The Benefits of Real Food in our Dogs Diet!
Okay, paws up, who’s confused about Canine Nutrition?
Just like with human nutrition, there’s lots of information and products floating around the market. Plenty of it is great, but some of it not-so-great. How do you spot the difference and work out exactly what is the best diet for your fur baby?
As simplistic as it sounds, a good place to start is good old fashion commonsense. In Australia, we are a lucky bunch – we have access to good, clean water, fresh fruit & vegetables, excellent seafood and some of the best quality meat in the world due to our beautiful agricultural land. We are sure you would agree that when you base the main part of your (human) diet around these fabulous natural wholefoods and keep highly processed foods to a minimum, you feel the benefits. Your energy levels increase, skin is clearer, eyes brighter, shinier hair, your body seems to maintain its ideal weight more easily and you simply feel better.
It’s the same for dogs – they thrive on real food. The key is giving them a wide variety of natural whole foods, taking into account any food in-tolerances or allergies.
Dry Dog Food
There are now some improved dry dog food products available, but please choose wisely (tune in next week Club DOGUE to learn more about pet food labeling and what to look for). Ideally, highly processed dry dog foods should be just a small part of your dog’s diet, kind of like junk food / takeaway in your own diet, it’s convenient but not ideal to eat every day. Remember, all foods processed at high temperatures will lose some of their natural goodness. Lost nutrients are often replaced with synthetic vitamins & minerals to meet the questionable AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officals) standards.
There is new research currently underway assessing Advanced Glycation End-products (AGE’s) in highly processed pet foods. AGE’s are formed when sugars are cooked with proteins and fats at high temperatures. Food manufacturers have also added AGE’s to foods, especially over the last 50 years, as flavour enhancers & colourings to make foods look nicer. There is evidence that AGE’s in both human food and pet food may be potentially carcinogenic. Watch Veterinarians Dr Karen Becker & Dr Joe Bartges discussing AGE’s in pet foods here.
Frozen, freeze-dried & air dried dog foods maintain a much greater level of natural goodness, without needing to replace the vitamins & minerals with synthetic versions because they were “cooked” out during processing.
Raw vs Cooked Real Food for Dogs
A well balanced meal of raw meat, raw bone, some raw fat and fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, ground seeds is the pinnacle in canine nutrition for MOST dogs. However, there are a few things to consider to keep this feeding option safe.
- Dogs have a much shorter digestive tract than humans & much stronger digestive acids, which is why lots of dogs can scavenge some pretty gross stuff and often not get sick from it.
- A fit, healthy dog can usually handle some degree of bacteria on their food but it’s certainly not ideal.
- Bad bacteria, such as salmonella, can grow on/in raw meat more easily than if the meat has been cooked. So if feeding a raw meat diet to you dog, make sure it is as fresh as possible, has been handled correctly in low room temperatures and stored correctly in fridges and freezers.
- Dogs that are immuno-suppressed in any way, from illness or cancer treatment, are at much greater risk of not being able to efficiently process potential bacteria on raw foods. Therefore a lightly cooked diet is often a safer option, until the dogs health has recovered and you can consider a raw food diet again.
- Dogs receiving antibiotic therapy are also at risk because the healthy bacteria that line the digestive tract (or florae), may become imbalanced, increasing the risk of not being able to process bad bacteria.
- If preparing your own homemade raw meat diet for your dog, be sure to follow correct HACCP food safety guidelines.
- Always wash your hands well if handling raw meat. Don’t cross contaminate kitchen equipment i.e use different chopping boards for raw meat vs cooked meat. Wash your pets bowls away from your own human food utensils.
- If buying pre-made raw meat diets for your dog, make sure you buy from a reputable source that uses human grade ingredients and produces their products to the highest standard (HACCP).
- Finally, some dogs simply just do not like the taste of raw food. This may be their instincts telling them it’s not right for them. So if you have tried various good quality raw food diets and your dog refuses, the next best option is top quality, lightly cooked, balanced meals.
When gathering information regarding the best diet for your pets, and taking into consideration any pre-existing health conditions, use a combination of common sense and professional advice. Remember that Veterinarians learn an enormous amount of knowledge during their years of study;
- General practice.
But often animal nutrition study is limited and classes are sometimes taught by the large pet food manufacturers.
Like human GP Doctors, unless vets have a special interest in pet nutrition, they may not have all the information you need if looking to feed a more natural diet. You may need to seek out advice from a vet with a special interest in nutrition, a holistic vet or animal nutritionist. Often owners and staff of pet stores may have a special interest and knowledge in a more natural way of feeding your precious fur kids.
If you are interested in learning more, some great resource books are:
- Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats by Dr Karen Becker & Beth Taylor
- Canine Nutrigenomics by Dr Jean Dodds & Diana Laverdure-Dunetz
- Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet by Steve Brown
- Food Pets Die For – Shocking Facts About Pet Food by Ann M. Martin
- Follow the wonderful Rodney Habib from Planet Paws on Facebook.
- Visit Good Pet Food Kitchen for more info on real foods for dogs.
If you are interested to learn hands on how we make our delicious & nutritious real food doggy dinners at Good Pet Food Kitchen. Please join our mailing list and you will be the first to know the dates of our new Saturday Canine Cooking Classes.
Remember, even small steps can make a huge difference to your dog’s health. Don’t be overwhelmed. Adding a can of sardines to dry food, sharing your leftover veggies, scrambled eggs, snacks of fresh fruit, some fresh meat (raw or cooked) every now and then will add so much goodness & happiness to your dog’s life.
About the Author: Annabelle Selleck is the proud owner of Good Pet Food Kitchenand a qualified vet nurse for the past 10 years. Annabelle is passionate about providing our companion friends with the highest standards in fresh and nutritionally balanced food. Find out more at Good Pet Food Kitchen