Today I’m presenting you with my 10 common questions about healthy nutrition for our dogs. There are pro’s and con’s to each of these top ten myths. Let’s break it down…
We love our pets! Over the past few decades I’ve noticed a change in how I perceive my four-legged baby. I’d go to the moon and back for him. His name is Luther and he is the inspiration for this blog about pet nutrition and healthy homemade dog treats. As I’ve had many pets pass on way to early from disease (my last two from cancer) I have taken a more holistic approach to feeding our current pup, Luther. In light of that, I’ve done so much research on pet foods that it’s become an obsession.
I’m not a formal expert by any means, I’m just a regular person like you. Through my experiences and guidance from great veterinarians, I feel a need to share what I’ve learned. In light of this, I hope you find this information resourceful and helpful.
1. Table scraps are good, right? After all, it’s people food and delicious!
Wrong. Our dogs have different nutritional needs than we do. And let’s be truthful here, sometimes we humans don’t eat all that healthy ourselves. Healthy meats and vegetables are okay from time to time, but only as an occasional treat…but don’t make a habit of it. If you do give them table scraps, don’t forget to cut down on their own food – just like you…they don’t need those extra calories or pounds. Keep away from high fat and salt, and sugary treats like candy and cookies, especially chocolate (it’s hazardous to your dog!) Oh! And NO BONES! This should stand to reason the hazards of sharp bone pieces getting caught in their throats and intestinal tract. Concentrate on smart choices for tummy happy fur babies.
2. Pet foods contain corn as filler. Corn is bad for pets. Doesn’t it bind up their intestines?
Not all pet foods contain corn. Corn can be a good addition to your pet’s nutrition plan. It is a source of several useful nutrients such as essential fatty acids, carbohydrates and proteins. But not all carbohydrates are created equal. Digestibility depends on the quality and type of grain used. Rice is a better choice and is digested at approximately 72% which explains why veterinarians suggest feeding rice when your dog has tummy trouble or diarrhea. Wheat (60%) digestible or corn (54%) are the lesser choice. Dogs can absorb the digestible carbohydrates from rice almost entirely, of the other grains about 20% are not absorbed. Indigestible fiber from grains can contribute to intestinal health.
3. All commercial, processed pet food is bad and toxic for our pets!
Let’s be honest here; there are inferior pet foods out there. You really do get what you pay for. Read the labels. There is a lot of scientific research out there to aid in making sound nutritional choices for our pets. Watch out for excess fillers, and vague by-product labeling, and concentrate on foods that contain protein as the first ingredient.
This is a hot topic. There is much research out there on commercial dog food vs. raw. I feel it’s an individual choice. You’ll make the right one, for you and your pet.
Speaking of that – let’s get this next one out of the way.
4. Avoid pet foods with meat by-products. Yuck?
Oh boy. I’m not going to open a can of worms with this one. This is and will continue to be a hot topic. I’ll some it up this way – there are okay by-products and not so okay by-products. If it specifically say what type of meat, i.e. chicken, turkey or beef by-products; it’s somewhat okay. If it’s vague and simply says “meat” by-products, you have absolutely no idea what in there.
Keep in mind that animal by-products are cheap grades of meat as far as we are concerned. They are used for making dog food because manufacturers and producers save money, not because of any nutritional value. But on the other hand – a predator of any kind is not thinking about what part of a animal they’re eating…they eat it all.
5. I’m a vegetarian, can my pets be vegetarian too? Vegetables are good for you.
Nope. But this is interesting. When did the thought start that what’s good for humans should be good for pets? Because of their ancestry, dogs for the most part are a combination of carnivore (meat eaters) and omnivore (plant and meat eaters). They can digest protein AND carbohydrate-based foods. Yes, by their very genetic alone (coming from wolf ancestry) they are programmed to eat meat.
Cat’s flat out need protein to survive. They are pure carnivores.
Do not choose the vegetarian lifestyle for your pet because you are. You’ll have to bring meat into your home – but only for the sake of your pet. 🙂
6. I heard Grain-Free was the way to go.
In my case, my last two dogs had grain allergies and one also to chicken. For most, though, grain is okay and is a good source for nutrients. If your dog does have allergies, my vet always suggested changing the food first before trying other costly methods. In my case, this worked perfectly.
7. I figure too much fat is bad for me so it must be bad for my pet.
Once again I find it strange that we compare the way we eat so think our pets should eat the same way. Dogs don’t get clogged arteries or heart disease like we humans do, and are better adapted to digesting high fat meals. Fats and oils are necessary for healthy skin and coat and helps to provide a nutritious diet. Now keep in mind, overfeeding is bad for humans AND pets. You don’t want to be fat and neither should your pet. Both of you can exercise together, be active, bond and have fun together!
8. Raw foods are best for pets. After all don’t wild animals eat raw food?
When commercial foods were created they quickly replaced raw food diets. As humans progressed along with industry, it was more convenient and less costly than raw meats preparation for their dogs. The higher dollar raw meat was saved for our tables. Raw food can be an alternative for pet owners, but it’s difficult to know if your pet is getting all of the nutrients it needs. My veterinarian suggests store-bought commercial foods because they are prepared in a way that provides a complete and balanced diet. But then again, I bet not very many veterinarians are highly knowledgeable in the raw food arena.
9. Dry pet foods won’t keep your pet’s teeth clean.
This is an interesting theory and at first I thought of course dry food keeps teeth clean. I had one dog with the most horrible breath and teeth – I only feed him dry. How was that possible that his teeth were so bad? I thought the crunchy texture of dry pet food was enough. But here’s the thing; just as some foods have good nutritional value and others don’t, it’s the same theory here. Look for pet foods that are specifically designed to help clean teeth. Or use products specific for that purpose. My pup loves Greenies…and they work great!
10. Your pet needs “life stage” appropriate diets.
Well…not necessarily. I always thought this was just smart marketing. I don’t remember different stage dog food from back in the day (and I go back quite a ways). Amount, not type, of food depends on your pet’s activity levels. Puppies are active and do need more calories than adult dogs, so you just feed them more. Senior dogs need less. Look to your packaging as a guideline and look for high quality ingredients as an option for young pets. Case in point. My little Luther had massive tummy trouble and diarrhea (constantly). After trying several different puppy foods, nothing helped. My veterinarian suggested putting him on an adult or all-stage life nutrition plan instead. It worked! The puppy food was just too rich for his tummy.
I hope you found this article informative and hopefully found some answers to questions you might have. As you can see from this writing, I’ve developed quite a good relationship with Luther’s “doctor”. She is informed, smart, loving, and takes a real interest in pet health. We are so lucky!
And to conclude…
I’m sure we all agree that good nutrition is important. Most of the above information can be interpreted differently by different people. And don’t forget…everyone has their own opinion about what good nutrition means for their pet. If you love research, like I do, I encourage you to conduct your own research (it’s fun and informative) and don’t forget this important tip…listen to your family veterinarian. Me? I just love dogs! This information is NOT a guideline, but rather a means to give you different ways of looking at issues that might concern or interest you and your pet.
Sheila (and) Luther