This month we bring you part II of "Myths About Feeding Dogs". Feeding your dog a healthy diet is not difficult. You just need to follow a few simple rules and apply some common sense. As we mentioned last month, many feeding myths are discussed among dog fanciers. It is important for you to know what is 'myth' and what is 'truth'when it comes to canine nutrition. Therefore, check and double check any nutritional information you find on the internet when it comes to feeding your dogs. Your dogs will certainly appreciate you knowing the truth and feeding them accordingly!
6) Dogs with liver ailments need low protein diets
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In reality, dogs with liver problems need protein for the liver to thrive, regenerate and heal. Most dogs will eat a normal diet with the majority of liver issues. It is only in serious liver cases, such as a liver shunt or severe chronic liver disease, where ammonia can leak into the bloodstream. This can cause discomfort and severe illness. However, you still don't need to reduce the protein; you simply feed meats that are low in ammonia, such as chicken, fish, and eggs and dairy. Red meats and organ meats are high in ammonia, so these are proteins to avoid. Additionally, it may be necessary to feed a low fat diet to a dog with a compromised liver. The liver is an organ that helps process fats and if the liver enzymes are elevated, low fat diets may be recommended until the liver enzymes return to normal levels. For more information and diet recipes, see this article on diets for dogs with chronic liver disease:
7) Dogs with renal issues need low protein diets
Dogs never need to have a low protein diet if they have renal issues. However, if the BUN is over 80, creatinine is over 3, and the phosphorus level starts to rise above normal, a low phosphorus diet may be needed. Like the liver, the kidneys need protein to survive and thrive. But when chronic renal failure occurs, the kidneys have trouble processing phosphorus. When the phosphorus levels in the body increase, it can cause pain and discomfort. Lowering the protein amount does NOT spare the kidneys or give them longer life; however, lowering phosphorus levels can create comfort for the dog. You can read more about kidney diets and treatment options here:
8) When I switch my dog to a raw diet, I should start by mixing only one protein source to the kibble
This is also a myth! If you brought a child into your home that had been eating a processed diet, you wouldn't move them over to a fresh food diet slowly. You would make the change immediately and offer the child a variety of fresh foods. Oftentimes, when you change a dog's diet from processed to raw, it may have difficulty digesting fat. In that light, I recommend you remove the skin from chicken, serve leaner meats, and use low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese to start. Also, serving frequent, smaller meals can help through the transition period. I also suggest adding Berte's Ultra Probiotic Powder or Berte's Digestion Blend, which help keep the good flora and fauna in the digestive tract and predigest fats in the stomach before it enters the small intestine. More information can be found here:
9) If my dog's diet is complete, I don't need to add any supplements
This is somewhat true; however some needed nutrients are hard to find in fresh foods. Omega 3 fatty acids are one of these nutrients. Therefore, I suggest adding Omega 3 fish oil capsules. Probiotics are also helpful in keeping the good flora and fauna in the digestive tract. I find this especially true for convalescing dogs, dogs that undergo stress, performance or show dogs, puppies and senior dogs. Adding water-soluble vitamins, such as C and B complex, are also good additions to the diet. Read the following article for additional information about adding basic supplements to your dog's diet.
10) Carbohydrates are necessary for dogs and they need grains, fruit and vegetables.
This is a myth and completely untrue! Even the NRC (Nutritional Research Council), which is the government agency that writes the nutritional guidelines for feeding dogs, states dogs have no nutritional need for carbohydrates. Commercial pet foods use them because it makes the foods more economical to produce and they provide a long shelf life for the food. The fact is carbohydrates (grains, fruit and vegetables) are comprised of sugar. Dogs are carnivores and are not designed to digest or use the nutrients found in carbohydrates. Dogs have a short, simple digestive tract which is not designed to ferment or process large amounts of fiber in their system. Carbohydrates also cause tooth decay and gum disease because dogs do not have the enzymes in their saliva as we do. Carbohydrates also cause body odor, large smelly stools, and disrupt the dog's hormone and adrenal system. Lastly, they rob the dog of important animal protein and fat, which they need for heart, kidney and liver health and to maintain a good immune system. You can find more information about this in my article on carbohydrates.
11) Plant oils are good for dogs and provide good omega fatty acids
Many plant oils have been heavily marketed toward dogs over the years. Some of these oils include flax seed oil, hemp oil, canola oil, safflower oil and more recently, coconut oil. While some plant oils do contain Omega 3 fatty acids, they are in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which dogs cannot convert to a usable form of Omega 3. Dogs need Omega 3 fatty acids for healthy heart, kidney and liver function, to support the immune system, and to keep the skin and coat healthy. However, they need animal-based Omega 3 fatty acids, not plant-based. Animal based Omega 3 fatty acids are found in salmon, fish, menhaden, sardine or krill oil. These oils contain EPA and DHA, which are both necessary for good health. Plant oils, just like carbohydrates, are simply not needed by dogs, nor do they offer any benefits.
Fall is in the Air
As summer comes to an end, it is time to think about the weather change and your dog's needs! As the temperatures get cooler, dogs generally need more fat in their diet and as furnaces start to rumble, they need fresh water around the clock to stay hydrated.
Keep your dogs healthy and well-nourished this fall!