We all want the best for our dogs, which is why what we feed them is such a hot topic. But why does dog food matter so much when it comes to our four legged friends health and wellbeing? Read what David Jackson from 'All About Dog Food' has to say on this very interesting subject.
Food is essential for good health as much in dogs as in humans. Through your dog's diet, he has to get everything his body needs: from the energy needed to keep chasing those balls to the incredible array of nutrients that make up every tissue and keep every cellular process going.
Too much or too little of any one of those nutrients can quickly cause upsets and if something gets into your dog's diet that shouldn't be there, you can be sure that problems won't be far away. This is why it’s so important to be feeding your dog the correct diet.
Diet and Health
From weaning right through to old age, it is diet more than any other factor that will determine the quality and the length of your dog's life and, the truth is, that most complete foods are failing our dogs. All of us instinctively know what dogs should be eating - lots of yummy meat and bones.
Anyone who has walked their dog in the country will also know that dogs enjoy all sorts of other natural foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs and so on. This is what nutritionists call the dog's 'natural diet'. Most of us also now know what foods are not good for our health - excessive salt, sugar or fat, artificial additives and so on, all of which can be equally detrimental to our dogs as they are to us.
Despite all of this, if you take a look at most well known brands of dog food, you'll find an ingredients list chock-a-block with unhealthy ingredients and almost free from anything even resembling the natural diet.
Profit before pets
But why would companies make sub standard products? The answer is, of course, money. The first concern of most of the companies that make dog food is to turn as much profit as possible from their products.
Good ingredients like meat and whole fruit and veg cost a lot so they are substituted with cheaper ingredients and fillers. But these ingredients are neither useful to the dog nor tasty so manufacturers add cheap protein supplements and vitamin and mineral mixes to make up for the lack of nutrients and sugars, salts and fats to make up for the lack of taste.
Artificial colours might also be thrown in to make it appeal to the owner (they certainly aren't for the dogs as they are largely colour blind) and chemical preservatives are added to give it the incredibly long shelf life that consumers have come to expect.
The end result is a product that is intended first to sell and second to keep the dog alive. The fact that so many of the cheaper ingredients used in these foods have been consistently linked to health problems doesn't seem to enter the equation.
Fillers and additives
Wheat, for example, is perhaps the most commonly used filler in lower grade dog foods but it has long been known that dogs have a relatively high rate of gluten intolerance. Manufacturers know that a lot of customers now don't like seeing wheat on the label so they instead call it 'cereals', 'grains' or even 'derivatives of vegetable origin' to throw consumers off the scent.
Dogs need an adequate supply of protein to get by and that protein should come from meat but plant sources like maize protein, pea protein and soya are far cheaper. Unfortunately, they are also much harder to digest and therefore often cause dietary intolerance but that's not enough to stop manufacturers from routinely using plant proteins rather than real meat ingredients.
Worst of all is the widespread use of artificial additives in low grade pet foods. A number of common colourings have been widely linked to behavioural problems and several artificial preservatives have been identified as possible causes of cancer.
Essentially, with every mouthful of food, your dog is taking in more and more toxins and numerous health problems are the result. Sadly though, they are not the end of the story. It is believed by many nutritionists that these signs are just the start and as the months and years pass, and as the flow of toxins into the body does not subside, more troubling problems can develop. Chronic health problems like kidney disease, liver failure, heart problems, diabetes and even cancer have all been linked to diet and studies have shown that inappropriate diet can shorten our pets' lives by several years.
The problem and solution
But there is a fairly huge light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, diet is the source of many of these problems but it can also be the cure. By getting your dog's diet right, often by simply by moving to a better quality food, you can give your dog a new lease of life and often stop all of the potential problems in their tracks.
Feeding better dog food doesn't have to break the bank either. With less fillers and far more nutrients per gram, you actually have to feed much less of a good food than of a low grade food - sometimes as much as half. When you also factor in vet bills, feeding good food can actually work out considerably cheaper in the long run. Interested to find out the nutritional rating of your dogs food? Head over to allaboutdogfood.com and take a look.