Monday, January 20, 2014

Dog Diets: Choices that are Mind Boggling!

The Shared Feast includes the non-human important members of the family such as our loving and loved dogs and the best things for them to eat. Our dog, Kismet, has been happy eating her commercial grade kibble most of her life. With some Blue Dog treats thrown in and home-made dog treats she’s been happy and healthy up to her old age. When I researched “dog diets” I was impressed to find how much the dog food market has expanded. I felt I should include as a topic some information about the choices in a dog’s food now.

I don’t know about the rest of the U.S., but here around Seattle there are dogs and dog-friendly places everywhere. They are now an ingrained part of our society and families many times don’t feel complete without at least one dog.

There are three basic food types available for dogs:




Any of the above can be fine, but diet depends on the dog, its breed, age, activity level,  and physical condition.  Your veterinarian can best advise you on the type of diet, such as the ratio of protein to fat, etc. your dog needs regardless of which of the three sources of food you use.

A commercial diet is probably the easiest to use in guaranteeing your dog is getting the right proportion of nutrients. This is something the vet can easily monitor and you can easily follow. This is also an affordable way to ensure your dog gets the right proportion of fat, protein, meal, etc. There is a large range of on-the-shelf products that you can choose from as your dog ages, perhaps develops a physical condition -- anything that warrants an adjustment to your dog’s needs. 

Often a vet recommends something to buy in their offices. These tend to be expensive. Talk frankly to your vet if your budget does not really allow it. They do understand and can recommend store brands or what to look for on a label.  Protein and fat should be at the top of the list. The proportion of these may change according to the condition of your dog. You may end up with the choice of buying from the vet or making your own dog food.  the latter is tricky as it is somewhat difficult to provide the diet your dog needs consistently out of your own kitchen -- not to mention time-consuming.

Perhaps another alternative is the raw diet. The proportions recommended are:

Eighty percent muscle meat with fat

Ten percent organ meat

Ten percent raw bones with some meat attached or bones ground into meal

Tripe -- 15-18 percent of diet

Eggs once a week, preferably raw and including white and yolk

These proportions are not required every day and can be balanced throughout the month, use variety when feeding

You can purchase the raw diet in a dehydrated version, check the refrigerator in your local gourmet pet store or make your own.

This diet is meant to mimic what a dog’s ancestors, wolves, ate on a daily basis.

I have to say that I have problems with this diet as stone age dogs did not have vets with the knowledge to recommend the proper components and amounts to give your individual pet. In modern times we also know that raw eggs can contain salmonella. There is only a miniscule chance of “mad cow disease” now in organ meats and I am not sure how it would be transferred to a dog versus a human. Most of all, I suspect the raw diet falls under the category of a fad, similar to the gluten-free phenomenon with humans. I know, I am a skeptic, but I always look to the fact that someone’s making a ton of money off of these suddenly trendy things.

It seems to me that making your own dog food (not raw) would be a better alternative -- just follow the advice of your dog’s vet when making it so that you get the correct amount of meal, protein, fat, etc. The Internet can supply basic recipes you can tweak to your dog’s needs.

The raw diet is also quite expensive.

This is just a simple review of what is available these days. We all love our dogs no matter what we think is best to feed them. If you have the extra time, by all means make your dog’s food at home. You are then sure they are not getting preservatives and have more control over ingredients.

When choosing dog food at the store look at the label and do not pick a food that does not have fat and protein at the top, look to see what preservatives it contains and if corn meal is included as a filler. Do not be fooled by the outside of the bag if it says “natural, premium, etc.” The list of ingredients is what you go by.

Just as important as what a dog eats is how much he or she is shown love -- quality time with your canine family member is what every dog craves, too.

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