The Best Healthy Dog Diet
The Best Healthy Dog Diet
Many people ask me, "What is the very best dog food that I can buy to give my dog the healthiest diet?
Before that question can be answered it is important for every dog owner to first understand what dog nutrition is all about.
In order to provide your pet with a healthy dog food diet it is important to understand your dog's health and dietary needs.
Your dog's body, just like your own, is made up of cells, and like all living creatures, these cells need nutrients to function properly and to give it energy.
These nutrients include a combination of proteins, consisting of essential amino acids, carbohydrates, fiber, fats, vitamins, minerals and lots of water.
A healthy dog food diet needs a combination of these nutrients, in balanced proportions, to provide the calories that are needed to fuel their daily energy needs for growth and the individualized activity of the dog.
Age, breed and size are all factors to take into consideration when looking for the right balance of food for your dog. For example, a tiny teacup dog will have different needs than a working dog such as this husky.
Protein is the most essential ingredient in a dogs diet.
Protein is the most essential ingredient in a dogs diet.
Renowned research scientist Dr. Barry Sears believes that dog food should consists of 40% protein, 30% fiber and 30% starch. What is the best source of protein for dogs?
Your dog is a carnivore and carnivores need meat. What is a carnivore? A carnivore is an animal with a diet consisting mainly of meat, whether it comes from animals living or dead (scavenging is part of being a carnivore).
There are those that will claim that a dog is an omnivore because of the way man has domesticated him, but don't be fooled. Dogs are not vegetarians.
Open their mouths and you will see that their teeth are not like human teeth. Their teeth are sharp and pointed and are meant for ripping and tearing meat. They do not have flat molars, like humans, for grinding grains and vegetables.
Granted, dogs can survive quite well, for the short term, on a vegetarian diet. However, this is not how they were created, and a vegetarian diet is not the best for optimum long term health. Also keep in mind that some human foods such as chocolate, onions, apple seeds, macadamia nuts and grapes can be highly toxic to their systems.
A Dog's Digestive System
Humans and Dogs Do Not Share the Same Type Of Digestive System
Human digestion begins in the mouth. A dogs digestion begins in his stomach. All the enzymes in his system are geared toward breaking down raw meat in the stomach. By scientific definition, your dog was created a carnivore.
It takes between 4 to 5 hours for a dog to digest raw meat and receive the energy from that food into the system. It takes almost 9 hours for a dog to digest semi-moist processed food.
This is the kind that is found in boxes and are shaped like hamburgers, or found in rolls and look like sausages. Semi-moist food is also high in sugar and salt which should be eliminated for a healthy dog food diet. The sugar only leads to obesity and the salt can lead to high blood pressure among other ailments.
Dry dog food takes up to 16 hours to digest. If you choose to feed your dog any type of dry, processed dog food, it will be in his stomach from morning until night. Because of this, it is best not to feed dried dog food late in the evening.
Enzymes are needed in the healthy dog food diet to enable the body to function properly. Dogs produce enzymes naturally in their stomachs to digest raw food.
Both the semi-moist and dry dog food sits in the dogs stomach so long, because there are not enough enzymes being produced in the stomach to break it down. Remember, a dog's stomach is designed to deal with raw foods.
Enzyme robbing occurs at such times when the dogs body must pull enzymes from other parts of the body, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, to be transported to the stomach.
Robbing the other parts of the body of these enzymes can have a detrimental effect on those organs. While the body is working overtime to gather these enzymes for digestion, the food just sits in the stomach until the body has gathered enough enzymes to digest it.
In the diagram above, the kidneys aren't showing. They are up behind the liver, close to the spine.
OTHER FORMS OF PROTEIN
Eggs are a natural.
Eggs are a natural and healthy food product. Other than meat, eggs are a natural, economical and convenient food source for protein.
There are those who will say, "never give your dog a raw egg as raw egg whites react with the vitamin, biotin, causing deficiencies". Raw egg yolks contain enough biotin to prevent the deficiency, so this is not a problem with raw whole eggs.
