"What should I feed my dog?" If I had a dime for every time I was asked that … well, I wouldn’t be wealthy, but maybe I could finally pay off my student loans!
I don’t mean to make light of the question, though. Concerns about canine nutrition are common for two very good reasons:
1. Feeding a complete and balanced, nutritious diet is incredibly important for promoting your dog’s good health.
2. Owners do not feel like they have all the information they need to make informed decisions about canine nutrition.
There is a lot of confusion out there about how best to feed dogs. These are the most common misconceptions that I am faced with on a regular basis:
I feed my dog what I eat. If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for him.
No, dogs are not people. We have very different nutritional needs. Assuming you are eating high quality foods yourself (which we all have to admit isn’t always the case … donut anyone?), creating a balanced and nutritionally complete canine diet based primarily on table scraps is impossible.
This is not to say that dogs can’t be fed a home cooked diet, they can, but the food needs to be based on a recipe designed by a veterinary nutritionist. Healthy home cooking for dogs takes more time and energy than most owners can dedicate to it.
Dogs are carnivores and should only eat meat.
Dog are actually omnivores. It is true that they need protein in their diet but carbohydrates are also essential. In fact, dogs can thrive when fed a well-balanced vegetarian diet; this is not the case for cats.
Grains cause food allergies.
In fact, the most allergenic substances in dog foods tend to be the protein sources — beef, pork, etc. If your dog has a food allergy, the only way to know for sure what he is allergic to is to feed him a diet that he doesn’t react to (e.g., duck and potato based) and then gradually reintroduce other ingredients until you see a relapse of his symptoms. As long as your dog is not specifically allergic to a particular type of grain, you do not need to switch to a food that relies on novel carbohydrate sources like sweet potatoes.
I leave food out all the time. My dog won’t eat if he’s not hungry.
In this way, many dogs are just like us and have trouble self-regulating their food intake. Overfeeding leads to obesity and a whole host of health problems. Feed your adult dog one or two measured meals a day and offer only enough to maintain a slim body profile and healthy weight.
I hope this helps clear a few things up.
Dr. Jennifer Coates
Check out the new petMD Nutrition Center developed in partnership with Hill’s Science Diet and MyBowl to get more information about what constitutes a complete, balanced, and healthy diet for dogs. You can also learn more about Hill’s Science Diet Ideal Balance, a new dog food that offers all natural ingredients in the right balance for your dog’s best health.
Image: eschipul / via Flickr