What I Feed My Dog and Why I Feed What I Do

< A version of this article was published in the August 2020 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 11DEC20 >

< A short link for this page – https://bit.ly/WhatIFeedAndWhy >

At least once a week, someone asks me, “Don, what food do you feed your dog?” Based on experience, they expect me to say, “I feed my dog brand X because it is the best food for all dogs!” Sadly, that is the response they hear far too often from other pet care professionals.

I tell them, “I feed Muppy a variety of different types and brands of foods. Every time I purchase food, I switch the primary protein source. I also mix additional water in with whatever food I am feeding. I do not believe that there is a single brand of food or formula that is or ever will be the “best” for all dogs.”

When I got my first puppy, Trivia, in 1975, I was a teenager. I knew nothing about dogs except that I liked them. I fed her dry food based on the recommendation of her veterinarian. When my wife and could afford our first home in the early ’80s, we continued to feed our dogs kibble.

In 1991 Paula was a vet tech, and we had just purchased our second home and a Cairn Terrier puppy we named Gus. Paula’s boss taught us that not all kibbles were the same, so we started Gus on a premium kibble. However, Gus soon developed health problems that led to his becoming the catalyst for our continuing education on pet nutrition. [ FMIhttp://bit.ly/Gus-Nutrition ].

We learned dry food or kibble was developed during World War 2 when steel for cans and meat for dog food was in short supply. Today kibble is the type of food most commonly fed to dogs. Dog food companies promote kibble as if it is the best source of nutrition for a dog. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Kibble exists because it is cheap to manufacture, convenient to feed, has a long shelf-life and is less expensive for the consumer than higher-quality foods. Kibble meets the minimal nutritional requirements so that your dog will survive. It does not provide optimal nutrition that can help your dog thrive.

In 1998 we learned about the benefits of raw diets. We traveled to San Diego to attend a seminar with Dr. Ian Billinghurst, a veterinarian advocating for the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet for pets. Based on what we learned from Dr. Wysong and Dr. Billinghurst, both veterinarians, we started to explore feeding fresh, whole food to our dogs.

In 2002, we started selling commercially prepared, frozen, raw food in the store. At the time, we had five dogs, so economics dictated that we fed a raw meal once a day and kibble once a day. When we were down to two dogs, we switched to feeding 100% raw. Since then, other options such as freeze-dried, and lightly- cooked diets, have also become available, and they are vastly superior to kibble. While we still sell mostly kibble, we also sell nine different food brands in the non-kibble category.

Just like you, my budget plays a role in what I choose to feed my pets. That’s why we fed a mixture of fresh food and kibble when we had five dogs. We knew that feeding a raw diet only a few times a week would be beneficial. One of the reasons we choose to limit our home to one small dog is so that we can afford to feed her the best.

I believe the best diet for a dog is composed of muscle meat, organ meat, and bone. The food should contain little or no soluble carbohydrates. Such a diet represents what a dog is designed to eat. Even the best kibble contains carbohydrates, and some formulas are over 50% carbs.

As much as possible, ingredients should be human-grade, but that is rare in kibble. When you see chicken on the ingredient list of a bag of dry dog food, you may envision a whole roast chicken, but what is probably in the food is a chicken frame. A chicken frame is the bones and cartilage of a chicken, containing the meat that was not removed for use in human products. Chicken frames are also often used in frozen raw diets. There is nothing inherently wrong with a chicken frame, but it is not what most consumers think is in their pet’s food when they see the word “chicken” on the label.

When Muppy joined us in 2013, we started feeding her various types and brands of food. Today, one meal every day is raw or lightly-cooked food. Her second meal may be the same type of food but is a different brand and protein. It may also be a freeze-dried or canned food, or even a very high quality, low carbohydrate kibble.

In the past 12-months, Muppy has eaten ten different brands of food composed of ten protein sources (beef, bison, chicken, lamb, pork, rabbit, salmon, sardines, turkey, and whitefish). To learn more about why I believe dietary rotation is so important, go to http://bit.ly/DietRotation1-30JUL19.

You will note that the above image includes a water faucet. That is because I always add water to Muppy’s food. If she were surviving on her own, she would be looking for living food sources, like mice and other rodents, that are mostly water. If kibble, freeze-dried, or dehydrated food were are fed without adding water, they could be dehydrating.

So that is how I answer the question, “Don, what food do you feed your dog?” What I recommend for your dog will depend on their nutritional needs, your concerns, and your budget.

