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Of course, as it is for humans, genetics is the most important aspect of dog’s health predispositions.
But you can support and maintain quality health with proper food choices.
The thing is that we’ve modified their genetics through centuries and what once was working, now it doesn’t.
In fact, it can be dreadful.
So I’m sharing with you:
11 Things You Need To Know About Your Dog’s Food And Nutrition
so you can make sure you’re doing the right thing this time. Here they are…
1. DOGS ARE OMNIVORES
Carnivores (meat eaters) need meat to survive. Herbivores (plant eaters) need plants.
So, your furbaby is designed to live on both meat and plants.
Unlike cats, who are obligate carnivores, dogs are able to live on an omnivore diet.
This is because they’ve co-evolved with humans, adapting their digestive system through the years. As a consequence, dogs have amplified the gene for amylase, an enzyme that allows them to digest starches.
Also, when living in the wild, they would get the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals eating fruits and vegetables. But there are kinds you want to avoid because of toxicity for your pet (we’ll get to it later in the text).
They are built to survive and take advantage of anything they come by in nature – a true scavenger. Their sense of smell proves this too!
But they still prefer meat over anything else and need it to really thrive in their lives. That’s why it’s not surprising if they munch on delicious meaty cat food if they have a chance.
2. HEALTHY DOGS HAVE SHINY COATS AND FIRM STOOLS
You can tell that your pup is healthy when his coat is clean and shiny, his stools are firm and brown, and he has the appropriate energy levels for his breed and age.
Same thing as you’d see with us humans – clean and healthy skin, firm stools and appropriate energy levels.
They are not so different from us 🙂
Wondering about those energy levels? Well, it depends on your dog’s age and genetics.
If your dog has behavior problems, it could be he’s under-exercised and bored.
All dogs are natural workers and need exercise to remain healthy.
Certain breeds have higher energy drive, ergo require more to burn that energy out, so it’s important to know your pupper’s needs.
But if you maintain proper exercise and still witness hyperactiveness – that’s firstly a sign of unbalanced nutrition.
3. DOGS ARE BUILT FOR FASTING
In case your fuzzball doesn’t eat for one day, he will be fine.
Don’t fall in despair thinking he’s starving. Dog physiology is built for fasting.
In the past (and take today’s wolves for example), dogs wouldn’t have the luxury of having 3 full meals every single day.
They would hunt something down, have a feast on organs and meat. And then live on bones, skin (hide) or water until they have a successful hunt again.
You might say ‘But you’ve said earlier how we’ve changed their genetics…’
We did, but this part hasn’t changed! It’s also proven that going without food (fasting) is actually beneficial for your dog’s health and longevity.
Your dog’s digestive system has time to relax from constant digestion and organs can freely get to repairing and restoring function.
Also, autophagy occurs, a process where the body recycles and gets rid of cellular debris and waste that builds up over time.
So, fasting allows detoxification, strengthens resistance to disease, and conserves energy.
Of course, get your floof into fasting gradually. Start with once a month, and slowly work up to eventually fasting once a week.
Watch out: fasting is safe only for healthy adult dogs. It should be avoided for growing puppies, old dogs, lactating females, and small toy breeds that can develop hyperglycemia. Also, avoid if your dog has a health condition for which fasting is contraindicated.
But first and foremost, always consult your vet.
4. LEAVING THE FOOD OUT MAKES YOUR DOG PICKY
Don’t leave the dog food out longer than 30 minutes.
Canines that can get to their food at any time get finicky or start having weight problems. This way, it’s eat it or lose it!
Controlling meals is more sanitary, prevents unwanted pests, and you provide fresh food every time your rascal eats.
You can immediately notice if anything stands out from his normal eating habits.
For example: your fuzzy wuzzy could have a lack of appetite, an indicator that something’s wrong. Or if it takes him longer to finish his meal than usual, maybe he’s having oral pain connected to dental disease.
Dogs are innately driven by routine, so a strict eating schedule works for them like a charm. You’ll also have an easier time predicting when he has to go outside to do his business.
5. SOME INGREDIENTS THAT ARE OK FOR YOU ARE TOXIC FOR YOUR DOG
Take onions and garlic for example – while these 2 give a great taste in our food, they are toxic to dogs (and cats too).
Along with leeks, scallions, chives and shallots (these plants belong to the Allium plant genus), they can make dogs immediately sick if eaten in large quantities. So, avoid the whole genus.
If eaten in small amounts over time, they cause gut irritation and can damage red blood cells, causing anemia.
Sadly, some dog food companies still use these as flavor enhancers. Read the dog food ingredients list and stay away from them!
