Please see the updated info below regarding diet induced DCM and it’s possible link to grain-free or boutique diets.
First, there are as many ways to feed your whippet as there are to feed yourself. Most whippets are easy keepers and will do well on a variety of foods. There is no one “right” way to feed your dog. Anyone who tells you “you have to feed raw” or “you have to feed Brand X” or “whippets only thrive on home cooked food” is full of what comes out of the south end of a whippet. There is no singular diet or brand of food that is “the best” for every dog. Some people treat certain diets like a religion and will preach the virtues and magical properties of it and convince you that anything else you try and feed is akin to poison. Just smile and nod and remember not to ask that person about feeding ever again.
There are some diets that are better than others. The best you can do for your dog is feed the best food you can reasonably afford that agrees with your dog. This is important because the most expensive food is not always the best for your dog. If you’re paying $45 for 15lb. bag of kibble and your dog has diarrhea and horrible gas, you are wasting your money. If your dog is eating a grocery store brand and looks good, with firm formed stools, a glossy coat and rippling muscles then obviously that is the better food for them. Go with what your dog thrives on and try to get the best ingredients you can.
In light of the diet related DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) I have changed everything I’m doing with their food. Young whippets have been stricken with this and died, so it’s something we need to take seriously. There is currently research and data gathering going on, with suspicion targeting grain-free, boutique foods. Especially foods with novel protein sources and heavy on the legumes (lentils, peas, chickpeas etc). I am currently switching my dogs from Fromm Duck & Sweet Potato/Honest Kitchen Keen to ProPlan Focus Sensitive Skin and stomach salmon formula. Never thought I’d be switching to ProPlan, but they don’t have any reported cases of DCM, do feeding trials and employ veterinary nutritionists. Until this all shakes out I’m sticking with a diet that’s safe and follows the WSAVA guidelines. For more information on diet induced DCM in dogs click here.
The main difference between grocery store kibble and premium kibble is the quality of ingredients. Premium kibbles have ingredients that are more easily digested and have less filler. Using a premium kibble you will be able to feed much less. As an example, my 55lb greyhound only ate 2 cups of Innova Adult per day. When on a cheaper brand of food I had to feed 4 cups a day to keep her at the same weight. Be aware that some premium kibbles seem to be too rich and may cause gas and loose stools. You may have to try a few before you find one that works. Some dogs have no issue with diet changes and you can just start with the new food. It’s always a good idea to make diet changes gradually, over 3-5 days by mixing the two, in case you have a dog that will get sick from a sudden change.
Raw diets can be very good, but should not be undertaken lightly. You can’t just decide to switch to raw and pick up some hamburger meat from you grocery store. Well you could, but chances are your dog will suffer from an imbalanced diet. If you want to try feeding raw, do some reading first. There are tons of books out there, I read Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy for You and Your Dog and THE BARF DIET. Feeding raw takes a lot of effort and becomes more of a lifestyle than a dog food. You find yourself buying a meat grinder, becoming well acquainted with your butcher or even joining a raw food co-op. If the idea of sifting through a 40lb box of chicken necks swimming in blood makes you gag – you may want to try one of the pre-made frozen diets like Bravo or Nature’s Variety. Be aware that these diets are very expensive, upwards of $5/lb.
Dehydrated Raw Diets
These are diets that you mix with hot water to reconstitute, like Honest Kitchen, Nature’s Advantage and Grandma Lucy’s. These diets are also expensive, although Honest Kitchen has a range of diets and prices. these diets have the advantage of not having to be refrigerated and are completely balanced, so need no additions.
What I Feed
Let me preface this by saying over the past 20 years I have tried A LOT of foods. Just some that I can remember off the top of my head, Pinnacle, Flint River Ranch, Innova, Regal, Wellness, raw, and Honest Kitchen. For a long time all the dogs ate Innova (adult and senior). Right now Echo and Fayde are in the process of switching to ProPlan Focus sensitive skin and stomach salmon formula. It has no corn, wheat or soy and meets the WSAVA guidelines.
Update 7/2018: After trying 5 different dogs on a raw or partially raw diet and having 3 dogs have issues I’ve decided to stick with store bought diets. I don’t think raw works for every dog and even though I had 2 dogs with absolutely no issues the 3 that did have issues are enough to make me forego it for now. I actually gave raw another go using a different brand, but Echo gets liquid diarrhea off and on, so we are back to kibble.
My guys do get table scraps, its inevitable with a child in the house. Meat, fish, veggies and fruits are shared in small quantities. I also give probiotics, Cosequin DS chewables (recommended by my vet) and omega 3 oils.
There is nothing sadder than a fat whippet. Please, please do not allow your whippet to get fat. At a good weight you should be able to see a few vertebrae, hints of hip bones and a rib or two. Whippets should not look like labs, they should have narrow little waists and a defined tuck-up. Be careful if you feed kibble – the recommended amounts on the bag are usually way more than your dog actually needs. The worst thing is that people with fat whippets are usually completely devoted to them, but just can’t see that the extra pounds are taking years off their life. Joint damage, metabolic disorders, liver and kidney disease are all possibilities in a fat dog’s future.
In all of my years with whippets I’ve only had a few picky eaters. Most will inhale whatever you offer without the food touching their lips. Fayde is a challenge, she will often turn her nose up at the food she ate the day before and skip a few meals for seemingly no reason. Here are some things I have found to add to her meals to ensure she eats:
- canned sardines, salmon or tuna
- Wellness Core® Tender Bites Grain Free Natural Dry Dog Food, Mixer or Topper, Ocean Whitefish & Salmon – expensive but makes a great topper or training treats
- Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Surf & Turf (Beef & Salmon) Dinner Patties Dog Food – also expensive, but they works wonders when crumbled up over kibble. I use these in the morning and only need 1/4-1/3 of a patty
- Real Meat Air Dried Beef Pet Treat – another fantastic topper/training treat