Others will arguing that raw eggs cause salmonella. Dogs cannot get salmonella, so throw that myth out with he dirty dishwater.
I like to occasionally mix a raw egg in with the rest of the dog's food and have had no ill effects. The pros are that raw eggs promote healthy, shiny fur because of the biotin in the egg yolks. In the wild dogs eat them raw when they find them. After all, you won't see anyone hanging around out there with a frying pan waiting to scramble up a batch for them.
Proceed with caution when feeding canines dairy products. Dogs are missing the digestive enzyme, that most humans have, which properly break down the milk sugar, or lactose. When the proper enzymes are not present, the lactose remains undigested and tends to ferment in the intestine and cause diarrhea.
Some dogs will tolerate small amounts of milk, while others, none at all. Often it will depend on the breed of the dog. Some dogs love cheese as a snack and will show no distress signs at all from ingesting it. If your pet enjoys and appears to tolerate dairy products, then by all means, feel free to feed in small amounts. For the most part, dairy products will do more good than harm.
When looking at the ingredients on a package or can of dog food, meat should be the first 2 - 3 ingredients, with a minimum of the first ingredient. By law, the heaviest and largest amount of whatever ingredient contained in the food has to be listed first. If the first four ingredients contain grains, move on to something else.
Dogs need this important ingredient found in protein are amino acids.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
All dry and canned commercial dog food are heated in the manufacturing process and through this heating process, amino acids are partially destroyed along with vitamins are depleted.
To compensate for this loss, your dog must have raw meat mixed with the processed commercial food.
Without the raw meat, the only way for him to get the amino acids he needs are by you mixing amino acid complex supplement tablets in to his food.
Carbohydrates include starches, sugars, cereals, and plant fibers.
They are nutrients that are derived from plant material. Rice, wheat, corn and soy contain protein that is often used in dog food.
Dogs needs carbohydrates (or grains) and some vegetables (or fiber) for energy, proper digestion, stool formation and the correct functioning of the thyroid gland, however, they don't need an overabundance of carbohydrates to be healthy.
The correct healthy dog food diet should never contain more than 40% of cereal grain for the dry food portion of the diet or 30% in a mixed diet.
Dogs that eat a lot of carbohydrates, or commercial dry dog food (which is high in carbs) take a long time digesting their food. The high carbs in dry food will produce large quantities of gas and smelly stools.
The cause of tartar build-up on your dog's teeth come from carbohydrates. Tarter build up will cause the gums to become soft and sore. It also produces bad doggie breath. A well balanced, healthy dog food diet is one that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein.
Brown rice, whole wheat, oats, and barley are whole grains that are higher in vitamins and minerals than corn, wheat gluten, and soybeans. They are also more easily digestible.
The function of grains in the diet is to increase both the bulk and water in the dog's intestines. Fiber regulates the transition time of food in the dogs intestines. They also contain some protein and fat.
Corn is used by most commercial dog food companies because it is in great supply and is cheap to produce, however, the nutritional value is low and it is difficult for a dog to digest.
If corn is the first, second or third ingredient on the packaged or processed dog food, don't buy it. Move on to another brand.
Soy is another carbohydrate that is found in some dog foods. Soy admittedly is high in protein, and is very beneficial in a human diet, but should be omitted in a dogs diet.
Soy binds up other nutrients and makes them unavailable for absorption. Stay away from dog foods that contain soy. Soy and corn are best fed to those species of animals that have 4 stomachs or birds with gizzards that can digest them.
Except for the fact that potatoes have more water in them, the amount of carbohydrates in potatoes is almost the same as in the cereal grains. Potatoes can be used interchangeably with other cooked grains and like grains, they should never constitute more than 40% of the dry portion of the dog food diet.
As a source of carbohydrates in a diet, whole wheat bread ranks among one of the better "natural" foods available to feed your dog. Bread has usually been fortified with vitamins and minerals, is always available, dogs like it and it's inexpensive.
