What Should I Feed My HALO Rescue?

In order to ensure a long and healthy life for our mill rescues, HALO expects our adopters to provide good quality diets for the dogs they adopt. Generally, the lowest price dog foods are the lowest quality. However, you don’t have to buy the most expensive food to get good quality. There are many good quality dog foods at reasonable prices. Also, Havanese eat only a small amount of food due to their size so even an otherwise expensive food won’t be very costly. 

There are 2 basic types of commercialized dog food – canned and dry. When you read the list of ingredients, the protein source should be highest on the list. Optimally, you want there to be a high quality meat source and not meat byproducts (which are unspecified parts left over after animals are slaughtered). At the top of the ingredient list, you want to see a specific named protein source such as beef, chicken, lamb, fish, veal, etc. Low quality foods sometimes don’t identify the sources and may put “meat” or “animal” instead. The next ingredient in a good quality food will likely be a meat source that has the word “meal” after it. Grain-free food is optimal for many dogs. If there are any grains, these should be whole grains and grains should not be used as cheap filler. Corn, which is often used as a cheap filler, should be avoided. As well, look for a food that is not preserved with chemicals and has no artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners. 

If fed a dry kibble, Havanese often need a “small bites” choice in order to chew and digest their food properly. Be aware that Havanese may skip a meal and do not always finish their meals. It is important not to switch foods every time this occurs. (None of our rescues have ever starved with a bowl of food available to them.) Havanese should be fed twice a day because their small size makes it difficult for their blood sugar to stay at the right level if they are only fed once. You should confer with your vet as to the amount of food that will keep your dog at a healthy weight. 

Many of our HALO owners feed their dogs a raw diet, either commercially prepared or homemade. This can be a very high quality, healthy choice. If you choose this type of diet, and particularly if you use homemade food, you should fully research this so as to ensure a proper balanced diet with the necessary vitamins and minerals. Dogs’ nutritional needs are very different from those of humans. 

There are some non-profit groups that analyze dog food and provide recommendations as to which brands provide the most nutritional benefit. It is noteworthy that many of the “big name” brands that are found in grocery stores consistently receive failing grades from these groups because of having meat by-products and corn. These brands are on the “worst food” section of websites that analyze dog food: Purina, Science Diet, Iams, Beneful, Kibble ‘n Bits, Alpo, Pedigree, Gravy Train, Iams.

The following are foods typically ranked highly, as being among the best dry dog food: Blue Buffalo Wilderness, Wellness Core, Artemis, Acana, Orijen, Taste of the Wild, Fromm – Grain Free line, Merrick, Solid Gold Naturals, Canidae and Northwest Naturals. 

We recommend you look at www.dogfoodadvisor.com and review the foods they list as either 4 or 5 star foods. This is a free resource provided by a non-profit group. As well, learn how to figure out if a food is high quality or not for yourself. Remember too that even if a particular food is a highly rated, it may still not be the best choice for your particular dog. Some dogs have sensitive stomachs or special dietary needs. There are articles on www.dogfoodadvisor.com giving advice on special diets too. 

Another good resource is the online and print magazine Whole Dogs Journal. They do charge a subscription fee to receive their publication in print, but you can often access past years’ “approved food” lists for free.

It’s important to also be careful about the treats you give – make them high quality too and limit the amount. Many of our HALO members have found that their dogs enjoy bits of raw or cooked vegetables as treats. These add almost no calories and lots of crunch. Some of the favorites include the crunchy bits of romaine lettuce, red peppers, baby carrots, cut up bits of broccoli stems, cucumber and celery. Fruit can also be a great treat although it does have more calories so it should be given in limited amounts. Please remember that grapes/raisins are toxic to dogs and should never be given. 

Overall, remember that the food you give your rescue is one of the most important factors you control that determines his/her health, energy and longevity.