Understanding your Dog's Nutritional Needs

What’s in your dog’s bowl is the secret to its health and well being.

There is an old saying that says “you are what you eat.” That goes for dogs as well as their human counter parts.

Proper nutrition is as important for your puppy/dog as it is for you.

A dog may look well on the outside, but could have some serious needs on the inside.

Feeding inexpensive dog food and indiscriminate table foods can only hurt your pet.

Granted we are all looking for ways to save money and anything on sale is sometimes to hard to resist.

However, when it comes to buying dog food the old adage of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” could result in higher vet bills rather than saved money.

Many years ago, dogs ate table scraps, whatever the family ate, the dog ate. Meat, vegetables, fruit and whatever else was left over got put in “Fido’s” bowl and he was one happy dog.

As the years passed, cereal companies found a great market for products left over from making packaged cereal. They began to make dry dog food, some companies even added meat to the mix.

Slowly, but surely the world of pet food, grew into what we have now, a wide enough assortment, that boggles the mind.

Making the right choices for your dog is a serious decision. There is no one food that is perfect for every dog.

Each dog has its own special needs.

What is it we need to look for when it comes to choosing the right food for our pet?

Most premium dog foods, as well as store brand dog foods, contain proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. In a perfect world with the water you supply, your puppy/dog should have all the nutrients it needs.

Inexpensive brands usually contain more cereal product such as corn, rice or wheat, very little protein, less useable vitamins and minerals and possibly more flavorings and preservatives.

If you feed your dog a premium quality food it will eat less, feel better and be healthier.

What are some of the things you should be thinking about in regard to feeding your dog?

The first thing I think you should be aware of is that there is no ”100% Complete and Balanced Food.”

Our food is not 100% complete and balanced, infant food is not and certainly our pet food is not, no matter what the label says.

No one knows 100% about nutrition. Nutrition is not a completed science, it is a combination of many sciences.

You should use the same common sense in feeding your pet as you do in feeding your family.

Pet food manufacturers follow rules set down by such agencies as the FDA and most importantly the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO,) which is an advisory board. AAFCO helps the “real” government agents make the decisions that require a certain balance of vitamins, minerals and supplements to be in the pet food.

This balance of vitamins, minerals and supplements are in truth, the bare minimum required to prevent a dog from having a nutrient deficiency.

Each state has their own members on the board and they make the decisions for their own state.

The one thing a pet owner should do is read the labels and do some research on the additives that are in some pet foods, just to see what your pet is eating. Avoid such preservatives as BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin .

Don’t be fooled by pretty pictures and descriptive adjectives on food labels.

The pet food industry is not policed effectively.

The recent scandal regarding the Diamond Pet Food Company proves that point.

The company had to recall over 34 million pounds of dog kibble that contained toxins that proved to be deadly for some dogs.

When reading labels look for certain things, high quality food will have meat as one of the first ingredients listed and a meat meal product (beef, chicken or lamb based.) If only one meat product is mentioned and it is followed by a list of grains, you will know the food is mostly grains and very little meat.

Meat or poultry by-products should really be avoided, though properly handled and clean by-products are acceptable, the problem here is “how do we know if they are clean and have been properly handled.”

Be aware of generic fats or animal fats (these fats could be recycled restaurant grease.)

It is a good idea to avoid artificial coloring (more chemicals) and sweeteners in your dog’s food. Manufacturers of lower quality food add ingredients to tempt your dog.

Baked dry dog food is really no better that the usual extruded food. Both are heated to high temperatures. Baked food has the flavor “baked into it,” while extruded food has the flavor and vitamins sprayed on after heating. Dogs seem to like the sprayed on flavor better.

When it comes to canned dog food look for dog food that lists meat, poultry or fish first and look for products that list whole vegetables after the meat and then the whole grain products.

Many pet owners believe in feeding their pets “natural foods” and that is fine if you can figure out what is natural and what is not.

If you are wondering what the definition for “natural food” is, I will quote part of the definition regarding pet food that has been given by AAFCO. “Natural food…A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subjected to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification extraction, etc., but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic, except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.”

I have read this definition over many times and I still do not fully understand it. My mind considers natural food as food that nature has supplied without a whole lot of processing.