Some dog owners who feed their pets natural ingredients insist that bread should be toasted before being fed to a dog. While such a practice makes the slices easier to crumble and mix with the rest of the diet, the starches in bread have already been subjected to cooking and about all toasting does is to enhance the texture of the bread.
Pasta as a Carbohydrate Food Source for Dogs
Because most carbohydrates need to be broken down before they become digestible for a dog, processing plants use a heating process (cooking essentially) to do this and heating destroys most vitamins and minerals.
In the wild, dogs received their carbohydrates already digested for them by eating the intestines and stomachs of their kill.
Be aware that many dog food manufacturers use low-quality fillers like wood fiber, corn cobs, peanut hulls, cottonseed, straw, rice hulls, and soybean hulls in their dog foods. I can not stress enough how important it is to read your labels.
Remember that foods based solely on grains for a source of protein and carbohydrates must be processed in a manner that allows the dog's digestive system to extract these nutrients.
Either putting them through a food processor or par-boiling will make them easier for your dog to digest, but may not give your pet the right amount of protein that he needs.
Dogs have a much easier time processing pasta through their systems because it has already been cooked not once, but several times, so the grain fibers have been broken down to a manageable level for a dog.
Remember to keep in mind that in dogs, as in humans, whole wheat products are more nutritious than the bleached out, nutrient-bare, white flour products.
There are two different types of fat.
There are two different types of fat. Animal fat, which is called saturated fat and vegetable fat, which is called polyunsaturated fat.
Both saturated and polyunsaturated fat are necessary ingredients in a healthy dog diet. Together they supply the essential fatty acids or EFA, necessary to maintain good health.
In the manufacturing of the majority of dog foods, fat is sprayed on the kibble as the last ingredient. This is that greasy smell that you often notice when first opening a package of dried dog food. Fat makes the dog food palatable, like potato chips and French fries.
Saturated fat comes from animal sources and is used for energy.
For dogs that exercised a lot, or if they participate in competitive events, the food has to be high in animal fat.
Sled dogs in Alaska who are trained to run the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race eat huge quantities of fat to build up a protective layer of fat under their skin which protects them from the cold. It is also for the high level of energy they will need to run the race.
Animals that are pretty much couch potatoes and lead a sedentary life do not need as much fat. Too much fat in the diet not only leads to obesity but can also cause cancer of the colon and tumors in the mammary glands.
Polyunsaturated fat comes from vegetable sources.
Good sources of vegetable fats such as flax seed oil, safflower oil, wheat germ oil, olive oil, avocado oil and corn oil. It is needed by your dog for healthy skin and coat. Too little of this fat can produce skin lesions on the belly, thighs and between the shoulder blades. If your dog has a dry coat you may need to add some oil to his food.
Linoleic acid is one of the three essential fatty acids that have to be provided daily in your dog's food. Cold-pressed safflower and flax seed oil are supposed to provide the best source of linoleic acid and are the least allergenic.
In Hawaii, all of my dogs ate avocados on a regular basis and they all had gorgeous coats and never suffered from any skin diseases. I know, I know avos are supposed to be toxic but my dogs never had a problem and lived well past their expect life span. I wonder if it is because they were organic and the dogs only ate the flesh?
I use quite a bit of olive oil here in the mainland and it seems to work very well. These oils are better for your dog than corn oil which contains only a tiny amount of linoleic acid. Flax seed oil can be difficult to digest for some of your smaller, pedigree dogs that seem to have more sensitive stomachs.
VITAMINS & MINERALS
The irony about vitamins & minerals.
The irony about vitamins & minerals is that they are added to the processed dog food by the manufacturer and at the same time they are also destroyed by the heating process. It doesn't matter how many are added, heat destroys them. Testing is not required by the FDA so no one really knows how much or how little is actually there.
There are two types of vitamins water soluble and fat soluble.
Water-soluble vitamins are the B and C vitamins. Any excess is filtered through the kidneys and urinated out between 4 to 8 hours after ingestion. For this reason, they have to be present in each meal.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble and stored in the fatty tissues of the body and the liver. Both types are needed by your dog.
