Keeping Them Healthy with Good Nutrition
By Sarah Adams
We all want our dogs to live long and healthy lives. There are no guarantees, but there are steps we can take to give our dogs an edge. Filtered versus tap water, daily exercise, and minimal exposure to chemicals are all important, but good nutrition is essential for a healthy life.
You have the power to significantly boost your dog’s health by feeding him whole, real food versus a commercially processed diet. You can choose to feed raw, freeze dried, dehydrated, or air-dried, which all contain organic or human-grade meats, organs, vegetables, and supplements from reliable sources. These fresh, whole foods offer a superior level of nutrition that dry kibble can never match. However, if dry kibble is the only option you can currently consider, there are ways to make it safer and more nutritious.
First, look for lots of animal protein at the beginning of the ingredient list, and make sure the proteins are identified by species such as “chicken” or “beef” versus “meat” or “poultry.” The ingredient list should include whole-food ingredients such as organs, fish, vegetables, fruits, and other carbohydrate sources like potato or chickpeas. The ingredient list should not include meat or poultry by-products, a generic fat source like “animal fat,” added sweeteners, or artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives such as BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin. One of the kibble brands that we often see on television commercials contains whole-grain corn, meat and bone meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat, and soybean meal. For your dog’s health, always read the ingredient panel!
To help minimize unknown excesses or deficiencies within the brands of kibble diets, rotate the meat sources within the brand as well as rotating the actual brands. Can you imagine having to eat the same dry food every day for your entire life? By providing variety from the beginning, your dog will have a stronger digestive tract. On the same note, it’s not natural for dogs to eat dry food all the time. Add water, low-sodium broth, or raw goat’s milk to moisten the kibble before serving.
Because kibble is heated several times at such high temperatures, both good and bad bacteria are destroyed. This can lead to health issues. Up to eighty percent of a dog’s immune system is located in the digestive system, and good bacteria contribute to a healthy intestinal lining. If this lining is inadequate, undigested proteins enter the blood stream to the liver. Because the liver doesn’t recognize these proteins, the body responds with inflammation, which results in skin allergies and other illnesses. Add a refrigerated probiotic at night several hours after eating so the good bacteria can take hold in the colon.
Enzymes are the catalyst that breaks down food so it can be absorbed into the blood stream. The enzymes present in fresh foods can promote the digestive process, but there are no live enzymes in kibble. It’s important to add enzymes in powdered form to your dog’s kibble at each meal.
Most kibbles contain synthetic vitamins that dogs don’t absorb and assimilate, and these can cause toxicity over time. Fresh, whole food-sourced vitamins are complex and more efficiently used by the body’s cells. The addition of blended vegetables, a whole-food vitamin supplement such as Standard Process Canine Whole Body Support, kelp, spirulina, or other herbal blends can provide prebiotics (which feeds good bacteria), enzymes, whole food vitamins, and fatty acids to your dog’s diet. There are also several dry-kibble diets now available that use whole-food supplements instead of synthetics. These are Carna4, Acana Singles, and Nature’s Logic.
The high-heat processing of kibble destroys any healthy fats and will produce hydrogenated or trans fats, which can be very dangerous. Dogs need omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils for joint, heart, skin, and brain health. It’s best to add fresh fish oil to kibble immediately before serving in order to avoid oxidation.
By employing all or some of the ingredients and techniques mentioned above, we can vastly improve (and perhaps even lengthen!) quality of life for our beloved companions. When you observe the improvements in energy, attitude, and coat quality in your own dog, you’ll realize dry kibble isn’t so complete and balanced after all.