One of the main issues with commercial dog foods is that they are made up mostly grain, rather than what your dog really needs: meat! As more people are becoming aware of this nutritional mistake, grain free kibble has become more and more popular in recent years.
But is grain free dog food really a better option for your pup? What are the essential ingredients your dog should be getting in his diet? How do you know you’re making the best nutrition choices for your pet?
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Separating The Facts From The Myths
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, and while some of it is fact, a lot of it is simply myth. So I’ve decided to clear the air a little bit in regards to your dog’s dieting needs.
Grain Replaced With Something Worse
While you definitely want to keep grain out of your dog’s diet as much as possible, many grain-free commercial dog foods are just as bad if not worse than dog foods that are full of grain.
In order to create a food that is sticky enough to form into dry pieces of kibble, you need some sort of starch. So if you’re finding grain free options in the dry-food isle you can be assured that it’s still packed full of some other type of carbohydrate, which is simply something your dog can do without.
Digestive Issues Anyone?
A common grain alternative that manufacturers use in their dry dog food are legumes. This includes pea products, chickpeas, lentils, sweet potatoes and tapioca. Some of these ingredients are just fine for your dog when served fresh, raw, or frozen. But dried? Not so much.
Legumes are high in fiber, iron, folate, and complex carbohydrates. But the worst issue by far is the presence of phytates and lectins. Phytates are substances that carnivores (like your furry friend) simply can’t break down, and lectins are known to contribute to digestive issues and leaky gut. Sound like something you want to put into your doggie’s bowl? No thank you!
Aren’t Dogs Omnivores?
But if dogs can eat meats as well as plants, that should make them omnivores, not carnivores. So grain shouldn’t be a problem for my dog right? Just one peek into your dog’s mouth to examine his teeth is proof enough that this is a complete myth. Dogs share 99% of their DNA with wolves; your pup is definitely a carnivore!
But dogs have evolved and adapted over time to eat human foods and plants, right? That’s another big fat no! Dogs can survive eating grains and plants, but they really can’t thrive on this diet. Their bodies just aren’t biologically built for much of a veggie or grain based diet. In fact, a failure to provide your pet with an adequate meat-based diet is one of the main reasons that so many dogs suffer from disease.
How To Feed Your Dog Veggies
Wait, but I thought dogs shouldn’t be eating veggies or fruits since they are carnivores? Yes, it’s a little confusing. But just as there are dangers of feeding your dog too many plant-based ingredients, there are also risks that come with feeding your dog straight meat.
Meat is essential to your dog’s diet because it contains essential amino acids and proteins that plants just don’t have. However, plants can offer certain antioxidants and vitamins that muscle meats can’t provide. The secret to this is to feed your dog a small amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, not anything processed or dried.
The Dangers Of Carbohydrates
That’s right, a large reason that commercial dog foods are so unhealthy for dogs is because of the carbohydrate content. Your dog is a carnivore, which means that he simply doesn’t have a carbohydrate requirement. Loading him up with carbs, which his body isn’t naturally made to deal with, is just going to cause issues.
It seems that dog food companies are aware of this fact, because many manufacturers tend to leave off the carb content from their labels so as to not “confuse” dog owners with excess information. Unfortunately, this means just a bit more research on your end to find a dog food with as little carb content as possible.
Carbs Equal Sugar Equal Disease
The other issue with carbohydrates is that your dog’s digestive system breaks them down into sugars. While this may give your dog some temporary energy, the sugar content leads to other issues down the road.
Sugar causes an insulin release, just as it does in your own body. This causes the blood sugar to drop, which in turn releases cortisol. Just as this process can lead to diabetes and obesity in a human body, it can do the same thing for your dog. These conditions can also lead to other diseases and issues for your dog later in life.
Where Does Fiber Come In?
One common argument as to why dogs need grain is that grain provides fiber, which can help prevent digestive issues. Yes, fiber is essential in preventing constipation or other digestive issues, but grain-filled dry kibble isn’t the source of fiber that your dog needs. That’s like saying that you need to eat more chocolate chip cookies in order to get that much needed fiber.
Many dogs who suffer with poor stool quality, diarrhea, gassiness, GI inflammation, and other digestive issues have allergies or sensitivities to their food ingredients. A lack of fiber just isn’t the issue. However, if your dog is in need of more fiber in their diet, turning to fruits and veggies should do the trick, rather than grains.
Vets Aren’t Nutritional Experts!
The unfortunate truth is that most veterinarians aren’t trained in dog nutrition, or any nutrition for that matter. Any education they do receive on this subject in veterinary school is sponsored and provided by the commercial dog food manufacturers themselves, who are just trying to sell their product!
If you’re wondering why your veterinarian is advocating grain-filled dog foods, or discouraging raw “people foods” for your dog (even though many are healthy and appropriate for your pet), it’s likely because he simply doesn’t know any better.
What Should I Do Now?
So if we’ve ruled out dog foods with grain, without grain, with veggies, and without veggies, and even advice from the trusted vet, what is there left to do?
Don’t be discouraged! There is hope for your dog and his diet. Try these three simple steps to get you started on the right track.
1. Know The Ingredients.
The first step to assuring that your dog has a nutritious diet is to know the ingredients that you’re feeding him. Get into the habit of checking the ingredients list on your dog food before you purchase, and definitely before you put it into fluffy’s bowl. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce or aren’t familiar with any ingredient on the list, it’s not something you should be feeding your dog.
2. Go Raw
The best way to provide high quality ingredients to your dog is to give him a raw diet. Raw meats, veggies and fruits, right from the same isles that you shop in for yourself! However, keeping up a well-balanced raw diet can be a challenge, and that’s completely understandable. This is where TruDog can come to the rescue! These raw, freeze dried, high quality ingredients will not only provide your dog with just the nutrients he needs lead a healthy life, but in a way that’s convenient for you!
3. A Balanced Diet
Remember, diets that are solely meat based or solely plant based are equally dangerous. Make sure that your dog gets a good balance of muscle meat, bones, and organs, veggies and fruits. Just like you need a variety of different foods and nutrients, your dog needs this kind of balance in his diet as well.
No Grain, No Brainer!
It turns out doggie dieting is a whole lot more than just a question of grain or no grain. The good news is, you don’t have to slave over commercial dog food labels trying to decipher them ever again! It’s a no brainer. Raw, fresh foods are just what your dog needs to keep him healthy and happy for the rest of his life.
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