For most dogs, the days of table scraps are over. The pet food industry offers us a huge variety of convenient, ready-made dog foods.
Even in supermarkets, you can find food for small, medium, and large breeds; for different life stages from puppyhood to old age; and for dogs with a multitude of challenges, such as skin problems, too much weight, or allergies. For dogs with allergies to meat, several brands of vegetarian formulas are available. These foods can come in a variety of forms: dry kibble, semi-moist, and canned.
The many varieties of dog food have one thing in common: The claim to provide balanced nutrition, and the promise to make our dogs live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Do these claims and promises hold up?
All dog food manufacturers are legally required to list the ingredients on the packaging, in order of amount. Here are some guidelines to help select a high-quality food for your best friend.
What’s Inside the Package?
Dry food is generally preferable to canned or semi-moist foods. Avoid controversial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and sodium nitrate. Instead, choose foods that are preserved with mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), rosemary extract, and citric acid.
Other less desirable ingredients are meat byproducts and byproduct meals, propylene glycol, sugars (fructooligosaccharides or saccharides) powdered cellulose, peanut hulls, and artificial colours and flavours.
Avoid dog foods with large amounts of corn and wheat products since many dogs are allergic to these. Nutritionally speaking, brown rice, millet, barley, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal are
superior sources of carbohydrates.
Look for foods with wholesome ingredients. Chicken, fish, or lamb should be the first ingredient, followed by high-quality carbohydrates. Good sources of fat are chicken fat (if preserved with mixed tocopherols), and vegetable oils such as canola oil. The bottom third of the ingredient list generally itemizes vitamins and minerals.
Much research has been done on dogs who have difficulties breaking down animal protein (meat), or who are simply allergic to it. My 10-year-old Dalmatian, Samson, is a perfect example.
Due to a genetic predisposition, Samson cannot digest meat properly. Itchy skin, hot spots, irritated membranes, and urinary crystals are all symptoms. For most of his otherwise healthy life he has thrived on a vegetarian formula. But not all vegetarian formulas are the same. Compare ingredient lists to make sure you get the best value.
Treats to Beg For
Instead of giving your companion store-bought treats, try pieces of fruit and vegetables. Most dogs love the crunchiness of carrots and apples. Bananas, oranges, and red or green peppers are also good choices.
Discuss supplements with your veterinarian to find out what dosage is right to keep your best friend healthy and happy.
Since most dog foods have the proper balance of vitamins and minerals, it is normally not necessary to supplement. But there are some exceptions.
To control fleas, try adding garlic (supplement or powder) and a vitamin-B complex to your dog’s diet. Brewer’s yeast applied to the fur may also help.
For help with digestive problems, plain yogourt, or yogourt cultures in capsule form may help. Always start with small amounts, and increase slowly.
For skin problems, flaxseed oil, fish oil, and vitamin E supplements work wonders.
For older dogs with joint problems, glucosamines and chondroitin bring relief.
While your companion is enjoying this special treat, the garlic may help to keep the fleas at bay!
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (385 mL) uncooked oatmeal
1 1/2 cups (385 mL) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups (385 mL) corn meal
4 Tbsp (60 mL) garlic powder
1/2 cup (125 mL) oat bran
1/3 cup (75 mL) olive oil
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) vegetable stock
Mix dry ingredients. Add oil, egg, and stock. Mix to form soft dough, and then roll it out to 1/2-in (1.25-cm) thickness. Use cookie cutter to cut into desired shapes. Bake at 300 F (150 C) for two hours. Turn the oven off; let the cookies sit until oven is completely cool to dry and harden them. Cookies will keep for several weeks.