I feel it is up to us as pet owners to use common sense in feeding our pets and strive for the best pet food we can buy. All pet food, even those made from the “best of ingredients” and are considered “complete and balanced” may contain ingredients that may be of suspicious nature.

It is best to avoid buying generic food for your pet. Some foods are too high in calories and too low in the nutritive value your pet needs.

Your pet will need to eat more pounds of the less expensive food than the higher quality food in order to maintain the same nutritional value.

Premium quality foods contain meat, lamb or chicken and less grains, they are more digestible and tend not to have dyes or other things to change its appearance or taste.

What should you be looking for?

Take time to read a few labels and see what each bag contains, you are looking for high protein and that could come from two sources, “meat by-products” which is an acceptable source of protein consisting of hearts, lungs, livers, tongues and other meat that humans do not eat.

An unacceptable source of protein is “animal by-products” as it contains such things as chicken beaks, chicken legs, hoofs, hair and other things and is not easily digested by dogs and cats.

A dog or cat would not last long if left in a corn or wheat field to live as they are not grain eaters, so be careful of buying dry food that contains mostly grains. Dogs and cats need protein.

While we have been discussing dry food and suggesting you read the labels, it is equally important to read the labels on canned food, too.

Many of the inexpensive canned foods are basically cereal products flavored with meat flavorings and/or animal by-products.

It is important to look for canned foods that have meat in them and again it boils down to cost. The more expensive canned foods contain meat.

Have you ever noticed how excited your dog gets when you feed him/her real meat? It tastes so good they gobble it down. That’s really living in a dog’s world and the meat is really good for them.

Some pet owners feel that preparing their dog’s food is the way to go.

While that is wonderful gesture and may be necessary for some dogs on a special diet, it is very hard on a 24/7 basis to feed your dog all the nutrients its body needs. Not only does it require time, it requires a basic understanding of the nutritive value of the food you are preparing.

Food is a very important part of your dog’s life, most dogs live for breakfast and dinner times. Using the common sense you use when you are planning your family’s meals will work just fine when feeding your dog.

A combination of high quality dry and canned food with occasional treats from the family dinner table will produce a happy dog.

Check with your vet as to the proper amounts to feed your dog, some dogs require less food, while other will require more.

An obese dog is not a healthy dog, so do not over feed, just because you love your dog.

Feed puppies only puppy food with the exception of large puppies such as Great Danes and such.

If you have a puppy that is going to be a large dog, talk to your vet or other health care provider for information on feeding. Some experts say for puppies that are going to grow into large dogs, it is better to feed them half puppy food and half adult dog so they will not grow too fast and cause some health problems.

When ever you have a question, it is worth your while and your dog’s to call your vet and get the correct information.

If all this information has left you wondering "what brands do I feed my pet?" You might be interested in knowing that there are many small pet food manufacturing companies that love pets as much as we do. It is their intention to make food that is totally healthy for our cats and dogs.

Where do you find them?

You find these brands in your quality pet stores and on the Internet. Only Natural Pet Store is a wonderful place to start. Only Natural Pet has a good selection of premium food for dogs along with just about everything else you might need for your pet. Take a moment to wander over and see what they have, you might be glad you did.

Ever wonder what “NOT” to feed your dog? Here is a short list of things you should not feed your dog:

  1. Alcohol –can cause intoxication, coma and death
  2. Onions – can be toxic to dogs
  3. Chocolate – can be toxic
  4. Tea/Coffee – caffeine can be toxic
  5. Grapes/raisins – can damage kidneys
  6. Human vitamins – can be toxic and damage organs
  7. Liver – large amounts can cause Vitamin A toxicity
  8. Milk and Milk products – can cause diarrhea
  9. Raw eggs – can cause skin and coat problems
  10. Cat food – too high in protein

These are just a few of the things that could be toxic to your pet.

Use common sense when feeding your pet and for your dog’s sake don’t try to be “cute” and feed it something strange to see what your dog’s reaction is.

It could mean death or a very sick dog.

In the world of pet food, we are faced with the same dilemma as we face with “people food” there are things in our processed foods that, with the passing of time, we find are not good for us. They cause certain problems for certain people and the same is true with our pet foods.

We do not live in a picture perfect world, be aware of what you are eating and take the time to be aware of what you are feeding your pet.

If you are wondering about feeding your pet vitamin supplements click on

Do Dogs Need Vitamin Supplements