What Should We Feed Our Dogs and Are Supplements Necessary?
The title of this blog is quite a mouth full and in the course of the following paragraphs I will attempt to make this all a little simpler.
Today’s market place is filled with all kinds of dog food products that proclaim that they are the best.
If they aren’t all “natural” than they are “organic” and some even proclaim to be “naturally organic.”
What does it all mean and what do we believe?
The pet food market is very competitive, it is a race to see who can come up with the best “buzz words” that will drive the buyer to its product.
If the truth be known, most of the words on the packages of dog food are worthless.
Ironically the important things like calorie content, percentages of protein and fat in the product and what is the total amount of carbohydrates are missing on most packages.
The pet food industry is watched over by several governmental agencies and figuring out exactly what that means is open to interpretation.
The FDA which has a Center for Veterinary Medicine can define “organic and holistic” in reference to our human food, but has not come up with a proper definition in relation to pet food.
It is up to you the consumer (pet owner) to decide for yourself whatever you want the definition to be.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials has a list of guidelines for pet food manufacturers to follow; the guidelines in my eyes are a little “loosey goosey.”
It seems to me that it gives the pet food manufacturers the ability to interpret it in many different ways.
For example ingredients are to be listed on the package labels in the order of the largest amount first and then gradually descend to the smallest amount.
Naturally, pet food manufacturers want you to believe that “meat” is one of the foremost ingredients in their product, when in truth, corn may be the highest ingredient. By splitting corn into ground corn and a corn gluten meal it is possible to lower its ranking and make “meat look like the winner.
Trying to read a pet food label is like trying to read a foreign language newspaper, when you do not know the language.
There is no way you will understand it.
So what is a pet owner to do?
We want to feed our pets the best possible food we can afford.
Is there a simple way to figure this out?
The better pet food companies usually run what is known as six-month trials, where a group of pets are fed the pet food the entire time.
The pets are examined by a vet before the trial begins and then after.
The results are then documented and usually printed on the dog food labels.
What does this prove?
It let’s you know that real pets ate the food and survived.
Do you know that it is very possible that a pet food can come on the market that has never been served to a single pet?
I realize that the further I get into this discussion the more confusing it gets.
It seems like a vicious circle, when trying to really know what you are feeding your pet, as reading labels truly does not help.
My suggestion, try talking to your vet, granted they more than likely, do not have a degree in pet nutrition, but they have been around long enough to give you some ideas.
Yes, I know most every veterinary clinic has a brand of dog food they are selling, but you don’t have to buy it.
Tell your vet what brand you are feeding your dog and generally speaking, your vet will have heard something about it and can give you an opinion.
All this now leads us to the question “are supplements necessary for your dog?”
The simple answer is “if your dog is being fed a complete and balanced dog food, supplements are usually not necessary.”
We are back to that vicious circle again.
The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine regulates animal medication and animal health supplements.
The FDA is the ultimate regulatory authority over all this, which includes animal food, however due to lack of resources, the FDA has found it difficult to patrol the pet industry adequately.
In most cases it is up to each state to regulate its pet food industry.
In general if your dog is in good health, its eyes are bright and its fur and skin in good condition, it is safe to say that supplements are not necessary.
Do not begin giving your pet supplements without first talking to your vet about the need.
I do not intend to go into the pro’s and con’s of supplements or vitamins, but will try to give you a few guidelines to follow. Your vet or other animal care person should be able to give you the right road to follow.
Here are a few things to keep in mind: Do some research on the supplements you are thinking about. Make certain the labels give specific instructions.
Cheap is not better. Some ingredients may be missing. If it sounds too good to be true. Be wary. Look for a lot or batch number. That means there is some sort of quality control being done.
Natural ingredients are not always safe. Be wary of ingredients that are listed as blends. Each ingredient should be listed by itself.
What supplements should you consider?
Here is a short list, but again consult your vet or other animal care provider:
Antioxidants: considered for older dogs to help repair cell damage.
Digestive enzymes: an aid to help older dogs breakdown and digest food.
Fatty acids: good for skin, coat and joints. Talk to your vet.
Glucosamine and chondroitin: good for older arthritic dogs and for joint support.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind is the health of your dog.
If your dog is frisky, bright eyed and its skin and coat are in good condition, you are doing a good job with what you are doing now.
Yearly visits to the vet for annual physicals and necessary shots should keep your pet well.
As your pet gets older, adjustments may have to be made in its diet and supplements may have to be added.
Do not take on the responsibility of adding or subtracting things such as vitamins or supplements without first talking to your vet or other animal care provider.