FMI – On a recent Woof Meow Show podcast, Kate and I talk about what we feed our pets with animal nutritionist and author Linda Case. – https://bit.ly/WfMw-WhatWeFeed-11JUL20

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( http://www.words-woofs-meows.com  )

Things I Wish I Had Known… The Importance of What I Feed My Pets – – WWM-MAR2019 – http://bit.ly/Things-Nutrition-1

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus – Maine Dog Magazine – Winter 2017 http://bit.ly/Gus-Nutrition

Pet Nutrition – What Should I Feed My Pet? http://bit.ly/What-Should-I-Feed-My-Pet

Pet Nutrition – What Do You Feed Your Dog? – WWM-JUN2016 – http://bit.ly/WhatDoYouFeedYourDog

Pet Nutrition – Should I Feed My Pet A Raw Diet? http://bit.ly/ShouldIFeedMyPetARawDiet

Pet Nutrition – The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton with link to 1 hour video http://bit.ly/Video-Dr-Richard-Patton

Pet Nutrition – Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense http://bit.ly/DietRotation

Pet Nutrition – The Wisdom of Rotating Your Pets Diet – Part 1 http://bit.ly/DietRotation1-30JUL19

Pet Nutrition – The Wisdom of Rotating Your Pets Diet – Part 2 http://bit.ly/DietRotation2

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( http://woofmeowshow.libsyn.com/ )

Podcast – What We Feed Our Pets and Why, with – Don Hanson, Kate Dutra, and Linda Casehttps://bit.ly/WfMw-WhatWeFeed-11JUL20

Podcast – Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Pattonhttp://bit.ly/DrPatton-Podcast

Podcast – Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry with Kohl Harringtonhttp://bit.ly/WfMw-Pet-Fooled

Green Acres Pet Nutrition Resources Page
( http://bit.ly/GAKS_Nut_Home )

GAKS Philosophy on Pet Nutrition http://bit.ly/GAKS_Nut_Phil

Pet Foods We Offer At Green Acres Kennel Shop http://bit.ly/GAKS_PetFood_Brands

Pet Nutrition – Which Companies Are Behind Your Pet’s Food?  – http://bit.ly/PetFoodComp


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com.  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©11DEC20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Podcast – Introducing My Perfect Pet, Gently-Cooked, Fresh Food for Pets, with owner Karen Neola

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< Updated 23FEB20 >

< A short link for this page – http://bit.ly/WfMw-MyPerfectPet-FEB20  >

If you are looking for healthy options when feeding your dog or cat, we think you will find this podcast very informative.

In this episode of The Woof Meow Show from February 22nd, 2020, Kate and Don interview Karen Neola, the founder, and president of My Perfect Pet.

If you are a regular listener to The Woof Meow Show you know that Don and Kate believe that what we feed our pets is important to both their physical and mental wellbeing. Both of them choose to eat fresh, wholesome food as much as possible and choose to feed their pets the same way. In this week’s podcast, we interview Karen Neola, the founder, and owner of My Perfect Pet, and a kindred spirit in our approach to pet nutrition.

For the last thirteen years, My Perfect Pet has been making and selling food for cats and dogs using fresh ingredients sourced from local suppliers who exclusively sell human-grade food, the same companies that supply restaurants and high-end grocers. The food is gently-cooked, frozen, and packaged in a ready-to-eat format for cats and dogs.

You can learn more about Karen and My Perfect Pet in this podcast and in our show notes below.

Learn what Green Acres Kennel Shop likes about My Perfect Pet at – http://bit.ly/WhyWeLikeMyPerfectPet

Below you will find a summary of Karen’s answers to our questions.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your pets.

My Perfect Pet has given me the opportunity to combine my career and love for animals.  I’ve been an animal lover my whole life, my parents named me “Karen’s Reject Animal Farm” when I was 7 because I was always bringing home strays and begging them to let me take care of them.  Dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, even the chickens we hatched at school. At present, I only have one dog, Sweetheart, adopted from Lab Rescuers – named Sweetheart only because I started calling her that while I was trying out other names and the only time she responded seemed to be when I called her Sweetheart.

Why did you decide to get into the pet food business?

