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 .
You can also offer some natural foods to provide variety. Natural foods include fresh human-grade raw meat (e.g. raw lamb), raw meaty bones and finely-cut vegetables. You should check with your vet first that raw meaty bones are suitable for your particular dog (e.g. some dogs with misshapen jaws or dental disease or older dogs may have difficulty chewing on raw bones).
We recommend you choose only human-grade raw meat and raw meaty bones because some raw meat products marketed as pet food (pet meat/pet mince/pet rolls and bone products) contain preservatives to keep them looking fresh, but these can be detrimental to the dog’s health. There have been many pet food safety incidents linked to sulphite preservative-induced thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency, which can be fatal. You should avoid sausages, sausage meat and cooked manufactured meats as they can also contain sulphite preservatives.
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.
Raw meaty bones such as raw lamb ribs (but not lamb chops) and raw lamb flaps provide several important health benefits such as keeping teeth and gums healthy.
Bones must always be given raw (uncooked). Never feed your dog cooked bones as these can splinter, causing potentially fatal internal damage or intestinal obstruction.
Too many raw bones may lead to constipation. Generally, 1 to 2 raw bones may be offered per week with a few days in between each serving. The bone must be large enough so that the dog cannot fit the whole bone in its mouth or swallow the bone whole. Avoid large marrow bones (these have very thick outer rims), T-bones, ‘chop’ bones (e.g. lamb cutlets), large knuckle bones and bones sawn lengthwise (as done by some butchers) as dogs may crack their teeth on these.
You should always supervise your dog when they are eating bones.
Dogs really like bones and can sometimes become protective over them, so take care and discourage young children and others from approaching dogs whilst they eat.
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. 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). A small amount of plain cooked pasta or rice may also be offered.
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.