What To Feed Your Rescue Dog

If you’re about ready to adopt a new dog, and wonder what kind of dog food you should feed him or her, read on and learn about what you should consider first. 

Next month my husband and I we’ll be adopting a bonded pair of dogs, now is the time to do the food research, because as we’ve learned not all dog foods are created equal.

The best food to feed your rescue dog is a quality dog food free from processed meats, refined sugars, grains, or flours. Feeding your dog wild caught salmon, chicken, fruits or vegetables is a healthy alternative to a packaged dog food. 

Decide if you want to transition your dog from the old food he was used to eating at the shelter to a newer quality food.

Next, determine whether you want to feed the dog dry kibble, wet food, a combination of the two. If you decide you’d like to offer a new brand of food to your dog, make sure to add a little bit of the new food to the old food using a 3/1 with 75% of old food mixed with 25% of the new food for the first three days.

How To Choose The Right Dog Food For Your Rescue

Years ago our pets lived to 18, 20 and 22 years old. This could quite possibly have to do with the fact that there weren't these nicely colored packaged foods sitting on shelves for our convenience.

Make it a practice to read the label of anything you feed your dog. But, how do you know if the foods and ingredients are a good quality on your dog food label?

Here’s a list of the worst dog food ingredients to avoid in most general pet food brands.

  • 1
    BHA/BHT - These are chemical preservatives used to preserve fats in human and pet food. 
  • 2
    White Flour - No good for humans, not good for your dog either. This only serves to cause a spike up in blood sugar, making your pup hungry again sooner
  • 3
    Unnamed Meat or Meat Meal, i.e. Chicken Meal, etc - This is a processed and not even a real meat. It’s a combination of the leftover and the ingredients can even include disease laden ingredients from dead animals, or expired meat from the grocery store.  it is heated extensively to remove the pathogens that exist.
  • 4
    Artificial Colors - Anything that says “artificial” you and your dog should both avoid! It’s there to make the food look appealing. The question is, to whom is this supposed to look appealing? You, the customer, that’s who’s buying it - so the brand wants you to like the way it looks, meanwhile Rover could not care less. Avoid the fake coloring.
  • 5
    MSG - Monosodium glutamate - found in loads of prepared foods. This is a very common allergen to both humans and pets, so best to avoid it.
  • 6
    Gluten - One of the ingredients I avoided for my Weimaraner, he was gluten sensitive, and the gluten caused his skin to become itchy. Gluten found in grains is not natural for dogs to consume. Ear infections, hot spots, and lots of itching are common signs your dog is sensitive to gluten.
  • 7
    Corn Syrup - Avoid any sugar - it’s not only bad for human consumption, but just as bad for your dog. Easily puts weight onto your dog, and causes diabetes and has addicting qualities. Best to avoid this completely.
  • 8
    Nitrites or Nitrates (Sodium Nitrite) - found in lots of prepared meats. If you think giving your dog a sausage, bacon, bologna, hot dogs, or other deli meats is a good idea because it’s “meat” - don’t! There have been studies linking these preservatives directly to cancer.
  • 9
    Soy - This vegetable based protein is not helpful to your pet - even though it does include all the necessary amino acids, its difficult for dogs to digest this protein. it is a cheap ingredient so it gets tossed into the cheap bag of dog food.
  • 10
    Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP) - An active ingredient found in many detergents. Acts as a preservative in the dog food.
  • 11
    Animal by-products - It's a cheap filler, and not a very well described “protein” source. This could be roadkill, feathers, hooves, hair, hide, beaks - all processed to act as fillers in the poor quality dog food. 

Additionally, be sure to avoid any foods listing meat meal, meat by-products, poultry meal, poultry by-products, fish meal, fish oil, gluten or grains in general. 

Best Dog Food Alternatives

Now that you’ve avoided those in the list above. Here’s a few alternatives to those ingredients:

  • Choose natural preservatives or canned foods such as fruits or vegetables - even better are fresh fruits and veggies
  • Meats including chicken
  • Wild caught fish

I've tested these brands out with my Weimaraner and they're very high quality

  • Blue Buffalo Blue Wilderness  - Meat Rich, healthy Weight Chicken 
  • Orijen Six Fish Dry Dog Food 

    Below is the actual ingredients on the Orijen Six Fish Food bag 
Ready to Feed Your New Rescue Dog? Read This First! 1

What to Feed Your Rescue Dog if You Don't Have Dog Food on Hand?

