We know so much more about canine nutrition than we used to, and we’re learning more every day. Here are some tips and highlights to keep in mind as you build a healthy diet for your own pup!
In the past, most dog foods were less than stellar when it came to quality and nutrition, and were filled with by-products and cheap meals, corn, soy, artificial colors, flavours and preservatives. Not a good recipe for optimal canine wellness!
Nowadays, with more people regarding their dogs as valued family members, the demand for better canine nutrition has also grown. The number of better quality dog foods has expanded exponentially to meet this demand, and companies are going the extra mile to include healthy ingredients in their products, and to be more transparent about how their foods are made.
The result? You can now buy both dry and canned diets made from nutritious ingredients – whole meats, fresh veggies and fruit, herbs, and fish oils — and without any nasty additives or cheap fillers. For canned diets, which usually come in stew or paté form, manufacturers are looking at safer alternatives to the standard BPA-lined cans (which can leak toxins into food), such as Tetra Pak cartons or liners made from plant resins. When it comes to dry foods, many companies are now processing their products at lower temperatures for shorter times, to preserve the nutritional integrity of ingredients that can be destroyed by high heat.
For those who prefer to go the raw route, but want the convenience of packaged foods, it’s also a lot easier to find frozen and dehydrated dog foods made from high quality raw ingredients. They’re easy to serve and do away with the need for handling and cutting up raw meat.
Another alternative for your dog is lightly cooked foods, which, like the dry foods mentioned above, are processed at lower temperatures so the nutrients are preserved while the pathogens are killed. These products can often be purchased through pet food subscription services that deliver right to your door. The foods arrive frozen, and are simply thawed and served as needed – convenient as well as healthy!
Making time for good nutrition
Feeding your dog a healthy diet isn’t as daunting as it sounds, nor does it have to involve a huge time commitment.
- Short on time? Don’t worry. You don’t need to sacrifice time and convenience for optimal nutrition by cooking all your dog’s meals from scratch. Because more pet food companies are jumping on the better nutrition bandwagon, you’ll find a growing selection of packaged diets that cover all the bases for good canine health.
It’s true you’ll pay more for a premium dog food, but you’ll most likely end up saving money down the road with a healthier dog in less need of costly veterinary care. Consider adding some healthy table scraps to his meals now and then, such as lean meat, steamed veggies (no onions or garlic!), and sweet potato.
- Have a little extra time to spare? If you’re interested in trying your hand at home-preparing a few of your dog’s meals, and have the time to do so, you can change up his diet a couple times a week. Cut up some chicken, turkey, beef, or other meat and put it in a blender or food processor with some chicken or beef broth and small pieces of carrot, broccoli, green beans, or kale. Add in an equal amount of canned food, and blend everything together.
- Plenty of time on your hands? A lot of people enjoy home-cooking all their dogs’ meals. But there is a caveat – it’s very important to research canine nutrition so you understand what constitutes a balanced diet. Basically, your dog’s food should include plenty of raw or cooked meat and poultry, or cooked fish, along with veggies that have been lightly cooked or put through a food processor so they’re more digestible. You’ll also need to add supplements such as bone meal or calcium, digestive enzymes, and fish oils – be sure to follow label directions for the right dosages, and/or find a credible resource for help and guidance.
Does he have allergies?
Allergies are common in dogs, and can cause a range of symptoms, such as itchy irritated skin, diarrhea and vomiting, sneezing, or ear infections. The most common allergy-causing pet food ingredients include beef, dairy, wheat, eggs, chicken, and soy. To address this issue, many premium pet food companies offer special diets free of these ingredients, and made with alternative protein sources such as bison, venison or duck. Often, switching your dog to one of these special diets can effectively alleviate his allergies – be sure to work with your vet to determine what’s best for your own pooch!
Keep him moving!
A healthy meat-based diet goes a long way toward keeping your dog from putting on too many pounds. Be sure to also factor regular physical activity – daily walks, play, etc. — into his weight maintenance program. Canine exercise needs vary depending on the dog – refer to our Breed Directory for a guide to each breed’s exercise requirements.
Raising the bar on treats
Dog treats are also improving in quality! Steer clear of those highly-processed products filled with artificial flavors, colors, and other unpronounceable additives, and look for treats made with simple, natural ingredients, such as real named meats, fruits and veggies like sweet potatoes or blueberries, and even honey or peanut butter. Some treats even offer an extra nutritional boost in the form of vitamins, Omega fatty acids, or glucosamine for his joints.