Steamboat Springs I saw an interesting story on the TV news the other day. It seems that despite most of our need to tighten household budgets, we haven’t scrimped on pet food (well, that and beer, but I’ll leave that story for someone else). I choose to think this means we’re becoming more aware that, as with humans, dogs are what they eat and that nutrition is one of the key building blocks upon which good health is based.
Let’s go further and begin to think of food as a vital component of your dog’s life. No more simply plopping down a bowl of dry kibble. First, all animals need moisture for their kidneys to perform properly, so stop with “all dry, all the time” and get some canned food, water or even sodium-free broth in there. Second, let’s add variety as well as quality.
Variety is key. Despite loving a particular cereal, would you eat it every meal, every day? Would you feed your children this way? Probably not. Instead, to receive a “balanced” diet, different foods are eaten throughout many days. Dogs need this kind of variety, as well, needing different sources of proteins, vegetables and grains throughout the week. Eating the same food repeatedly not only limits their digestive system and overall health, it also may lead to them developing allergies to certain foods. I’m not saying that you have to feed your dog gourmet meals every day, just that the meals can be slightly varied without upsetting your schedule and your dog’s stomach.
Dogs, like people, have different needs and likes when it comes to eating. To determine which foods work well for your dog, take note of her stools, which should be minimal, firm and formed, and her coat, which should be soft, shiny and without odor. As always, keep your vet in the loop, getting their advice and guidance. Ask them what signs to look for when determining the nutritional efficiency of your chosen foods. Also, ask them the amounts you should be feeding and about any specific supplements they may suggest.
Whether you’ve chosen to feed a raw, home-cooked or commercially produced meal to your pet, take time and do your research. With raw or cooked diets, investigate the preparation process and what to feed. With the commercial diet, learn to read food labels, looking for those foods that list identifiable, whole foods with an animal-based protein as the first ingredient and avoid those foods that listing meat or poultry byproducts, added sweeteners, artificial colors or preservatives such as BHA, BHT or ethoxiquin.
Educate yourself, and then be creative while having fun choosing and feeding your fabulous dog.
Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.