Your dog and a healthy diet

A healthy and balanced diet is probably one of the most important pillars of your dog’s health. Unfortunately, many dog owners have conveniently surrendered their responsibility for the well-being of their dogs to pet food conglomerates. After all, it is a lot more convenient to buy a bag of dog food from a company that woos you with fancy advertising slogans than to do your own research on what is best for your dog.

There has been a lot of talk about the potential side effects of feeding dogs’ commercial dog food. Once you learn about what actually makes it into some of these “premium products”, it is almost impossible to continue feeding them to your furry friend. This does not mean that all commercial dog food is bad! There some good products in the market, but you need to look for them by comparing ingredient lists and not advertising claims. I have switched my dog completely to a home-prepared diet. I did not do this because I felt the holistic brand that I fed him as a puppy was substandard; I did this because preparing your dog’s own food gives you much greater control over ingredients and its nutritional contents.

Compare it to home-cooked meals versus eating out at fast food restaurants. In the realm of natural diets, you encounter several different variations of the same concept ranging from “BARF” (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) based on fresh uncooked meats, vegetables and fruits to, “raw feeding” or the “prey model”, which refers to meat and bone only diets the way that carnivores eat. Since we have yet to hear anything about the dangers of adding vegetables to your dog’s diet, I have chosen to follow the BARF diet which will be subject of another article soon to be published.

This section is intended for readers that continue to feed their dogs with commercial dog food  for convenience reasons (a quality holistic brand I hope…). If that is you, take a look at the list below to learn what common human-food ingredients make a great addition to your dog’s dry food diet. If you are not sure about what commercial food brand to select as the basic “dry food” ingredient for your dogs diet, read the article on commercial dog food here.

This list below certainly is not all-inclusive – Always ask your veterinarian if you are unsure about what to feed your dog. If you can think of another food item that should be mentioned here, please contact us. Remember to always provide plenty of fresh water with your dog’s food.

Human food products that are good for dogs:

Carrots

Carrots are very rich in vitamins and if you teach your dog early on, they can become a great treat “substitute”. I feed Andy baby carrots instead of biscuits as a treat.

Cottage Cheese

Dogs lack the enzyme required to digest the lactose in milk and cheese. Cottage cheese however contains only very small amounts of lactose and it is an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, protein and vitamins.

Bananas

Bananas make a great snack for dogs. Whenever I peel one, I can’t get Andy off my side… Just feed them in moderation because they contain a lot of sugar (which can lead to constipation – and obesity).

Beef Liver

Liver is very nutritious for your dog but it should be fed in moderation to avoid hypervitaminosis A (excessive accumulation of a vitamin A). Most other organ meats, like hearts and gizzards, are nutritionally more like muscle meats and can be fed in greater quantity.

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Dark green leafy vegetables such as chard, kale, dandelion and mustard greens are a great addition to your dogs diet. They contain plenty of vitamins, minerals and they have been found in some studies to prevent or retard the growth of some cancers in dogs. Many veggies can be served raw, lightly steamed or in juice form. Since dogs have short digestive tracts, you may want to puree or steam the vegetables to enable your dog to digest them better. Stay away from nightshade vegetables as some say they can cause skin problems. Members of the nightshade family include: eggplants, green peppers potatoes, onions (toxic to dogs), chives (toxic to dogs), garlic (toxic to dogs) and tomatoes. You should also avoid spinach due its high oxalic content (which can lead to kidney stones and a depletion of calcium in the body) as well as artichokes and legumes.

Eggs

There are a lot of different opinions out there on whether the yolks in raw eggs contain enough biotin to make up for what the raw egg whites destroy. I feed whole raw eggs to Andy because they are very nutritious and the egg shell is a good source of calcium. I only feeds fresh eggs from a reputable source in order to minimize the risk of any potential bacteria contamination.

Fresh Fruit

see Dark Green Leafy Vegetables.

Fresh Fish

Fresh fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. If you use canned fish, make sure you clean it thoroughly under running water to get rid of any of the salt or oil that is usually added to the can. Some types of fish may contain high levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and other environmental contaminants. For this reason, only use fish that comes from clean waters. Further, potential exposure to some contaminants can be reduced by removing the skin and surface fat from these fish before feeding. I do not feed fish bones and I never feed any salmon.

Fish Oil

Most people know about the benefits of fish-oil to humans, but only few know that it is also great for dogs. Veterinarians first used fish oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids to treat allergies in dogs but now recommend it for a wide variety of conditions ranging from arthritis, high cholesterol to kidney disease. It also improves your dog’s coat and helps to prevent skin allergies. If you use fish oil capsules that are intended for human consumption, you can give larger dogs a capsule or two (depending on the dosage) and puncture a capsule to squeeze some of the contents into the food of smaller dogs. Before dosing your dog with fish oil meant for humans or pets, consult your vet with regard to dosage.

Oatmeal

Oats are a very nutritious and gluten-free grain with significant levels of thiamine and vitamin E.

Raw lean meat

Raw lean meat is a great source of protein and other vital nutrition for your dog. Examples are chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, goat, duck and so on. Avoid pork. Since there is always a risk of bacteria contamination when feeding raw, I only use human-grade meat to minimize any potential exposure.

Salad

Salad is a great source of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Salad also helps your dogs digestion and it softens its stool. Just like with dark green leafy vegetables, you may want to puree the salad to enable your dog to digest it better.

 

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