If you just got home from the shelter or place you rescued your dog from and have nothing immediately on hand, but you know you want to move away from whatever the dog was eating Look for some canned vegetables like peas, carrots, and corn (rinsed to remove extra sodium) 

Canned chicken and fish packed in water (thoroughly rinsed and drained) Low-sodium beef, chicken, or vegetable broth. 

Another option is a plain apple, or freeze it - makes a great snack for chewing on, and less expensive than the chemical filled chew bones you buy. 

What Human Food Should I Avoid Feeding My Dog?

There are foods to avoid - and I wanted to make sure you had a very handy list to refer to. 

Below are the top 13 foods to avoid 

#1: Chocolates.

#2: Garlic And Onions.

#3: Avocados.

#4: Grapes And Raisins.

#5: Persimmons.

#6: Cooked Bones.

#7: Sugar Free Human Food.

#8: Apple Seeds

#9: Asparagus  - too tough to eat raw

#10: Cherries - as the plants contain cyanide and are toxic for dogs 

#11: Mushrooms - Wild mushrooms can be very toxic to dogs

#12: Onions - can cause vomiting, stomach pain or diarrhea 

#13: Tomatoes - The green parts of the plant are toxic on the vine ripened plant. The red part is fine, but eating too many tomatoes could make them sick

What if I can't Get My Rescue Dog to Eat? 

Dogs love routines, schedules and no variety with their food or food schedules. Make sure you start off with a good schedule and routine as soon as you get home. Initially, your dog may not be interested in eating right away, and if you attempt to offer food and there is no interest, he or she could be still trying to get to know the new surroundings. 

Always have fresh water available. Try offering a little kibble, but don’t make the food available all day long. If the dog does not want to eat out of a bowl, try offering some out of your hand to help them get to know and trust you. Try to offer some wet/kibble food, whatever was different from what you started out with. 

Make sure you feed during the newly prescribed scheduled times that you’ll plan on feeding and if after a couple of days you dog is still not eating, make a plan to visit the vet to find out if there might be some digestive issues or other reasons you might not be aware of. 

Related Questions:

How Long Does it Take for a Rescue Dog To Adjust To a New Home? 

There are a few periods to consider to help your dog adjust to your new home. Think of this in terms of 3s. 

3 Days at a minimum - is the initial period as the dog transitions from rescue, shelter to your home. This is a much different place than where he was used to coming from, which could have been very noisy, with other dogs all around barking and activity in and out of the shelter. 

Do expect him to sleep a lot the first few days. He may not have had a chance to get enough sleep previously. 

3 Weeks - Now your dog is getting used to your routine. When you go to work, leave for the gym, and your partner coming and going. They start picking up on the daily schedule at this point. They also know when the next meal is and to avoid jumping on your bed. 

3 Months - Now they are officially feeling “home”. With good behavior and training they’ll feel very settled by this point. Make sure to have patience and a sense of humor - you’ll both need it during this period of adjustment. 

How Do You Introduce a Rescue Dog to Your Home? 

There’s lots to consider. Make sure you’re as prepared well ahead of the day you plan on bringing home your new rescue. This will make the introduction to your home that much easier.

  • 1
    Make sure to dog proof your home - remove any hazardous items, lock the cabinet under your kitchen sink or the laundry room. Don’t assume this dog can read labels and knows what to avoid. If you have a pantry door in your kitchen where the onions live - close the door or put anything you don’t want them getting into high above out of reach. 
  • 2
    Avoid any welcome home parties - that’s just too much excitement for her to handle. It can naturally make your dog feel nervous or excited and harder to acclimate 
  • 3
    Bring your dog into your home on a leash - give your dog a tour of a the house - remain calm and relaxed, redirect any grabbing of objects by using the common “leave it”
  • 4
    Take your dog out for a walk often - even if the dog is house trained, it’s likely getting out frequently will give your dog a chance to associate with your neighborhood and yard surroundings.
  • 5
    Make sure you introduce your dog to your family members outside the house and one at a time. Keep this a calm and low-key event. Let your dog be the one to approach and drive the interaction. Make sure to avoid hugging, kissing and picking up the dog - they can be perceived as frightening to them, they aren’t human, they are canine and they don’t kiss or hug.
  • 6
    Keep close to home the first week or so - Get your walk routine established and make sure to include your training and play each day.
  • 7
    Be sure to provide your dog with her own space to sleep, and have alone time - go at your dog’s pace. Don’t rush or overwhelm them.

During this period its best to make sure you establish your daily routines for sleeping, feeding, walks, and relationship building. 

Hope you found this information helpful as you welcome in a new rescue to your home! 


About the Author Janet

I'm Janet, avid rescue dog fan, and parent of two rescues - training them to run, hike, and enjoy their new forever home

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