After working at Hewlett-Packard for 25 years as an R&D program manager, I had a bucket list a mile long when I left.  However, on Jan 3rd, 2007 I lost my lab Hunter to contaminated pet food that was subsequently recalled. I was devastated.  And angry. I felt betrayed by companies who had knowingly put toxic substances into food to increase their profits. I vowed never again to buy commercial pet food and started making my own, using only fresh, whole, natural and safe ingredients – the same quality I trusted for myself.  I immersed myself in research on dog and cat nutrition and worked with nutritionists, veterinarians, universities and health care experts to create the perfect blend of all-natural high-quality ingredients that provide maximum nutrition for dogs and cats with the least processing and highest safety.  I did not start with any intent to build a business, it just kept growing.

The My Perfect Pet Story – check out the video here – https://www.myperfectpetfood.com/process

Tell us about My Perfect Pet:

I started making my own food in January 2007 – with no idea that my decision to make dog food with cooked meats and raw vegetables would 13 years later become the fastest-growing category of pet food.  I wondered for 12 years why no one else was doing this, finally this year we’re starting to see everyone jumping into this category. We are located in Poway, CA near San Diego, and have a second facility under construction in Sulphur Springs, TX (90 miles NE of Dallas)

My Perfect Pet is in a relatively new category of pet foods, gently-cooked from fresh whole food.  Why did you make that choice over kibble, canned, frozen, or freeze-dried?

I wanted my pet’s food to be as fresh and natural as possible, fresh whole foods with minimal processing and no preservatives.  My decision to go fresh and natural basically ruled out other options. I didn’t want to do raw as I was vegan at the time and didn’t want raw meat in my refrigerator next to my food.  My dogs were therapy dogs and while their registrar had no restriction on pet diets, many hospitals and health centers ask that we not feed raw diets before a visit out of concern what might be transmitted to a person with a weakened immune system.  So I decided to use the same food standard that I used for myself, following FDA food safety guidelines which meant cooking meats to minimum temperatures. It was I believe, the best of both worlds – all the benefits of raw with the safety and convenience of food that had been gently-cooked.

Canning requires heating to temperatures far above FDA minimums, which eliminates fresh foods.

The extrusion process used to make dog kibble requires the highest temperatures used in the pet food industry and requires that all ingredients be in powder or pellet form, which is about as unnatural as it gets compared to fresh whole foods.  In addition to cooking at high temperatures, kibble is also cooked under high pressure which is detrimental to many of the ingredients. That is why synthetic amino acids and vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients needed to be added to kibble after the cooking process.

Freeze-drying also involves far more processing than gently-cooking and is expensive.

Pet parents intrinsically understand the benefits of eating fresh whole food because that’s what they hear from human healthcare professionals. It is not a leap to understand that fresh food is also better for their pets.

Some of the reaction to the Grain-Free & DCM “crisis” has been for some in the veterinary community to tell clients not to feed a food unless the company making it has an accredited veterinary nutritionist on staff.  Do you think that is important and who formulated the My Perfect Pet diets?

I believe that companies with deep pockets that employ their own staff of nutritionists are the ones telling vets and clients to demand this. I find it amazing that companies with veterinary nutritionists on their payroll saying what they are told to say have more credibility than companies like My Perfect Pet who consults with a number of independent, objective, unbiased, and accredited nutritionists without any potential conflict of interest.

There are international standards for nutrient profiles, some far more stringent than the AAFCO standards in the USA. These standards have been developed over the years by thousands of animal nutritionists and have been proven by testing.  I put far more credibility into consistent results from wide international sources than an employee on a single company’s payroll.

My Perfect Pet does not recommend nutrient profiles that deviate from recognized standards.  We do not use ‘exotic’ ingredients in our blends. The ingredients we use have been used in pet food for decades, we just have consciously chosen to use a higher quality version of those ingredients.  We do not claim to have more company expertise in determining nutritional needs for animals than recognized experts in those fields.

My Perfect Pet has been a preferred supplier to a major zoological park, supplying carnivore diets to a number of animals including polar bears, cheetahs, and a lot of other carnivores.  Cheetahs can be extremely finicky and liked both raw and cooked versions of diets we produced. The zoo did not ask us to become experts on the nutritional needs of all those animals, but just to asked us to formulate diets that met the nutritional needs and profiles that their animal nutritionists provided. We do the same for our pet foods.

We base all our formulas on known and established standards and use only ingredients that have been proven to be easily digested by the intended species and that offer the best bioavailability and absorption of nutrients.  If it’s not absorbed it is just waste and unnecessary processing.

