I studied canine nutrition after my vet wanted to charge $600 to put one of my dogs under general anesthetic to clean her teeth. Since then we fed our dogs bones in the morning - ideally bones with joints, like chicken necks, because they contain joint fluid. Suddenly their teeth cleaned themselves. Magic!
Matilda, 18 years young, playing with an Aussie Shepherd visitor in February this year.
A complication in the study of canine nutrition is that the only people paying for formal research are companies selling dog food, who are therefore invested in particular outcomes. On the other hand, wild dog or wolf studies don't really replicate a domestic situation, because wolves and wild dogs are not necessarily eating optimally, they are eating what's available.
Luckily as dog owners we can feed our dogs optimally. Dogs are carnivores. Ideally, you will mimic a kill, with a combination of muscle meat, organ meat and bones. In the nutrition course we were given percentages by body weight, but we have found, having consulted on nutrition for over ten years now, that the best way to determine volume for each individual is by closely assessing your dog's weight over time. Some dogs are very active, others are more sedentary. Some dogs will eat until they burst - others are fussy. You can add or reduce volume according to your dog's condition.
Matilda eats a combination of roo mince and beef mince, chicken necks or wings, beef or chicken livers and/or lamb hearts. We have found that often the organ meat is on special and we will buy more than we need a freeze it.
As my dogs aged and needed more joint support we designed a supplement called Sound Advice Canine Relief Mix. This is a combination of glucosamine, MSM, Devil's Claw and colostrum. It contains natural, human-grade ingredients which reduce inflammation and offer temporary pain relief. Matilda has been on this supplement for about the last eight years, as have many client's dogs, so it is safe to use long term.
You can choose to feed this supplement in combination with dog food, but it works best with a raw meat diet such as described above.
While it's true that human-grade meat is more expensive than dog food, in the long term, the costs of managing inflammatory conditions and symptoms of auto-immune problems like recurrent urinary tract infections, gum disease, hot spots or other skin conditions, and arthritis can also add up.
The take away here is that when designing your dog's diet, don't make decisions about what your dog should eat, based on what they will eat. You can feed them optimally, and see the benefits of that long term.