Feeding your dog
Food glorious food. We, as humans, have varied relationships with and views about food. We use food to comfort us, to sustain us; we use it as bribery or punishment (particularly with children). We have experts tell us what to eat and when to eat it. Often the scientific findings about food will cause expert opinions to change every 5 to 10 years. Confusing isn’t it? Eat chocolate, no, don’t eat chocolate. Drink red wine, oops, maybe not or then again a glass or two won’t hurt. Eat low fat, low sugar; unprocessed, fermented…the list goes on.
Phew! I am glad that feeding your canine isn’t that difficult nor does it need to be expensive.
…”but my dog is a fussy eater”!
…“He will only eat what I eat”.
I hear this and similar comments every day.
Many people feel that cooking for their dog is an expression of the love they feel for their animal but it can have its own set of problems and may even create fussy eaters and subsequently nervous owners who try harder and harder to please their dog.
Now while dogs have undergone many evolutionary changes they remain omnivorous but with a heavy leaning toward fleshy protein foods. So unlike felines for example, who are strict, or obligate, carnivores, your dog may enjoy a variety of foods such as some vegetables and grasses along with their protein intake. They are not grain eaters.
I try to encourage my clients to think about what wild dogs would have eaten. By this, I don’t suggest that your dog should be outside catching and killing the local chooks, I mean that you cooking fillet steak or chicken breast every night for your dog is unnecessarily expensive and time consuming.
If you care about the health and longevity of your dog, please read this to the end…
Ok then, Suzy smarty pants…What do I feed my dog?
Keep it simple…
Raw foods are generally considered better for your dog. A chicken carcass, drumsticks, raw brisket bones and the like will satisfy many needs within the dog. The simple act of chewing on a tasty meaty bone will release feel-good endorphins and the added nutrient values of fats and proteins along with gut-enhancing pro-biotics will benefit their physical health. Gnawing on bones also cleans teeth thus helping to avoid costly dental treatments.
I know when you read this you may be fearful of giving your precious pet a bone to chew. Or as a compromise you may think that something small such as chicken necks are safest. We once fostered a tiny little dog named Molly who would position the chicken neck in such a way she somehow swallowed it whole, just like a dolphin swallows a fish! I was horrified and watched over her ALL NIGHT, certain she would end up with a terrible tummy ache or gut obstruction but she was fine. Needless to say we didn’t feed her chicken necks again but larger raw bones that she could not swallow whole.
As an aside, chicken necks are fine as a treat but as teeth cleaners they are not beneficial. One or two bites and they are gone. The dog needs to GNAW on bones and take some time doing so. I also know of clients who chop bones into pieces to feed to their dogs. Their smaller dog swallowed a chunk whole and spent that night and the next 3 days in intensive care with a gut obstruction and ensuing bacterial infection.
So the point of these anecdotes? Keep the fussing and fiddling around to a minimum. In the wild, a dog would catch a rabbit, chicken or some other animal and consume everything except feathers and fur. That means gut contents of their prey are eaten too. Think of the gut contents as their vegetables with all the enzymes to aid digestive health and their immune system.
How best to replicate the diet of a dog in the wild?
Biologically appropriate and species specific is the short answer!
Raw bones 1 -3 times per week. These may be beef, chicken, turkey, lamb or kangaroo. I am not a huge fan of raw pork but that is just me! Hormone free and organic are obviously premium but buy the best you can afford. Use larger bones that are impossible for your dog to swallow whole. If your dog is a voracious eater then it may be better for you to observe him while he is chewing but give him a larger bone next time to slow him down. He’ll figure it out.
A good quality GRAIN FREE dry food moistened with warm water, or a decent wet food if you must. Read the ingredient list on the tin of wet food to ensure no cereal component is present.
Add cooked or raw vegetables if you like.
NEVER, EVER FEED COOKED BONES OF ANY DESCRIPTION
I am also not one to advocate table scraps for the dog – it is very hard to ensure they are getting a balanced diet over time and the calorie intake is difficult to count. Scraps that include pasta and rice are carbohydrates and may adversely affect their health. Having said that though, if your dog is neither obese nor undernourished, and has been living off your table scraps for years then why change?
What vegetables should we feed to our dog?
- NO ONION
- Raw carrot (may be grated initially but is a great crunchy treat whole)
- Broccoli, pumpkin or sweet potato (my dog prefers these to be cooked). There is some debate about broccoli and cauliflower for dogs but if your dog enjoys them and they tolerate them, then all good I say.
Aah, the question I am asked most! Tricky to answer and there are lots of opinions out there. Some people swear by veterinarian prescribed foods. Some judge the quality of a food by the retail price. My beautiful old dog lived to be 18 years of age and ate pretty much what I described above. I purchased a supermarket brand of dry food that is grain free and made in Australia. He also ate some tinned food which contained kangaroo and had minimal ingredients apart from the primary, and no fillers. Also made in Australia. Raw organic chicken and other meats formed part of his diet too.
Something to consider…dogs aren’t designed to digest grain based carbohydrate – and they don’t need carbs for energy…they get their energy from the fats in their diet. Most dry foods are grain or carbohydrate based so I am sure you see the problem. Much like putting petrol into a diesel engine, the wrong fuel for your dog will result in sluggish performance or even illness. Bad skin, itchy feet and ears could be seen as a backfiring engine! Sluggish energy or obesity is sub-par performance and eventually it requires a visit to the mechanic or in this case, your vet.
Foods that aren’t digested properly remain in the gut and basically ferment causing inflammation and disease.
Give your dog the fuel it needs to run effectively and efficiently.
Does it matter where the food is manufactured?
YES IT DOES!
Country of origin of production plays a huge role in my decision to purchase any food I feed to my dogs and that includes treats. I ONLY BUY AUSTRALIAN MADE. Unfortunately for us, and whether we like it or not, the pet food industry is not regulated overseas as carefully as it is here. Do you remember the melamine-in-the-baby-formula scandal in China? Melamine also found its way into the production line of a very expensive, premium brand of dry dog food and it killed thousands of dogs in the US. There are also very questionable practices carried out in the production of dog foods overseas with the raw ingredients such as chicken and vegetables being grown with contaminated water and growth promotants. Don’t risk it – read the label and if it is not made in Australia from Australian ingredients then I suggest you do not purchase it.
What about treats?
Very useful little tidbits to be used as rewards or during training. Treats form part of the total calorie intake and many people make the mistake of not adjusting the main meal according to how many treats or extras are fed throughout the day. The same goes with ad-lib feeding (leaving food in the bowl for the dog to “nibble” on during the day). This type of feeding may also create fussy dogs.
Dinner time comes and they refuse the meal. Often they are simply not hungry but their caring owners think they don’t like what is on offer so they start cooking tasty food in order to tempt. The dog will generally want the piece of chicken breast or eye fillet (who wouldn’t?) and before you know it, you are cooking every night; your spend at the butcher rises exponentially and you have created a greedy, four-legged bully in the form of your dog who basically demands a cooked meal every night. Don’t fall for it!!! And don’t panic if they miss a meal here and there – carnivores in the wild won’t eat every day…and they have to work a lot harder to get their food!
Its also not essential they have all their nutrients at every meal, over a few days is fine. So throw them a raw drumstick and you’re done! Plain and simple.
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