Simple Ways to Include More Species Appropriate, Fresh Foods Into Your Dog's Diet
Would you say your dog's physique is like Olympian Michael Phelps, or more like a VW Bug? Would you describe her athletic conditioning as closer to tennis great Serena Williams? Or is it more like a Milk Dud?
I was never concerned about these things until our recent adoption of a rescue dog. She's a combination Lab, Poodle, and WhatchaMcDoodle. You can measure her attention span by the depth of her food bowl. And her memory of her last meal lingers about 10 seconds.
We have a lot in common. Emma is about 1 1/2 years old - 10 in dog years - and at that age I was shaped like a hardboiled egg. Similarly, Emma is inclined to be one cookie away from an ottoman.
Healthy feeding habits for dogs begin and end with their parents. Do you feed the dog, or do you feed the bowl? Instead of filling the bowl because it’s empty and your dog is a foodie, establish better habits. Pick the right foods in the right amounts. Then, don't sweat their expressions that say: " I'm a waif; I'm willowy; I'm a reed." Here is a healthy dose of help.
1. Look for Labels with Less Starch
If you’re buying a commercially prepared diet – be it kibble, canned, freeze-dried, frozen raw, or dehydrated – know what’s in the food and in what amounts. Most kibble is loaded with starch – and it is not because all those lentils, peas, potatoes, rice, corn, or other grains are good for your dog. Starch can promote obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. Hefty amounts of starches are in the kibble because they are needed as binders in the manufacturing process. Kibble is made by big machines called extruders, and generally speaking, the stuff that goes into an extruder must be very sticky and starchy to form those uniform, dried-up little bits. So what do you do? First, look for food choices where whole proteins, assorted dark green vegetables, and organ meats appear in the first five ingredients on the label. If you want to see how current food fares starch-wise then whip out our calculator and you can find the steps by clicking here.
2. Offer Some Homemade Balanced Meals, or Fresh Food Toppers
Although the big bag of kibble might seem like it has all of the essential nutrients and vitamins that your pet needs to be healthy, consider that your bag of kibble can remain shelf-stable for years. Instead of feeding your pet a diet comprised exclusively of kibble, mix some fresh food or healthy toppers in their bowl. Or, consider including some homemade fresh meals like this recipe for lamb, kale and sweet potato into a rotation with their commercially prepared diet. Fresh whole foods like lean proteins, leafy green vegetables, eggs, organ meats, and antioxidant rich berries are essential components of a thriving dog’s diet.
Another good homemade recipe for your dog can be found here. It is based on the guidance of Dr. Nathan Heilman, DVM and it is one of the many recipes you can create yourself once you know the formula for a species-appropriate, homemade, well-balanced diet. Fresh whole foods contain amino acids, omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, enzymes and other critical nutrients that promote healthy digestion, immune strength, and overall well being.
3. Choose Species-Appropriate Treats and Chews
Every dog parent loves to give their dog a treat – whether it be a mid-day snack, or a reward for a job well done, or simply because you love them! However, it’s important to remember to scrutinize the label of the treats just like you would for that bag of food. Make your choices based on knowledge and the activity level of your dog as well as her overall health needs.
When selecting treats, look for small ingredient panels, high-protein, and whole-food choices, without salt, sugar, fillers or additives like glycerin or preservatives. Choose one that’s human grade – meaning it is made with 100% human edible food in a human food facility. In fact, the human grade distinction is a monumental one, and arguably one of the best choices you can make for your dog, according to pet food advocates like Susan Thixton.
Here at Goodness Gracious, we make healthy, human grade pet treats – like our single-ingredient chicken jerky for dogs called Hula Lula Chicken!. We are small-batch handcrafters, and we understand the value in creating healthy choices that dogs love to eat and parents love to give.