10 Things to Know About A Healthy Dog Diet
A popular question among pet owners is “What diets are healthy for my dog?”
There are several diets, and good quality dog treats available out there, all formulated based on medical needs, size, breed, energy levels and age. Determining which is best for the overall well-being of your four-legged pet can be sometimes herculean. Some dog owners opt for dry food because it's easy to store and less smelly, while others choose wet food to conceal dog medications and improve hydration.
Whether it’s human foods, kibble, canned foods, dry foods or treats, you must bear in mind that pets are individuals, and like humans, they also deserve a healthy diet. However, there is a widespread notion that if a particular food is good enough for humans, it's safe for dogs as well. That’s a no-no. Not all edible human foods are healthy for Dogs.
Here are the top 10 things to know about feeding your dogs a healthy diet.
1. Fruits and Vegetables Contain Essential Nutrients and Are Healthy for Dogs
Like cats, dogs feed on meat, but the dietary requirements of domesticated breeds have acclimatized to those of omnivores, although a lot of their food is still composed of animal protein. Dogs can also acquire essential minerals, vitamins and fiber from non-meat diets like vegetables, grains and fruits. Fruits and vegetables, in particular, contain enzymes that’ll synergistically improve your pet’s well-being.
The best dog treats and food will contain appropriate rations of high-quality grains, meat, fruits and vegetables that are ideal for the digestive system of your dog. All-meat dog food is unbalanced and not a healthy diet. If you like, you can also opt for vegan dog treats to accompany the all-meat main course.
2. Healthy Diets Should Not Contain Certain Foods
When choosing your dog’s diet, you must know that not all foods are safe for your pet. Here is a list of foods to avoid or serve in little rations to protect your dog’s health.
- Highly Fatty Foods: Like humans, dogs also need to maintain a healthy weight; hence, they must not feed too much on fatty or sweet foods to protect them from pancreatic illnesses. In other words, low fat dog treats and foods are ideal for pets, especially those who must do away with them.
- Chocolate: Chocolate smells and tastes nice, but it’s not a healthy snack for dogs because it’s pernicious to their digestive system, and should be avoided.
- Salty Meals: Humans and Dogs need salt to help nerve and muscle functions. However, some pets may need to cut off salty foods from their diets, especially those with kidney, liver or heart diseases. To ascertain the status of your pet's health, it's recommended that you seek the counsel of a Vet Professional.
- Citrus: As much as you need to give your dog fruits, citric-containing fruits such as lime, grape, orange and lemon could result in diarrhea and a breakdown of the dog’s nervous system. Hence, avoid citrus diets as much as possible.
- Allium Family: Canine companions are sensitive to onions, garlic, shallot and other members of the allium family, either cooked or raw. The continued intake of onions and other allium substances is toxic to your pet and can damage its leucocytes, eventually resulting in hemolytic anemia.
- Lactose and Milk: Are dogs lactose intolerant? Yes and no, some dogs react badly to large quantities of dairy products, and in that case, it’s advisable to place such pets on a reduced lactose diet to avoid gastrointestinal complications.
- Raw Dough: Bread and certain baked foods are healthy snacks for dogs, but raw dough should be completely avoided. As the dough rises, it bloats the digestive system of the dog and may eventually lead to volvulus or gastric dilation.
3. Weight Management is an Important Element of a Healthy Diet
According to a study, about ½ of the dogs in the US are either overweight or obese. Obesity in pets mostly due to excessive feeding and little or no exercise. Maintaining a healthy weight is often a dilemma for many dog owners, as most of them are unsure about the calorific requirements of their dogs. This unfolding indeed necessitates the need for weight management diet or low-calorie food for dogs.
Weight management diets contain less fat, lower protein and amino acids which aid the conversion of fat to muscles and energy. However, ensure that the fat content of the diet is not too low (usually 12-16), else your dog stays hungry after each meal and feeds incessantly.
