruit Salad, is a great option. You could also swap in a fresh food ‘treat meal’ too!
What else keeps you busy?
Honestly, I’m obsessed with dogs. And I love to research stuff. That said, I trail run, go ocean swimming a lot (I live just down from what I think are the best ocean baths in Australia!), and this year, my partner and I ditched animal products…so now our dog Alfy is the only one who eats meat!
PUPSY SHOP sells exclusively high quality Australian brands. All our food, treats and supplements together with many other items are also MADE IN AUSTRALIA. You can buy Bestie Kitchen products at the EAT SECTION of Pupsy Shop.