A nutritious, balanced diet is essential to keeping your dog healthy
Your dog’s well being is as tied to its nutrition as yours is. Dogs, just like humans, have specific nutritional needs. It is very important to be aware of your dog’s needs and feed him or her the best diet possible.
Not all commercial dog foods are alike. In fact they can be quite different in their contents. There is such a huge selection of brands and types, how do we know what is best for our dogs? Forget about advertising hype or price. Just because they say it is good for you dog, it does not mean it is so. Also, just because the food is expensive, does not make it a good choice either. So how is one supposed to know? To start with, here are a few quick ways to check if the dog food you are using may not be right for your dog.
* The dog is often ill
* The dog gets worms frequently
* The dog has severe flea problems
* He seems to have no energy
* He seems to be restless
* His coat is dull and not soft
* His shedding is excessive
* The dog burps a lot
* The dog has bad breath
* He has gas problems
* His stools are large and / or loose
* He does not seem to like his food
* His teeth are dirty and brown
All of these conditions can occur in all dogs from time to time and would be considered normal. However, if several of them occur on a regular basis, it could be time to take a look at his diet.
Dogs are Carnivores!
Dogs are meat eaters and not vegetarians. Dogs need meat! One only needs to look at a dog’s teeth to know they are born meat eaters. Their teeth are not like ours. They are designed only for drinking meat apart. They do not have the flat, grinding teeth we do which are made for grains. No digestion takes place in the mouth like ours does, and all the enzymes in its digestive system basically have the ability to break down and digest meat and raw foods. Yes, your dog is a carnivore!
Protein is the dogs most needed nutrient! Dog food packaging shows the amount of protein in the food. Not only is the percentage of protein in the food important, but the source of the protein is important. Unfortunately, the protein found in dog food can come from any source. Protein from plants can be included in the protein content.
Labeling laws require that the most common ingredients be listed first. So if the first few ingredients are plant in nature, you can be sure that is where much of the protein is coming from. Much of the protein in dog food may be coming from wheat, rice, soy, and corn. Dog food manufactures use these plant sources for protein because they are cheaper. But your dog is a carnivore who NEEDS protein from animal sources!
Protein Deficiencies in Dogs
If your dogs are deficient in proper proteins, he or she may show the following symptoms:
* The development of epilepsy
* The development of cancer
* Bladder, liver, heart, or thyroid problems
* Tail Chasing
* Being timid
* Excessive shedding
* Bent or crooked whiskers
* Vomiting or dirrhea
* Lack of appetite
* Slow healing wounds
Dogs that are extremely active need more protein from animal sources than do dogs that are inactive. House dogs that spend most of their time inside can get by with more grain based protein in their diet than active dogs.
It is the amino acids of proteins which your dog actually needs. Unfortunately heating food destroys some of these amino acids. All dry and canned foods have been heated during manufacturing. Dogs should be giving an amino acid supplement to make up for this loss of quality in the amino acids. Ask your vet for advice on this.
Puppies and Protein
In a dog’s first year of growth, he needs almost twice as much protein than an adult dog. This is because muscles and other tissues are primarily built with amino acids. Even a short period of time in a dog’s first year without proper levels of protein can result in problems later in the dog’s life. The correct food is absolutely important during the puppy’s growth year.
When buying puppy food, it is very important that two of the first three ingredients be animal proteins and not plant proteins. It is even better if the first two are both animal proteins. Foods with two or more plant proteins in the first three should not be fed to the puppy.
Dogs also need carbohydrates. But not many are needed to stay healthy! Carbohydrates are used by the dog for proper stool consistency, some energy requirements, and proper thyroid function. Too many carbohydrates in a dog’s diet result in large, smelly stools, bad breath, sore gum’s and tartar on the teeth. Rice, oats, and barley are the best choices for carbohydrates. Foods with soy are not advised because of how it slows absorption of other nutrients. You may ask yourself how wolves, dogs’ direct anestors, and / or wild dogs would get their carbohydrates.
