Feeding your Malamute

This page should not be construed to be "expert" advice, it is our opinion only.

I'm sure many will disagree vehemently (and I will no doubt hear about it LOL).

My personal feeling about feeding is go with whatever works for you and your dog. I am NOT a nutritionist nor have I felt the need to do an incredible amount of research into dog foods. Essentially, I look for dog food certified as having complete nutrition. In the U.S. that would be certified by AAFCO. The seal is on every bag they've tested so you can be assured of a basic level of quality. I feel they know a lot more about this than I do. I also leave it up to large Malamute food companies that have the resources and expertise to test and research new and better foods. I don't pretend to know more than they do. However, from a Malamute specific standpoint, there are a few things the typical Malamute owner needs to consider.

Some people feed raw, all natural foods, some feed grocery store kibble, some a combination of the two - there is a plus to any of these depending on the circumstances. We feed a premium, or quality food, with a few leftovers thrown in to keep it interesting for the dog and affordable for us. The type of leftovers we typically use are meat and vegetables. Our Mals love most cooked vegetables. Some are definite"meat eaters" and turn their nose up at raw vegetables like tomatoes or broccoli. It's interesting that some Malamutes need to "learn" to eat vegetables (just like they learn to eat poop in the back yard - the "other" Malamute food group ;-). We've had a couple that until they saw the other dogs eating carrots, would not eat them. On the other hand, some vegetables are almost universally rejected - such as lettuce or mushrooms. I suppose this is because I've heard lettuce is difficult for dogs to digest and has little nutritional value for them. I haven't got a problem with a dog getting people treats and leftovers if a reasonable amount (no more than 10% daily) - I feel a Malamute will never have a good coat when fed one brand of dry food, day in and day out, without any supplements (by supplements I mean either store-bought vitamins/supplements or healthy leftovers). I personally feel an occasional change of food brands is a good thing. You should NEVER feed your dog these items as these have components toxic to dogs.

There seems to be a few schools of thought on feeding - the natural crowd that feels everything must be raw, heavy on meat and like a dog might eat "in the wild". Another group feels premium or high quality kibble dog food (ie: Blue Buffalo, Orijen, Solid Gold, etc.) is best and needs no supplementation, a third group, usually vegetarian, tries to eliminate a large amount of the meat element by feeding vegetarian leaning foods with little or no meat, and of course the whatever is cheapest at the supermarket crowd (Old Roy, Purina) - and everything in between. I'm sure for certain dogs, any of these can be quite healthy and good. I feel, each dog, each breed - and lines within the breed, and each Malamute owner has to make his own choice. That said, here are a few things that have influenced the way we feed our dogs.

All Malamutes I've known LOVE fish of any kind. Not living in Alaska, our choices are limited, but we've found canned salmon, mackerel, tuna are a nice supplement when added to their daily kibble and the dog's love it. It is great for their coats and a healthy coat usually means a healthy dog. I tend to not give this EVERY day, only because I think the salt used in canning may be too much on an everyday basis. I would love to feed seal, whale, fresh salmon - however, it's not available at the local grocery store and I don't expect it anytime soon.

One issue I think is not addressed by food manufacturers - some breeds, and I feel the Malamute is among them - cannot always digest milk products - a common ingredient in foods such as Science Diet or Innova. We've had a couple of dogs that could not tolerate these foods because of the dairy products in them.  We've also had one pup that was sensitive to wheat and corn - he always had a soft stool until they switched to a Venison and Potatoes diet. And if you think about it, it makes sense. There were no dairy cows in primitive Alaska - cows milk was not a part of the Inuit diet, and therefore would not have been in the dogs' diet either. Carabou is probably a lot like Venison and tubers of all kinds survive cold Alaskan winters.  I've heard some people say this is also true about beef, though I have never noticed this issue in our own dogs. I would be curious to know if lactose intolerance is found in certain herding breeds that would have had milk as a common staple in their overall diet. I would think natural selection long ago would have eliminated many dogs with a genetic propensity toward lactose intolerance in those societies. Meanwhile, with the northern breeds, this genetic trait would still exist. A significant portion of the dog population might be lactose intolerant, but the condition would never be tested or never be a problem in a society where dairy cows don't exist. So fast forward to the housepet Malamute that drinks the toddler's leftover cereal or milk or is fed Science Diet - and gets a serious stomach ache, diarrhea or even intestinal infection from the inability to digest milk and grains. Perhaps we need to rethink these generic dog foods and make breed specific mixtures.

An unexpected development turned our dog food world upside down - we'd been feeding a premium food (Pro Plan or Pedigree at the time) for quite some time when Star developed a strange film on the surface of her eye. Not knowing what this might be (and fearing cataracts) we took her to the canine ophthalmologist who determined it consisted of FAT. Apparently her diet was TOO rich and according to the ophthalmologist was sloughing off in the lens of the eye. The solution? Give her CHEAP grocery store dog food! Apparently this is quite common in the northern breeds, including Malamutes and Siberian Huskies that are not heavily worked - they are getting a diet too rich for their couch-potato lifestyle! We switched to plain old Purina Dog Chow - and lo and behold, after about 10 months the fatty deposit melted away.  Generally though, since the original writing of this page Purina has gone 'to the dogs'...the quality has become terrible.  I no longer recommend Purina or Pedigree any longer for anything, and have never liked Science Diet, Innova, or Diamond.  If possible, hunt down a grain free version of whatever you can - there has been due to the recent droughts a lot of problems with grains in foods and afloxin poisoning.  I think if you can afford it - get the best grain-free food you can find at dogfoodadvisor.com where they break down thousands of foods and give you the details on quality. 

We have never fed a true BARF diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) and the only time I've come close is with puppies. Adding raw hamburger, or eggs to their puppy food kibble. I have to admit, I am impressed with the size, health and quality of coats the puppies fed like this. However, I can't see myself taking the time to hunt down and figure out a truly balanced "BARF" diet for my dogs. I'm just not that interested! But those that are generally feel it's worth it and oftimes become almost religious about it. There are some links below if you might be interested in this feeding method.  Since the original writing we've found a source of deer meat and for a good part of the year now feed deer for their afternoon meal as a supplement to dog food kibble in the morning.  It's made a huge difference in coats.  I highly recommend if you can find a source, use it!  Not only is it cheaper usually, dogs are carnivores and appreciate the meat and bone even for a few meals.

As for table scraps...people seem to be either for or against it.  Personally, I don't think it hurts as long as the dog isn't overweight and is getting a balanced diet generally.  After all, Malamutes were scavangers when they lived with the Inuit!  Really, what is a couple of Doritos in the scheme of things.  Hoover lives for Pizza crusts...should I deny this old guy his only real joy?  I don't think so.  Some things to avoid though - lettuce, chocolate, raisins, grapes and onions and MORE HERE.  These are potentially toxic and aren't good for dogs.  But mine love carrots, meat and gravy leftovers, veggies and bread....in fact, no loaf of bread is safe if Holly is nearby - leave it on the counter and you can bet the entire loaf of bread will be gone in a heartbeat - with only an empty wrapper on the floor (she doesn't eat the plastic though - you're Malamute mileage may vary!). 

A few odds and ends we've learned with our Malamutes:

bulletIf you have a "moocher", give the smallest possible piece of Human Munchie (ie. tiny piece of a Dorito) you can get away with. It's better for the dog's health, and you  They are just thrilled you're giving them something - size doesn't matter so make it tiny! Something this big {   } is more than adequate (and they'll be more likely to learn to take it nicely!)

bulletNew research has shown it's not good to change your dog's food at all for the first year of life.  If possible, continue feeding what the breeder fed your puppy or something similar. It's not a good idea to try different foods - even if there is a mild allergic reaction or mild temporary diahrrea.  The reason behind this is sound.  The more foods he is exposed to, the more likely he is to develop allergies because of his young age.  This presents problems when allergies develop because it limits the number of NEW things you can use that he hasn't been exposed to...there is a reason you're seeing bison, salmon, potato, rice and other unusual foods in the stores.  Don't expose your puppy to these until he's at least a year old unless the breeder has already been feeding something similar - you may need them later should he develop severe allergies.  This is similar to the logic used with children in not giving them citrus too young as it can CAUSE them to become allergic.

bulletDON'T feed what the bag says - go by how your dog's body feels. If you feel ribs and hip bones without much effort, he's too skinny - but if you don't feel any ribs or hip bones - he's too fat.  If his fur seems to jog with him when he runs in a rolling motion, that's not coat folks, that's FAT.  Keeping your dog lean is much better for his health (I know you've heard that before, but believe it).  And if your dog starts to mysteriously gain wait without an increase in food or mooching, have his thyroid tested.  It's a very common problem in Malamutes and if you allow it to get out of hand, you'll get diabetes, cushings, blindness and other problems that come with the excess weight. 

