Nutrition

Good nutrition can help prevent disease and promote health. Suitable diet still remains a very opinionated area in the dog world, but there is currently a lot of research going on in this field. Our current options for feeding dogs are:

Dry Food – Kibble or dry pressed
Wet Food– cooked tinned / pouch or canned food
Raw Food– Either a minced raw product, or part / whole prey
Fresh Food – Fresh ‘human’ food raw or cooked

Our choice of food will often depend on preference, price, availability and what our dogs like and get on with. But we also need to consider what is good nutrition. There are plenty of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ options of all of these on the shelves, so what should you look for?

The gut is incredibly important in dogs, just like humans. Within our dogs bodies, there are lots of communities of microorganisms with the largest of microbiomes being within the gut. These microbiomes all need to remain stable and healthy for the host to remain stable and healthy. What’s more, is this microbiome is connected to the brain and so the well being of the microbiome also directly influences the wellbeing of the puppy’s mental state and can therefore influence mood as well as behaviour. Ever heard of stressy poo? The brain and the gut talks and if one isn’t happy we see mood, physical and behavioural changes. We therefore need to keep the gut healthy to have a healthy and happy dog. 

The research currently suggests that consuming more diverse and less processed food can lead to a healthier microbiome- just like us people. Processed food is any food that has been altered in the course of getting from the ground or the slaughterhouse to the mouth of the pooches we feed.

Dogs currently have a higher likelihood of dying from cancer than in any species on the planet! Scientists have currently found that 10% of cancer cases are genetic while 90% are the result of lifestyle and environmental influences. Research suggests stress, obesity, infection, toxins and pollution are to blame – but according to multiple studies, 30 – 40% of all cancers can be prevented by dietary changes. Studies have shown that placing dogs on nontraditional, fresh food diets nearly doubled the life span in dogs and even in one study found that there was a 90% decrease in the risk of cancer.

The current research is therefore suggesting that variety is best so don’t be afraid to mix it up a little between flavours, types such as wet, raw or kibble but most importantly by including fresh unprocessed foods into their daily food portions such as appropriate fruits and vegetables. I suggest that you have a base food and then remove a quarter of it and replace this with fresh unprocessed foods at least a couple of times a week, just like the old days!

Base food- I would advise to have a look at the following website. This grades dog food on ingredients alone. I would aim for something rated over 65% or above. http://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/
I would avoid foods that contain lots of cereals, derivatives, meat meal, maize, and sugars.
Fresh food- avoid: Raisins/currants, grapes, onions, cooked bones, caffeine, chocolate, Macadamia nuts, Xylitol, seeds, pips and rinds.

Quick Points 

There is no evidence which suggests you should stick to one type of dog food. It appears you are better off giving a natural and diverse range of foods to your dog daily. Back in the day, dogs were fed table scraps and there didn’t seem to be a problem then both medically and behaviourally.

There is no research to suggest that you cannot mix raw food with cooked food or kibble.

There is no evidence to suggest that grain-free is actually good for our dogs.

Please do not take your puppy’s food bowl away while they are eating. You are likely to cause a problem rather than make your puppy less likely to resource guard. Resource guarding is either a genetically predisposed behaviour or behaviour required from the puppy for survival through a challenging circumstance. By taking the bowl away, your puppy begins to learn that mealtimes are a place of conflict and that people will continuously take things away from them. This leads them to growl when you approach the bowl in order to be left alone. How would you feel if a waiter kept coming back to your table to remove your food? I’m presuming quite annoyed and agitated,  yet if you were left alone you wouldn’t have had a problem. When dogs are eating leave them alone, doing nothing here is often the better option. If you have a breed that has a tendency to guard, add to their bowl instead. While your dog’s eating, add more food (hold some of the normal portion back and use it). This will encourage them to move away from their bowl happily as you approach is a sign of good things happening.

Do not feed multiple dogs in the same space at the same time. This is incredibly stressful, even if they look ok. Give them room to eat their dinner in peace. 

Dogs should have access to drinking water at all times. Their bodies can survive for longer periods without other nutrients but the story is different if starved of water.

Treats

When it comes to treats and chews, try to avoid ones that contain cereals, sugars, derivatives or meat meal. Instead I would opt for treats and chews that contain a higher meat (good quality) or vegetable content than anything else.