I find it funny how some dog owners have no idea what they're feeding their dogs; "This is what I've always fed Fido, and he seems to like it." Upon years of observing dog behavior and health trends, I have noted how the longevity and quality of a dog's health is directly related to the food eaten.
I have recently adopted the attitude that I will not feed my dogs anything that I wouldn't eat. Holding true to this philosophy, below are a few simple tips to ensuring your dog will be treated to a well balanced meal and not leftovers from who knows where:
• Dog food nutritional standards. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), all of a pet's dietary needs (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) must be present in every meal. The AAFCO approval label is found on 95 percent of all dog food, including those that have inferior nutritional value. So, how do we know that the food is actually nutritionally sound for our dogs? Do your homework!
• Read the ingredients label on your dog food bag. Most inexpensive dry dog foods contain "fillers" such as corn, millet, wheat, and rice, all of which are not natural in a dog's diet. Be aware that the first five ingredients on the ingredients label will comprise more than 85 percent of the food's content. If any of the following ingredients are currently listed on your dry food, beware. 4-D: comprised of meat from dead animals, including the possibility of tainted and/or diseased meat. Propylene Glycol: a preservative thought to have the similar molecular structures to that of antifreeze. BHA and BHT: a suspected carcinogen. Ethoxyquin: a major preservative used in rubber tires and sometimes in dog food as a synthetic antioxidant to keep fats from turning rotten.
• Find a veterinarian who practices "holistic" medicine. Today, most traditional vets don't even own a dog. They recommend a dog food that "coincides" with your dog's current ailment, and will most often recommend a steroid injection (cortisone) to mask the symptoms of the dog's illness while not treating the actual disease. It's nice to have a vet who will assess your dog's history of illness and prescribe the appropriate foods and recovery program to establish a healthy nutritional balance.
• What to feed your dog. A raw, homemade diet is often chosen by dog owners who want to provide the freshest organic meats, vegetables and proteins to their dogs. This often requires a lot of work, time and money. To satisfy your dog's appetite, the following dry dog foods have been tested/qualified to be the top dry brands for both overall nutritional balance, and immune strength: Innova, Eagle Pack, Canidae, Wellness, Fromm's, Solid Gold, Canine Caviar, California Natural, Natural Planet Organics and Prairie. All of these foods are made in the U.S.A. These same brands have wet food to accompany the dry. I recommend a tablespoon of wet food daily for added protein and flavor.
If we eat at McDonald's every day, we get overweight and a triple bypass at the age of 62. Eating with natural/organic food in mind, we can achieve better future health and the comfort of knowing that our immune system is more resilient against disease. So, the next time you're thinking about saving a few bucks by buying the cheapest dog food at your local supermarket, think twice.
Mark Siebel is owner of DOGGIE STEPS Dog Training, LLC. He has trained more than 400 Valley dogs, speaks regularly at local schools about the importance of dog safety and ownership, and donates time to youths wanting to learn more about dogs. Siebel is a member of the Arizona Professional Pet Sitters Association and Australian Shepherd Club of Arizona. Contact him at (602) 318-0122 or www.DoggieStepsDogTraining.com.