Your dog's health can be deteriorating for months and sometimes even years without you noticing. In the article below written by award-winning Dr. Tuk, learn exactly what can be affecting your dog's health and what you can do to stop it.
By Dr. Edward Tuk, DVM
Dr. Edward Tuk, DVM
Dr. Tuk is an award-winning veterinarian and author of three books on canine nutrition.
Did you know that common issues for dogs including bad breath, stinky poop, itchy skin, lower energy, or being overweight - all can be a result of your dog’s diet?
It’s pretty obvious that we humans are impacted by the food we eat. If we eat high quality protein and a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, we’re going to feel a whole lot healthier than if we were to spend years eating a diet of fried food and cookies.
The same is true for our dogs.
That sounds obvious, and simple – yet millions of dog lovers have no idea that their dogs are NOT getting the nutrition they need for optimum health.
As a veterinarian and the author of several books on canine nutrition, I can tell you based on first-hand experience with thousands of dogs, that nutrition has a massive impact on our dog’s health -- and on the quality and length of their lives.
This isn’t just my opinion as a veterinarian. Scientific research is steadily proving the link between what dogs eat and their health outcomes.
A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that the dogs who ate certain vegetables had a 70% to 90% lower risk of developing cancer, compared to the dogs that consumed the least amount of those vegetables.
So, the question is, how should dog owners make sure their dogs are getting the proper nutrition for their optimal health?
With all of the dog foods available to choose from, and all the competing advertisements, it’s hard for people to know how to choose what’s right for their dog.
I’m going to lay out some facts and suggestions in this article to help.
Commercial Dog Food
The majority of dogs primarily eat commercial dog food – some combination of dry kibble and moist canned food. And while there are significant variations between different brands and products, here are a few general points to keep in mind:
First, ignore the marketing efforts of the manufacturers, and focus on the ingredients within the food. The word ‘premium’ on the package does nothing for your dog – it’s what your dog actually eats that counts!
Second, try to avoid ‘filler’ ingredients like corn, soy, and wheat. These ingredients generally aren’t harmful, but they are not particularly nutritious, and (as with human food) we want to make our dogs’ calories as nutrient-rich as possible.
Third, dogs need plenty of protein. If the first ingredient on the dog food label isn’t a protein (typically chicken, beef, or some other meat), that is often a red flag indicating that the food may not contain sufficient protein – particularly if the food contains fillers.
Fourth, the quality of the meat source matters. Whole meat (often listed on the label simply as ‘chicken’ or ‘beef’) is better than processed meat such as chicken by-products or ‘chicken meal’. Avoid non-specific proteins like “meat meal” or “meat by-products” as those are generally very low in quality. And also check the source of the meat -- some locations like New Zealand are well-regarded for the quality of their meats, while other locations including parts of Asia have less stringent quality control standards.
Last but not least, regardless of the specific brand or product you choose, don’t rely just on the commercial dog food to provide all the nutrients your dog needs. This is because the manufacturers need to design the food so that it has a long shelf life – up to two or three years – so they use a very high-pressure and high-temperature cooking process, which unfortunately is not hospitable to the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that were in the original ingredients.
I always tell my clients to picture the same process with an apple. If you took a fresh apple, and cooked it under incredibly high pressure, until it turned into a dense brown piece of kibble about the size of a pea, which do you think would be healthier - the original apple, or that clump of kibble?
So, if commercial dog food is a substantial part of your dog’s diet, be sure your dog is getting plenty of nutrients from sources other than the commercial food. I would recommend a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, and/or using a high-quality nutritional supplement. (I am admittedly a bit biased on this latter suggestion but the nutritional company I work with, Canine Sciences, makes a great nutritional supplement called Radiant Canine.
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