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You love your dog, so you want him to have the best, right? But that best for him might not be what you’re serving. Sure, he’s happy to scoff down whatever food you might give him. But just because he likes it doesn’t mean it’s good for him.
What Are a Dog’s Basic Dietary Needs?
Dogs require a diet that regularly includes proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water.
“One of the biggest mistakes a dog owner can make is feed human food to her dog,” says Suzy Goodison, a Sydney-based vet with 12 years experience both here in Australia and in the U.K. “Especially cooked bones: These are a real health hazard to dogs. I’ve seen animals die from stuck cooked bones.”
“Cooking the bone changes the bony structure and makes it rock-hard and indigestible, plus it can splinter and perforate the gut wall or get stuck,” says Goodison. “If you’ve been feeding your dog cooked bones and not had a problem yet, trust me, you are just lucky.”
What’s more, feeding your dog table meat scraps can up his fat intake -- and a diet that’s high in fat can cause bouts of pancreatitis.
What your dog does need: a good-quality dry commercial diet to ensure he’s getting all the nutrients he needs, supplemented by treats for oral health.
Do Dogs Need Wet Food?
“If your dog is getting a good-quality commercial dry diet or balanced home-cooked diet, he doesn’t need wet food,” says Goodison. “But most dogs do like it, and it’s a novelty for them.”
However, Goodison points out that, nutritionally, the cheaper brands of wet food are not great quality. Plus, some of the most expensive brands are mostly water (up to 80-90 per cent). “So you’re paying a premium for not much nutritional value,” she says. “Canned wet foods are best for a ‘sometimes’ food.”
Goodison points out that some animals have food intolerances, and preservatives found in some canned foods can be a problem. “This is especially the case for ‘pet meats,’” she says, which she never recommends. “They can have very high sulphur levels -- unregulated in pet food industry but very strictly controlled in the human food industry, as it’s linked to gastrointestinal inflammation and health problems.”
Does My Dog Need to Eat Every Day?
Goodison points out that certain breeds, like Chihuahuas, can be prone to protein deficiency if they don’t eat. “So we usually recommend feeding at least one per day,” she says.
Goodison recommends a split feed rather than a single feed -- especially in large, deep-chested dogs, like Rottweilers and Labradors, which can be prone to gastric torsion. This is when the stomach becomes suddenly distended, either from a sudden large meal or water intake, and swings over on itself and becomes obstructed. “This is a life-threatening emergency,” says Goodison. “Feeding two small meals a day rather than one large one can help reduce the risk of large breeds developing this problem.”What Can Be Done About an Overweight Dog?
“This is an increasing problem, as people don’t exercise their pets as much and overfeed them,” says Goodison. “If your dog is overweight, you need to cut down on your dog’s food and exercise him!” Of course, in very rare circumstances, there may be an underlying disease causing weight gain, such as Cushing’s disease or low thyroid function.
Your vet can recommend a special weight loss food with a formulation that makes your dog feel fuller and consume fewer calories.
Another bad habit for owners? “Don’t feed your dog scraps every time you eat,” says Goodison. “This encourages bad habits. Plus, they don’t need the extra calories outside of mealtime.” Treats should also be limited.
Do not feed your dog the following:
- Chocolate. “The darker, the worse. A chemical found in cocoa called theobromine is toxic to dogs,” says Goodison.
- Grapes, which cause renal toxicity.
- Macadamia nuts, which can cause transient paralysis of limbs and strange neurological manifestations.
- Onion and garlic, which cause anaemia.
- Diary. “This is not a toxin, but most dogs can be relatively lactose-intolerant, so I don’t recommend too much dairy; they get diarrhoea,” says Goodison.
- Many types of plants and shrubs. If you want more information, “Ask your vet,” says Goodison.
Finally, Goodison recommends feeding your dog a commercial food that contains omega-3s, or -- in consultation with your vet -- an omega-3 supplement. “It’s great for their skin and coat health as well as bone and joint health,” she says. “It can be a useful adjunct in older dogs with arthritis.”
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