Last month we examined the concerns dog owners have of feeling secure about feeding their dogs a balanced diet. I addressed the issue of commercial dog food and how the labeling can reveal just how uncertain the ingredients might be and to examine the quality of the protein contents. While dog food companies often label their products as ‘complete and balanced’, they frequently change the ingredients in their foods, but are not required to update the labeling for 6 months. It is also important to remember that when you feed your dog a fixed diet (never changing the ingredients) it is FAR more important for that diet to be as complete as possible. Any mistakes could be very costly and could affect the dog’s health and wellbeing. This has been seen in the many recalls over the years, including the melamine scare in 2007.
Want to Feed the Best Diet for Your Dog, But Don’t Know How?Now there is a fast and easy way to learn! Check out Lew Olson’s easy-to-follow, on-line course videos! Read on to learn about Canine Nutrition and preparing Raw and Home Cooked Diets! Click for Video
Many dog owners become confused, especially in light of the all the conflicting and inconsistent information they find on the Internet and Facebook.
Feeding your dog is not difficult. It is no more difficult than feeding yourself or your family. There are, however, some nutritional differences due to the digestive system differences between humans and canines. Canines have a shorter and simpler digestive tract. They have little ability to ferment grains and high fiber diets as their system is designed to eat animal protein and fats. All of the canine teeth are sharp and pointed to tear meat. Their teeth are not flat and so they are not designed for grinding or chewing grains or starches. Canines also lack amylase in their saliva, which is needed to break down sugars and starches. Additionally, their jaws only have the ability to move up and down, not from side to side. They are designed to eat large chunks of food and gulp it down without chewing. Their basic needs are met by animal proteins and fat, with some bone for their calcium needs. Some examples include muscle meat (ground or chunks), small amounts of organ meat, eggs, green tripe, and any type of heart, yogurt, cottage cheese and wild game. We use limited vegetables for cooked diets. No vegetables are needed in raw diets. The NRC (Natural Research Council) does state dogs have no nutritional need for carbohydrates (grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits).
Nutrition is not cut, and dried, and nutritional standards and ideas are constantly being researched, debated and changed all the time. While suggested values are given in nutrition charts, human nutrition offers food pyramids more geared to percentages and what foods to eat and what foods to avoid. Mother Nature is forgiving and you and your dog can get the nutrients you need over time. It’s not necessary to consume every needed nutrient in each meal. Dogs are not unique and there is no need for breaking down each meal to check nutrients. For an example on how human nutrition guidelines are offered to people via government guidelines, read more below:
“The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines embodies the idea that a healthy eating pattern is not a rigid plan. Rather, it can be adapted to include foods people enjoy that meet their personal preferences and fit within their budget. In essence, a personalized healthy eating pattern could be considered the way or style in which a person makes healthy choices they can maintain over time. For that reason, MyPlate uses ‘healthy eating style’ to speak to consumers when referring to ‘healthy eating patterns’ that are highlighted in the Dietary Guidelines. All of the food and beverage choices you make matter. Start with small changes to make healthier choices you can enjoy and create your own healthy eating style! Find your healthy eating style with MyPlate, MyWins.
And even as we have a nutrition guideline for people, it is constantly changing:
“‘Twenty years ago, I think we knew about 10 percent of what we need to know’ about nutrition, said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. ‘And now we know about 40 or 50 percent.’”
The same is true for dogs, however far less money and research goes into studying and learning about what dogs need. And much of the information we do get comes from dog food companies and veterinarian academics linked to these pet food companies. Yes, most dogs are reasonably healthy and have survived all these years. But the amount of debate on canine nutrition abounds in articles, newspapers, magazines and the internet. And even the top human nutritionists disagree today on what is good for people and what isn’t:
“‘Ninety minutes into the meeting, we were still trying to agree what the hell a vegetable was’, said Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. ‘That was a dark moment.’”
And even more interesting, is how the top human nutrition experts disagree on the newest recommendations. I suggest reading the following article.
“The highly anticipated 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released on Thursday—and they’re proving controversial, with disagreement among industry and the nutrition community over whether red and processed meat should have been called out, and whether issues like sustainability should have been included. Months before the Guidelines came out, an independent group of experts—called the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, or DGAC—proposed non-binding recommendations for the Dietary Guidelines. Some experts took issue with how the final product differs. Here, top experts in the field of nutrition provide their thoughts on the new Guidelines:”
Arguments and disagreements similar to those found on dog nutrition groups and Facebook pages are also found in human nutrition. Each expert likes to make their own opinion known, and has some desire to be the forerunner of ‘New Ideas’; it is a way to be recognized and gain fame, sell new brands of food (raw or processed), videos, and related products.
The bottom line for dogs is that they need animal-based protein and fats. As the NRC has stated, dogs have no nutritional need for plant-based foods. Meat already comes naturally balanced with all the minerals needed, except for calcium (found in bone). Some vitamins can be added that are harder to find in most foods (D3, E, probiotics, omega 3) but at least when you prepare your dog’s food, you know EXACTLY what is in it. You have control over the ingredients used and the variety added to provide a better array of the amino acids found in proteins, vitamins and minerals. Nature does NOT have exact parameters, and frankly, all life would have ceased on earth if she did. There really is no ‘magic combination’ or series of correct supplements, but a fresh, varied diet should provide your dog most of what it needs. If you are truly worried, try to source meat from animals that are pasture and free-range fed for best mineral content. My dogs have done well on regularly sourced meat. Grass fed animals tend to have better mineral content due to the minerals found in the ground, but that also depends on the area where they graze.
In Part 3, I will go into detail – in an easy to understand manner – on how to prepare home cooked and raw diets for dogs. I will provide simple steps and guidelines for feeding both of these diets, which are wholesome, healthy and balanced!