Dogs need so little carbohydrates that in the wild they would get them from the digestive tracts of the animals they would catch and eat. Mice and rabbits will almost always have partially digested carbohydrates in their system. And yes, when our dogs catch a rabbit, NOTHING is left. They eat the whole thing … fur, bones, insides … everything! We are always glad to see when they have done one because we know they are getting some good nutrients in the most natural way.
Dogs also need fat in their diets. Fats are either polyunsaturated or satrated. When dry dog foods are made, fat is sprayed on them. Fat not only makes the food taste better (just like it does with our food). Saturated fat comes from animal sources and unsaturated fat is plant based. Too much saturated fat can lead to loss of energy, dry skin, and heart problems. Too much animal fat may cause the dog to become fat, increase the likelihood of mammary gland tumors and can lead to cancer in the digestive system.
Polyunsaturated fats in dog food come from flax seed oil, safflower oil, wheat germ, and olive oil. This fat is needed for the dog’s skin and coat health. Also, too little plant fat can lead to belly or thigh lesions, itching, poor blood clotting, skin ulcers, and improper growth.
Dogs, just like humans, need vitamins too. Vitamins B and C are water soluble and A, DK, and E are fat soluble. The water soluble vitamins are the most fragile and are often destroyed in the heating process of foods. There is some debate about a dog’s need for vitamin C. Dog’s, unlike humans, produce vitamin C (just like we produce vitamin D). But there is some research suggesting that what a dog produces is not enough. This is especially true for puppies. You should talk to your vet about your dog’s vitamin needs. He may suggest a vitamin supplement. Along with the vitamin supplement, a mineral supplement may also be advised.
A dog should have access to fresh water at all times. The only time this rule should be modified is when house breaking a puppy. Then you can limit the dog’s water intake in the evening so he can make it through the night.
Commercial Dog Food versus Natural Foods
A dog’s most natural food is raw meat. They can digest raw meat in about 5 hours. But it can take over 15 hours for a dog to digest a meal of dried dog food. This is because they have the correct and needed enzymes to digest raw foods.
They do not have enough enzymes to quickly digest dried foods. So the dry food sits in their stomachs until enough enzymes can be sent to the stomach for digestion. Many experienced dog owners wholeheartedly embrace the idea of giving their dogs all natural foods. The draw back to this is that it can be expensive and requires considered time. If one is interested, there are many books available on the topic of cooking for your dog.
We like to offer our dogs a compromise. We give them plenty of people food during the week, and we hope this helps better balance their diets. We give them a lot of eggs (including the shells), milk and cheese, chicken parts, meat, and other meat and dairy products they seem to like. You will find that there are some things your dog will not digest well.
If a dog will eat them, it is fine to give your dog any and all kinds of salad ingredients such as carrots, radiates, cucumbers, and lettuce … all in small quantities. Again, just experiment in small amounts to see what your dog likes and can digest well. But do not overdo it on the pure people food. Just a little bit will go a long way for them. But give them as much meat as you can. Buy an extra t-bone next time for your canine! And remember, there is no need to cook it for him!
One of Storm’s greatest joys is chewing on a giant ham bone! He can spend hours and hours on one. And he will not stop until the whole thing is gone. Yes, he will keep chewing until the entire bone is gone! The nutrients in the bone are great for him, and chewing on one keeps his teeth clean! When it comes to chicken bones, we have mixed emotions. For the past ten years we always brave our dogs chicken bones. They love them!
At Thanksgiving time, the dogs would get the “remains” of the boned turkey. We never had one single problem. After all, when one of our dogs catches a rabbit, they eat the whole thing. There is nothing left of the rabbit. However, in the past few months we have been reading more and more about the dangers of cooked chicken bones. They have been known to puncture the digestive tracts of some dogs. So we have stopped giving them the chicken bones just to be safe. Some vets say that uncooked chicken bones are fine since they will not splinter.