Why is Nutrition so Important for my Dog?

In addition to veterinarians asking dog owners what type of food and treats their dogs consume to help evaluate the dog’s health, almost all certified dog trainers ask this, as well. But, why would a dog trainer care what your dog eats? It’s because nutrition affects a dog’s behavior. Poor nutrition can contribute to a number of behavioral issues in dogs.

For instance, food that provides excess sugar and unhealthy chemicals, can cause dogs who are already aggressive, anxious, hyper, or fearful, to be even more so.

Some areas where poor nutrition can affect a dog’s behavior include:

* Begging - Some dominate dogs may demand food. For dominate dogs, first revisit the leadership exercises to establish you as the leader before working on curbing begging.

* Digging - Some dogs like to bury bones or other objects and dig them up later which can encourage the digging behavior. One reason dogs may do this is that they are being overfed and want to save some of the food for later.

* Counter Surfing - If dogs get people food, this can lead to counter surfing, begging and trying to eat food from the table.

* Stool Eating – If the dog is underfed they may eat their stool if they are hungry.

o If the dog food is of poor quality, he could be suffering from malnutrition or vitamin and mineral deficiencies which could cause him to eat things in addition to his regular diet.

o Feed your dog several times a day to make sure the dog is getting the necessary nutrients and that he doesn’t get overly hungry between feeding times.

o Chose a premium dog food that is more digestible. You could also investigate adding enzyme supplements to improve nutrient digestion or absorption.

o If the dog is fed too many treats, he may be too full to complete his balanced meals which could lead to malnutrition or vitamin and mineral deficiencies and cause him to eat things in addition to his regular diet.

* Chewing - An improper diet can cause the dog to look for what’s missing in his diet by chewing on inappropriate objects or if the puppy is only on a soft-food diet, he may not be getting enough hard chewing activity and will resort to chewing on inappropriate objects.

Trying to find the right dog food for your dog just based on its label can be confusing, to say the least. Each brand of food tries to differentiate itself from its competitors. Sure, it’s easy to find food that is appropriate for puppies vs. overweight or elderly dogs, but how do you know exactly what type of food to buy? The best way to differentiate what the manufacturer is advertising, and what the quality of the product really is, is to learn how to read what’s in the label.

By law, dog food manufacturers must list the ingredients in descending order by bulk weight. For example, a bag of dry dog kibble that lists the first three ingredients as “chicken meal, chicken by-product meal, rice” has more chicken meal than the other ingredients. Since dogs mainly eat meat, look for labels whose two primary ingredients contain meet.

Although there is a wide variety of meat sources like chicken, lamb, turkey, venison, beef, and even fish options like salmon, you should take note of the different grades of meat. For example, if a label just says chicken, that means just what it says – lean chicken muscle tissue, which is the highest quality label.

If the label says, “chicken meal”, instead, it means that it was made from rendered muscle and tissue. Rendering basically means separating fat-soluble from water-soluble materials, which, may alter some of the proteins and natural enzymes after most of the water is removed. Lastly, if the label just says “meal”, look for the source of the “meal”. Meaning, if it says, “poultry meal”, look to see if that means “chicken meal” or “turkey” meal, etc. If the exact source of the “meal” isn’t listed, look for a higher quality of food.

The poorest quality would indicate “by-products”. You may have heard or seen dog food commercials referencing “chicken by-products.” What they mean by this, is that the by-products would contain parts of the chicken like feet, intestines, heads, etc. If you see “by-products” high on the list of label ingredients, the food is not high quality, and should be avoided if possible.

Some manufactures try to get around these stipulations to make their brand of dog food seem healthier by breaking down the less quality ingredients into parts so that they can be listed separately. The manufacturer can take these granular parts, and put the less desirable ingredients further down the ingredient list. For example, the ingredient list might include “turkey meal, ground turkey, corn meal, corn gluten meal.” However, if all of the corn products were grouped together, you would find that there would be more corn than turkey by bulk weight, which would result in corn having to be listed first in the ingredient list.t.

You have also probably seen that corn is often an ingredient in dog foods. Corn can cause problems with dogs, because dogs could be allergic to it. Dogs with corn allergies, can exhibit itchy skin, and hyperactivity. It is recommended to avoid dog food that contains artificial colors or flavors, and anything that isn’t specific as to the source (for instance, animal fat, vs. turkey fat).

When you get to the section of the dog food ingredient label that starts with “preserved with…”, look for healthy preservatives like vitamin C (aka ascorbic acid) and vitamin E (aka mixed tocopherols). Avoid any ingredients like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, as they can potentially cause cancer.

Before you switch from one brand of food to another, do it slowly over a week. Add some of the new food into the dog’s original food a little more as you decrease the original food to help prevent any Gastrointestinal issues.

To switch from one food to another, do it gradually over the course of a week. Add in more of the new food little by little as you decrease the amount of the old.

In general, supermarket brands are of lower quality than those found at pet stores. Higher quality foods are more expensive, but because they contain more nutrients, less is needed per meal, so not only does it balance out the price of the food, the dog’s body is able to absorb more nutrients, which results in less stool.

Providing high quality dog food to your dog not only helps keep your dog healthy, it could also result in less veterinarian visits.

If your dog has a medical condition, discuss any dietary changes with your veterinarian.