Dog Food

The Quest for the Right Dog Food

Domesticated dogs lead very different lives from their wild ancestors and there are many choices available to feed your pet. What are your options and which one is best? Dry, canned, raw, homemade? Whatever you choose to feed your dog, a good supplement like Vibrant Pets will complete his diet, boost the immune system and help your pet lead a long, healthy life.

Commercial dog food: We’ve all seen and know the big companies; this food is either prepared as dry kibble or canned. Good dog food has a protein source as its first ingredient – and that doesn’t mean byproducts! Byproducts are tendons, cartilage, bone, hair and most of all – fat. Byproducts have little nutritional benefit.

Fillers are another ingredient to avoid. Most commercial dog food contains plant matter fillers like wheat, gluten, cracked corn, potatoes, beets/beet pulp and other vegetables that a dog would rarely eat in the wild. It is not that all plant matter is bad for dogs, though many of the fillers are; it’s just that a dog’s digestive tract is not designed to regularly digest it. Many fillers can’t be broken down enough to pass and particulate sits in the digestive tract causing stomach and bowel ills. Lack of nutrients causes a breakdown of the immune system, which is why so many dogs suffer from allergies, poor coat, scaly skin, and stomach and bowel problems. Wheat gluten and corn byproducts or cornmeal are fillers with no nutritional value while beet pulp, although easier to digest, is essentially a sweetener. Rice is okay on the stomach, but is filler with little nutritional value. A good rule of thumb when selecting dog food is to pick the one with the fewest ingredients. Those ingredients should not have any words attached to them. In other words, the first ingredient should say “Chicken”, not “Chicken byproducts”.

Vegetables are okay, though owners should be aware that dogs lack the probiotics in their dog’s digestive system to effectively break down vegetables so they can absorb the nutritional value. Therefore, though many dog foods have vegetables in them as a well-intentioned attempt to give dogs vitamins, they pass through the digestive tract too quickly to be of much benefit.

Canned vs. Kibble: There is little difference between today’s canned and kibble dog food, nutritionally, as long as you are sticking with the same brand of dog food. Most vets agree that a diet of canned food is not good for a dog’s teeth. It also tends to be higher in fat and may lead to weight gain or indigestion. Kibble is better for the teeth, is often easier on the digestive tract because it is less fatty. It is also generally cheaper than canned. For finicky dogs, a combination of the two may work. But if your dog is a free feeder, be sure to throw canned dog food away if it sits out for more than a few hours or you risk contamination.

A note on lamb and rice formulas – it’s touted as easy on the stomach, but it’s not often true. The lamb used in commercial dog food is what is left from the butchering and is mostly fat. Lean lamb is an excellent source of protein, but can be hard to find and may be expensive. Australia currently has the highest standards for pet food in the world and produces the leanest of lamb kibble.

Homemade diets: the use of homemade diets as an alternative therapy was very popular for several years. But they are time consuming, some ingredients can be hard to find and they can be expensive. The advent of higher quality dog food has made the homemade diet less attractive. But there are good reasons to put your dog on a homemade diet. If your dog has a medical condition or special nutritional needs is an obvious cause. Homemade diets have been useful in managing adverse and/or allergic food reactions. By feeding a homemade diet, you can avoid additives and preservatives and maintain control over the type and amounts of ingredients used.

But it is important to obtain homemade recipes from reputable sources, ideally from a canine nutritionist and veterinary publications. Be wary of recipes from the internet or from non-professionals. If you can afford it, a clinical nutritionist can formulate a custom-made diet.

Raw diets: Raw diets have become very popular. They tend to be viewed as natural and therefore (but not always correctly) safe. Although proponents of raw diets point to a dog’s status as a carnivore and often state that commercial diets alter or destroy essential nutrients for dogs, these arguments are not, at this time, supported by scientific scrutiny.

There are three types of raw diets: The first is a commercially complete food that has been pasteurized. You can even get dydrated raw food when you travel. Combination diets are the second type. The dog owner purchases a commercially available grain and supplements mix and then combines it with raw meat. Home prepared complete raw food diets are the third option and they are referred to by the acronym “BARF” (bones and raw food diet).

Some of the problems associated with raw diets are:

1. They may not be balanced or provide all the required nutrients, especially for young dogs

2. They may cause gastrointestinal obstructions and perforations

3. Bacterial contamination and zoonotic diseases are a possibility

Which one is best for your dog? The answer is commercial dog food – maybe. Of all the testing done on dog food, commercial dog food has the best rating for providing both safety and nutrition in scientific studies. But you are your dog’s best advocate. Do your research and if you try any new food, start slow and with small amounts. If your dog seems to have any negative reaction, cut back or stop immediately. Ask your vet for recommendations but remember that he may be selling the dog food he’s recommending and take it with a grain of salt. Ask other owners, consult a nutritionist and surf the internet. Last, give your pet Vibrant Pets to insure she’s getting all the vitamins, minerals and probiotics she needs to lead a long, healthy life.