January 7, 2014

The Food Issue

Posted in: Dog

If I was stranded on a deserted island for a few years and then one day someone on a boat finds me, saves me, asks me if I know what time of year it is, I would say, ‘Take me straight to Woolworths’ (international readers, that’s a grocery store) and I would look at all the magazine covers, and within a second I could tell you, the month we’re in is January. This is based on all ‘The Body,’ ‘The Health & Fitness,’ and ‘The Food’ issues available this time of year. A New Year automatically means it’s a new year for the whole world to focus on their weight, the existence of exercise in their life and what they’re putting into their mouth. While these aspects are extremely important, they shouldn’t be looked at so intensely during a certain time of year rather, all the time. Nonetheless, the symblisation of a new year gives people hope of starting again and doing things better this time round. While you may be investigating into ways to look after yourself this New Year, perhaps now is also a good time to look at what your dog is eating too.

The most important thing for humans and dogs when eating is, portion control. You should be giving your dog an amount of food that is right for their weight and activity levels. The best indication of how much to give your dog is from the vet, the second best place is from the guide on the back of the dog food you give your pooch. Make note though, the guides on the back of food packaging is always an overestimation so you need to see if the food recommendation matches your dogs size and energy levels. For example, I give Toby a sprinkling of kibble, literally about 20 little pellets, in the morning which he can eat during the day to keep hunger at bay and then he gets 1 (measuring) cup of kibble mixed in with a little under a tablespoon of mince for dinner. So, basically he gets 1 meal a day which is suited for his size and activity levels throughout the day.

^ I wonder if mum meant to give me so much kibble this morning.

I am anti dry and wet canned foods you buy from the supermarket and some pet stores. I’m not a fan of the main ingredient in most dog treats and dry food, fillers. Fillers are ingredients that help hold dry pet food together. They also help manufacturers keep the cost down by taking up weight in the food. Unfortunately, they often do so to the detriment of our dogs. There are good and bad fillers, some aren’t really bad for pets, just useless calories that they don’t need. And then there is wet canned food which is mainly made out of meat by-products and if you give your dog wet food you will notice that their breath has an unpleasant smell to it and their poo can be loose and runny. If you want to feed your dog meat, mince (that we consume) from the supermarket is a healthier and more cost effective  alternative. I buy a kilo of mince and then divide the whole thing up into about 40 to 50 small portions, wrap each portion up individually with glad wrap, stick them all in the freeze and I have about 50 days worth of meat for Toby for under $10, way cheaper than wet canned food.

Some people think their dog is a fussy eater, this may be the case but it is the owner who has made them fussy. My best friend, Cesar Millan 😉 says there are multiple factors that make a dog fussy. These factors include leaving your dog’s food out all day, overfeeding them with treats, allowing them to eat what you’re eating and not sticking with a feeding schedule. Toby has had the same meal at the same time for the last 2 years, he rarely gets treats and this allows him to be a regular, fuss free eater.

^ Giving pizza to your dog will turn them into a fussy eater.

Unlike humans, dogs don’t need variety in their food, they’re content to eat the same food every day. Sometimes I watch Toby eat and think, aren’t you sick of that yet? Dogs don’t realise there is variety out there, they don’t know what they are missing out on, therefore there is no real reason to make changes to their diet to add that spice of life, variety. Actually, if you do mix up their diet you can cause your pooch to have digestive upsets and diarrhea.

So, what’s the best dog food. In this case it’s the expensive food because it is packed with more nutrition and is more filling for your dog because it doesn’t contain fillers such as corn which means your dog will eat less of it. The cheaper dog foods out there are full of corn which means your dog will have to eat more of it to feel full and dogs aren’t really meant to eat corn. Corn has been linked to health problems so really, in the long term the expensive dog food works out to be cheaper.

When it comes to treats, it’s best to look for alternative treats such as fruit and vegetables or treats in their natural state such as bones. Fruit and vegetables make excellent treats because they can make a dog feel fuller and have less calories and no fat. Be careful though, onions cause anemia and grapes and raisins can cause acute kidney failure which my friend, Lucy learnt the hard way. Lucy’s dog, Missy had some grapes and within a few minutes vomited and had diarrhea for hours, it was so horrible to see, especially when she had nothing to throw up. Toby loves apples, I usually roll a whole apple down the hallway and he will go chase it and play around with it while eating it. Toby also loves crisp carrots and celery. I chop them up and put them in water in a container in the fridge, then when I do give him a treat he gets a crisp vegetable, he absolutely loves the crispy crunch…soft carrots, Toby isn’t interested in. When giving dogs raw bones make sure you limit their consumption to 1 or 2 a week with a few days rest in between as they can cause constipation. The bone must always be large enough so that your dog cannot fit the whole bone in its mouth and swallow it. As soon as Toby can fit a bone into his mouth, we throw it out.

^ To make Toby’s healthy treat of carrorts more fun, I jam the carrots into his kong, sometimes I will put a bit of mince in there too.

The best investment we can do for ourselves and our dogs this New Year is look after our health and their health by eating properly and making informed decisions on what is best for our and their bodies based on size, energy levels and life style. After all, what do we have if not our health? Nothing at all, really.