In the beginning of 2013 we adopted a senior shelter dog in my hometown of Eindhoven, a bullterrier named Vito. Little did we know back then that he would turn out to become a local celebrity in New York City. He now has his own popular Instagram page on which I share his life with followers, and his own website VitotheDog.com. He even had a page article in the New York Post this year! I am working on a book about his life (you can sign up on his site to stay updated on when it comes out) I care a lot for Vito, he has been my life the past 3 years, so I also make sure he gets the best care and love possible! I would like to share with you a bit about his diet.
As most humans like to eat healthy food, it is also good to look at what you feed your dog. Have you ever looked at the ingredient lists on the dog food labels? Well, if you want to get a grip on your dog’s diet, I recommend that is the first thing you should do. get familiar with the foods you give your dog, and its ingredients. Ask yourself what they are, and find out by online searching if it is good for your dog. Curiosity is always the first step.
Just like with human food, in the dog world there are many options and opinions on dog food. Some dog food brands are healthier than others. Some swear by giving a raw food diet to their dog, others only give dry food, and others only cook for their dog. There is even a vegan dry food by Yarrah. It depends on each dog individually what is good and what is not, and it is always wise to discuss this with your veterinarian at your next checkup. Basically it is also trial and error you find out what diet is best for your dog.
When we got Vito, he was a bit overweight. He weighed in at over 70 pounds. I switched him immediately from regular dry food to organic dry food. In Holland I gave him Yarrah sensitive dry food (grain-free), in USA I give him the grain free dry food by Organix . We also gave him a can of wet food once a while he really enjoyed. I even tried at one point frozen raw meat that you thaw first before you feed it to your dog, but Vito became an “espresso machine” as my husband calls it politely. So we found out after trying a few times, that raw/frozen food was not so good for him, he was too sensitive to it. And my research continued. Vito turned out to become an espresso machine when he ate something bad, or when things were raw. Since he is a bullterrier and that breed is known for eating everything that they find along the way, it was hard to make sure he would only eat what we fed him.
After our trial and error period with Vito, we discovered what diet works best for him. As we work from home, Vito is always with us. We now give him food spread over a day, instead of giving him once a day a lot of food. When he walks up, he gets a bit of dry food, because otherwise he gets acid reflux during a walk. Then throughout the day we give him food after exercise, like after a brisk walk. Basically when we eat, Vito gets food too. He knows that he can expect food after we have eaten, so he always waits without a fuzz, and never begs for food. He eats the food we give him when he wants to, sometimes leaving a bit for later. At the end of the day he eats just as much food as he would have if we fed him once, but now it is spread over the day, which we think is better for his digestion, and gives him something to do all day. This has made him be a wonderful well-behaved dog as well, who knows what to expect. He doesn’t every chew on or break things. His days are all about sleep, walks, playtime and food, and he is in excellent shape.
During this time of getting to know Vito we would feed him only organic and simple snacks once a while: He enjoyed raw carrots, bananas, apple parts, melon parts, cooked eggs.
After a while I was convinced I wanted to try to cook for him. But where to start? What is good for a dog, and in what ratio do I give it to him? My first step was to search online and see what are good foods for my dog. In the beginning I only dared to cook organic chicken and rice for him, as they vet always advises that when a dog has an upset stomach. In the beginning I would only give it once a week, but later on I started incorporating more foods to his diet and gave it to him more regularly. Vito was over the Moon when he smelled the food I was cooking, and would sit next to me in the kitchen.
Foods I know use in cooking are: organic chicken incl. skin, organic chicken livers and hearts (organ meat not more than 5% of total food I give him), organic rice, organic sweet potato, organic squash, organic carrots, organic broccoli, organic string beans, organic coconut oil. I noticed if I cook low-fat for Vito, he doesn’t have enough energy. So I add a bit of chicken fat that comes from boiling a whole chicken, and coconut oil. Also, when the veggies and carbs are cooked, Vito digests them well, compared to raw vegetables that come out the same way they went in.
I mix all of these cooked ingredients together in different combos, and it has become like 40% of Vito’s daily diet. In a cooked meal Vito eats about 75% animal protein, and 25% cooked rice and veggies. Again, there are many opinions on what diet is good for your dog, and what ratio is good, but we discovered this worked for us.He still gets dry food, but of course less than before. This way I know he gets all the nutrients he needs, while I perfect my home cooked dog food cooking skills. I still need learn more about a balanced diet before I can transition fully to a home cooked dog food meal. but the first steps are made, and I am planning to become an expert on this!
My husband is in charge of the vitamins we give Vito. Since he is older, he gets a daily mix of vitamins that are customized to his needs. To support his joints, kidneys, immune system and overall health. People are amazed when they see how good he looks!
In the near future I want to play around with other beans like chick peas, kidney beans, black beans, as they can give a good source of plant based protein. Also, I need to start become familiar with cooking red meats, and know more about healthy oils, and other herbs that I can incorporate into his diet.
Vito is regularly checked by a vet, and his bloodwork has come back better than before. He is now on a healthy weight of 65 pounds, and still very active. which is good for an almost 13 year bullterrier.
What I want to say to you is that, as a responsible owner you need to research what food works for your dog. Some things I said may be great for your dog, and some things are not so great. Every dog is different, and different times and events force you to make changes to the diet. Again, check with your veterinarian what diet and supplements are best for your beloved pouch. But your dog will love you for it!
LOVE, LONNEKE (& Vito)