dog foodAs society becomes more and more humane to animal companions, the market is steadily becoming more and more flooded with dog food product. All claim to be "the best", "the most nutritious" or "perfect for any all breeds" or "perfect for all ages" and the like. But before we pet owners become convinced of manufacturers’ brilliant marketing plans, first consider the following when researching for the "perfect dog food" for your pet.

What you should remember when researching on dog foods?

Different breeds, different needs

Feeding guidelines on pet food labels usually just tell pet owners to feed the product to a dog, regardless of breed and just serve different amounts of pet food according to the weight of the dog that might eat it. But different breeds have different nutritional needs. Different breeds of dogs vary in temperament, energy and endurance and physical make up (and functions).

For example, A Bulldog and a Pharaoh hound, both at 45 pounds, have different nutritional requirements for bone building-minerals. A bulldog is a "thick-boned breed", while a pharaoh hound is a "thin-boned breed". Another example, at work or play, a 50 pound Basset Hound and a 50 pound Standard Poodle demonstrate very different levels of energy and endurance. These two breeds have different nutritional requirements for food calories and proteins.

Complete and balanced

As was previously mentioned, nutritional needs of dogs are breed specific, so beware of dog-foods who claim to provide a "complete and well-balanced diet".

AAFCO or The Association of American Feed Control Officials has created guidelines that pet-food manufacturers should meet in order to for them to be able to label their product "complete and wel-balanced". However, The AAFCO guidelines states that: a pet food must contain each of the amounts shown on a single list of ingredients which has been declared by AAFCO as the minimum requirement of any dog or cat.

Thus any pet food company can claim "complete and balanced" if their food meets a standard based on set amounts of each ingredient they put into a food and not the actual requirements of the various animals which will eat that food.

Proteins and amino acids

The idea here is not whether there is enough protein in the dog food but how much of the protein can be utilized by the dog who is eating it. Protein components are called amino acids. There are two kinds of these:

  • Essential – those that the dog’s own body cannot manufacture in sufficient quantities and (2) non essential – those that the dog’s own body can manufacture in sufficient quantities. It is the presence, balance and quality of the essential amino acids that determines the bio-nutritive value (percentage of usable protein) of the protein in a dog’s feeding program.
  • Amino acids in protein are important in building of the muscle tissue, the regulation of antibodies within the immune system, and the transfer of nerve impulses. There are 10 amino acids essential in meeting your dog’s nutritional needs. Keep in mind that humans only need eight in our dietary intake. Do some research on amino acids and protein for your dogs.

A good rule to follow is to know available proteins in the environment where your dog’s breed originally came from and try to imitate them.

Keep in mind also, that apart from your dog’s breed, there are other factors that can contribute to different protein requirements in dogs.

  • The age of a dog can change its protein requirements. Both puppies and geriatric dogs require lower amounts of protein and higher carbohydrate %’s in their food.
  • The dog’s activity level or stress level (due to environment or working conditions) can change its protein requirements.
  • A female dog during the gestation and lactation period has her own very specific requirements.
  • The other ingredients within the food can affect the amount of each amino acid required. For example, a food that is highly acidic (due to a preservative) can increase the requirement of the amino acid Methionine.

Fats, Carbohydrates and Fatty Acids

Keep in mind that dogs needs all of these to meet their daily nutritional needs. Unlike for us humans, too much of these three can be detrimental to our health. Sugar forms of lactose, dextrose or glucose are all different as dietary sources of carbohydrates and these, depending on the form, can be either stored or used as an instant energy supply by a human but not a dog.

Human stores carbohydrates from some starch sources better than sugar sources for future energy requirements. Some of us require a low fat diet. But we assume that since it’s bad for us, it’s bad for our dogs too, so we put our dogs in low-fat diets. But this has harmful effects on a dog’s health. This because:

  • Only the human can store dietary carbohydrates for later conversion into energy.
  • Canines turn all dietary carbohydrates, from ANY source including animal fat, into instant energy and none is stored in the body for energy requirements that develop later.
  • For humans we know that SOME FORMS of sugar carbohydrates can be assimilated but for all breeds of dogs all forms of sugar carbohydrates have been found to be detrimental (the ONLY exception being the form of lactose found in the milk of a lactating female dog for her puppy.)

