Nutrition can affect our emotions and behavior and this is also true of animals. You are what you eat and you eat what you are…
I am an advocate of organic food for animals. Organic food is food that is closest to the natural prey or food of the animal. This is often food that is frozen.
It is very important to look at what the natural food or prey of an individual animal would be and take this into account .If not there is a risk of the animal developing medical problems, allergic reactions and behavioral problems.
Chickens, for example, may be fed lots of different cereals whereas dogs can only digest a very limited number of grains. Cats and dogs need meat while rabbits and cows are vegetarian. If we want to avoid problems, it is best to respect these basic rules of nature. You can force your dog or cat to become a vegetarian, but in the long term this is unhealthy.
Studies in children have shown that too much artificial coloring, sugars and preservatives in food and drink lead to obesity, allergies and hyperactivity. This is also true for dogs.
Furthermore the natural vitamins, bacteria, and other important substances are destroyed by the extreme heat required in the process of making commercial dry dog or cat food. The substances that are subsequently added are artificial, and often more difficult for the animal to assimilate and can even cause allergic reactions.
Dogs and cats used to be fed table scraps and were usually also expected to hunt and kill vermin to supplement their diet.
In the thirties dry dog food (kibble) was first developed. Giving dry food became the norm as it simplified things for dog owners.
In recent years there has been a tendency to take a more critical look at dry food.
Cats and dogs are carnivores. The teeth and digestive tract are still the same as that of their ancestors, the wolves and wild cats. They have a scissor like bite with sharp pointy teeth, made to tear off the meat and crack hard bones. They can not make lateral movements and can not chew. In addition, they have a short digestive tract, suited to the consumption of meat.
The information on the packaging of pet food often leaves much to be desired. This is often given as percentages and that is not very helpful. However, it is important to check the quality of the food, and this you can do by looking closely at the appearance of the dog, checking the coat, teeth … and the droppings.
What should be in dog food?
Proteins are important. Proteins are made of amino acids, which are vital for a dog. You might think that 20 % protein is better than 15 %, but it is the quality of the proteins that make the difference. You can get protein from meat, but also from feathers. The dog will require less protein if this is coming from good quality meat.
For a healthy intestinal tract and digestion raw fiber is required and this should be a part of your dog’s diet.
Dogs are primarily carnivores and they eat every part of their prey, fur, stomach contents, internal organs etc…
There is a myth that feeding red meat will cause aggressive behavior. This is untrue, raw meat is a necessity for a healthy diet. The myth has come about because dogs really enjoy eating pure meat and can become protective of their food.
Cheap dog food is made from cheap inferior products and bulk grain fillers and is then made to look more appetizing by using artificial additives.
The antioxidants or preservatives are listed under the E numbers on the package; these are considered acceptable by the European Union. However, bear in mind these are chemical substances. Natural preservatives such as vitamin C and E and rosemary are preferable. Often there is also a label claiming “no preservatives and antioxidants added to the feed”. That is not to say that they are not in it!
The manufacturer may not have done this, but the supplier could have, so this label can be misleading.
Dry and canned food is geared to “the average dog or cat”. However nutritional needs may vary from animal to animal depending on the situation and life style. A working dog has different energy requirements to those of a pet dog.
We humans are told to eat lots of fresh food, so surely this applies to our pets as well?
70% of skin problems can be solved by putting the animal on a diet of fresh meat.
Dogs also require essential fatty acids (EFA), in order to establish cell membranes. They play a role in the skin and coat condition, the renal function and in reproduction. The most important essential fatty acid for dogs is linolenic acid, which is mainly found in vegetable oils.
Dogs also require sufficient protein and amino acids in their diets. In particular, the absence of the amino acids tyrosine, tryptophan and cysteine will have an influence on the formation of skin – and hair pigment. This deficiency occurs mainly when the dog is fed primarily cereal.
Vitamins are also important. Most commonly we see a lack of vitamin A and biotin. This occurs generally in a diet that consists of too much lean red meat or dry food of inferior quality or that has been poorly stored
Then there are the minerals. A mineral deficiency may be due to a low dietary intake of minerals or mineral antagonists (which help balance the body chemistry).
When calculating the nutritional value of a foodstuff be aware that the moisture content is of minimal value.
What’s in dry dog food (kibble)?
Cereals are usually the main component, but the animal can not digest them properly, so they are cooked and mixed with the other ingredients at a very high temperature.
Carbohydrates are not a natural part of the diet of dogs and cats. Excess carbohydrates increase the chance of obesity, diabetes and allergies.
