YOUR PET’S DIET AND NUTRITIONAL NEEDS
Your dog’s diet is a key factor in maintaining his health. Many problems can be traced directly to shortcomings in the diet, but wholesome, additive free foods help to support the immune system and all the other body functions essential for everyday health. Optimum nutrition supports a dog’s own natural defense mechanisms so that he can ward off infections and stay strong and healthy. It means that if he does become ill, he can respond effectively to the gentle healing effects of natural medicines and quickly return to health. If however his diet is not full of fresh, high quality, minimally processed, wholesome ingredients, then the dog’s self healing mechanisms will be at a disadvantage and he will be more susceptible to disease.
A good diet supplies your dog with the everyday building blocks (of good quality protein, carbohydrate, fat and water), and energy that every cell of his body needs for growth, repair and normal function. However, most new pet owners in Singapore often get the idea that the best way to feed our dogs is to give them commercial dog food that is “nutritionally balanced”. There is no such thing call a “nutritionally balanced” commercial diet.
Think about this for a while.
How do you turn a piece of meat into a dry kibble? Using high heat. And what does heat do to protein? When the muscles of mammals, fish, or birds are cooked at high temperatures carcinogenic chemicals called heterocyclic amines are created that may increase the risk of cancer. Technically, heated proteins get carcinogenic due to changes in their molecular integrity; reduced digestibility and increased nitrogen waste. The reduced digestibility of cooked proteins increase the load of nitrogenous waste material reaching the colon via fermentation to ammonia and phenols – both of which are cancer promoters.
WHY IS DIET SO IMPORTANT?
“Let your food be your medicine, and let medicine be your food.”. It’s true to say that the way to any pet’s heart as well as their health is through their stomach. But it requires care to ensure that what you feed them also prevents disease and promotes health and vitality that lasts a lifetime.
A nutritious diet is the foundation of good health, without which truly ‘holistic’ care will not be possible. Therefore the importance of your pet’s daily diet cannot be underestimated. You need to know that what you are feeding them is providing your dog or cat with all the building blocks their body needs in order to stay fit and healthy.
THE CANINE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
In order to find out what we should feed our domestic dogs we need to go back and look at the diet of their closest wild ancestor, the wolf.
If we look at the diet of the wolf, considered a close cousin of dogs, their food is incredibly diverse. Their diet includes deer, goats, pigs, rabbits, mice, squirrels, birds, eggs, reptiles, frogs, beetles, earthworms, fish, and in times of need carcasses and sick members of their own kind, berries, fruit, fungi and melons, all depending on geography and season. When wolves make a kill they eat muscle meat first, followed by fatty tissue, the heart, lungs, liver, stomach and contents and the remaining internal organs. Then with their powerful jaws and teeth they crush large bones. The average wolf eats 2 to 4.5 kilograms of meat each day and also drinks large quantities of water. However, they can also go without food for up to two weeks.
Not only are wolves predators, they are also scavengers, eating whatever is most easily available to them. The term carnivore refers to species that obtain most of their nutrition through eating meat. Even though wolves are carnivores, and there is no doubt that they do acquire a large percentage of their food from prey, they are not exclusively meat eaters. In fact, a wolf’s diet commonly includes a variety of fruits, nuts and other plant foods.
Dogs are often classified as omnivores, able to survive on a diet of vegetables or meats. Indeed, it was this flexibility in their digestive ability that was one of the their greatest strengths in evolution; having a dentition that was adapted to either meat or plant based foodstuffs, whichever was more abundant. Dogs have teeth that are both cutting and shearing for tearing meat, the carnassials, after which they get the carnivore tag. But, they also have a full set of snatching incisors and grinding molars, for the vegetable matter. However, it is widely acknowledged that dogs are better classified as facultative carnivores. In other words they do much better when fed a meat rich diet. By observing their natural feeding preferences and on further examination of their digestive systems, there is no question that dogs were designed to eat meat and bones. Another adaptation from dog’s scavenging past is their strong stomach acid and relatively short intestinal tract, and fast food transit time. These, among other features of their digestion, helped dogs to cope with their diet of often rotten and rancid foods.
You can feed your dog easily and well by giving him a diet based on the following foods. Raw meaty bones, organ meat, liquidized raw or lightly cooked seasonal vegetables. Feeding a variety of different types of meat, vegetables and grains helps to ensure that your dog gets the full quota of nutrients he needs. The key here is to give a variety of ingredients to give a more complete diet.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU FEED YOUR DOG
How often you need to feed your dog or cat depends on their digestion, metabolism and also on your own routine and lifestyle. A twice-daily meal, with the second one not being too late in the day is the most usual feeding regime; after all, carnivores usually hunt at dawn and dusk. However, every dog is different, some preferring their main, or only, meal in the morning whilst others don’t like to eat anything until mid afternoon. You will need to learn by trial and error to find out what your own dogs preferences are. Puppies, of course do need small meals and frequent feeding. It is always good practice to remove any uneaten food; not leaving food down for your dog all the time.
Regular meals times are also important for dogs, as is feeding them in the same place. As well as the regularity, calm and quiet can be thought of as the emotional ‘seasoning’ for a healthy digestive process. Therefore, having a quiet place for your dog to eat is one of the best routines to try and establish. If you have more than one dog feeding time can be quite stressful, especially if one dog eats faster than the other and there is competition over the food. This is why in some cases it is better to feed your dogs in separate rooms.
RULES OF FEEDING YOUR PET
When you have adopted a new pet or implementing a new diet for your pet, always implement it slowly over a couple of weeks and never overnight. This is important as new pet might turn away from your new diet plan for them. Do it gradually substituting the old food with the new diet.
In addition, pay attention to your pet’s bowl. Ensure that your pet’s bowl is never plastic (regardless of plastic type), because day after day, petrochemicals may leech out into their food. Ceramic or stainless steel (metal) bowls are the best, although metal can be noisy. If your pet is a fussy eater, you can try feeding them from a range of different bowls with a varying height and size to see which they prefer. And DO take note of the location you are feeding them. Many times, they might want to be fed somewhere quiet or isolated, especially if you have more than one pet at home. One of our adopted dog can only eat on our bed 🙂
And a very important thing to note. Try not to mix medicine or supplements into their food, especially when they are older or sick. Adulterated food is inadvertently compromising his basic right to their food, as they will be faced with having to eat it with the medicine or to go without. This is obviously not a fair choice for them, and may also pave the way for a pet that is a fussy eater. Unless the medicine or supplement is recommended to be consume with food (not that we know of actually).
Do not stress yourself over finding the best balance diet for your pet. Truth is, it is almost impossible to plan for a balance diet. Your pet needs changes over time, dependent on their physical needs, the frequency of their exercise routine etc.
Best is that you can only accomplish as near to complete diet. This is why it is crucial you supplement your pet with good human grade (you will need to know the right dosage) supplements.
There are few supplements that we often recommend to pet’s owner. Good quality (plant or animal base) Omega 3, and not Omega 6-9, COq10 and Taurine for aging dogs. All our dogs are fed with this combination.