Amid all the confusion of what we should and shouldn’t feed our dogs, most of us like to think that we’re at least getting them the nutrients they need. At the end of the day, it’s their happiness and welfare that should matter most and sometimes that might mean putting a little bit more effort into preparing meals, or even spending a little bit more money. The cheapest can at the supermarket may simply not cut it. When it comes to feeding your dog, the first thing you should keep in mind are the foods that are potentially toxic or poisonous, to ensure that they are kept off the plate (or out of the bowl) at all times. Then there are the foods that are simply bad for your dog’s health and these should also be cut out of the diet on all occasions. Once you’ve worked out what they can’t have, it’s time to focus on what they actually can have and what is best for them. Like humans, there are many foods that dogs can eat but similarly, there is a whole scale of what is and isn’t actually healthy, and what they can get the most from.
So, as with humans there are guidelines to follow and it’s reasonable simple once broken down. According to the Pet Food Industry of Australia, dog food must comprise four key elements.
2. Proteins and minor nutrients
3. Fats including essential fatty acids
4. Vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients
Store Bought Options
So that’s all well and good, but how do we actually make sure our dogs are getting everything they need? The good news is that most packaged food you buy will contain all four of these things. However you will need to check because unfortunately not all brands and lines meet these standards. Simply take a look at the label and keep an eye out for these four categories, there will also often be a label from an international organisation meaning that the product meets these standards. Such organisations include the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Basically the food has to be “structured” in such a way that they will get everything they need without have to eat an excessive amount. It should also taste good – we don’t want to feed our dogs the same thing day in and day out, especially when the taste just isn’t that great. You should avoid any pet meats that contain sulphur preservatives as they’ve been linked to allergies and thiamine deficiency.
Naturally this is a bit complicated but it has kicked off in recent years as people want to know exactly what they are actually feeding their dogs. We all know traditional dog food can be a bit ambiguous. As idealistic as this approach sounds, it’s absolutely essential to get everything right. Prepackaged dog food is appealing because you can easily ensure that all nutritional categories are being ticked. However, when done correctly the home cooking approach will most likely be better. The reality however is that for a home-cooked diet to be truly nutritious, it will require approximately 50 ingredients.
If you take the raw approach for example, you need to understand what micro-nutrients are and then take care that all of the necessary ones are included in the diet. For example feeding your dog the same type of meat every day will not cut it. Meats need to be cycled and a variety of vegetables must also be included.
If you buy mince meat it should not be fed to your dog in a raw state, most other meats are fine (often healthier) in a raw state, however. There are plenty of foods great to include, such as fibre rich veggies, oat bran and psyllium husk and many to avoid, including onion, garlic and stock powders. We’ll be covering this in an upcoming blog post about preparing your dogs’ food at home.
It’s also okay to have a combination of processed foods and home prepared meals, it’s possible a great way to get plenty of balance and variety in. Another point to consider is dental health, as many food types can help regulate this in your dog between cleaning.
In terms of health, it’s also important to ensure that your dog is getting enough exercise via the right type of activity. You should also always keep their mental health in mind, making sure they have enough psychological stimulation and that they are not depressed, which is unfortunately very possible for dogs.
What do you feed your dog? Let us know in the comments section!
Tiahn Wetzler is a journalist, writer, editor and animal lover. Follow her on Instagram @tiahnwetzler