In order to be safe, healthy, and nutritionally balanced, dog foods often contain a wide range of ingredients. Proteins, vegetables, fruits, grains, and preservatives all have their place in well-prepared dog food, but not all of these ingredients are cut from the same fabric.
The manufacture of dog food has far fewer regulations than food intended for human consumption. This means that often inexpensive, unhealthy, and even potentially dangerous ingredients can end up in your puppy’s favorite food. One thing that you can do to combat this problem is to learn what ingredients you want to see in food and what you need to be careful about giving your dog.
Just like you, your dog needs plenty of vegetables to maintain a healthy diet and weight. Unlike cats, which get almost 100% of their nutrients from animal products, dogs are what scientists call “scavenging carnivores.” This means that they need adequate plant material to maintain their nutrition and are even able to survive only on plants for periods of time.
However, that doesn’t mean that all vegetables are suitable for dogs. In particular, you should avoid feeding your dog’s plants of the nightshade family. This includes:
- All peppers, including hot peppers and sweet peppers
- Raw potatoes (cooked potatoes are generally safe)
The ideal vegetables to feed your dog are things rich in vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and squash are very safe for dogs and are high in key nutrients they may not get from other sources.
Cereals include plants like wheat, corn, rice, and sorghum. Grains are an important part of your dog’s diet, as they are an essential source of dietary fiber and several minerals that are difficult to find elsewhere.
Making sure your dog is getting enough fiber will help ensure their digestive system is healthy and regular. This not only reduces common conditions like indigestion and constipation, but can also prevent more serious conditions like colon cancer. Grains are also a vital source of nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and vitamin B6.
Brown rice is one of the most nutrient-dense grains you can feed your dog. You should avoid ingredients like corn and wheat because they are difficult to digest and contain fewer essential nutrients.
All food packaged and sold, whether for pets or humans, must contain some kind of preservative to ensure it stays fresh during transport. One of the cases where a lack of regulation can be the most dangerous is the use of preservatives in dog food.
Ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT, and propylene glycol are examples of food preservatives that you should avoid whenever possible. Many of these ingredients have been linked to cancers, increased rates of liver and kidney disease, and many other health complications. Although sale is legal in the United States, a number of chemical preservatives are illegal in Europe due to their role as carcinogens.
That doesn’t mean all food preservatives are bad, though. Ascorbic acid is another name for vitamin C and has long been used to help keep foods fresh. The same is true for citric acid, which is why lime juice prevents guacamole from turning brown. More recently, many manufacturers are also turning to rosemary as a natural food preservative because it contains several acids that prevent fats from going rancid.
We all know protein is an essential part of any dog’s diet, but it can be difficult to know exactly what types of protein you should feed them. A healthy, nutritious, and tasty option (for your dog, at least) is to feed him foods that contain organ meats. The liver, kidneys, and heart are three of the most common and nutrient-dense options.
While many fruits and vegetables offer similar types of nutrients, organ meat tends to be much higher in items such as vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and iron. For example, spinach is also very high in iron but is significantly more difficult to digest and absorb than the iron present in animal products.
Nutrition is important!
If you notice that your dog becomes lethargic, disinterested in play, or that his fur thins and gets damaged easily, it is possible that your dog is suffering from the effects of malnutrition.
Good nutrition and a balanced diet are the two cornerstones of responsible pet ownership, and it’s something easier than you might think. Including high-fiber vegetables, high-mineral grains, and vitamin-rich organ meats is a good first step.
Healthy eating means a healthy puppy. Make sure your dog is given a variety of fresh foods with a wide range of ingredients so that he can spend a long, happy life by your side.
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