Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Finding a good kibble   Leave a comment

Nutrition affects all areas of life. A healthy diet helps your dog live a longer, fuller life. It saves you money on vet bills for things like teeth cleanings, or many of the other “random” health problems that come up in a dog’s life. It gives them more healthy energy, and less manic energy. It helps their poo smell less and be smaller.

And perhaps, what people think of the least, it can affect your dog’s behavior.

So how do you find a good dog food? Here are some tips:

  • Find a local natural or holistic petstore and ask them for help. Major chains require large-scale production to supply them. At that level of production, it is difficult to keep quality up, and often pet food makers begin to cut corners with respect to quality.
  • Avoid foods with byproducts in them. Proponents of byproducts say that they are organ meat, like liver and hearts. In reality, quality pet food makers who include organ meat will list out the specific organs included. For example, “chicken liver” will be listed as an ingredient, rather than “chicken byproducts.” The requirements for meat to be listed as byproducts are very loose, and typically the “meat” included is diseased or cancerous. Proponents will also tell you that “byproducts” are not legally allowed to include things like beaks, feathers, and feet, but in reality the regulation says that such parts must be minimized to a level that is reasonable in a production factory. This is, obviously, a very open requirement which allows for a lot of those parts to be included.
  • If possible, find a grain-free food. Dogs are carnivores. Unlike herbivores, who have long intestinal tracks, dogs have very short intestinal tracks. Humans are omnivores, and our food spends approximately 10% of its time in our stomach and 90% of its time in our intestines. It is in our intestines that the more complex grains are broken down into useable parts. In a dog’s digestive system, food spends approximately 90% of its time in their stomach (where the acid is 4x stronger than in our stomachs) and only 10% in their intestines. This means that they are not set up to use grains in any beneficial way. Studies have repeatedly shown that there is no minimum requirement of carbohydrates in a dog’s diet, because they do not need carbs. Thus, grains are nothing but empty fillers. They get turned into either fat or waste by your dog’s body. Why are they added to food? Because they are cheaper than meat. When you feed a grain-free food, you can feed less of the food, since there isn’t as much useless filler, and your dog poops less for the same reason! It also helps keep them from gaining weight, since there are fewer empty calories for their body to deal with.
  • Feed multiple protein sources. No one protein source is perfect. Just like we shouldn’t eat only one type of meat, our dogs shouldn’t, either. Allergies are really sensitivities. If your dog eats no meat but chicken, they are likely to develop a sensitivity to it. This is why so many dogs now-a-days are allergic to chicken, rice, and lamb: for generations they have been fed a diet based on that, and they are now overly sensitive to it. By rotating protein sources, such as between lamb, beef, chicken, venison, rabbit, etc., or feeding a food which includes multiple protein source, (or both!), you help to ensure your dog has a balanced diet and doesn’t develop allergies.
  • Remember to find a pet food maker you can trust. There is a lot that can be done to lower the quality of food that is not visible on the bag. For example, anything added before the final processing does not have to be listed. If a producer gets chicken from China, and the provider of the chicken fills it with chemicals, none of those chemicals have to be listed as ingredients. The only ingredient listed would be “chicken.” Another way you can be misled is by the guaranteed analysis. The analysis lists the amount of protein in the food (for example). However, it does not mean that all of that protein is digestible. They could include shoe leather and count the protein inherent in that, but your dog would not be able to absorb any of that protein. Thus, a high protein content does not necessarily mean that your dog will get a lot of protein from the food.

A healthier dog food costs more per pound than a low-quality food. However, not only can you feed less of it per day (since there is less filler), you will save yourself a lot of money in vet bills over the years. I was amazed recently how, when I changed my dog from Wellness (a relatively high-quality food with grain) to a half-and-half diet of Wellness and Acana (a very high-quality grain-free food), there was a great improvement in his health. His teeth had begun to have quite the build up of plaque, but within a few weeks of switching his food it completely disappeared. Since I was better nourishing his body, it was able to fight off the plaque with no intervention from me. His coat became smoother and shiner. And he started to have more energy to run and play outside, but still be able to settle down just fine in the house.

If you’re going to bring a dog into your life and take responsibility for them, you are also taking responsibility for their health. And the single best thing you can do for their health is to feed them a high-quality food.

And feeding a high-quality food not only keeps them feeling physically good, it helps them have better focus and self-control, which leads to a dog who is easier to train and better behaved!

For a good basic comparison and analysis of various types of dog food check out: http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com/

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Posted June 14, 2010 by Eileen in Nutrition