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Nutrition for a dog who's a fussy eater

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

fussy eater dog

A nutritional approach to treating a very fussy eater, a four-year-old dog that refuses her kibble dinner with steamed veggies but gobbles down her five pig-hide strips for breakfast and any other dog treats throughout the day. She also also suffers from bad breath and a dry coat indicating a general poor state of health.

The current nutrition

Adult dogs do not require multiple meals each day, if a dog is not underweight then they are obviously receiving the sufficient calories to meet their daily needs from the food provided prior to their dinner. In the current case, these calories are being provided by Pig-hide strips and ‘treats’ which do not provide a nutritionally balanced diet as evidenced by the bad breath and dry coat.

Client owner concerns

Both of these issues can be naturally resolved by transitioning the pet to a raw, species appropriate balanced diet with raw meaty bones and fresh food in general great for dental health[1] as well as supplying the various nutrients such as EFA’s essential for a healthy coat [2].

Management of the condition, nutritionally.

A species appropriate diet for a dog comprises 40% meaty bones, 20% muscle meat, 10% Offal, 20% Plant matter and 10% Supplements. Provision of evening kibble and steamed vegetables can stop immediately, as the pet is not currently eating this meal it will not count as a food reduction however it will make life a little simpler for the owner and will allow for the building of hunger for the new improved morning meal. Transitioning the dog from the 5 pig hide strips and other dog treats onto a species appropriate diet over a period of around 12 days is ideal. As the dog only appears fussy in the evening but not earlier in the day it’s useful to utilise the morning hunger for the transition by introducing a small amount of the new food for breakfast, before any pig hide strips or treats.

A. Muscle meat: Selecting a lean red meat is ideal as red meat stimulates a more acidic gut environment than white meat, palatability can be increased with the addition of bone broth or stock if required. The meat should be free of any preservatives to avoid any unwanted additional toxins or allergens being included in the diet [1]. Use of minced meat enables other foods or supplements to be blended and gently introduced into the diet.

B. Meaty bones: Instead of providing various commercially processed treats throughout the day the dog should be given a raw meaty bone of a suitable size to be played with and gnawed on. Aside from the nutritional benefits a meaty bone will provide the chewing and gnawing cleans food residue from teeth, massages teeth and gums and improves dental hygiene[1]. Initially nutritional meaty bones should be fed to ensure the appropriate mineral requirements are being met, as the dog’s palate and enjoyment of bones increases recreational bones can be added.

C. Offal: a selection of offal meats such as liver, kidney, brains and green tripe are essential components of any balanced diet; Raw Liver is a good first offal meat packed with valuable B12 whilst raw green tripe is naturally high in enzymes and probiotic bacteria whilst being low in fat making it an ideal dietary choice. If the owner is having trouble not treating the dog throughout the day, the offal component could be partially provided for in the form of dehydrated raw liver treats. These can be made at home to save cost and ensure quality if the owner is willing.

D. Plant matter: Fruits and vegetables provide much needed fibre to the diet together with a whole host of other valuable nutrients. Leafy greens such as spinach are a great item to start with due to availability, nutrient density and ease of pulverising and mixing with mince for palatability. Lightly steamed broccoli florets are a good option if those evening steamed vegetables are important for the owner.

E. Supplements: With the pet nicely transitioned onto a raw diet other additives may be provided to further enhance the nutrient profile of the diet and address any deficiencies that have built up for the pet.

  1. Eggs are an excellent source of the highest quality protein available suitable for dogs of all ages containing all of the vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids dogs need for good healthy which makes them an ideal addition to a balanced diet [3].

  2. Natural, unsweetened Greek yoghurt: can be a useful addition to the diet providing a highly digestible protein, vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients [3] including lactic acid bacteria such as bifido bacteria, a known probiotic which promotes digestion and bowel health[4].

  3. A good quality, cold pressed flaxseed oil adds valuable omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to the diet which are often lacking in the pets fed a commercial product. EFA’s are key to maintaining and supporting all aspects of our pets’ health as they are components of cell membranes, supporting the flow of molecules into and out of cells as well as supporting enzyme and membrane receptor function (Patel, 2017). An appropriate Vitamin E source should also be provided to protect the pet against the oil becoming rancid in their body [3].

  4. Brewer’s yeast, as a rich source of vitamins B-complex, antioxidants and assorted minerals, making it a useful dietary supplement for pets not sensitive to yeast [5]

  5. Kelp, among the many minerals found in kelp there are iodine and selenium, both of which are lacking in New Zealand soils and can be provided in the diet safely, without fear of toxicity, by the inclusion of kelp [3].

With the dog successfully transitioned from pig hide strips and commercial treats onto a raw balanced diet incorporating a variety of species appropriate foods, it’s useful to ensure the owner can maintain the diet long term. A meat patty ‘recipe’ incorporating the meat, offal, plant matter and supplements whilst providing the owner guidance as to interchangeable items to further add variety and cope with seasonal availability is provided. Pets on a raw diet don’t tend to have weight issues; discussing changing energy requirements as the dog ages and their lifestyle changes enables the owner to adjust meal sizes appropriately whilst maintaining balance.


[1] Syme, B. 2011. Scientific Guide to Natural Nutrition. Southbank, Australia: Vets All Natural Pty Ltd. [2] Patel, A. 2017. Essential Fatty Acids In Veterinary Dermatology: Do They Have A Place? Retrieved May 10th, 2020, from [3] Billinghurst, I. 1993. Give Your Dog a Bone. Bathurst, New South Wales: Warrigal Publishing. [4] West, H. n.d.. Lactose Intolerance 101 - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment. Retrieved October 10th, 2020, from Healthline web site: [5] Elfenbein, H. 2017. Brewer's Yeast for Dogs: Understanding the Benefits and Risks. Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Pet MD web site:


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