Give your dog vitality
PUBLISHED: 08:52 21 July 2016 | UPDATED: 22:29 22 July 2016
What effect does diet have on a dog's health? Lisa Clarke, founder of Guru pet food, says it can make all the difference
A recent study* has suggested there has been an 850 per cent increase in dog diabetes (and 900 per cent in cats) in the UK. This is no surprise to me. Your dogs’ health, much like your own, can suffer due to convenience in our frenetic society.
It’s no coincidence that the increase in dog diabetes and obesity corresponds with a widely-reported increase in human obesity. Being time-poor or having a restricted budget can mean good-quality fresh and healthy foods are a luxury rather than a daily option.
In order for your dog to thrive, it’s essential they have a healthy, balanced diet. A poor diet affects behaviour, skin and fur condition, stool quality, freshness of breath and the immune system, as well as being the main cause of diabetes and obesity.
If we take a human analogy, you could eat a takeaway every day, but common sense tells us it’s nutritionally unbalanced and clearly unhealthy. It’s fine as a treat now and again, but the long-term effects of a fast-food diet are obvious. You wouldn’t do it to yourself, so why would you do it to your dog?
How much you know about your dog’s food? Many dog owners simply look at what is stocked in their local pet store or supermarket and choose between the well-advertised usual suspects and pick the one most appealing to them. While a particular brand might be well marketed, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s nutritionally rich.
Take dry kibble as an example. It’s by far the most common food currently on the market, mainly because it’s cheap and also because some of the brands that produce it are household names. However, despite its popularity, there are concerns about its method of production.
Kibble is made by a process called extrusion. This involves the raw materials being passed through a giant steam cooker and heated to temperatures of 150 degrees and above. The mixture is dried and cooled before entering a coating machine that sprays fats and oils to enhance flavour. The concerns focus on the high temperatures involved, which destroy some of the nutrients contained in the food, including vitamins, some amino-acids and enzymes. You could also argue that the fats and oils contribute to dog obesity. Yet, even so, it’s the current market leader.
Raw diets and home-cooked food are a natural alternative. I was a home feeder for more than 20 years, but with the pace of life today, shopping and preparing fresh meals for ourselves let alone for our dogs can be difficult. While raw feeding is much healthier than dry kibble, it involves a level of preparation and commitment above simply putting food in a bowl.
Cold-pressed is a little-known method of dog food production that uses much lower temperatures than kibble – about 45 degrees – thereby retaining much more of the food’s natural nutrients. All About Dog Food (allaboutdogfood.co.uk), which independently reviews and scores foods on the market, describes cold-pressed as ‘the best of both worlds’ thanks to it being both convenient and natural. Indeed, many owners confuse it with dry kibble, but it’s much more nutrient-rich and includes cold-pressed oils that contain numerous anti-toxins and are great for a dog’s coat and skin. Cold-pressed foods are used by many raw feeders.
Also consider baked foods, However, this process relies on a certain amount of wheat gluten to act as a binder, to which many dogs are intolerant. Air-dried and freeze-dried foods are further options and although more nutritionally balanced than kibble come at a higher cost due to the more expensive method of production.
It’s also important to take into account the actual ingredients of the food and not just the alleged content.
Dogs are of course carnivores, so the main ingredient we tend to look for is meat content. But while it might say on the packaging ‘30 per cent chicken’, you may be surprised to find in some instances the chicken content is actually made from chicken feathers. Yes, chicken feathers!
So you can see why it’s important to choose a brand which is open and honest about its food content. Choose wisely, and you’ll see your pets develop a new lease of life, with increased energy, improved skin and coat, fresher breath, and a stronger immune system, all while being better behaved. Dogs are family members too, so do what’s best for them. w
Lisa Clarke alongside her husband Andrew is the owner and founder of Guru pet food, which provides high-quality nutrient-rich food ‘that puts dogs’ health first.’ Visit gurupetfood.com for more information.