In order to be safe, healthy, and nutritionally balanced, dog food often has a wide range of ingredients in it. Proteins, vegetables, fruits, grains, and preservatives all have their place in well made dog food, but not all of these ingredients are cut from the same cloth.
Dog food manufacturing has significantly fewer regulations than food made for human consumption. This means that oftentimes cheap, unhealthy and even potentially dangerous ingredients can wind up in your pup’s favorite food. One thing you can do to combat this problem is to learn which ingredients you want to see in food and what you should be wary of feeding to your dog.
Just like you, your dog needs to eat plenty of vegetables to maintain a healthy diet and weight. Unlike cats, which derive almost 100% of their nutrients from animal products, dogs are what scientists call ‘scavenging carnivores’. This means that they need adequate plant material to maintain nutrition, and that they are even capable of surviving solely on plants for periods of time.
However, this does not mean that all vegetables are suitable for canines. Notably, you should avoid feeding your dog plants in the nightshade family. This includes:
- All peppers, including hot peppers and sweet peppers
- Raw potatoes (cooked potatoes are generally safe)
The ideal vegetables to feed your dog are things rich in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and squash are very safe for dogs and are rich in key nutrients that they may not get from other sources.
Cereal grains include plants like wheat, corn, rice, and sorghum. Grains are an important part of your dog’s diet because they are a key source of dietary fibre and several minerals that are difficult to find elsewhere.
Ensuring that your dog is getting adequate fibre will help make sure that their digestive system is healthy and regular. This reduces not only common ailments like indigestion and constipation, but can also ward off more serious conditions such as colon cancer. Grains are also a vital source of nutrients like Magnesium, Phosphorous, Manganese, and Vitamin B6.
Brown rice is one of the most nutrient dense grains you can feed your dog. You should avoid ingredients like Corn and Wheat because they are difficult to digest and lower in essential nutrients.
All food that is packaged and sold, be it for pets or for humans, needs to have some sort of preservative in it to ensure that it stays fresh while being transported. The use of preservatives in dog food is one instance where the lack of regulation can be the most dangerous.
Ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT, and Propylene Glycol are examples of food preservatives that you should avoid whenever possible. Many of these ingredients have been linked to cancers, increased rates of liver and kidney disease, and numerous other health complications. While legal to sell in the US, a number of different chemical preservatives are illegal in Europe due to their role as carcinogens.
This does not mean that all food preservatives are bad however. Ascorbic Acid is another name for Vitamin C and has long been used to help keep food fresh. The same is true for Citric Acid which is why lime juice prevents guacamole from turning brown. More recently, many manufacturers are also turning to Rosemary as a natural food preservative because it contains several acids that keep fats from turning rancid.
We all know that protein is an essential part of any dog’s diet, but it can be difficult to know exactly what kinds of protein you should be feeding them. One healthy, nutritious, and tasty (for your dog, at least) option is to feed them food containing organ meats. Liver, kidney, and heart are three of the most common and most nutrient dense options.
While many different fruits and vegetables offer similar kinds of nutrients, organ meat tends to be significantly richer in things like Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Riboflavin, and Iron. As an example, spinach is also very high in iron, but is significantly more difficult to digest and absorb than the iron present in animal products.
Nutrition is Important!
If you notice your dog becoming lethargic, uninterested in play, or its fur becoming thinner and damaged easily, it’s possible that your dog is suffering the effects of malnutrition.
Proper nutrition and a balanced diet are two cornerstones of responsible pet ownership and is something that is easier than you think to deal with. Including vegetables rich in fibre, grains rich in minerals, and organ meats rich in vitamins is a good first step.
Healthy food means a healthy pup. Make sure that your dog gets a variety of fresh foods with a wide range of ingredients so they can spend a long and happy life by your side.