Dog Feeding - do we have a choice?
We sure do! Dog feeding is an area of dog care that we can very easily take control of ourselves.
Now, I'm not a nutritionist, but it seems to me that inappropriate dog feeding is at the root of a lot of ills that befall dogs these days - injuries, poor skin and coat, and low immune system for a start.
We all want the best for our dogs and would like to give them what they want, but as any mother of a two-year-old will tell you, what they want is not necessarily what they should have!
Let's face it - none of us needs chocolate, though we do like it. (But in the case of dog feeding, chocolate can be positively harmful. Their bodies can't cope with some of the ingredients.)
Most of us know that a good diet is important for anyone's health. We've only to look around us at people with poor skins, weight problems and so on.
You are what you eat
This goes for Fido too. As you can see from Natural Health, I'm a firm believer in a natural diet for my dogs. Were dogs designed to operate a tin-opener? Do they eat quantities of wheat or grain in their natural state? No. But what they do eat quantities of is meat, guts and bone - fresh and, of course, raw.
Picture those dogs, sitting round the camp fire, patiently waiting for their kill to cook ... Of course it needs to be raw. There are lots of benefits for teeth, and even for the dog's muscle tone, in this dog feeding method - gnawing and ripping at bones is hard physical work.
There are many vested interests - with huge advertising budgets - in the area of dog feeding who will try to convince you that dogs developed down the ages eating mush from cans, or grain-based, dried foods from bags.
It's easy to get confused, isn't it? I was delighted when I found Give your Dog a Bone, which tells you all you need to know - in a very readable form - about natural dog feeding for natural dog health. Ian Billingshurst, a Vet, goes into detail about the advantages and disadvantages of the competing diets, with great humour! There's also Raw Meaty Bones by another Vet, Tom Lonsdale.
If you choose to go down this route you need to study it first to be sure you're doing it right, or you could end up with a deficiency.
Many folk would rather feed a prepared food for convenience. It can certainly be easier to buy a bag of dog kibble and tip some into a bowl each day. You can research the subject and decide what's best for your dog.
What's in commercial foods anyway? Do some research on this and you'll be amazed and perhaps horrified. Let's just say the contents would sometimes not be passed as fit for human consumption. See this video. Should your dog be eating quantities of indigestible grains, notably wheat? Should he be consuming more E numbers than the average teenager? And even the major manufacturers - household names - have been caught out having to recall thousands of bags of food because of contamination of the ingredients.
So in the same way you wouldn't eat all your food made by the same manufacturer, change the brands you feed regularly. It's possible for your dog to suffer a deficiency or an overabundance in some area if he depends for all his nourishment on the same complete food all his life, however good the food.
It's not uncommon to find puppies of new dog-owners looking either too scrawny or too podgy. The owner protests that they are sticking carefully to the amount on the label for their breed of dog. But we all know people as thin as pins who seem to eat mountains of food, and also those who eat little yet stay rotund.
So treat the quantities suggested as just that - a suggestion, and develop a "stockman's eye". Feed for condition, and keep an eye on your growing pup as his needs will vary as he grows. As a rough guide, you want to be aware that there are ribs there when you feel his sides, but not cut yourself on them!
Many dog skin problems can be alleviated by simply changing the diet. It's worth trying a different feed, but of course you should check with your vet to be sure it's not some parasite or other.
Too much protein can be the problem, and the BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diet - as this method of dog feeding is called - naturally limits the protein. The diet is based on raw, meaty bones, fish and eggs, with fruit and vegetables in a form digestible by the dog, and as the bulk of the diet is bone, then the protein is automatically limited.
Dog joint problems also can respond to a simple change in dog feeding and diet. And even if your dog isn't afflicted by skin or joint problems, isn't it nice to think you're allowing him access to the sort of food his body craves? His shiny white teeth and sweet breath will tell you it's the right thing for him.
It's so easy to ensure your dog's health by giving him the food his ancestors lived on - even some of the time. It can also make the dog more laid back and curb possible aggression. And, of course, natural dog feeding is usually loads cheaper than buying commercially-prepared processed convenience foods.
If you're happy eating processed foods all the time, then you're probably happier feeding a complete bag food to your dog. But if you like to cook fresh foods for yourself, perhaps you should have a look at what you feed your dog.