AUTHOR: Sue French
Since the infamous pet food recall in March 2007, dog owners have had their confidence in the commercial pet food industry shaken, and justifiably so. In today's age of information, you'd think it would be easy to find the best way to feed our canine friends. It's true there is a lot of information available, but so much of it is contradictory or biased that it becomes more confusing than helpful. I hope that by debunking a few common myths, I can help anyone who is struggling with the question of what to feed their dog.
1. Only commercially prepared dog food offers a "complete and balanced" diet: Surely we have been brainwashed here? The pet food industry is so lucrative for the big-name manufacturers, that they devote a huge budget to marketing, advertising and seductive packaging. If anyone tried to tell a mother that the only way she could feed her children "complete and balanced" nutrition was with a processed, packaged (or canned) food and nothing else, she would be horrified! How did dogs survive before commercial dog food was available?
2. Dry dog food benefits teeth and gums: Are biscuits good for our kids' teeth? We are supposed to believe that chewing hard biscuits mimics the effect of chewing raw meat. In reality, stale material lodges around the dog's teeth, causing plaque buildup.
3. Eating the same food every day is better for my dog's digestion: While it is true that you should make radical changes to your dog's diet gradually, a variety of meal ingredients given as part of the regular diet is no more disturbing to our dogs than it is to us.
4. Changing my dog's diet will cause diarrhea: Commercial dog foods can include a lot of "filler" ingredients, causing production of large stools. Artificial "stool hardeners" in the foods prevent these large stools from also being objectionably loose. If you decide to change your dog to "real" food, make the change slowly, gradually weaning the dog off the "artificial" food over several days. Introduce new foods one at a time. Your dog's stools will become smaller and less offensive. They might seem soft initially, but will eventually settle to being soft but formed.
5. Too much fat is bad for dogs: Obesity is now a major human health concern. As humans, we are constantly encouraged to eat less fat. Dogs, however, do not have the same issues with animal fat. In fact, unless your dog is overweight, he actually needs fat in his diet, especially if he is a working dog, or very active. We humans use carbohydrate food (grains, cereals, fruit and vegetables) for energy. The canine digestive system is designed to process meat, bones and fats; dogs need fat for energy.
6. Bones are bad for dogs: Wrong! Cooked bones are bad for dogs. They can splinter and damage the gut. However, managed sensibly, raw bones are beneficial to teeth and gums and provide a relaxing treat. If you are worried about feeding raw bones, use mutton flap or brisket, both of which contain quite soft bones.
7. Milk products are bad for dogs: Some adult dogs can lack the digestive enzyme needed to process lactose. Try your dog with a small volume of milk to see what happens. Milk products such as yoghurt (natural, unsweetened), cottage cheese, and buttermilk are excellent foods for dogs, and good sources of bioavailable calcium.
8. Raw food is dangerous for dogs because of bacterial contamination: When handling raw meat for dogs, we need to practice the same standards of hygiene that we use for our own food. This is more to protect ourselves than to protect our dogs. Dog saliva has an enzyme that destroys pathogenic organisms; canine stomach acid is strong enough to destroy harmful bacteria. Keep a separate chopping board for meat; wash your hands and utensils after preparing your dog's food; keep leftovers covered and refrigerated; keep raw meat wrapped in the fridge.
9. Raw eggs are bad for dogs: Raw eggs contain a substance that interferes with the absorption of biotin. However, eggs are such a valuable nutrient source that their benefits far outweigh this small disadvantage.
10. Older dogs need less protein: Actually, older dogs need more protein, and better quality protein because as they age, their digestive systems become less efficient. Good quality (animal) protein is more easily utilized and more nutritious for them.
Nothing will ever be as easy as pouring the kibble into a bowl, but with a little planning and organization, feeding real food, homemade from wholesome ingredients, need not be complicated. The joy with which your dog eats, the security that comes from knowing his food is safe, the improved health of your dog, and the saving in veterinary costs can make this small effort very rewarding.
If you would like to know more about choosing how to feed your dog, you can sign up for a free, 7-day ecourse at http://dogfoodmiracle.com/