Feeding your dog well is just as important as feeding yourself — and can be just as challenging. Your pet is relying on you to curate the best possible diet for them, but it can be daunting to navigate all the pet health info out there. What’s good and what’s not? Do you need to spend hours a week doing food prep? Many people don’t have time for intense regimens, complicated recipes, or hunting down rare ingredients. Especially living in a city, keeping your dog happy and healthy can feel like an insurmountable quest. If you’re looking for the best ways to upgrade your dog’s diet and get them happy and healthy, it may take a little elbow grease but it’s not out of reach. And, of course, it will be worth it for your pet to have a long and woof-filled life. Let’s get into it with self-proclaimed dog dad to pooch Cooper and NYC fintech CEO Eugene Plotkin, a puppy park regular and dog health enthusiast.
Many people choose to feed their canine dry food. Feeding your dog kibble is fine, but it’s still crucial to pick a brand that’s healthy for their coat and body. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the food aisle at the pet store. There are so many products and they all claim to be the best for your pet — unfortunately, like human food, a lot of these brands put out processed and unhealthy foods that could contribute to weight or energy issues. When it comes to selecting a kibble for your dog, there are several things to keep in mind, starting with the contents.
Eugene Plotkin’s rule of thumb for food-browsing is: “You wouldn’t want to feed your dog anything that wouldn’t be healthy for you to eat either — as much as you probably wouldn’t want to eat their food anyway!” That means staying away from food that contains corn, wheat, soy, or byproducts that contain sugar and allergens. What you do want are clean ingredients like meat and veggies. Avoid falling in love with the brand name and flip the bag to the back to review the ingredient list. Pup parents rave about corn- and grain-free options like Orijen and NutriSource. These may be more costly or less accessible, but you can get them delivered straight to your door from websites like chewy.com. Eugene Plotkin says, “I never have the time to stop by the store before or after work, and honestly I barely remember to keep track of when Cooper’s food is getting low. But I still really care about getting him the best food I can. And I’ve done my research.” Plotkin uses a delivery service to get his long-haired golden retriever’s sustenance delivered directly to his front door every month, so it’s always stocked up and ready for dinnertime. He feeds Cooper Zignature food because it’s grain-free and single protein.
All that said, kibble is still the lowest rung of food for your hound. If you do feed your fido kibble, make sure it’s free of grains, soy, and corn. But human-grade canned wet food like Evanger’s is much better. Many people opt for a raw diet, which can include homemade or store-bought and frozen or dehydrated food options. Brands like Primal, Instinct, and Smallbatch offer high-level, low-carb, frozen raw food your lovable pet will love. Raw food offers nutrient-rich meat that’s “filled” with fruits and vegetables instead of grain or rice. The meat is usually ground bone and muscle or organ meat, which is the best for your dog and what they’d likely eat if they were hunting in the wild. It’s crazy to think our fluffy pals may have been ruthless hunters in another life, but it’s a good way to think about what foods are truly best for them! You can also get food mix or dehydrated foods, which tend to be more expensive but are great for traveling. One thing to keep in mind with raw food is that chicken is a common dog allergen. It’s best to opt for pork, turkey, lean beef, and fish.
The highest possible healthy and nutrient-rich food you can give to your dog is … well, food. You can give your dog any number of fresh “human” foods like lean meat, fish, dairy, like eggs and yogurt (and some cheeses in moderation), and even some fruit. Taking this route to feed your pet doesn’t always mean spending hours in the kitchen prepping or cooking, although a fully homemade fresh diet is demanding. You can get great store-bought fresh foods like Ollie, which has no fillers or byproducts, or you can just make “a little extra” for your four-legged friend. Cooking fresh foods doesn’t have to be a full-time job; a fresh meal here and there can still do wonders for your pet’s health and overall well-being and leave them begging for more.
Finally, the secret, critically important ingredient in any animal’s life is exercise. You can feed your pet the best food in the world and it won’t do the work by itself. Dogs need everyday exercise, from a walk or a run to a day at the park. Eugene Plotkin recommends, especially for city-dwellers, joining a doggy meet-up group, and getting out every third weekend or so if you can. “I take Cooper outside the city to really get the exercise he needs,” he says. “We like to camp, meet up with friends who also have dogs, and let him run around as much as he wants. He loves it.”
With the right diet, whether it’s any combination of dry, wet, and raw foods that fits your pet’s needs and your lifestyle best, and a good dose of daily exercise, both you and your tail-wagger will be happier and healthier. Keep in mind that not every pup is built the same. Always consult your veterinarian about trying new foods, and keep your dog’s age, weight, allergies, and energy level in mind. Even if you’ve been feeding your dog one of the top kibble brands for years, maybe it’s time to reassess and update your dog’s diet. You might be giving them the upgrade of a lifetime!
Eugene Plotkin is a Russian-born, Harvard-educated finance, business, and technology professional. Plotkin started as a Wall Street investment banker at Goldman Sachs and then later, Melvin Capital. During his time at Melvin Capital, he realized his passion for new technology — more specifically, for financial technologies (fintech). Today, Eugene Plotkin is a consultant for fintech startups as well as being the CEO of TechWallet, a startup he helped found. Eugene Plotkin has a special passion for helping as many people use technology to understand and organize their finances as possible. He believes technology should directly benefit its users and that fintech has the potential for exponential benefit.