Pet Nutrition Can Be A Complex, Confusing Subject
Admittedly, I am personally not on track with nutritious eating or a consistent exercise plan. But my animals are fed only healthy food and snacks. I maintain their weight throughout their lives, and all are feeling and looking good. Even my seniors, Whitney and Ty, did not look their age at all. My vet had positive comments about their physical condition during their senior years. I want to have my beloved animals for as long as I can. I also want them to have a quality of life, avoiding the diseases and joint problems that result from obesity and poor nutrition. My column today is devoted to the topic of good nutrition. So many choices Apples: A healthy snack such as an apple is a powerhouse of nutrition for us humans, and in moderation, it can benefit our dogs as well. The seeds, however, contain a form of cyanide, which our human systems can filter out but dogs cannot. And too many apples can result in diarrhea or, because of their high sugar content, weight gain. Bones: Not all bones are good for your dog. Easily splintered poultry bones are dangerous for dogs. Improperly prepared beef and pork bones can be harmful as well. Safe bones are specially prepared to be rock hard and “shatterproof.” Canned vs. dry food: I will feed a little canned food along with the kibble, all portion-controlled to maintain proper weight. Canned foods will tend to have a higher quality protein content and fewer preservatives and fillers. Quality dry foods will be as nutritionally balanced as the wet but will contain more meat by-products. As scavengers, dogs are not likely to complain about by-products. Kibble satisfies a dog’s urge to chew, but senior dogs with sensitive gums or missing teeth will benefit from being fed canned vs. hard. Water: Like us, dogs need clean water to remain healthy and hydrated. I have never restricted my puppy’s water, even at nighttime, as is sometimes recommended. It is my feeling that if an animal is thirsty, they should always have fresh water available to drink, just as we do. Dogs will typically regulate their water intake. If you notice any changes in your dog’s drinking habits, you should consult with your veterinarian. Eggs: Loaded with protein, vitamins, and minerals, eggs will promote healthy coats. Feeding raw can be a concern due to salmonella. I personally would prefer feeding cooked eggs, without the butter, of course! Fish: An excellent source of protein for both you and your dog, and an excellent choice for dogs suffering from meat allergies. I love salmon, as do my dogs. I typically feed healthy salmon treats in my training regime, which my dogs do back flips for! Grains: Many dog foods today are manufactured “grain free.” When I go to the pet store, I am astonished to see so many selections of dog foods from one manufacturer. Grains can be an important part of a dog’s diet. Rice is always recommended when a dog is suffering from diarrhea because it bulks up the stool and is easily digestible. The gluten in wheat can be an allergen to some dogs, so a food containing oats or barley would be a better choice in this case. Portions and frequency: Raise your hand if your dog is always hungry and ready to eat! Many pet parents equate feeding with love, but such is not the case. Your dog depends on you for its health and well being, just as children do. As with people, an overweight pet is getting too many calories and not enough exercise. A hunting dog who is running in the fields would obviously burn up more calories and need a higher caloric intake. Most of our dogs are not doing what they are bred for, but rather are couch potatoes, hanging out on the couch with us and watching TV. Following the recommendations on the dog food bag is not always the best choice — remember that they want to sell food. Regular portion-controlled feedings will keep your dog healthy and happy. Ice cream: Dogs are generally lactose intolerant, but they love dairy products. Frozen yogurt has less lactose than ice cream, and a small amount of either will hopefully not bother your dog. But keep in mind that it can cause stomach distress. My Cairn Terrier, Smudge, has a very sensitive tummy, and I am very cautious about giving him anything that is out of the ordinary. Of course, ice cream offered to your dog should not contain ingredients such as chocolate, coffee, raisins, and nuts, to name a few. Labels: Educate yourself about understanding labels so that you can make the best choice for your pet. “Gourmet” or “Natural” are terms to draw the buyer in, but certainly not indicative of the ingredients in the food. Ingredients are listed in descending order, according to how much makes up the total food mix. Pumpkin: This is a miracle food for dogs, always fed in moderation. I put a little pumpkin in Whitney’s food for years to control her tummy problems. It is good for both diarrhea and constipation — canned pumpkin, not raw or the sugary, spicy pie filling. Too much Vitamin A is highly toxic to dogs, so moderation is imperative. You can check with your veterinarian about the amount if you decide to add it to your dog’s diet. Raw meats: The raw movement is gaining more and more popularity with dog owners. Salmonella is a major concern, however, and all raw meat carries the risk of microbes and parasites, including E.coli. Not only dogs are at risk, but humans as well through handling the meat and cross-contamination of surfaces. You must make sure ingredients are fresh, watch for bones, and be sure that your dog’s diet is nutritionally balanced. Treats: When I am training my dogs, treats are offered frequently. During these times, I choose healthy snacks and count the caloric intake as part of the dog’s daily intake. Measuring cup: If you want to feed your dog a 2/3 cup of kibble a day, use a measuring cup to see exactly what this portion looks like. I have done this with all of my dogs until I am comfortable in knowing that I can visually identify and feed this amount, no more and no less. Obviously if your dog is gaining or losing weight, you will want to adjust its portion accordingly. Schedule regular wellness checks for your dog. Keep your pet fit and healthy so you can share a long quality of life together. Dog bless. Resource: Cesar’s Way Judy Endo writes about pets. Contact her at email@example.com.