Whenever I get a call from a dog owner asking for my assistance with their dog, I always ask them to get a thorough checkup with their veterinarian. It is essential to make sure there are no underlying health conditions that can be perpetuating your dog’s unwanted behavior. Once your dog has seen her vet and are up-to-date on all vaccinations, blood work and physical exams, then we are able to move onto our next step – Diet.
A dog’s diet is quite often one of the most overlooked aspects of our dog’s life. We almost take it for granted that we should just feed him a brand of dog food we always see at the store and we are all set. However that should not be the case. A poor diet for our dog, just like a poor diet for us, can negatively affect our mood, behavior and longevity.
We always need to look at the ingredients label of what we are feeding out dogs. The three easiest and most important components to look for are: corn, wheat and soy. These are common allergens for most dogs. An allergic reaction for your dog can manifest itself in the form of skin irritations, anxiety and certain behavior problems. If you steer away from those three allergens then you are on the right track. Ingredients are listed on the label in order of predominance, with ingredients used in the greatest amounts first. So that means the first ingredient listed makes up most of the food, the second ingredient is the next largest component of the food, and so on. It is not only important to look at what’s in the food, but where it falls on the label.
The first ingredient that I always look for on the label is a meat source. Preferably this would be chicken, but lamb or fish are also acceptable. I always look for it to say the meat source followed by the word “meal.” Chicken meal refers to the dehydrated weight of the protein. This translates into my dog getting more pure protein, not water and fluid weight. If it says chicken-by-product, then I would stay away from it. Chicken-by-product is a very vague term that can encompass any part of the chicken. This means I could be feeding my dog the chicken bones, beaks and other undesirable pieces; not the lean protein I was intending.
The last two important factors that I suggest my clients look for when choosing dog food for their furry family member, is the fat and carbohydrate source. When it comes to the fat source, I like it to clearly state that it is from the meat source that we were talking about above. If I have chicken meal, I want chicken fat. If I have lamb, I want lamb fat. If it just says animal fat, then that can mean fat from any animal, not necessarily something you would want to feed your pet. As far as carbohydrates go, our dogs don’t need a lot of them, but they are present in dog food. A suitable source of carbohydrates can consist of oat groats and brown rice.
The basics of your dog’s diet are really the basics of what our diets should be: less processed and junk filled ingredients, and more lean/natural sources of protein, fats and carbohydrates. I think it is safe to say that most of us want what’s best for our dog. So by taking a closer look at what they are consuming twice a day, every day, we can possibly help extend their life, improve their health and maybe even help improve what we might consider “behavior problems." You are going to feed your dog anyway, so why not feed them what may give you the best results. Set you and your dog up for success.