Fido doesn’t have access to the family grocery list, but if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier meals in the coming year, give your canine companion his or her nutritional due as well.
Providing a balanced diet for your pooch certainly isn’t rocket science. It’s simple: good nutrition starts with good grub. So how do you tell good quality kibble from doggie junk food?
If your dog kibble resembles sugar-coated kids’ cereal and comes in fanciful shapes like bones and kittens, chances are you’ve got the doggie equivalent of a Big-Mac value meal on your hands, or rather your paws. Reading the label is the determining factor, however, since some "premium" brands of dog food contain as many fillers and byproducts as less expensive ones. If the first few ingredients listed on the bag are fillers such as corn, wheat and gluten derivatives, that is an indicator that your pet’s food is bulked up with ingredients that contain little food value and are also common allergens.
"Corn itself is not bad, it’s just not very digestible," says Amy Haithcock of the pet retailer, Unleashed, in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Your body takes resources to process that food and your organs end up working overtime which can lead to symptoms of a weakened immune system." In fact she says, "Corn isn’t necessarily even the worst thing in the food, it’s the byproducts."
And byproducts are generally a witch’s brew of unsavory little tidbits that are best not mentioned in polite company. The term "byproducts" can mean everything from the moo of the cow to its noisemaker on the other end, to say nothing of the regular use of cancer-causing preservatives that serve to extend the long shelf life of that bag on the pet food aisle.
To ensure your pet is getting good nutrition, start by feeding him or her a dog food that lists meat meals as the main ingredient, such as Canidae, which Haithcock refers to as an "entry –level" holistic, human grade pet food. Your own local, independent pet retailer will have more suggestions and is a good place to start if you are considering making a switch to pet food made from human grade products.
"I can tell when a dog is on good food," says Haithcock. "They don’t smell and their skin and coat feel nice to the touch." But the benefits of feeding your pet premium food go beyond deodorizing Fido and making his coat luxurious. Some of Haithcock’s clients have been able to wean their pets off medication for serious conditions like chronic seizures simply by changing their diet to a better quality food.
Premium pet foods may cost a smidge more than your average grocery store brands, but the savings you reap in the long run such as decreased vet expenses, decreased risk of cancer, and decreased allergy symptoms are are nothing to poo poo (speaking of poo, that decreases also). For Haithcock the proof is in the kibble, "Diet is preventive maintenance. Our own dogs have never really been to the vet except for a couple of shots."
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