Dog Food : What should I feed my dog?
(Provided by DVM Patricia Mahoney, Full Circle Veterinary Care)
There are a lot of different types of dog food available. Not only are there numerous brands, flavors and manufactures but a variety of ways that food is offered. The bottom line with feeding in general is that dogs should be fed the same way people should be fed: whole, real complete ingredients. If you are wondering what you should feed your dog, keep it simple. You want to feed them the least amount of processing, artificial additives, etc. Whole foods are the best way to feed a person or any other species. Raw feeding is the ideal option, but a veterinarian is responsible for the health of human beings as well as animals and therefore raw food has not been accepted by the masses as the first choice for feeding because of the potential human health risks. Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are transmissible from animals to people. The chances of a zoonotic disease goes up with raw feeding. So while it would be best for the animal, raw feeding isn’t ideal for all families or people. For instance, if you have family members who are immunocompromised, young or elderly with weak immune systems, then raw feeding wouldn’t be recommended. Remember that picking a dog food does not have to be overwhelming. Provide your dog with the highest quality ingredients and you will be doing right by your pup.
With that said, there is a balance between what is best for an animal’s health. If you decide to utilize a raw food diet, it should be done with a veterinarian nutritionist. Good information is important for your dog to get all the nutrients needed long term.
When it comes to pre-packaged food, there are pre-packaged raw foods and pre-packaged canned foods, semi-moist foods and kibble. Ideally, food should be fed in that order. If you feed a dog kibble, research has shown that it is always slightly dehydrated. Kibble is also the most processed of all the feeding options. In order to make kibble, there has to be a certain amount of carbohydrates to form it into the kibble. If you have an animal that doesn’t do as well with high carbs; it won’t do as well with kibble. With canned foods, you can get varieties that are higher in protein and lower in carbs, but it’s hard to find that with a kibble.
One of the things I tell people in general is if you want your dog to be healthy, give them the best food you can provide. Just like people, you are what you eat. By feeding a dog good, quality nutrition, you are preventing medical problems. If you eat healthy, you have a strong immune system. A large portion of our immune system is found in our G.I. tract. If an animal is eating healthy, it also has a stronger digestive system, which allows it to stay healthy and recover faster if it does get sick. Another health concern is that dyes and colors in dog food, as well as artificial preservatives have been linked to increases in cancer, allergies, etc.
If you are feeding raw, feed where you can disinfect, utensils, bowls, etc. When feeding kibble, I prefer dogs never eat out of bowls. When feeding raw, it’s similar to eating a puzzle toy where the dog has to figure out how to consume it. When we move to kibble, we are feeding animals who are scavengers by nature, and when you feed in a bowl, you have completely taken away that stimulation which is needed for a healthy dog. Puzzle toys can be used for feeding to provide that challenge and stimulation your dog is designed for through its DNA. A homemade feeding puzzle can be made by using an old plastic milk jug, take the lid off and have the dog toss the jug around to get the kibble to come out of it. Another idea is to put kibble in water and then stick it in a Kong toy which can then be frozen. This can serve as good chewing for young puppies while having it frozen helps soothe their gums when they are teething.
Manufactured puzzle toys come on a continuum; some are easy where others are more challenging. Start with a simple puzzle toy when introducing it to your dog for the first time and gradually work up to more complicated ones. Another game you can play is hide and seek, where dogs have to search for their food. This engages their minds and helps with anxiety. Have a “kibble party,” where you take a handful of kibble and scatter it across the floor or lawn. The concept is that you can utilize feeding time as a great opportunity to either strengthen their training or confidence as dogs use their instinctive scavenger tendencies. If you have a finicky eater, you probably haven’t found the right food. Finicky eaters are created more by owners who need to experiment with more food options.
Any dog can bloat as gas will fill the stomach. Gastric dilatation and volvuous, or GDV, is when the stomach rolls and it can be life threatening, with death in a matter of hours. GDV is genetic and you can research the lineage of a dog to see if it is found in their line. One proven way to prevent GDV is to not use elevated feeders, which can be seen in feeding taller dogs, as this has been found to be a cause of GDV. It is important to feed them on ground level. It is also better to feed dogs prone to GDV multiple meals, not just one meal. You also don’t want them to be highly active right after they eat. Don’t crate them, having them sit in one spot, but avoid energetic exercise. You also want to avoid letting your dog swallow water ravenously, as they can swallow air which increases the chances of bloat.
Treats used in training should be small, portable, easy to chew, etc. If you give a dog something that takes longer to consume, like a milk bone, you have lost valuable training time as they take time to crunch it. Stick to basics like boiled chicken, small pieces of lunch meat, cheese cubes, etc. You want the treats to be small (smaller than a dime, closer to the size of a pea) for it to be most effective.