Commercial versus. Whole Foods
- Commercial dog food can contain dangerous preservatives, non-nutritional fillers (like seed hulls and apple cores) and rancid grains, while also containing questionable nutritional value. Spoiled meat from the grocery store can be added to dog food, including the plastic wrap and Styrofoam tray. Diseased and euthanized animals of all species--even circus animals--are often included. Until the 1990s, pet food manufacturers routinely added the carcasses of cats and dogs put to sleep at animal shelters, before the practice of ruminant feeding was banned.
Due to an increase in health issues among our pet companions, many vets and owners have reevaluated the practice of feeding commercially prepared dog food. Dogs and humans share similar physiology and can eat many of the same foods. If a diet of processed foods kept "fresh" with preservatives isn't healthy for you, why would it be for your dog?
Raw Food Diet
- A study headed by Dr. Kollath, of the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, revealed that dogs had better lifelong health when fed a diet of raw meat. A raw food diet includes high portions of low-fat proteins, like turkey, chicken, beef and lamb, plus bones. Avoid pork because of the risk of getting trichinosis (a parasite) from uncooked/undercooked pork. The reasoning behind a raw-meat diet is that dogs are supposedly close to their wild cousin, the wolf, when it comes to nutritional needs. In the wild, a dog or wolf would eat about 80 percent protein. Any vegetable matter or grain would come solely from the stomach of their prey, except for the occasional grass dogs ingest as a natural digestive aid.
To compensate for the 20 percent of other foods a wild dog would eat, you can feed raw vegetables, fruits, yogurt, eggs and cottage cheese. It is important to finely chop or juice vegetables and fruits, because dogs can't digest them whole. You would serve the foods raw, because wild dogs wouldn't eat them cooked. With this diet, you shouldn't need to worry about including many healthy fats (for example olive oil or avocado), because the meat contains essential fatty acids that aren't destroyed by heat.
- Dr. Rebecca L. Remillard, a veterinary nutritionist, advises against a raw meat diet, because dogs are as susceptible as humans to salmonella and other contaminants in meat. Instead, she advises you cook everything your dog eats (except yogurt and milk). It is important to have a good balance and a variety of fresh, whole foods. Ideally, the diet you prepare for your dog would have a ratio of 50 percent low-fat protein; 25 percent vegetables, fruits, yogurt, eggs and cottage cheese; and 25 percent grains. Barley and oatmeal are generally well tolerated. Again, make sure you finely chop the vegetables and grains to ease digestion. Don't forget healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, safflower oil and chicken skin. Reserve bones for an occasional treat.
- Your dog might have difficulty adjusting to a whole foods diet. First, introduce the new foods slowly, gradually decreasing the amount of dry food you're feeding and increasing the amount of homemade food as his/her tolerance increases. Eventually, you will be feeding your dog completely homemade meals.
You can switch your dog directly to whole foods, but expect a few days of gastrointestinal upset if you don't take a gradual approach. Regardless of how you introduce whole foods, it is beneficial to add a digestive supplement containing protease, lipase and amylase to his food to assist the dog with digesting fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
- While your dog can eat almost anything you can, there are some exceptions. Never feed it chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, garlic, onions or spoiled foods. Dogs don't have the enzyme necessary to break down milk, so consumption can cause flatulence, bloating and diarrhea. Don't feed your dog fish bones or cooked chicken bones. If you are feeding it a raw meat diet, uncooked chicken bones are acceptable. They aren't prone to slivering like cooked chicken bones.