Seven Ways to Provide Proactive Nutrition
Proactive nutrition makes a lot of sense, but it occurs to me that it's a bit of a grey area for many people. Here are the major points to consider when you want the very best for your dog.
Being proactive comes with a targeted approach because there are many things to consider and each is unique to the dog in question. If it seems a bit complicated, rest assured it's simply a matter of thinking things through and acting on that. It's also where the best results come from!
1. Make sure the nutrients your dog is receiving are coming from high quality foods (eggs, fish, meats/poultry) and the vitamin and mineral content truly meets your dog's requirements. So many people seem to believe that more is better, but over-nutrition can be as detrimental as being under nourished. For instance, animal hearts are a fantastic source of iron, but cancer cells make good use of iron. So, you want to provide enough for your dog, but not overdo it. Mineral interactions should be considered as well. Iron, copper and zinc are an example.
2. Consider the big picture. Adding sardines for their taurine content? That's ok, but have you also considered the amount of vitamin D being added? Is it enough? Too much? The answer is what differentiates between being discerningly proactive from following trends -no matter how well intentioned.
3. The breed you have (or the breeds that went into creating your dog) provides a predisposition to certain health issues. Feeding proactively means you consider those possibilities and feed accordingly. Obvious examples: Dalmatians should be fed a low purine diet; Westies should be fed a low oxalate diet with limited ingredients (to avoid using all available protein sources for a breed that is prone to allergies); the German Shepherd Dog should be fed with consideration to dietary sensitivities and skeletal support.
4. Caloric need can vary by as much as 50% between two dogs of the same age, gender and breed given the same amount of exercise. Feeding more, or less of the same diet in order to keep the dog at his/her ideal weight also ends up providing more, or fewer nutrients. However, both dogs have the same nutrient requirements. Best bet: formulate your dog's diet within his/her caloric parameter. That's the basic start to targeting nutrients specifically for your dog rather than generics.
5. I recognize that not everyone is going to formulate a diet or feed a home-prepared one. That's ok, don't give up on the idea of being proactive! Adding some fresh food to the bowl is a fantastic step to improving nutrition. Here again, you can do better than to follow the common trend of replacing 25% of your dog's kibble with fresh foods.
That scenario is what I used to suggest many years ago, but it's not ok today. Reason? The foods on the shelf today are vastly different. From novel ingredients, to dehydrated raw, premade raw, raw coated kibble…. Many are calorically dense and calories vary greatly among them. Say you're feeding 2 cups of kibble per day, and that amounts to 800 calories. Remove 25% (1/2 cup -200 calories) and you're also removing a significant amount of vitamins and minerals.
Fresh foods are wonderful, but which ones would you add, and what do they provide? Will your dog be under nourished now, or are you adding chicken hearts which can escalate iron to an unhealthy amount?
Without a doubt, you CAN be proactive when feeding kibble, but take your time and consider the full picture.
6. Being proactive includes considering the dog's age and activities. Performance dogs and older dogs can make great use of extra antioxidants. Some dogs are missing teeth and need a softer diet while others may also be missing teeth but continue chewing quite well. Some dogs become more active as they age (crazy, right?) and need more calories, while others are the opposite. Older dogs need more protein than younger ones, but of course 'more' is relative. Some older dogs benefit from digestive enzymes while others remain robust throughout life.
7. Can we be proactive even when disease strikes? You bet! Medications bring several possible side effects to the table. Prednisone is a good example because when used long term, it can create or exacerbate various issues.
For instance, prednisone affects calcium metabolism which increases the risk of calcium oxalate bladder stones. A proactive approach would include a low oxalate diet combined with a lot of water added to the food bowl. Ensure the diet is low in sodium because sodium excretion amplifies calcium excretion which can further exacerbate the tendency to bladder stone troubles. Make the diet is low in fat because prednisone can cause problems for the pancreas, not to mention the liver, so we want foods that are easy on the liver. That's just prednisone! Imagine how much better off a dog could be if we fed proactively to all dogs on meds.
**Reminder: I will be away Sept. 4-19. Jody Zesko will be available to reply to client emails Mon. – Thurs. during this timeframe.
" No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses" ~ Herman Melville