Optimal Dog Nutrition Made Easy
Just walk into a grocery or pet store and you will know that dog owners face a massive number of choices when they try to figure out what to feed their dog. Add to those options the dog foods their veterinarian sells, and it’s no surprise that you might be overwhelmed by how to feed your dog. For those who want to study their options, there are the 51 million websites and over 40,000 books with advice and recipes for feeding your dog.
Holy cow, what is a dog lover to do? We’ve pulled together the four most important choices you need to make when designing your dog’s diet. These are the issues we think about, the diets we feed our dogs, and the advice that we follow to raise our healthy, stable, happy dogs.
Feed Your Dog a High Quality, Super Premium Food
The dog food business has changed dramatically over the past decade. Years ago when they thought about feeding their dog, most people either picked up a bag of name-brand dog food from the grocery store or they cooked “people food” for their beloved pooch.
However, It is no longer a simple choice to decide what to feed your dog. Nowadays people have the choice to feed, and will even debate over, the many kinds and qualities of foods are best for their dog. These choices include kibble, commercially-prepared raw diets, freeze-dried premixes, BPA-free canned dog foods, or home made diets. The one thing that most people will agree on is that dogs being fed a high quality food is more likely to be healthier and have more energy than those eating a low quality diet.
For more on BPA issues in dog food, “Are BPA Free Dog Foods Safe or Even BPA Free?”
When making the choice of what to feed your dog, be sure three of the food’s first four ingredients are animal proteins. Your dog is a carnivore. She needs a diet with high amounts of animal protein (meat, fish, poultry), a moderate amount of fat and low amount of carbohydrates. (Dogs have no physiological need for carbohydrates, except during pregnancy, nursing and weaning.) Breeding animals, such as stud dogs and brood bitches, need at least 29% protein, while weaned puppies need a little less. Senior dogs need for higher quality protein than younger dogs. Overweight dogs will lose weight more quickly on this high protein-moderate fat diet than the low-fat weight-loss foods on the market. It is better to feed less of a high quality food than a lot of a poor food.
There is no one food that is best for every dog. Each dog’s nutritional needs vary since no two dogs’ metabolisms and physiologies are the same. Give some thought to what your dog’s specific needs are based on breed, size, age and genetic disposition when making your decision on choosing her food.
Another concern today are foods that are nutritionally inadequate. Some of these foods have killed dogs (see the FDA website and Wikipedia on the 2007 pet food recall), while others have caused longterm health issues. To avoid these issues. we highly recommend you rotate the foods you feed your dog, both protein sources and manufacturers, and you add healthy whole foods to your dog’s diet. Healthy foods for dogs include vegetables other than onions and raw potatoes, meat, poultry and fish. Just as your children should not eat Total cereal, with “with 100% of the Daily Value of 11 vitamins and minerals you’ll need all day long,” every meal of every day, so your dogs should not eat the same food, day in and day out.
Much of the food that farms produce today do not contain the same nutrients they had only a few decades ago. The vitamins and minerals animals (and humans) received in their diet many years are no longer in the foods they are eating. To be sure your dog is getting the nutrition she needs you should add a vitamin-mineral supplement to her diet most days. When considering the many choices available to you, be sure to pick a supplement that tells you the amounts of each nutrient your dog will be getting. Companies must put the ingredient into the product in order to list it on the label. Be sure you are giving a supplement that will actually give your dog the nutrients she needs.
Which label looks more like the supplement you give your dog; A or B? Our preference is Label A!
Label A Label B
A- Rice Flour, Dicalcium Phosphate, Beef Liver, Alfalfa, Cinnamon, Ginger, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin, Vitamin E Acetate (dl alpha tocopherol), dl-methionine, Vitamin A Acetate, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Carbonate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Cobalt Carbonate, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)
If you are breeding your dogs or raising puppies, one of the most mineral ratios to monitor is the calcium to phosphorus ratio. This ratio compares the amount of calcium in the dog’s diet to the amount of phosphorus. It is usually written Ca:Ph and might look like 1.2:1, which means there are 1.2 units of calcium for every 1 unit of phosphorous. Breeding animals need a Ca:Ph ratio ranging from 1:1 to 1.2:1.
We have used Advanced Veterinary Nutrition’s ProBalance Canine Wellness Formula for our dogs for nearly 15 years. This product was formulated by Dr. Bill Barnett DVM to provide essential nutrients for growing, adult and senior pets. ProBalance contains all 10 essential amino acids, as well as all essential fatty acids, all 23 essential vitamins and minerals, and 36 additional nutrients that cannot be found in today’s pet foods.