Vitamins are not only lost in the manufacturing process but begin to deteriorate as soon as you open up your dog food bag and expose the food to light and air. Particularly sensitive are vitamins C and B. For this reason, it will help some to keep the food in an airtight container, away from direct sunlight.
Vitamin C is needed for healthy teeth and gums. In the ancient times, while at sea, sailors often suffered from scurvy which is a vitamin C deficiency caused by the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. Its symptoms are lethargy, anemia, spongy and inflamed gums, and dirty teeth. The same thing happens to the vitamin C deficient dog.
Unlike humans, dogs can produce minute amounts of Vitamin C, however, it is not enough for optimum health, especially in a polluted environment. Vitamin C strengthens the immune system, speeds wound healing, helps the function of the musculoskeletal system and is needed whenever the dog gets wormed, is given drugs of any kind, or put under any kind of stress.
Vitamin C is the body's primary water-soluble antioxidant, which makes it an important weapon in the immune system's arsenal against bacteria and viruses.
It also helps protect unsaturated fatty acids, and the fat-soluble vitamins A and E from being oxidized, therefore protecting their potency. Since your pet can only manufacture minute amounts of it, vitamin C must be obtained through diet and supplementation.
A lack of vitamin C in the diet commonly results in urinary tract infections, cystitis, and lumps. Vitamin C is needed to break down the animal protein in the diet and helps to keep the immune system healthy.
The B Vitamins
Vitamin B-Complex is necessary for energy and to work with enzymes in the body to change the carbohydrates into glucose, as well as to break down protein. There are not enough in any processed dog food, especially for a growing puppy, so more needs to be added to a well-balanced, healthy diet.
Minerals make up less than 2% of any formulated diet, and yet they are the most critical of nutrients. Although the dog can manufacture some vitamins on its own, he is not able to make minerals. Between 50% to 80% of minerals are destroyed in the manufacturing process by heat, we recommend that you add extra minerals to the dogs food.
Zinc is one such mineral that is an essential ingredient for skin health status and calcium is another, which is an essential ingredient for bone growth and tonicity of muscles. They should be included in a healthy dog diet.
Preservatives in dog food are a necessity for a long shelf life.
Preservatives in dog food are a necessity for a long shelf life, which affects the bottom line for dog food manufacturing companies.
If the product you are buying says "no preservatives added", this only means that the dog food manufacturing plant did not add "additional" preservatives once they received the raw meal from the rendering plants.
Preservatives are added to the dog food in the rendering plants before it gets to the manufacturers. Once the manufacturer gets it from the rendering plants they then have choices on how to preserve the fat in the food to prevent it from becoming rancid.
They can use chemical preservatives; usually BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin or propyl gallate.
If a fat is preserved with these chemicals, it will have a long shelf life and be little affected by heat and light, however, they can have lasting damaging effects on your dog's health.
If you see these ingredients, especially ethoxyquin, listed on your packaged food, move on to a healthier brand. Incidentally, ethoxyquin has been banned in the US, Australia and many European countries for human consumption. It is a pesticide considered to be a cause of kidney failure and cancer.
BHT & BHA have been banned for use in human food in Japan, Romania, Sweden, and Australia.
Propyl gallate is also suspected of causing both liver damage and cancer.
The manufacturer also has the choice to use natural preservatives, such as ascorbic acid, otherwise known as Vitamin C and tocopherol, which is Vitamin E.
The downside is a shorter shelf life, no more than six months. Oils of rosemary and clove are also natural alternatives to preserving the fats in their products.
CANNED VS. DRY
There are a wide variety of canned foods on the market, and many are meaty and high in protein. These are often best served mixed with crunchy, dry food.
How much you'll need to feed your dog will, of course, depend upon its size and age, but a helpful rule of thumb is about one can for every 20 pounds of their body weight.
Feeding dogs whenever they beg is not such a good idea as they learn very quick to do this out of habit, especially if they're bored. Better is to have a set daily feeding schedule.
Complete dry foods have about four times as many calories as canned food, so lesser quantities will be needed.
