BY LINDA MICHAELS, M.A. — DEL MAR DOG TRAINING
New Year’s Dog Diet Resolution: “I resolve that my dog will eat better in the new year!” Why not get on the “green dog bandwagon” and give your dog the new year’s gift that will last a lifetime? Your dog will be ecstatic about this resolution!
If you’re having trouble sifting through all of the dog nutrition information and want to know what’s good for your dog to eat and what’s not–what’s essential and what’s not–this article is written for you.
Veterinary nutritionist agree, a poor diet is the biggest obstacle to achieving canine health…from the ingredients, to the additives, to the processing. Buy food from companies that don’t cut corners but rather strive to provide the best quality food using ingredients produced and regulated in the U.S. Experts do not agree 100% about nutrition, however, an excellent holistic resource that investigates and reviews dry and canned food each year may be found at www.WholeDogJournal.com
Here’re some tips to help you select dog foods that are both healthful and convenient.
The urban legend instructing pet parents to avoid feeding “people food” to dogs is only true if what you eat is not good for you! If you choose to home-cook, start with trustworthy recipes or prepare a healthy meal for yourself and cook a little extra for your dog. Be informed however, that raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, chocolate, xylitol and even onions are considered toxic to dogs, as are the pits of fruits. Home-cooked meals can be great for your dog… but not every good pet parent wants to cook for the dog.
If you choose to feed kibble, feed an organic super-premium quality kibble and rotate between specifically named meats within and between brands. A balanced diet requires variety. Feeding the same food continuously may create allergies and nutritional deficiencies. There are some excellent dehydrated and freeze-dried foods as well.
Transition from one brand or protein source to the next over the course of a week or two. Always add water or a scoop of wet food to the kibble. Producing enough saliva to swallow dry kibble is hard on your dog’s digestive system. Chewing kibble does not clean the teeth.
Q. What’s best on the ingredients list?
A. TV ads and food bags that proclaim “complete and balanced” may be misleading.
Look for a specifically named meat (or fish) as the first ingredient and as many named meat sources in the first three ingredients as possible. Unfortunately, you can’t determine the quality of the meat from the label. Look for natural preservatives, such as vitamin C, vitamin e, citric acid and rosemary.
A more natural diet would include raw meat, ground and large raw bones, shredded fruits and vegetables, and organ meat. Most vegetables and some fruits can and should be a part of your dog’s diet. Add a human food-quality bone meal as a calcium source to balance the high phosphorus in meats if you’re not providing bones. Conveniently frozen raw meals of meat, bone and veggies are now available.
Q. What about protein vs carbohydrates in the nutritional analysis?
A. High-protein diets are generally linked to high performance and high simple carbohydrate diets are linked to obesity in dogs. Choose a food with a small percentage of whole grains, if any. Doug Knueven, DVM, renowned veterinary lecturer on dog nutrition and author of The Holistic Health Guide: Natural Care for the Whole Dog (2008) also warns, “High carbohydrate foods predispose dogs to cancer.” Canines have little dietary requirements for carbohydrates, however, up to 90% grains may be used in commercial dog food because they are an inexpensive way to increase calories.
Q. What ingredients should I avoid?
A. Corn gluten, wheat, soy, unspecified meats, by-products of all kind, and any ingredient ending in -ose, corn syrup and sugar.
Q. What are red flags in my dog’s food and treats?
A. Artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, especially BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin which have been linked to a variety of diseases.
Q. What about the processing?
A. High-temperature dog food processing can destroy nutrients including vitamins,
enzymes and amino acids. Stay as close to natural and organic as feasible.
Q. Do I really need to add supplements?
A. No matter what type of diet you choose, supplements are important. Be sure your supplement producer is a member of the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) which commits to stringent quality controls.
Supplements listed in order of relative importance:
Multivitamin/mineral derived from whole food sources.
Fish oil. DHA and EPA are omega-3 fatty acids naturally found in fish oil and are important for brain function. A 2004 study showed that a measure of canine intelligence was more than doubled for a group with DHA supplement than a control group of puppies 9 -13 weeks of age. DHA is “cooked out” of heat-processed (kibble) foods.
Glucosamine/chrondroitin. Especially important for high-activity or performing dogs and to prevent and treat arthritis.
Probiotics–“good bacteria”. Provide at the change of the seasons, high-stress, and during and after any medication treatment, especially antibiotics.
Many illnesses, skin, and behavioral problems are directly affected by diet, so keep your Fifi and Bowser physically and temperamentally fit by meeting their canine nutritional needs. Consult your holistically-minded veterinarian or certified canine nutritional expert for more details.
Originally published in the Carmel Valley News. CA
Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist” M.A. and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker, can be reached at (858) 259-9663 or email: LindaMichaelsPositively@gmail.com for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations in or near Del Mar or the San Diego Coast. Visit us at DogPsychologistOnCall.com
All rights reserved.