While there are many products on the market today that will help feed your dog well, please be sure that you know that you are giving her a product that will truly benefit her well-being and not just something you purchased because of good marketing. Be an informed consumer! Start with getting the product’s guaranteed analysis. For nutritional supplements, this analysis should go far beyond the percentages of protein, fat and fiber. It should tell you how much of each vitamin and mineral is in the supplement, as well as any other nutrients.
Wild Alaskan or North American Salmon Oil
Although there are some breeds of dogs that are predisposed to cancer, all dogs should be given the best chance to ward off the dreaded disease. According to Dr. Greg Ogilvie, an important essential fatty acid (EFA) called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has strong cancer-preventative properties. One of the best sources of DHA is wild fish oil.
For more on the importance of DHA in dogs’ diets, read “Ever Wonder Why Dogs Need Omega 3 Fatty Acids?”
You want to be sure to feed your dog enough DHA each day. The simplest way to figure out the proper dose for your dog is to just multiply her weight by 15. Here is an example: My oldest dog Goose was 70 pounds. 70 x 15 = 1,050 so he needed 1,050 mg of DHA daily through either 3 pumps daily of Grizzly Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil or 5 pumps daily of Grizzly Wild Pollock Oil. These oils provide both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA, two of the only Omega-3 fatty acids that are readily accessible for canine metabolism.
Aside from the cancer-preventative properties, DHA also helps cellular function of the brain and heart, decreases inflammation, improves semen quality and quantity, and protects cells against arthritis and allergies. It is particularly critical during the pre- and neonatal stages so all brood bitches and puppies should be getting at least 15 milligrams DHA for each pound of body weight daily.
Unlike farm-raised salmon, which are subject to the possible pollution or contamination often found in commercial farming, ocean cages, or other closed communities wild salmon are free-swimming in the oceans of the North Atlantic and Alaska. Not all fish oils are the same. A friend of mine was so excited because she found inexpensive fish oil in one of the membership big box stores. After calculating how many capsules she would need to give her dog a protective dose of DHA, and finding that it was 16 she realized it was not quite the bargain she had hoped. So again, read the label!!!
The word probiotic literally means “for life.” Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, have a beneficial effect on its host. In order for a probiotic to be effective in dogs, it must survive the heat and acid in the stomach to reach the intestines where it may correct digestive imbalances.
The probiotic (good bacteria) will produce enzymes which help digest proteins, fats and carbohydrates. It also will balance the intestinal flora that live naturally in the digestive tract. This balance can be difficult for a dog’s GI system to maintain when your dog is dealing with stress; pollutions; medications, such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or steroids. When ingested, these living microorganisms will replenish the microflora in your dog’s intestinal tract. This results in the promotion of a number of health-enhancing functions, a few of which are improved digestive function, regulating bowel movements, controlling yeast and candida, alleviating food allergies, restoring energy, fighting tooth decay and, most importantly, strengthening the immune system.
Some probiotics need to be refrigerated. Other hardy bacteria like Bacillus coagulans can withstand the stomach’s acid because they are heat resistant and naturally microencapsulated which aids in their stability in the GI tract. Be sure to read the label of any probiotic you use to be sure it is being stored in a way that keeps the product viable.
We use primarily single-organism probiotics for our dogs, those that contain only one species of beneficial bacterial. However, recent research in humans shows nearly equal benefit from multi-organism probiotics. For daily support we use Geneflora, which contains the bacteria Bacillus coagulans, which forms spores so is resistant to heat and light. We rotate Geneflora with Purina’s FortiFlora, another excellent probiotic. For our older dogs, we might add in Dr Goodpet Digestive Enzymes if their guts are not working perfectly.
We are often asked, “Why can’t you just feed your dog yogurt?” Since there are no studies showing that dogs should have dairy in their diet, we don’t feed yogurt. Additionally, L. acidophilus (which is the bacteria found in yogurt) does not survive well in canine stomachs so loses much of its potency during digestion and delivers fewer living organisms to the small intestine. You’ve seen Jamie Lee Curtis on television every day encouraging you to eat Activia® to improve your digestive health. While the yogurt may help you if you eat enough of it daily, both you and your dog would benefit greatly by taking a good-quality probiotic each and every day.
… we will add a 5th supplement to the list of must feeds. We highly recommend golden retrievers be given an eye supplement called Ocu-Glo for life, starting on their first birthday.
Here’s why. Pigmentary uveitis (PU), also known as golden retriever uveitis (GRU), has shown up in the eyes of golden retrievers as young as 2 and as old as 14, and because this disease, if not caught early, can result in the loss of your dog’s eye(s), we recommend all goldens be supplemented with Ocu-Glo for life! Although studies have not been completed with respect to Ocu-Glo and PU, there is anecdotal evidence that it helps stop the progression of the disease and in some cases may have reversed the disease.
Visit these links for more information about PU: