Domesticated dogs are largely carnivores but will also eat plant-based foods. Wild dogs eat a variety of food which comprise mainly of prey animals, consisting of raw meat, bones, organs and a small amount of the vegetable matter contained in the gut of their prey.
Basic dog feeding guide
The following information is general advice, but as each dog is an individual, seek veterinary advice, particularly if your dog has any special dietary needs or has a reaction to a standard diet.
The basis of your dog’s diet should be a high quality balanced premium commercial dog food that is appropriate for their life stage (puppy, adolescent, adult, pregnant, senior) and health status. By reading the label, you can check that it complies with the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food AS5812:2017 .
The amount of food required will depend on your dog’s size, breed, age and level of exercise, but take care not to overfeed or underfeed. Your vet will be able to weigh your dog, assess your dog’s body condition score and provide advice.
To avoid bloat, which can be fatal, adult dogs should be fed at least twice a day and should not be exercised immediately before or after eating. This applies particularly to deep-chested dogs such as Boxers and German Shepherds.
Fresh drinking water must be available at all times but do not offer your dog milk as this can cause gastrointestinal upsets.
Bones and raw meat are not recommended as they can break teeth and cause internal blockages, raw bones also carry bacteria that can make both animals and humans ill. Read the article Should I feed bones to my dog? for more information. If you do choose to offer bones to your pet, they should always be raw and introduced gradually.
Dogs have evolved significantly from their wolf ancestors, including developing an ability to digest starch and fat, plus living longer and healthier lives. Feeding them bones is not necessary given the range of quality nutritionally balanced diets available. Dental chews are a good alternative if you wish to provide your pet with entertainment that assists with teeth cleaning – the global Veterinary Oral Health Council lists dental products that meet standards for safety and reducing plaque/tartar.
Dogs may be offered fish (such as tinned fish – sardines, tuna or salmon) as an occasional treat, but fish should not be fed constantly. Take care to avoid fish bones and choose fish canned in spring water rather than oil or brine.
Dogs may also be offered a small amount of cooked vegetables such as pumpkin or carrots. A small amount of plain cooked pasta or rice may also be offered.
Cooked meat, such as boiled chicken or lamb, may also be offered, but ensure there are no cooked bones and no onions/onion sauces or other toxic substances present (see below). As mentioned above, raw meat and bones carry bacteria that can make both animals and humans ill and so are not recommended. However, if you do decide to feed your dog any raw meat or raw bones, it is recommended that you choose only human-grade raw meat and bones. You should avoid raw meat products marketed as pet food (pet meat/pet mince/pet rolls and bone products), sausages, sausage meat and cooked manufactured meats as they can contain sulphite preservatives. There have been many pet food safety incidents linked to sulphite preservative-induced thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency, which can be fatal. See this article for more information. You should make sure your dog has access to grass (avoid chemically treated grass and toxic plants). Dogs will sometimes eat grass, which may provide a source of vegetable matter and micronutrients.
Do not ever feed the following substances as they are toxic to dogs (note this is not a complete list): alcohol, onions, onion powder, garlic, chocolate, coffee or caffeine products, mouldy or spoiled foods or compost, avocado, bread dough, yeast dough, grapes, raisins, sultanas (including in Christmas cakes etc), currants, nuts (including macadamia nuts), fruit stones or ‘pits’ (e.g. mango seeds, apricot stones, avocado stones), mushrooms, and fruit seeds. Also, never feed the following as these can be dangerous for dogs: corncobs, green unripe tomatoes, cooked bones, small pieces of raw bone, fatty trimmings/fatty foods, salt and roughly-cut vegetables.
Also ensure your pet dog doesn’t have access to string wrappings around rolled roasts or absorbent pads found under meat when wrapped on trays.