by Roanna Sabeh-Azar
At the age of 27, I found my first dog on a business trip to Mexico. On a busy street in downtown Mexico City I saw a box containing 10 puppies, all of different colours and breeds. I reached my hand in and pulled out the cutest dog I had ever seen – Mex!
At that time I owned a boutique on Yorkville Avenue and didn’t have the faintest idea how to care for a dog, but it all seemed to come naturally to me. Twenty years ago there really wasn’t much available to dog owners like there is today. One thing I remember NOT doing was going to a pet store to get him anything, especially food.
It only seemed logical that I was to cook for this baby and he would eat what a dog should: Meat! And so for 16 years my 80 lb Old English Sheepdog ate meat with rice, oatmeal or quinoa and I cooked for him and his partner in crime, Buster, for the years that followed.
I wish however that we had had more products on the market as we do now, with all the supplements and tonics available for dogs and pets! Had I had more to work with, I think my boy would have lived even longer than the 16 years he did.
So knowing what we do today, let’s explore what actually is available on the market and how dogs should be fed:
…supplements will help keep him/her energetic and healthy, with glistening hair and strong, flexible bones and joints…
These are generally extra vitamins added to any dog food. They make it possible to help your dog grow strong and healthy and improve his immune system. Minerals and vitamins are usually basic additives and together with regular food will make your pet live a healthy, long life. They are usually available in most pet stores in powder, capsule or liquid form. Knowledgeable staff can help you decide what is best for your pet. Supplements will help keep him/her energetic and healthy, with glistening hair and strong, flexible bones and joints.
Regular dog food doesn’t have the right quantity of vitamins and minerals and are overcooked and full of chemicals, so you must find the perfect solution to maintain your dog’s overall health.
Raw food diets have gained popularity because of various perceived holistic and natural benefits. They are touted for being more natural, healthier and more economical than commercial cooked dry or canned pet food. A commonly cited rationale is that dogs and cats are carnivores and evolved eating raw and natural foods, while the processing of foods may destroy or alter nutrients.
Proposed benefits of raw food diets include: improved immune function, improved coat appearance, preventing dental disease from chewing on bones, eliminating bad breath, improving body odor and fecal odor, minimizing risk of gastric dilatation and volvulus, preventing cardiac disease, increasing energy levels, controlling growth levels of puppies and kittens, optimizing weight management, decreasing risk of pancreatitis, promoting longer lifespan, improving reproductive success, reducing arthritis, and decreasing veterinary costs (due to fewer allergies and other diseases).
Raw food diets may also give owners control of exactly what their pets are eating, allowing hand-picking of produce and meat, and the option to choose local or home-grown foods.
Although raw diets may be perceived as very natural, there are several health concerns to consider with these types of diets. Perceived bacterial and parasitic contamination is one potential problem which has been researched, yet remains a point of contention. Proponents of raw food diets explain that dogs are scavengers and able to tolerate a certain amount of bacteria that they may encounter in the routine raw diets without becoming ill; however other raw food supporters suggest not feeding pork, venison, or rabbit, because these animals may have parasites that companion animals cannot tolerate. Concern of bacterial contamination is not limited to raw diets. In recent years, there have been multiple recalls of commercial (cooked) pet foods and treats that have been contaminated with Salmonella due to cross-contamination at manufacturing plants.
A second health concern to consider with raw diets is the possibility of fractured teeth, gastrointestinal obstruction or GI perforation from ingestion of bones. Raw diet proponents recommend feeding raw vs. cooked bones, as raw bones are softer, easier to digest, and less likely to cause gastrointestinal problems. Even raw bones are hard enough to cause fractured teeth and the bones can also be ground very finely, so no danger at hand.
While laws are in place to minimize contamination of meat intended for human consumption, these laws do not protect meat intended for pet consumption. Therefore, owners who elect to feed raw meat and eggs should be careful to purchase only products of quality acceptable for human consumption from a clean and trusted source and perhaps a mix of the cooked and raw diets is always a good choice.
…dogs belong to the order ‘Carnivora’ but, confusingly enough, they’re actually omnivores…
Not all experts are convinced that turning a dog or cat into a “vegan” is the way to go. Again, there are pros and cons. It became popular a few years ago when several brands of pet food were contaminated. Over 4,000 dogs and cats that ate the contaminated food died of kidney failure, and that sparked a lot of pet owners to take more control over what they feed their pet. So, instead of bowlfuls of kibble, many dogs and cats began eating home-cooked meals or raw food. Others went “vegan” like their owners – and were placed on a diet of fruit, vegetables, rice and beans.
However, a lot of pet experts say by feeding your dog a vegetarian diet, you’re going against nature. It’s biologically apparent that their teeth are designed for eating a diet largely comprised of animal tissue. Dogs also have a short intestinal tract, which means they aren’t built for diets containing large amounts of plant materials. Plus dogs have a high nutrient requirement for protein and calcium. They also need a lot of B12, which isn’t found in plants. The incidence of food allergies in dogs is very low. And allergies can be developed against proteins in plants just as easily. Another factor to consider is that animal agriculture is a huge contributor to global warming, something important to anyone concerned with environmental issues.
Dogs belong to the order ‘Carnivora’ but, confusingly enough, they’re actually omnivores. Therefore, just like a human, your dog can live on a vegetarian diet. Dogs have the ability to turn some amino acids (which are the building blocks of protein) into other ones that are usually found in meat. As such, they can technically get everything they need without ingesting meat. One of the world’s oldest dogs – a Border Collie from the UK named Bramble – lived the entirety of her 27 years eating a vegan diet.
It’s my sincere belief that a little bit of everything may just be what the doctor ordered and through these diverse feeding practices, you will decide based on your dog’s performance what works best for him or her.
Roanna Sabeh-Azar is the owner of Neo-Paws International Inc. www.neopaws.com