Milk and dairy (although folks believe it’s good because it contains calcium and protein) are also a no-no for your fuzzy companion.
Dogs are unable to break down lactose, and feeding them milk and dairy-based products leads to diarrhea and other digestive upset.
Other ingredients toxic to dogs are:
- Macadamia nuts
- Corn cob (corn is OK, but don’t let your dog chew it on a cob)
- Artificial sweeteners
- Grapes and raisins
- Salt and salty snack foods
- Citrus fruits
6. HEAT AND MOISTURE MAKE THE FOOD SMELL BETTER
If your fluffy bud is a picky eater, adding some moisture or heating up the food will give it more of an odor, which they love.
You can simply add hot water to the wet food to create sort of a stew, then mix in some kibble.
However, be careful with raw dog food because it’s not intended to be reheated, nor cooked.
7. MEAT SHOULD BE #1 ON YOUR DOG’S FOOD INGREDIENTS LIST
Ingredients in dog food, or any processed food for that matter, are listed in order of weight before being processed.
So what you usually want to see as the first ingredient is meat (protein), followed by other sources of protein, and then starches and fat.
Because meat is weighed before processing, when the amount of water is subtracted, meat falls as the 4th or 5th ingredient. That’s why other protein sources matter.
What’s considered meat? AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) defines dog food “meat” as primarily muscle tissue from cows, pigs, sheep and goats. Poultry and fish (non-mammals) are not listed as “meat” on the label.
And take note that you should be looking for the words “real meat” in the dog food label. Real or whole meat means animal muscle tissue, not meat meal.
8. ‘MEAL’ IS JUST A USABLE FORM OF ANIMAL WASTE
“Meal” is created through a high-pressure, high-temperature process called rendering.
All of the fat and moisture are separated out from dried, solid protein by grinding everything up and steam cooking it all at extremely high temperatures.
What’s left is called “meal” – it’s basically concentrated meat, but it’s rather deceiving because you can’t really tell from which part it was made.
It IS a rich source of protein, way cheaper than real meat (that’s why a lot of manufacturers use it), but not as digestible, meaning not really nutritionally valuable.
9. “BY-PRODUCT” IN YOUR DOG’S FOOD IS GOOD (BY LAW REGULATIONS)
“By-product” is what’s left of a slaughtered animal after all edible parts have been removed.
It contains food not intended for human consumption like feet, backs, lungs, kidneys, spleen, heads, stomachs, livers, brains, blood, bones, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and intestines freed of their contents.
Giblets (livers, hearts, gizzards, and necks) and other organs can be sold as edible meats, so that doesn’t mean that a by-product is as bad as the name sounds.
They are also a greater source of vitamins, minerals and protein than regular muscle meat (especially calcium and vitamin A).
By law regulations it’s certified which parts of animal carcass can be used in dog food, and it specifically excludes hooves, horns, hair, horn, hide trimmings, teeth and intestinal contents.
By-product utilisation is also protecting the environment. Instead of casting aside animal organs and other edible parts, contributing to waste and greenhouse gases, it plays a great role as part of your fuzzbutt’s healthy nutrition.
But be cautious: choose trusty brands which follow and respect the law regulations.
10. WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT AAFCO AND ITS FEED GUIDELINES
AAFCO stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials and is the regulating body that implements safe and healthy standards for manufacturing animal foods in North America.
In other words, AAFCO provides a guideline for the types of ingredients animal feed can contain and the nutritional levels that must be met to be considered a complete, balanced diet.
Take note that the feed guidelines on the dog food bags are only that – guidelines from AAFCO, and not rules for your best friend.
It’s possible to get your dog overweight even if you follow the guidelines on the package.
Your dog’s size, breed, age, and energy levels should all be taken into account when judging how much food is best for him.
11. MAXIMUM 78% OF THE MOISTURE IS ALLOWED BY THE FDA IN YOUR DOG’S WET FOOD – IF IT’S MORE THAN THAT YOU SHOULD TAKE CARE
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) rules that the maximum moisture percentage for wet dog foods is 78%.
But there is a loophole, where the FDA allows moisture to a maximum of 87.5% if the formula’s name includes words like stew, sauce or gravy.
The problem is, there is no consensus about what stew, sauce or gravy really are.
So there is no guarantee you’re just paying for the extra water with gels, thickening agents and starches that make the food have more appealing texture.
Most of those thickening agents are considered safe, but ingredients like guar gum can cause gas-related bloating, soft stools, and digestive tract upset.
And if your pooch has a sensitive stomach, he might even react with vomiting and diarrhea to xanthan gum (which is considered harmless).
That’s why, once again, read the label carefully!