The caloric content of semi-moist food is about three times as much as canned, and also makes a complete meal in itself. It usually has a shorter shelf life than the other two varieties. Its high carbohydrate content makes it ideal for active dogs, however, it has more sugar and salt than is needed for a healthy animal.
Dog meals should be served at room temperature, and never offer a dog spoiled food. Cat food is too high in protein to be suitable for dogs on a regular bases.
Commercial dog food can be supplemented with fresh food, which is a healthier way to go. Remember to read the labels on the packaging before making your purchasing decision.
Meat, not animal by-products, should be the first two or three ingredients.
Remember to avoid foods with soybeans and excessive amounts of corn. Brown rice (not brown rice hulls), barley, oats, or millet are better. Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, green vegetables, apples, blueberries, and cranberries are full of nutrients and are a better source for fiber and carbohydrates.
Avoid foods containing the chemical preservatives BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, or propyl gallate. Instead, choose foods preserved with tocopherol (Vitamin E) and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), garlic and rosemary.
Usually, but not always, your premium brand dog foods are the best, just be sure to read the ingredient labels, not the packaging ads.
For example. IAMS and Science Diet are terrible food for your dog at a premium price. Holistic pet foods are usually the way to go with ingredients that are 100% natural but again read the labels. Often the pretty packaging will say, "All Natural" and the actual ingredients say different.
BENEFICIAL VEGETABLES & FRUITS
Beneficial vegetables are carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, green or yellow beans, sweet bell peppers, broccoli, parsnips, squash, leeks, kale, collard and turnip greens, brussel sprouts, peas and cauliflower.
When feeding fresh vegetables, such as a carrot or stalk of broccoli, with the fresh meat, be sure to put through a food processor or blender (I like the NutriBullet-Pro by Magic Bullet) to help break them down, or slightly steam the vegetables and then mix with the food.
Most dogs love salad vegetables. Just remember to process the vegetables before feeding to break down the cellulose and to aid in your dog's digestion.
Fruits may also be used. These include bananas, papayas, plums, prunes, apricots, apples or anything your dog tells you he needs. Dried fruits are wonderful as treats.
A Note On Apples & Pears:
Before feeding apples or pears, please pare and core the fruit, as the seeds are toxic to a dog and some dogs are also sensitive to the skins. Once they have been pared and cored they can be fed sparingly as most dogs love them as a treat. Some dogs will develop a mild case of diarrhea if fed too many apples at one time.
Your dog should have access to fresh water in a clean stainless steel or ceramic bowl at all times.
The exception would be for a puppy who is being house broken. Then you may want to limit puppy's access to water after 8:00 p.m. so that the puppy will last through the night without an accident.
Note: Plastic bowls are not recommended as the water will absorb the toxins in the plastic, which will then be absorbed into the dogs system.
Dogs also tend to chew the plastic bowls and swallowing a piece of plastic could be fatal. If plastic must be used, be sure to get a very heavy duty plastic that cannot be chewed.
Replace the dog food dish every year, at the very least. Two years or more and you are inviting toxins into the dogs system.
Dog Food Label "Rules" By the FDA
- The 95% Rule:
If the product says "Beef Dog Food," 95% of the product must be the named ingredients. A product with a combination label, such as "Beef and Liver for Dogs," must contain 95% beef and liver, and there must be more beef than liver since beef is named first.
- The 25% or "Dinner" Rule:
Ingredients named on the label must comprise at least 25% of the product but less than 95%, when there is a qualifying "descriptor" term like "dinner", "entres", "formula", "platter", "nuggets", etc. In "Beef Dinner for Dogs," beef may or may not be the primary ingredient. If two ingredients are named ("Beef and Turkey Dinner for Dogs"), the two ingredients must total 25%, there must be more of the first ingredient (beef) than the second (turkey), and there must be at least 3% of the lesser ingredient.
- The 3% or "With" Rule:
A product may be labeled "Dog Food with Lamb" if it contains at least 3% of the named ingredient. The "Flavor" Rule: A food may be labeled "Duck Flavor Dog Food" even if the food does not contain such ingredients, as long as there is a "sufficiently detectable" amount of flavor. This may be derived from meals, by-products, or "digests" of various parts from the animal species indicated on the label.