While some of the big pet food companies make a big deal about feeding trials they do not disclose the relatively low standards for a feeding trial and the conditions in which the subjects of the feeding trial are kept. For the record, My Perfect Pet will never cage an animal for feeding trials.  Some of the companies making these claims have done what I consider unspeakable testing on animals. We will continue to rely on published results and decades of proven results.

Tell us about the ingredients you use in My Perfect Pet? 

We source our ingredients locally whenever possible.  All the ingredients are sourced within the USA with the exception of lamb from New Zealand and Australia, and coconut oil from the Philippines.

We buy only from suppliers who exclusively sell human-grade food, mostly the same companies that supply restaurants and high-end grocers.  We never purchase ingredients from any company selling feed grade ingredients or foods not intended for human consumption.

The ingredients we use in our products are better than what many people can buy in supermarkets.  One of our company perks is that employees can purchase our ingredients at cost for home use – they often go together to buy cases of chicken or beef or some of our produce.  Our fresh locally grown produce is the best – I can hardly stand to buy vegetables at the market after eating the ones at My Perfect Pet. If you visit My Perfect Pet I’ll make lunch from whatever we are making that day, you’ll be amazed! In fact, it is not uncommon for employees to make themselves lunch from the same ingredients we are using to produce pet food on that day.

I’ve stopped taking multi-vitamins since starting My Perfect Pet.  I realized many of my supplements were originating in China, if I’m not willing to give them to my pets why would I take them?  I decided throwing a bunch of fresh vegetables and fruit, along with a little dried kelp and calcium supplement into my blender was just as healthy and a lot tastier.

How many formulas do you have for dogs and cats?

We currently have ten blends for dogs and three blends for cats.

What drove you to develop those specific formulas?

The original blends were the Boomer’s Chicken & Rice and the Buckaroo Puppy formulas which is basically the puppy version of the Boomer’s.  When I started My Perfect Pet I had one older dog and one puppy – the puppy’s name was Boomer but I called him my little Buckaroo, so that’s how I got those names, Boomer’s for the adult blend and Buckaroo for puppies.

We recognized that pets with beef, chicken or grain allergies needed different ingredients and developed foods that were appropriate for them.  Then we addressed other pets with special dietary needs, and the My Perfect Pet line keeps growing. We produce a number of specialty blends not currently released for retail distribution.

Do the My Perfect Pet blends meet AAFCO’s requirements for all-life stages?

Buckaroos blend is for puppies and all of our other dog blends are for adult dogs. We do have one all-life stages cat blend, Toby’s Turkey Carnivore because the profiles for cats and kittens are so close.

Because we use real food with nutrient profiles certified by USDA, we can publish complete nutrient profiles which means pet parents don’t have to wonder how much is really in a blend when the label states “minimum crude” – our profiles are actuals.

Nutrient Profiles – Cat Blends


Nutrient Profiles – Standard Dog Blends https://www.myperfectpetfood.com/store/assets/pdf/PROFILES_Std_Adult_Dog.pdf

Nutrient Profile – Buckaroo Puppy Blend


Nutrient Profiles – Personal Care Dog Blends


All of our blends meet all AAFCO nutrient profiles except for two:  Low Phosphorus Lamb for dogs and Low Phosphorus Chicken for cats. These are intentionally lower in Phosphorus which is commonly recommended for dogs or cats with compromised kidney function.  Because we use only muscle meats as the protein source, we can keep the protein at recommended levels while lowering the phosphorus levels.

How have you evaluated the food to make sure all formulas meet the required nutrition requirements?

We have all profiles tested prior to release to confirm that they meet the nutrient profiles published on the label, and we have 13 years of proven results.

See what the ingredients in the My Perfect Pet Formulas look like.

Cat Formulas

Dog Formulas

How is your food distributed?

We have distribution to independent retailers in 26 states, and we serve those areas without retailers online. Unfortunately, we have to charge for overnight shipping for food purchased online since it’s a frozen food, so we’re working to get local retail distribution set up for the entire U.S.  Our website has a store locator where pet parents can put in their zip code and find the closest store, and if you’re outside of our distribution area then you can order it online until we get distribution in your area. We are glad to say that pet parents in the greater Bangor region can get My Perfect Pet at the Green Acres Kennel Shop.

