While the days of just feeding the family pet the scraps from dinner are thankfully gone, there are still many misconceptions about what you should, or should not, feed your dog.
Many of the problems are caused by people treating their dogs as humans and applying the same dietary regime which they use on them. Dogs have very different requirements to humans, so this should always be kept in mind.
So while some things that we would not want to eat ourselves are perfectly fine for dogs, the opposite is also true. This article examines some of the most common misconceptions and corrects some often held beliefs.
Protein is Harmful to Your Dog’s Kidneys
The most common misconception about dog diet is the belief that dogs should receive only a very small amount of protein because excessive protein can destroy a dog’s kidneys. The truth is that the dog’s digestive system was designed to primarily digest high-protein food items. Dogs need protein for energy, tissue repair, and growth. Without protein, a dog will suffer from a myriad of health issues, including weak muscles. Ideally, every meal a dog eats should be around thirty to forty percent animal protein.
Dogs rarely suffer as a result of allergies from eating poultry, pork, or beef, but these animals can suffer from soybean-related allergies. This is why you should be careful when giving your dog new dog food brands that make use of soybean as the primary source of protein. Older dogs are most prone to food intolerances and food allergies, so make sure that your dog is transitioned slowly from the old food to the new food.
If you have a growing dog at home, you need to give your pet a diet that is rich in protein. If you train your dogs for dog shows, you have to give them more carbohydrates, protein, and water. Remember: dogs are capable of quickly digesting protein for energy – very little protein goes to waste. And yes, the dog’s kidneys are quite safe. Unless your veterinarian tells you not to give your dog a regular serving of protein, you can maintain the current protein level of your dog’s diet.
All Fats Are Bad for Dogs
There is no question about it: excessive amounts of fat in a dog’s diet can cause the dog’s weight to balloon in a few years, and can also destroy a dog’s liver and pancreas. This is the reason why you should never give dogs excessive amounts of table scraps or left-over food. Table scraps are usually very poor substitutes for real dog food because these food items often have high fat and salt content. If fed exclusively on table scraps, your dog would be getting only empty calories with little or no vitamins, minerals, protein, or roughage (dietary fibre).
The big challenge for every dog owner is to strike a balance in their dog’s daily diet because you cannot completely phase out fat from a dog’s diet. If you give your dog only carbohydrates and protein, your dog will also suffer. Fat is needed by a dog’s body on the molecular level. But if you give your dog too much fat, your dog’s weight will balloon.
So what’s the middle ground? Think omega fatty acids. Omega fatty acids are naturally occurring healthy fats that can be found in cold water fishes, and even in small aquatic inhabitants like krill. Unlike fat from beef or pork, omega fatty acids do not cause damage but still supply the chemical components needed by the dog for survival. Adding fish to your dog’s diet is an ideal step toward optimum nutrition.
Dog food should look fresh and colourful
It is a common marketing strategy for dog food companies to use ‘familiar sights’ to reel in new customers. For example, a dog food company marketing a new type of dog food can say that their new product has “fresh beef,” is “hypoallergenic,” and that “your dog will surely love it forever.”
Do not be misled by the marketing campaigns of dog food companies. Before you grab a new dog food brand, check the label at the back and focus on the nutrients, not the appearance.
Is the new dog food really more nutritious than what you are giving your dog now? Look at the appearance of the food – does it look too fresh and too colourful? If it is, we can be certain of two things:
- the dog food company has used a lot of artificial colour to make the food more attractive to dog owners, and
- the dog food company probably went to great lengths to hide the fact that they used meat by-products.
By “meat by-products” we are talking about bone-meal, organ meats like arteries and liver, and ground animal meals. And here’s the thing: dogs probably do not appreciate that the new canned food looks like a restaurant-style steak with gravy. Dogs appreciate food through smell and taste. And in the final analysis, the new food will only be worth the money you invested in it if your dog becomes healthier by eating it.
So while there are many things a dog can eat, do keep in mind their dietary requirements. Also, keep in mind that you are responsible for your pet. Do not let them get overweight or suffer from any condition that is directly related to their diet.
While they might look at you with those eyes begging for more, remember that by being a good pet parent your dog will be happier, healthier and cost you a lot less in vet bills too!