Good nutrition and a balanced diet are essential for your pet’s health. Here at Alex’s Ark, we ask owners to bring their own dog food for the period of time that their dog is staying with us in order to keep their routine consistent and to minimise disruption. The variations of different foods never cease to amaze us so we have asked Craig, a pet nutritionist and owner of Husse Bedford to break down the importance of high quality and natural dog food.
“There are many different approaches when feeding your dog. Wet food, dry food, raw, organic and holistic. Each has its own merits and avid believers who will argue their corner.
There is, however, at least one aspect of pet food and nutrition that is becoming more accepted. Whether cooked, raw, holistic or organic, food should be of high quality, and it should be natural.
Dog’s & Human: Much the same
It now seems commonplace, in human nutrition at least, to minimize one’s intake of synthesized ingredients. As we now know, chemicals, colourants, and preservatives can cause a long list of health problems.
However, it does not seem to be such a priority in pet nutrition for many pet owners. There are those that see no problem with feeding their animals chemical packed foods. It appears that there is a belief that a dog or cat’s body is somehow capable of handling these chemicals and there will be no long-term impact. Or perhaps there is an element of naivety or selective blindness when looking at their pet food ingredients list.
Either way, we know this not to be true; animals are just as susceptible to disease and health complication due to poor nutrition as we humans. While the health implications are too long to list, one parallel not often drawn is that of diet and behaviour.
Food & Behaviour
When faced with an unruly dog, Pet Behaviourists will as one of their first points of inquiry ask what food the dog is eating. There are well-known links between negative behavioral traits and poor nutrition. Specifically, the presence of some colourants, chemically derived preservatives and other additives have been directly related to hyperactivity and aggression.
These unpleasant behaviours are not just limited to hyperactivity or aggression. You may witness other behaviours such as depression, begging, stealing or Pica (obsessively eating non-food items). These may be directly, or indirectly resulting from what a dog is fed.
Just like with children, excessive sugars and carbohydrates in a dog’s diet can lead to hyperactivity. Unfortunately, many budget pet foods today are packed full of both. While canine ancestors relied on around 15% carbohydrates in their diet, many poor quality foods today comprise of 50-75% grain (corn or wheat). These grains are used because they are cheap, long lasting and filling. However, they hold little nutritional value.
Furthermore, because these cheap foods contain such a small amount of palatable ingredients, manufacturers add excessive amounts of sugar to encourage dogs to eat. Once again, hyperactivity is just a symptom of what is in their diet.
‘Food guarding,’ although unacceptable, is not uncommon. However, there are other food-related causes of aggression. The food that a dog eats will significantly impact their hormone levels. The healthier the diet, the less likely a dog will have an imbalance in their hormones. An example of how food may affect hormone levels can be seen in studies relating to the excessive use of corn in poor quality foods. Excessive amounts of corn cause fluctuating Serotonin levels; a hormone that helps manage sleep cycles. While this alone does not cause aggression, it will exacerbate behavioral problems. We are all grumpy when we don’t get sleep!
Depression, Begging, Stealing & Pica
When a dog is not getting all the nutrition that the need, they may act out in different ways. Much like with aggression, changing hormone levels caused by poor diet may result in depression. However, other deficiencies may results in illness, indirectly affecting their temperament. When a dog’s diet adversely impacts their health, they may begin to take it upon themselves to try and rectify the problem. They may try to achieve this by stealing or begging, or in some instances, attempting to eat non-food items. All can be regularly linked back to malnutrition, a vitamin deficiency or increased appetite.
It is important to understand that food affects all aspect of a dog’s wellbeing and any change in behaviour or health can likely be linked back to their diet. Many pet food manufacturers are trying to take the general public for fools. They rely on a lack of knowledge and understand to get you to buy their cheap and nasty foods. But thankfully, we live in an era where people like to be informed and have access to information at the click of a button. While there is more to learn than can fit in a blog, there are some simple things to look out for when shopping for pet food.
Look at the Ingredients List
A quick look at the ingredients list will tell you a lot about what you are feeding your pet. The likelihood is that if you do not understand the majority of what is on the label, then it is probably not suitable for your pet!
Furthermore, look for the quantity of grain. Most foods will contain some grain, but poor quality foods will use excessive amounts as well as small amounts of meat derivatives or meals. All are used as cheap fillers and hold little nutritional value.
Look at the Food
You want to avoid chemicals and colourants as much as possible. Many pet foods that contain colourants are usually unnatural colours, and some may even look as though they will glow in the dark. Avoid these at all cost.
In the End
You may think you are saving money by purchasing the cheap brands, but the reality is that it will likely cost you more in the long run. You will have to feed your pet more on a daily basis, and you will likely have to take them to the vets more often as they get older.
There are two truths when it comes to pet food. The first is that you pay for quality. The second is that a healthy, well-mannered pet is one that has a complete and balanced diet. Both are interlinked. What you have to weigh up is if the latter is worth the extra few pounds.”
If you’d like to try a free sample of Husse pet food then get in touch with Craig via Facebook, email him on firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call on 07505 042691. You can also use LD101565 to get 10% off your first order!