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Canine Diet & the Importance of Good Nutrition for Dogs

by Timothy J Govers, DVM
Diplomate, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, Avian Specialty

Good nutrition is the single most important step you can take to improve your dog’s health. Yet, many dogs are not on a healthy diet. Most commercial pet foods combine the lowest cost combination of ingredients that prevent overt nutritional deficiencies. They are not designed to support optimum health. Even so-called premium dog foods can offer less than ideal nutrition due to the use of byproducts and nutrients that are not easily absorbed.

A good diet should contain whole foods, not byproducts, to help ensure against micronutrient deficiencies. Chronic micronutrient deficiencies can have long-term effects on your dog’s health. For example, chromium deficiency is a proven cause of obesity and diabetes.

A good diet should be free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Ingredients such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin have been implicated in causing problems such as liver, kidney, and thyroid disease; itchy skin; hair loss; allergies; seizures; and cancer.

A good diet should be highly digestible. Byproducts are not as digestible as whole foods. Undigested food in the colon can act as a toxin or irritant, leading to allergies, arthritis, colitis, skin disease, urinary tract inflammation, and kidney disease, just to name a few. A highly digestible diet also results in feeding less and producing less waste (yes, less feces).

Two examples of diets for dogs offering superior nutrition are the Wysong diets and Flint River Ranch diets. Both of these brands contain whole meats, no byproducts, and whole grains. Digestive enzymes, live bacterial cultures, and essential fatty acids are included to prevent intestinal tract disease and food and skin allergies and promote optimum immune function. Kelp provides trace minerals, and herbs act as natural antioxidants. Neither brand contains artificial ingredients.

Although these two diets are the best, there certainly are other diets that approach the optimum. Your dog may also need to be on a prescription diet prescribed by a veterinarian because of other health issues. Look at labels and buy the best diet you can afford. The increased expense now for optimum nutrition will be rewarded with decreased future expenses at the veterinary clinic.

Any dog would benefit from a change to superior nutrition. Good health is reflected by a glossy coat, skin free of itching and dry flakes, bright eyes, and an active, happy personality. A change in diet may result in improvement in skin and coat condition, behavior, energy levels, and immune system function. There may be a decreased risk of degenerative disease, obesity, arthritis, and kidney disease. A new puppy can benefit from a lifetime of superior nutrition, with potentials for a longer life, optimum health, and the highest quality of life.