Until teaming up with Barking Heads, I have always struggled to find a suitable diet for Eddie. Choosing a dog food for your Fido can be a daunting experience at the best of times, especially with the unfriendly ingredients list on the packaging and so many large companies promoting their products with, what seems to be, Fido’s best interests in mind. However, once we dig a little deeper and understand what the ingredients are it becomes much easier to know what to look out for. With this in mind I thought I would put together an article aimed at helping us to understand exactly what is in our dog’s food.
Feeding your dog a well-balanced diet has numerous benefits and can play a major role in the well-being of your Fido. A nutritious dog food diet promotes healthy skin and coat, strong well developed bones, bright clear eyes, firmer stools (and less of them), well defined muscle tone, quality of life and longevity, healthy teeth and gums, fewer trips to your Vet, eliminates bad odour, energy, vitality, fewer digestive problems, fewer behaviour problems and over-all good health.
On the other hand a poor diet can lead to an increase in cancers, a weakened immune system, liver failure, sluggish behaviour or hyperactivity, putrid gas, diarrhoea, dull coat and heavy shedding, epilepsy, vomiting, ear infections, compromised heart and kidneys, stunted growth and weakened bones, bad breath, bowel disease, diabetes, cystitis, cataracts, hypertension, build up in the eyes, arthritis, countless allergies and who knows what else…
So with diet playing such a vital role in your Fido’s health and well-being how do we go about choosing a wholesome diet and what do we need to be looking out for?
Dogs are facultative carnivores (and no I can’t pronounce it either). This simply means that a dog reaches its best potential on a high meat diet but can survive on less. To sustain a healthy diet your dog will need proteins, carbohydrates, fats and oils, vitamins and minerals and water.
If your dog is not getting the correct nutrition they may experience skin conditions, may become lethargic, become obese or encounter upset tummies as outlined earlier on.
The sad truth is that the pet food market is mostly owned by large co-operations as a way of getting rid of waste by - products. Take a look at your dog’s food…does it contain the words by-product or meal after e.g. chicken by-product, lamb meal?
When we look at our dog food we usually get drawn to the packaging and words like chicken flavoured, delicious and nutritious, complete, balanced, etc. However, we should be focusing more on the ingredients, in particular the protein composition, carbohydrates and oils and fats in order to make our choices.
First of all take a look at the key ingredient. Let’s say that the key ingredient is lamb (the same rule will apply to the key ingredient whether it is chicken, duck, rice, etc). The percentage of lamb contained within the food will depend on the wording shown on the packaging. If it simply states ‘lamb’ then there will be a minimum of 26% lamb content, ‘rich in lamb’ will have a minimum of 13% lamb, ’with lamb’ will contain a minimum of 4% and ‘lamb flavour’ does not have to contain any lamb at all! This is the reason why vegetarians can eat beef flavoured crisps!
When looking at the meat content it is also important to look for the protein source. Is it a good protein source or a bad protein source? If the packaging contains the words derivatives, by-products or meal then the product does not contain a good source of protein. The protein from these products will come from the animal parts that are not fit for human consumption such as the head, feet, claws, hair and wool, feathers, guts and lungs and unborn eggs of animals.
Next take a look at the carbohydrates contained in the product. Carbohydrates provide your dog with a primary energy and fibre source. The same applies for the carbohydrate source as with the meat content. There are bad carbohydrates which are not easily digestible and good carbohydrates, which are easily digestible and a good energy and fibre source. Corn is 54% digestible. However, corn waste or corn by-product does not have any nutritional value. A more digestible source of protein is rice. Rice is 72% digestible and is commonly found as part of the human diet because of its nutritional benefits.
Third on the list should be the source of the fats and oils. Large companies use a lot of these to make take-aways, cakes, chocolate, etc, which are found in the human food industry. All the restaurant waste and rendered animal fat is then refined and used to make a wide variety of consumables such as fuel, cleaning products and yes - dog food. It is important that your dog food specifies where the fats and oils come from. Good sources would include sunflower oil, salmon oil, chicken fat and lamb fat.
Finally take a look at how your dog’s food is preserved. You would want it to be preserved naturally with Vitamin E and C as opposed to containing any synthetic antioxidants. Three commonly used synthetic antioxidants include E numbers (E320: BHA , E321: BHT, E324, E310), EEC (permitted antioxidant) No (Antioxidants added).
I hope this article has helped! If you would like to find out more about this fascinating topic then why not join us on one of our Nutrition workshops or call us to find out more about Barking Heads dog food.
HAPPY TRAINING X