Raw food is not always the best alternative

Canine nutritionists endorse the bones and raw food diet. But according to experts this is not entirely healthy. This is due to the fact that the meat we humans eat has been treated with chemicals. This chemical could be harmful to dogs and should be heated to be broken down. The theory that the dog’s ancestors, the wolves, jackals, foxes, dingos, or coyotes, in the wild by eating raw food and therefore should be imitated, has one flaw.

The meat that we can buy at the store is not the same as the meat that a wild animal eats from a natural kill. If we could provide the same fresh raw meat that the ancestors of today’s dog had access to 600,000 years ago, including the hot fresh guts – what wild animals still go for first in a kill – then it might be okay to feed them with that food source.

The truth is that feeding our dog’s store-bought meet can cause cancer. And it is not only with raw meet that dogs a problem with. Raw vegetables can cause harm to dogs as well. For example, when a dog eats raw carrots, it can cause the pancreas to produce more insulin than it would otherwise have done if a dog eats cooked carrots. Over production of insulin can cause diabetes in dogs. Bottom line, feeding dogs solely dog-food or solely raw food is bad for your dog’s health.

Different breeds have different per/kg nutritional requirements. Plus, different members of a breed can have unique requirements based on where they live, their activity level and medical history. There is no single diet that can be nutritionally correct for all domesticated dogs.

What pet owners can do is choose a meat source that their dog breed can assimilate, and then blend that meat with the correct source of carbohydrates and other nutrients which have been proven to be best for the specific dog breed being fed. Then adjust the protein-carbohydrate-fat ratio to the requirements of their dog’s breed and then handle the food (this includes cooking it) in such a manner to provide the safest and best bio-nutritive value for our companion pet.

Water for your dog

In the US, tap water
sources is fluroridated to help children’s tooth enamel harden. The result is that dogs’ teeth are mottling. In addition to this, it has been reported that fluoride in water causes many nutritionally related problems for dogs. So before serving your dogs tap or bottled water, make sure first, that it is fluoride free.

Dogs produce their own Vitamin C

Beware of pet food products that have high levels of vitamin C. Dogs manufacture all the vitamin c they need in their by its liver using trace minerals in its diet. Vitamin C is a quick-fix solution for when a dog has arthritis, displasia or getting its ears to stand up faster. However, the long term effects of supplemental vitamin C in dogs pose more problems. One test showed that Vitamin C aggravated skeletal problems.

Feeding a dog vitamin C also causes problems in dogs’ kidneys and liver. C to a healthy dog can affect that dog’s liver the same as feeding thyroid medication would affect the healthy dog’s thyroid gland. It could shut the gland down. Any time we take over the function of a healthy gland with dietary supplements or medication, the gland slowly atrophies.

The effect it has on the dog’s kidneys is because most forms of vitamin C that are found in dog foods or supplements are not the same as the molecular form the dog is able to produce naturally. The different dietary forms of vitamin C like Ascorbic Acid (in an "L" form), Sodium Ascorbate or Calcium Ascorbate are all synthetic water soluble forms. They end up in the dogs kidneys where they change the uric pH while waiting to be discharged from the dogs body. This change in the natural pH within the kidneys puts additional stress on them and can cause many problems.

What you can do to be assured

You might be wondering why some pet-food products are out the market but are dangerous to your pet’s health. Number one reason is that, some "regulatory" associations are not what they were originally. Before, some regulatory associations are made up of representatives from Federal and State agencies to discuss and standardize regulations they would be imposing on the animal feed industry.

Today, due to "privatization" , regulatory associations are made up of representatives from some of the leading pet-food manufacturers. As thus, they are more lenient with their required testing’s, labeling, etc. Another reason is that different opinions from various experts in the veterinary and animal nutritionists bring up contradicting ideas, and thus make it hard for pet-food makers and pet owners to follow.

What you can do is you can call up pet-food manufacturers and inquire about ingredients in their products. They might not tell you the exact proportions or even the exact ingredients, but you can ask them to explain what certain words mean, such as ‘by-prodcut’, ‘mill-run’, ‘meal’, etc.

Also, ask nutritionists (you can ask more than one, either to support or negate your first nutritionist’s) for your dog breed’s specific nutritional requirements. And finally, know your dog’s eating habits and if he/she has any allergic reactions to one or more types of food.