If we are what we eat, then our best friends, our pets, are what we give them to eat. Dogs do not get to choose their diet, so to support our companions’ optimum health, it’s important that dog owners learn about pet nutrition.
Recently at Petsmart, I walked down rows of different dog food looking for a healthy kibble choice for my two dogs. My dad used to say that if you do not know what is good, buy what is the most expensive. Automatically, I started for the most expensive foods. Coupled with my father’s advice, I have also learned about the importance of checking ingredients. To my chagrin, I realized that I could spend $20 for a little bag of Royal Canin dog food, recommended by some vets, that has corn, a cheap filler that has no nutritional value for dogs, as one of the first ingredients. Moreover, their labels claim that a particular bag of food is “scientifically developed” for a Golden Retriever puppy or a German Shepherd adult, but the ingredient lists do not vary much, if at all.
National chains, such as Petsmart and Petco, have their place. However many conscientious vets recommend visiting one of the local pet shops where one can get advice from knowledgeable staff.
I searched for a pet nutritionist in the Salt Lake City area but was unsuccessful. In the end, I was directed to Alexis Butler, owner of The Dog’s Meow, a pet shop that has been in operation for 19 years.
According to Alexis, there is no perfect diet for all dogs. “There are so many different situations that warrant different directions,” she said.
It is hard to believe that it can be healthy to consume, day after day, the same kind of food. It just does not seem natural for a dog with his strong canine teeth to eat kibble. I believe that healthy non-processed foods are better for my dog than an all-processed food diet, which is why on most days I prepare healthy side dishes for my dogs.
I choose to give my Golden Retriever raw meat mixed with boiled or shredded vegetables. I also add a vitamin/mineral, calcium supplement as well as fish oils. Many followers of a raw meat diet will state that raw meat contains all the nutrients that a dog needs. However, I arrived at the current diet regime for my dog by observing her reactions to different forms of food and by working closely with my vet.
There are many resources online and in print when it comes to a healthy dog diet. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish reputable information from the rant. And although it seems that there is no official pet nutritionist in Salt Lake City, many holistic vets pay close attention to animal diets.
Cheap commercial dog kibble found in supermarkets contains cheap filler carbohydrates such as corn, wheat, soy, and potatoes, all of which can cause allergies and inflammation that, for example, can destroy joint cartilage leading to aggravation of arthritis. Raw meat, however, has not been processed and therefore contains enzymes essential for the proper absorption of nutrients.
Dogs are our best friends and they deserve to eat well. Good food is worth paying for and is still less expensive than treating diseases caused by poor nutrition.