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What to feed your dog.

What to feed your dog.

Protein for your Dog.

I’m no expert when it comes to pets, but as a Nutritionist, I had occasion recently to investigate how I could feed my new puppies a healthy diet. He! He! Yes, I got some covid puppies! I love them so much!!

I am all about finding the right foods for myself, my husband and my Nutrition Clients, so it follows that I am also concerned about what I feed my Puppies! I have two toy Poodles!!

I wanted to be informed about what was best for a dog’s diet that enabled them to thrive! I already knew they needed a high protein diet, but I wanted to know what is really in pet foods these days! So many manufacturers are trying to keep costs down and the unsuspecting public might be taken for a ride……

We all understand that dogs are carnivores (meat eating) animals, but is it ok to feed kibble that has a protein content of only 30% or less?

Protein has a Biological Value which measures how available it is to the animal’s digestion. If a biological value is high it means that the nutrients (amino acids) it means that it is easily broken down by your dog’s gut.

Frozen, dehydrated, raw or freeze-dried foods are the most bioavailable to dogs. Slow cooked foods are almost as good, while food that has undergone extremely high temperature processes such as the extrusion processes involved in making dry food or kibble, is of a low biological value.

The processing that is generally applied to producing kibble actually causes the structure of the proteins (amino acids) to change. The high temperature required for the extrusion process makes the protein structures to break down and then reform, joining with carbohydrates, thereby becoming less available to a dogs gut.

One of the reasons that most processed commercial kibble is not usually found to have a high protein content is because the paste for making the extruded meat meal must be of a low water content or it gums up the machinery. Another reason is that raw meat are roughly 70% water content. It is also cheaper to use less meats and more vegetable and grains. Dog’s guts can utilise the grains if they have a healthy digestion for a short time.

So kibble is made with meat meal – a product that has only from 7% up to 15% water and is made up of a lot of highly nutritious organ meats, and many other tissues from other parts of the body. It has been cooked and dried to remove the extra water content. It can be more nutritious than a meal of shoulder proteins or leg proteins as the organs are known to be more nutritious. Meat meal is generally made up of around 65% meats and only 10% water – the rest is made up of other. Meat meal is a dried end-product of the cooking process known as rendering. Rendering is a lot like making stew — except that this stew is intentionally over-cooked. With rendering, you start with a meat stew, cook away the water and bake the residue. You end up with a highly concentrated protein powder — or meat meal which can be stored in huge containers unrefrigerated and is transported in this form. My experience as a Nutritionist has taught me to be wary of highly processed and heat treated “foods”.

Meat meal of low quality is commonly used, does not identify from which animal it’s made from and is labelled “animal meal”, “meat meal”, “meat and bone meal”, and especially if it is called “animal by-product”. By-product refers to all the offcuts that used to be thrown away or given to hungry alligators at the zoo! By-products contain other animal parts including horns, hooves, hair, feathers, beaks, and claws which are not normally eaten by a typical dog. It could be made from many different types of animals, birds or fish. These cheaper ingredients are often not refrigerated for a time after being cut away, before being gathered up, chopped up and packaged in plastic and then frozen. Hence, they are more likely to contain pathogenic bacteria that could upset a sensitive dog’s digestion. Breeds such as Poodles and many small dog breeds are known for being fussy! And rightly so as their digestion may not be as good as a larger breed.

If a meat meal contains “chicken meal”, “duck meal”, “beef meal”, “lamb meal”, or “venison meal” described on it’s label, then it is likely to be a credible source and you know exactly what is in the food.

If there are 3 or 4 grains or carbohydrates listed in the first 6 ingredients then it is likely that there is not enough protein in that “dog food”. Foods that include the following protein sources in the top 6 ingredients are likely to be a better quality protein food for your dog. Note here that whole eggs have the highest Biological Value (most easily digested) of 100% (shown as BV 100) and all other proteins are compared to eggs. Whole eggs (BV 100); chicken (BV 79); turkey (BV 79; Salmon, ocean-fish & other named fish (BV 70), beef (BV 69). Soy protein would never be found naturally in a dog’s diet but has a BV of 67 to 74. They have a fairly short digestive track so cannot digest legumes as well as other animals with longer digestive tracts. It has been made available very cheaply to manufacturers and is sold to them as a cheap high protein alternative, so steer clear of a brand that adds soy. Many pets are sensitive to soy and have a hard time digesting it. Plant food proteins such as corn, wheat, and gluten contain a small amount of protein, but it is not a good source of quality protein and are used as additives usually in the cheaper dog foods. Look at the ingredient list and be discerning!

Grains are not the dogs natural food so over time if continually fed a low protein food like commonly available kibble, it can upset the dogs gut and unsurprisingly the dog can become susceptible to the same types of problems that humans have suffered over the last 50 or so years – causing inflammation and cravings and resulting in many of the same metabolic issues that we humans have suffered. They can eventually become diabetic or suffer from skin issues, or become overweight or obese.

Ingredients List from a well-known Dog Food brand  – Chicken, Lamb, Carrots, Peas, Potato, Gelling Agents, Flavours Vitamins and Minerals (Choline Chloride, Vitamin E, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Sodium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Sulphate, Magnesium Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Natural Colour, Oils including Emu Oil.

If an ingredient list contains the following, it makes you wonder why they have added so many extra vitamins and minerals.  Is it just to sell their product?  It may be added but the amounts may be so small that it won’t have much effect.  Also it make me ask the question – was the meat of inferior quality?  I would avoid this brand.

In Australia, brands that I found had a higher quality of protein were Ivory Coat, Kiwi, Ziwi and K9 (these latter three all come from New Zealand).  Ivory Coat is not available through the big pet stores or supermarkets as the owner is trying to keep costs down and I feel he is genuinely caring about his products.   Many of the commonly available puppy foods are higher protein, as puppies definitely require more protein for the growth stage.   After 12 months a puppy is considered to be an adult, but I would continue to feed the puppy food for some time before transitioning to a different brand.

So next time you go shopping for your dog food please keep the above in mind.  If you do decide to change your dog’s diet it is advisable to transition to the new diet slowly over a period of seven days.

Follow this guide to help introduce a new food

  • Day 1: 25% new diet and 75% old diet.
  • Day 3: 50% new diet and 50% old diet.
  • Day 5: 75% new diet and 25% old diet.
  • Day 7: 100% new diet.

Monitor your dog’s behaviour during this time. If your dog displays concerning signs such as changes in appetite, vomiting, or diarrhoea, you should slow down the transition time (extend it to two weeks).  And if you have transitioned gradually and your dog is still experiencing stomach upset, it is best to consult with your veterinarian. Please explain that you are wanting to feed your dog a grain free, gluten free, legume free, natural meat diet.

Ultimately it is up to you to choose what you feel is right for your dog.  It pays to be aware these days of what the processes are and what the special names of the ingredients are that is in your dog’s food, the same as what is in the food you and your family eat.  So be informed and do your research!

Wishing you Happy Days with your beloved pet family!!  

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