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Feeding your dog for health and vitality

Feeding your dog can be overwhelming given the variety of foods, diets, trends and opinions available. An Internet search of “dog food research” yields 316,000,000results!
But information is your best ally to ensure your dog gets the best possible diet for its health and vitality. Just make sure the information you use is credible, backed by legitimate research and sanctioned by expert organizations. And consult your dog breeder and vet for advice and guidance. A list of resources and articles at the end of this blog may be helpful.
Pet food (cat and dog) in Canada is a $2 Billion a year industry and is regulated by the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and the Competition Act, administered by Industry Canada. Regulations were tightened after the melamine (an industrial chemical compound) scare of 2007, when that substance was found in some dog foods and sickened many dogs, and was banned as a result. As a result, dog food producers must know where ingredients come from and inspect their facilities to ensure only safe ingredients are used.
When it comes to feeding your dog, you have to take into consideration its age, size and activity level. Generally, puppies under six months of age should be fed 3-4 times a day, and dogs over six months fed 1-2 times a day. Pet foods are often geared towards dogs of varying ages and sizes, so look for the food that best suits your dog’s needs.
It is a good idea to learn to read labels of dog food, for not all dog foods are created equal. Look for the term “complete and balanced” and know that the list of ingredients is in order of quantity. Some terms can be misleading. For example, if an ingredient is labelled “beef” it must comprise 70 per cent of the product but if it’s labelled “beef dinner or entrée” it will only have to comprise 10 per cent of the product.
As well, there are different levels of digestibility in the meat proteins found in dog food. An American study found that fish meal had the highest level of digestibility (87 per cent) while lamb had the lowest (at 70.5 per cent).
Dogs are not strict carnivores; while meat makes up the majority of their diet they also derive nutrients from grains, fruits and vegetables. So a good dog food will contain meat, grains, fruits and vegetables.
It’s all well and good to feed your dog a quality pet food product … but what of supplements, raw food diets, vegan diets?
When it comes to using supplements, it’s wise to check with a veterinarian first. Some supplements, such as Omega-3 or 6, Zinc or Vitamin A, can help treat itching or inflamed skin in dogs, but knowing the correct dosage is important.
Also, skin problems vary widely and only a vet can diagnose and prescribe the proper treatment. Skin issues in dogs are among the most common medical problems that vets deal with. They can result from allergens from parasites, environmental allergies as well as adverse food reactions. Common food allergies in dogs include beef, dairy, chicken and eggs; some dogs are also sensitive to additives in pet foods. As well, some dog breeds are more prone to skin problems; including some terriers, Pugs, French bulldogs, Labradors, standard Poodles, and Doberman Pinschers, to name a few. As you can see, skin issues in dogs can be complex.
There has been much attention paid in recent years to raw food diets for dogs. The rationale is that a raw food diet is similar to the diet eaten by a dog’s wild ancestors. However, a raw food diet may carry bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses in pets and humans, experts warn. A study by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s Centre for Veterinary Medicine that tested over 1,000 samples of raw pet food for bacteria found Salmonella in 7.6 per cent of samples and Listeria in 16 per cent of samples. This compared to 0 per cent of the same pathogens found in cooked dry, semi-moist dog foods and jerky treats. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association and the Public Health Agency of Canada have put out a joint statement with a list of warnings about raw diets such as: "enhanced risk of infection in very young children from exposure to the food or feces of pets consuming raw food diets."
Vegan diets for dogs have also gained attention recently. An Ontario Veterinary College survey of over 3,500 dog and cat owners around the world found that 35 per cent of those survey would switch their pets to a vegan-based diet if it was affordable, accessible, and met their pets’ nutrition and dietary needs.
It’s important to make informed choices when it comes to feeding your dog. Knowledge is power so tap the wide range of (credible) resources that are available to ensure your dog is getting the best diet possible.

Resources and further reading:

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