For the treat lovers, you should be looking at low fat dog treats to maintain your pet’s health. Treats are nutritious but have a high calorific value. If weight management diets do not sit well with you, no problem, you can explore rationed meals but ensure that they are healthy.
4. A Healthy Diet is AAFCO Certified
According to the ACVN, commercial dog foods are a healthy choice for pets, and they contain the necessary nutritional requirements. When picking one at the Vet store, ensure that it's approved for your pet’s condition and stage of life (pregnant, adult, nursing or puppy). Also, look out for the Association of American Feed Control Officials endorsement on the food pack.
A healthy commercial diet must be certified "balanced and complete," i.e., it contains the necessary nutrients specific to the life stage of the dog in the appropriate ratios.
5. Premium Isn’t Always Healthy
Most stores categorize dog foods under premium (pricier), gourmet and popular diets. For the record, because it’s pricey doesn’t make it healthy. If you prefer treats for your dog, and you can afford good quality dog treats, invest in them. But if not, go for the affordable yet nutritious popular diets. Also, always check the nutritional contents label on the dog food packaging to ensure that it meets the desired requirements.
6. Contains High Level of Vitamins
Healthy snacks for dogs is encouraged in a dog’s diet because of its nourishing vitamin content. High vitamin levels improve immunity and are strongly recommended. However, ensure that you’re engaging the right set of vitamin-containing diets such as fish oil, nutritional yeast, eggs, organ meat, etc. Watch out for diets containing Vitamin D in significant quantities as they are marginally safe for ingestion, and can potentially cause health concerns for your pets.
7. If it’s A Homemade Diet, the Formulations Must Come from A Nutritionist
Of course, dog owners prepare homemade recipes for their pets with positive intentions. However, if it's not healthy, it is not safe. If the recipe is prepared outside of the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist, stay away from such diets. By making up dog foods based on your discretion could cause your pet to miss out on essential macronutrients required for growth and health.
8. Healthy Dog Diets Are Not Artificially Preserved
Animal fats and dog foods become rancid too quickly if not adequately preserved.
“What kind of preservatives are healthy for use?”
When scouting for foods and good quality dog treats, avoid those containing artificial preservatives, coloration, sweeteners and flavor, especially the carcinogenic ones. Some of the artificial elements to look for on your pet food label include ethoxyquin, BHT, propyl gallate, BHA, etc. These artificial preservatives are toxic to dogs in the long run.
The best dog treats and healthy commercial foods are preserved using natural elements obtained from vitamins E or C, also known as ascorbates or tocopherols. These categories of vitamins are considered safe for dogs, and they constitute most of the healthy diets you’ll find.
9. Should Be Based on The Life Stage and Special Dietary requirements of The Dog
At each stage of a dog’s life, there are certain nutritional requirements it needs to stay healthy. Puppies need milk to grow, but an adult dog may react badly to milk. Sometimes, serving your dog wrong food can adversely affect its well-being. Dogs with distinct health considerations like obesity should be fed with low fat dog treats while others that are hail and hearty should get good quality dog treats to stay healthy.
Big pets, Small Pets, Different diets! A pregnant dog will not consume the same nutrient as a sick dog. Likewise, dogs of different breeds, sizes and age will not have similar nutritional requirements. Ensure that you consult a veterinarian for advice on the best diet for your dog.
10. Healthy Dog Diets Do Not Contain Generic Meat By-products
Dog meat diets containing animal by-products, especially the unspecified or generic ones, are not healthy for dogs. These meat by-products include intestines, bones, ligaments, blood, lungs and feet, all of which could also come from diseased or dying animals. They can contain hair, hooves, feathers and unhealthy elements capable of disrupting the digestive system of your dog.
Some dog food manufacturers and vendors even use vague product names and generic specification to promote these inedible by-products, and they refuse to disclose their sources. Hence, when looking for the best dog treats for your pet, and the product description and nutritional contents are ambiguous, avoid them. If the source is not known, and the ingredients unstated, then it's most likely unhealthy for your dog.