All Things Food.... Dog Edition.
I'm most often asked "What should I be feeding my dog?".... Sorry feline friends, this one is all about the dogs. Cat's are a whole 'nother subject...
Basically, a dog is an omnivore. Similar to us, humans. They need a good balance of proteins, carbs, vegetables, fats, and vitamins and minerals.
I feel that dog's, and their stomachs, are being done a great disservice by being fed one thing and one thing only. Imagine eating cheerios (not to diss cheerios, I really like them), day in and day out for the rest of your life. Balanced? yes. Boring? Also, yes. Now imagine eating a slice of pizza. First, your stomach is going to rebel from the change. But your taste buds are also going to be in heaven....
Well, that's what we do to our pets. We feed them the same thing. Every. Day. They aren't stupid enough not to know that there is "pizza" hanging around somewhere. Their nose tells them that their human gets the yummy food all the time.... So, it's easy to determine what happens next. Your dog is going to seek and find something yummy. (Hopefully, that involves only floor surfing which, helpfully, keeps your floor clean of crumbs. But let's face it. We've all seen the chaos and destruction caused by a dog who smells something yummy and will rip, shred and break anything in their way... So says the veterinarian dog parent who just cleaned up broken glass, because there was a picture between the fries the vet's daughter left on an end table and the vet's dog. Said daughter is picking up the cardboard fry container strewn about the back yard where it was dragged to enjoy the fries out of human eyesight by the vet's dog).
Your dog IS going to chow down on that yummy something. And then your dog's stomach is going to rebel, and your dog is going to start making deposits of that partially digested something yummy from either their front end, or their back end, or if you are really out of luck... Both ends. Next comes the expensive visit to the me, the vet. Hopefully, your dog didn't get into anything toxic and I can just treat an upset tummy. A couple of shots and a few pills are much less expensive than the hospital stay because your dog ate chocolate, grapes, or raisins.
So, what can we do? First, lets vary our dog's diet. Yes, my dog destroyed a beautiful picture frame in order to snatch those fries. But, her stomach did not get upset. Simply because, first, fries aren't toxic (I didn't say they were healthy, just not toxic) and, secondly, because her diet varies day to day. Or at least every few days. So, give your dog something other than dog food. It is fine for dogs to eat human food. Most food that is healthy for you, is also healthy for your dog. I will list what not to feed later. But if you make yourself some scrambled eggs, give your dog some. If you have some nice roasted veggies on your plate... Share them. Having an apple for a snack? Let Fido have a slice.
Second, have fresh nutritious food in your home for your pet. Determine what they like, and don't like. (If that fry container had been filled with carrots, my dog would not have touched them.... But then, neither would my daughter) Provide food for them. Real food. Vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish... Cook for them. It's surprising how many of my clients will grocery shop and cook for their pets and not themselves. But you will also benefit from having better foods in your house. (so said the vet, who had a grocery cart full of chicken, turkey, spinach, celery, carrots, squash, and sweet potato and a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc... Can you guess what was for the dog, and what was for me?) So, pay heed to all those human healthy eating blogs and articles. You can use the same superfoods for your pet. Dying to try that quinoa recipe? There is absolutely no reason your pet can't try it too. Plank grilling salmon tonight? Grab an extra filet for your beloved dog.
So here are the rules:
TOXIC (Do not feed): Chocolate, Onions, Grapes, Raisins, Macadamia Nuts.
AVOID: Under cooked meats; Dairy (unless lactose free or fermented, like yogurt); cold, raw vegetables and foods in very young animals and very old animals; preprocessed/precooked foods.
Pretty easy, right?
Feed fresh. Cook or reheat to room temperature. Start small to avoid stomach rebellion. And remember, if it comes from a box or a can or is prepackaged, it is probably not healthy.
A word of caution here. Don't feed your dog from your plate or the table. You are just training them that human + good smells + table/couch/fill-in-wherever-you-snack-here = "OMG, I am going to sit here and whine til I get some!!!" Save the food for later during THEIR meal, and put it in their bowls. Or give them a snack during training sessions, or at a particular treat time or treat spot.
Now, can you feed only people foods to your dog and no dog food? Yes... BUT! A diet consisting of only human foods will not be appropriately balanced for calcium, vitamins or minerals. Regular dog food does have added nutrients that are beneficial to your dog. So, continue the dog food you are already are feeding. Reduce the amount some, and top dress (just put it on top!) the dog food with the human food.
Next up..... Canine Cooking Class 101