Many of us have read a lot about what to feed and not feed our dogs. The more we read the more our options widen. Many dog owners have spent hours pouring over labels at the pet food store. They are looking for an animal protein as the first ingredient and making sure the food is not packed with fillers like corn or other grains that can be hard for our dogs to digest. If we are feeding mostly kibble though there are plenty of ways to improve our dogs’ nutrition.
We know budget can be an issue in many families which is why some have turned to commercial dog food to begin with. If you are using kibble as the main food, try to feed the very best you can find. By adding a couple of things here and there, we can greatly improve your dogs’ kibble, even the mid to lower quality foods. Sure if you start with high end, premium dog foods made with human grade, organic ingredients, you are probably closer to feeding ideal meals to your dog.
Though many veterinarians are still sticking to the idea of feeding your dog one type of kibble for their lifetime, more and more, we see veterinarians that are coming out of the box, working with canine nutrition experts that suggest a varied diet is healthier for your dog. These canine nutrition specialists can help your dog thrive. Many will consult over the phone and are a great resource to have, especially if your dog is ill. They will work in conjunction with your veterinarian to develop meals and supplementation to keep your dog looking and feeling their very best.
Think about it this way, no matter what food you are feeding, if you only feed those ingredients, odds are that your dog will begin to have nutrition gaps. No one food (no matter how expensive or exclusive) is perfect for every dog. If you only feed your dog those ingredients then odds are they will have a surplus of certain nutrients while having a deficiency in others. This is why rotating foods from one brand to another and one flavor to another, will put you closer to feeding a balanced diet that is also complete, but by adding fresh foods you’ll be even closer.
Even if you decide to stick with the one dog food brand that you have been feeding for years, you might want to switch among the different flavors they sell. If even that seems too risky, then perhaps supplementing with some of the following ingredients will work for you and your dog. It is also important to note that we are not trying to change your views about what you feed your dog completely, we only mean to broaden your perspective, to make careful, informed choices for your dog.
Dogs need different nutrients than humans and many foods that are fine for humans to eat can be quite dangerous for your dog. Avoid feeding your dog: onions, chocolate, raising and grapes, apple cores, mushrooms, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, pear cores, coffee, avocado and macadamia nuts. Many of these foods mentioned can be deadly so be very careful.
If you are planning on changing your dog’s food for the first time, add tiny amounts of the new foods to avoid upsetting their tummy. Imagine you have eaten only meat and potatoes for years and all of a sudden you eat very spicy Mexican or Indian food. Odds are your stomach would be upset, but if you slowly add new ingredients to your diet, your gastrointestinal system has a chance to adapt and so does your dog’s.
Variety in your dog’s food can be accomplished by, as we said before, switching from one high end food to another as well as by adding new ingredients here and there. You can keep the kibble as the main dish if it is what makes you comfortable and then start adding some fresh foods to provide digestive enzymes and a variety of fatty acids, that many cooked kibble can be lacking.
Small amounts of yogurt, kefir, pineapple or coconut water can add some of the digestive enzymes lost when food is cooked (like most kibble). Raw or gently cooked vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cucumber, celery, squash, green beans and fruits like blue berries, strawberries, apple and pears (without the core) and bananas can all add nutrients and antioxidants that are slowly lost while dog kibble sits on a shelf. Small amounts of kale and spinach can also be great additions. Don’t feed nightshades like tomatoes, eggplant and peppers as these have Solanine, which is toxic to dogs. Potatoes without any green on the skin can be fed in very small amounts.
You can also add small amounts of raw or cooked meats and fish, it is important that these are high quality and fresh to avoid illness due to bacteria. If you can find farm fresh eggs, these can be rinsed and served raw, crushing the shells into small pieces.
Though cooked bones can be dangerous for your dog because they splinter, raw bones, especially the softer kind like the ones found in chicken wings, chicken or turkey necks can be a great nutritional supplement for your dog.
If all the raw meets are making you uneasy, then you can add things like tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel from a can. Make sure they are packed in water and choose the ones that have the lowest salt or no salt if possible.
Many people, once they start thinking about their dog’s nutrition decide that they are better off cooking for their dogs, this way they have full control of all the ingredients that go in it. It is important to study a bit to ensure they are getting what they need. In addition to working with a canine nutritionist, you can find books, journals, and courses to help you design meals for your dog. Here is an example for meals from bark magazine.
Please make sure to consult with your veterinarian or a canine nutrition expert before you change things in your dog’s diet. Keep in mind that if you are adding calories to your dog’s meals, then those meals will need to be reduced a bit to keep your dog at an optimal weight. Depending on your dog’s requirements they might need more or less of something. However, as a general rule to follow, if your pet is in excellent health then odds are that adding a few tidbits will help them stay that way.