bulletA dog fed ONLY one kind of dry dog food may develop diarrhea if there is a sudden change of brand or they get leftovers or a rich treat. Feeding occasional leftovers, in my opinion, keeps a healthy dog's stomach from being too sensitive to changes in diet. (Of course, if your dog has a medical problem, or is sensitive to certain foods, you should always feed accordingly).

bulletSome of the treats Malamutes LOVE most are pizza crust, carrots and ice cubes. Go easy feeding pig ears as they are very rich and high in fat. We've heard of at least two cases of the dogs becoming cranky and growly after eating them - could it be the hormones fed to farm animals? We can only speculate.. Every so often you hear of some new "treat" - everything from pig snouts to tendons to turkey feet. Some are fine - my dogs love pig snouts - but I'm leery of turkey feet because of the cooked bones....Use common   Also, new treats can cause diahrrea in some dogs because they are richer than they are used to. 

bulletOne of the best treats we've found are RAW beef, deer or other large bones.  If you DO NOT COOK THEM they are digested properly and do not splinter causing internal injuries.  The calcium and marrow are great for them, as is the raw meat left on them when butchered.  I truly believe they get something from raw foods they cannot get from kibble in a bag.  You can also feed RAW chicken - necks, legs, wings right from the bag frozen.  Do NOT feed cooked bones of any kind - that includes that juicy looking steak bone left over from your BBQ...cooked bones can cause obstruction and perferation of the intestine because they are not digested properly.  Cooked chicken bones are particularly dangerous.

bulletNever feed what the dog food bag says, feed to keep your dog at his ideal weight! Typically, our 85-95 lb. males eat about 2 cups of a quality food, two times a day. The females (about 65-75 lbs) eat about 1 cup of food, two times a day. "Quality" is the key here - the better the food, often the less you need to feed. They occasionally get a taste of leftovers, some tuna on their dog food, or a dog cookie, but that is ALL. Not very much for dogs their size, agreed. It's easy to get a Malamute overweight, especially if they are

bulletA well metabolized food will mean less poop in the yard. If your dog has huge stools, they are just not digesting a large part of their diet - so perhaps you need to buy a higher quality food. Stools should be small, dense and firm. One of the first indicators one of our dogs might be lactose intolerant was diarrhea and gas. If your dog has excessive gas or consistently loose stools, try another brand of food and see if that helps.

bulletSome Malamutes are nibblers of their food, but most will eat until they could literally explode. It's not uncommon to see a Malamute that should weigh 75 lbs weigh in at 120!  He is not a "giant" he's FAT. Generally, Malamutes do not do well as self-feeders (where food is down all day and they eat when they feel like it), especially in a multiple dog household  

bulletFeeding puppies is a little different with Malamutes.  I feel a large breed puppy food is best - we use ProPlan for the most part.  If the Malamute puppy gains weight too quickly, it's OK to switch them to an adult food younger than 6 months.  We've had our smaller mals switch at 3 and 4 months if they begin to gain too much weight.  If you've gotten their feedings down to 2-3 a day, and they are still getting chubby - stop puppy food and feed a high quality adult food. 

Missing Link

The Missing Link Plus Glucosamine Canine Formula Super Food Supplement (16 oz.; Granules; Powder) The Missing Link, the original all-in-one super food supplement, is now available with added glucosamine. The Missing Link targets the nutritional gap between what nature provides and what's available in commercial foods.Free of filler, preservatives, and artificial colorings or flavorings.Your animal will receive the most benefit from this formula within three to four weeks. Supposed to help "Coat Funk" too.

Dog Food Links

Best place to find out about a specific food!  Dog Food Advisor

Feeding Human food (against)



Eagle Pack

Iams Company

Science Diet Foods

Reading a Malamute food Label

Intrepreting Malamute Food
Labels by the FDA

  Vitamins may do more harm than good article

Other Food-Related Links

Animal Protection Institute www.burns-Malamute-nutrition.co.uk

Suggested by Phillipa Holloway, UK- she says they have good foods and it's available in the US, UK, Ireland - delivered to the door!