Most dog owners feed a commercially prepared dry food, because it is not only quick and easy but it’s what they’ve always done. However, as our dogs are developing more health problems such as Addison’s disease, vets and animal guardians are looking at what could be improved.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is the organization responsible for developing the regulations surrounding the pet food industry, including ingredient definitions and nutritional requirements.
Reading those ingredient definitions can be eye-opening. Here is a sample AAFCO definition for a common ingredient: Meat By-Products are parts of slaughtered animals, not including meat. These include lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, blood, bone, partially defatted low-temperature fatty tissue, and stomach and intestines freed of their contents. No meat? And, “animals” isn’t very specific. Not exactly what you thought you were feeding your dog, is it?
Get educated about the AAFCO definitions and read dog food labels closely. If you choose to buy commercial dog foods, look for ones that are made with human grade, whole ingredients, rather than the not-fit-for-human-consumption by-products and meals found in many brands. Although not always the case, cost can be an indicator of better food, because the difference in price is usually in the quality of protein.
Stay away from foods with ethoxyquin. It has been alleged that ethoxyquin has caused cancer; liver, kidney and thyroid dysfunctions; reproductive failure and more, though the allegations have not been proven in tests to date. In 1997, due to abnormalities found in the livers of study dogs, the Food & Drug Administration requested producers of dog food to voluntarily reduce levels of ethoxyquin to 75 parts per million from 150 ppm.
Other common, yet controversial preservatives to avoid include, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). BHA and BHT are petroleum derivatives that accumulate in the body tissue and may cause liver enlargement, increased risk of cancer, and epilepsy in dogs.
If you choose to feed commercial food some vets recommend rotating brands and protein sources to provide better balance over time. It lowers the chances of your dog missing some key nutritional ingredient. In addition, feeding the same thing day in and day out can cause food sensitivities and allergies.
Some people are opting to cook food for their animals. Whether making a doggie stew, sharing your own meals or following a more complicated recipe, cooking for your dog allows you to know exactly what your dog it getting. Holistic vets often supply their clients with recipes to cook for their dogs. You can also find recipes in a variety of books.
Others are advocating a return to even more natural feeding methods, raw food. When feeding raw, people attempt to mimic the prey animal that dogs would have dined on in the wild. This diet consists of raw meats, bones and vegetables. Diets that use these ingredients are often referred to as Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods, or Bones And Raw Foods, the two definitions of the acronym BARF.
The BARF diet consists of two types of meals, raw meaty bones (generally poultry wings, necks and backs) and veggie patties (a mix of ground vegetables, meat and other ingredients).
According to proponents, bacteria aren’t a concern with dogs. Dogs have been eating raw meat for centuries and dogs have a natural resistance to bacteria. They have a very acidic stomach and short digestive tract that kills problematic bacteria. People should continue to take normal food preparation precautions when handling raw meat.
Each of these methods has advocates and opponents, but what’s most important is what works best for you and your dog. Do your research to understand the various feeding options, read books, explore the Internet and talk to people experienced with the decision. However you decide to feed, it’s always a good idea to work with your veterinarian. Your vet can help you feed a balanced, healthy diet that supports good health for the life of your dog
The Consumer’s Guide to Dog Food
by Liz Palika
Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets:
The Healthful Alternative
by Donald R. Strombeck, DVM, PhD
DOGS, DIET, AND DISEASE:
An Owner's Guide To Diabetes Mellitus, Pancreatitis, Cushing's Disease,
by Caroline Levin, RN
The BARF Diet, Give Your Dog a Bone
and Grow Your Pups with Bones
by Ian Billinghurst
BVSc, BscAgr, DipEd
The Holistic Animal Handbook
Switching To Raw
by Susan K. Johnson
Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats:
The Ultimate Diet
by Kymythy Schultze, CCN AHI
Raw Meaty Bones Promote Health
by Tom Lonsdale