The meat content in dry food is often ground meat and meat by products. When this is heated to make the mixture required for dry food the sugars from the grain flour react with the amino acids in the meat meal ( Maillard reaction) and this results in compounds (e.g. acryl amides ) which can not be absorbed by the intestines and are suspected of causing some cancers. Furthermore during this process the amino acids taurine and lysine disappear almost completely. These are building blocks for proteins and essential to the body.
The process also affects the vitamins, turns minerals into insoluble salts, fats will oxidize and the structure of proteins will be changed, again a possible cause of food allergies.
Synthetic minerals and vitamins are then added to make up for the loss of natural ingredients but these are not always properly digested by the gastro-intestinal tract of the dog.
Dry dog food is usually low in fat as it doesn’t keep well, fats oxidize when heated and this could be a cause of tumours.
Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, essential for the body, are usually included but are still best when taken in fresh food and should not be over exposed to light and air
Various additives are used to improve the colour, texture and flavour. However some of these additives are prohibited for human consumption!
In my opinion dry dog food is one of the causes of tooth decay in cats and dogs due to the build up of tartar. The main component of corn flour (or starch) locks on the teeth. Humans have an enzyme (amylase) that breaks down starch, but cats and dogs do not have this.
Feeding bones helps prevent tartar.
Fresh bones (not cooked, smoked, etc …) are flexible and do not splinter.
When the body accumulates too much waste material this disposed of by the kidneys, stools (bowel movements) and through the skin. Excess waste will aggravate intestinal and stomach problems, skin diseases and kidney problems.
Dry food is without bacteria and without enzymes. However these are needed to establish a stable gut flora. Intestinal flora ensures smooth bowel movements and supports the immune system.
Due to the heating process, which necessary for producing dry food, the protein chain is broken down.. However, this change in the protein leads to a lack of certain substances in the body, for example, the substance serotonin. Serotonin helps to balance emotions such as fear and aggression. If the body can not produce enough serotonin this can be a cause of excessive anxiety and aggression in dogs.
Paul M. Newberne of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote, ” a lot of information about the best diet for your pet is misleading and substantially focused on the sale of products, often with very little or no evidence to support the claims of the manufacturer. The owners of pets and animals in many cases physicians are at the mercy of advertisements in the mass media, often at the expense of the health of animals. ”
Veterinarian Alfred J. Plechner writes in his book Pet Allergies: “Unfortunately, the public and most vets get all of their nutritional information from the manufacturer, whose principal objective is an increase in sales. There is growing evidence that a constant diet of commercial feed may shorten the life of a pet animal. The decisive factor when purchasing food is no longer what the best is, but which feed causes the least harm.”
John Fischer, dog behavior expert writes in his book: “I think we have to ask ourselves a number of things, for example does ‘ EU-approved antioxidants, colorants and preservatives ‘ really mean that these additives are completely safe?”
Do it yourself?
Do not feed raw pork or baby chicks. When possible feed game or fish that has been frozen to eliminate bacteria. If you feed fish choose whole, oily fish. Feeding only meat can lead to a possible calcium deficiency.
An animal with kidney problems that struggles with too much phosphorus should only be fed organic meat.
Feed bones that still have meat on them. Smoked bones can cause congestion in the intestines. Do not give bones to dogs that are not used to eating fresh meat. Weight bearing bones such as the leg bones should be meaty; feeding dry bones that are too hard can wear down the dog’s teeth. Ribs, vertebrae, shoulder, necks and tail bones are completely eaten.
You can also give bones containing calcium citrate, glutamate or amino acid chelated calcium, preferably with magnesium. Ground eggshell is also good. Calcium carbonate should be avoided..
You can feed bones at least four times a week..
The droppings will be white and grainy whereas when feeding offal they will be softer.
Onions, leeks and starchy vegetables are not suitable. Garlic can be given but not in large quantities. Cabbage may cause flatulence. Fruit should be given sparingly because of the high sugar content. Fruit and vegetable can be made into a puree to make it easier to digest.
Heart, liver, kidney, lung, tripe, these are ok. The spleen and the womb have a high bacterial content. Liver should only be given every other day because of the high level of vitamin A, which is also found in cod liver oil and egg yolk.
Yogurt, raw egg, herbs, multivitamins and minerals, vegetable oil, ginger, garlic, kelp, cod liver oil, nuts and seeds, parsley, thyme, rosemary, parsley , etc …
Sauces, gravy and potatoes are fattening. The combination of carbohydrates and protein can heighten the risk of obesity. Chicken should not be fed all of the time. If you want to give treats when you are training it is best to use dehydrated food treats (found in most pet stores).
There is no one diet that is suitable for all dogs. What suits one dog may not be suitable or palatable for another.
What do you feed your animals and why? Share your tips and questions below!