We’re excited that you believe in sampling. In the short time, we’ve had My Perfect Pet at Green Acres, providing a sample has been instrumental in getting people interested in and willing to try it My Perfect Pet with their pets.  How have you seen cats and dogs respond to My Perfect Pet?

We’ve been accused of putting crack in the food!  That’s why we believe in sampling – the first one is free, then when you see how much your pet loves it you have to buy it!  Who doesn’t love watching their pet go crazy happy over their meal!

People have asked us what we put in the food that seems to resolve a number of health issues – from itching and scratching to fur balls, to tearing/staining, sensitive stomachs, etc.  I tell them we don’t do a thing except use the freshest highest quality ingredients and prepare it in the best way to ensure easy digestion. We don’t make any guarantees or claims, we just encourage pet owners to try it and see for yourself.

I encourage every pet owner to do their research.  Don’t take anyone’s word for it in the pet food industry, there are companies out there making claims that I think should be criminal.  Don’t even take my word for it, do your homework, look at the ingredients list, know what every ingredient is, where it comes from, how it’s processed, the company’s history and reputation, etc.

Describe what the food will look like when a client opens the bag and prepared to feed their pet.

The standard dog food packaging is a pouch containing 7 individually wrapped food bars for easy portion control, thawing, and serving.  They are stored frozen to avoid preservatives. The average feeding amount is 1 food bar for every 20 lbs of the adult dog’s ideal weight, more or less depending on age, exercise, metabolism, etc.  The food bars can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. We commend thawing before serving so your dog doesn’t try to swallow frozen chunks whole.

We also have plastic-free packaging for dogs, 30 individual food bars in a compostable carton, all made with 100% recycled materials – except for the food bars.

Cat food pouches have 10 individually wrapped food bars, with recommended feeding 1 food bar per day for every 10 lbs of the cats’ ideal weight.

While it would be ideal if everyone could feed My Perfect Pet at every meal, due to the nature of the quality of ingredients used it is more expensive than kibble. Will a pet still benefit form My Perfect Pet if it is only fed periodically?

We recognize that not every budget supports feeding exclusively My Perfect Pet and it can easily be mixed with other food – just remember to decrease the other food by whatever amount you are feeding My Perfect Pet.

Any fresh is better than no fresh!  Ours is the perfect topper that not only adds delicious taste but also the benefits of fresh whole food and balanced nutrition.

If someone tries My Perfect Pet and they or their pets don’t like is, what is your refund policy?

When in doubt we encourage your customers to try a sample before purchasing the entire bag – it’s not a feeding trial but 1/2 bar is a generous taste test. We have never had a quality issue so there should never be a return due to a quality concern provided customers keep it properly frozen or refrigerated. We get very few returns, but we do stand behind our products and of the proper documentation is completed we will honor the occasional return.

My Perfect Pet is not alone in the gently-cooked category.  What sets you apart from your competitors?

My Perfect Pet was the first company to introduce gently-cooked pet food and has been doing so for thirteen years.   We have the longest history and a perfect track record.

Our quality is unparalleled.  Most companies claiming human-grade ingredients use a contract manufacturer, and we have seen many recalls where the companies point to their manufacturers or suppliers or whoever. I decided early on I wanted absolute quality control over every step of the operation. We source the ingredients ourselves and manufacture it in our facility.  We are building a second new facility to expand while keeping the same absolute quality control.

I have spoken to enough suppliers and enough others in the industry to be confident in saying My Perfect Pet has the highest quality ingredients in any pet food. Fresh quality ingredients cost more but I will never compromise pet health over profit.  I don’t answer to investors or private equity, only to my commitment to the integrity of our company and our products.

What are the four most important things you would like our listeners to remember about My Perfect Pet?

  1. Quality of ingredients, Quality of Processing, Quality of Nutrition – It doesn’t get better than PERFECT! Go for quality, don’t take any chances with your pet’s health.
  2. Convenient portion control packaging for pets of all sizes from small dogs and cats to large breeds. Our food stores and thaws easily.
  3. The taste! We win every picky eater contest! The real meat gets them every time.
  4. The variety of blends we offer, from complete and balanced diets to fresh whole food alternatives to many of the prescription diets or veterinary blends.


Contact Info for My Perfect Pet

Address: 11870 Community Road Suite 200, Poway, CA 92064
Phone: 858-486-6500
Website: www.myperfectpet.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MyPerfectPet/
Instagram: www.instagram/myperfectpet


©23FEB20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved

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