Raw bones are excellent, once or twice a week, as a special treat.
Dogs love large beef bones, raw chicken necks and the tips from chicken wings. You really don't need to be concerned about bacterial poisoning with dogs.
Dogs have short intestinal tracts which digest food quickly before bacteria have a chance to multiply and spread. They also have very acidic stomachs which kill off most bacteria. If you are still concerned about bacterial poisoning, douse the bones with scalding water to kill any bacteria.
Cooked bones should not be given, only raw, as they tend to splinter and can cause internal damage. The upside of feeding bones is that your dog has beautiful, pearly white teeth that don't need to be cleaned. On the downside feeding too many bones will give him constipation and hard, chalky stools.
A Dogs Age and Size Determines The Different Food Requirements
Puppies require greater amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrates and calcium than adult dogs. The growing puppy starts out needing about twice as many calories per pound of body weight as an adult dog of the same breed.
Owners should start feeding puppies food at approximately 3 weeks after birth because mother's milk is no longer sufficient. They also need to be feed more often than an adult dog.
Adult dogs should get at least 10% of their total calories from protein.
Older dogs are not as active thus need fewer carbohydrates and fat. Because of decreased physical activity and slowed metabolism, older dogs need 20% fewer total calories than do middle-aged adult dogs.
As dogs age, they tend to become overweight. It may take obese dogs longer for their blood glucose concentrations to return to normal. This disrupted carbohydrate metabolism and can lead to diabetes.
Protein works in a dog's body much like it does in a human. The more activity a dog is engaged in, the more protein is needed to strengthen and build muscle. Because of the decrease in an older dog's activity, the protein quantities need to be adjusted and they need to be easily digestible.
Dry dog food should be cut back in older dogs, as it is higher in fat and salt than canned or homemade. Too much dry dog food can cause kidney damage and lead to kidney failure.
It is easier to regulate an older dog's diet if the food is made at home. Adding raw food to the homemade food containing chicken, beef, eggs, fish, vegetables and fruits such as cranberries and blueberries, are the best food to be feeding an older dog. This type of diet is lower in fat and is easier for their systems to digest. Older
dogs appear to require somewhat more digestible protein than the adult dog, to maintain their protein reserves, perhaps as much as 50% more.
They also require more water than the younger pup. Clean bowls of fresh water should always be readily available regardless of the age or size of the dog.
Larger dogs weighing in at over 30 pounds require more wet food than a smaller dog. Smaller dogs can live on canned food, however, the caloric density of the dry food is more suitable for them. Regardless of the size, be sure that their food is either enriched with added vitamins and minerals or feed them supplements in their food.
Yummy Dog Biscuits Recipes
Link's Favorite Cheesy Dog Biscuits Recipe
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dry milk -- powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
6 tablespoons beef or bacon fat
1 egg -- beaten
1/2 cup ice water
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Lightly oil a cookie sheet.
3. Combine flour, dry milk, salt, garlic powder and sugar. Cut in meat drippings until mixture resembles cornmeal.
4. Mix in egg. Add enough water so that mixture forms a ball.
5. Using your fingers, pat out dough onto cookie sheet to half inch thick. Cut with cookie cutter (I like using bone-shaped cookie cutters) or knife and remove scraps. Scraps can be formed again and baked.
6. Bake 25-30 minutes. Remove from tray and cool on a rack.
Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits
1-1/2 c. Self-rising flour
1/4 c. cup oatmeal
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1 heaping T. honey
1 t. vanilla
2 T. shortening
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. While the oven is heating combine the flour and oats in a large bowl. Add the peanut butter, egg, honey, vanilla, and shortening to the flour and oat mixture. Mix all ingredients well.
3. Roll this mixture out 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes or shape into dog biscuits by hand.
4. Bake the biscuits for 20 minutes or until they turn slightly brown. Store in an airtight container.
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Everything You Need to Know About Your Dog's Health
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