How dogs ate when they were in the wild, and how they digest and absorb nutrients now, has been a topic of veterinary research for decades. Because of this research, pet nutrition has improved drastically. However, the right diet still has its debates among veterinarians, as well as questions from pet owners.
In humans, carbs are an energy source. Dogs can process carbohydrates for energy, but they're designed to get their energy from fats and proteins. With the exception of female dogs nearing the end of pregnancy or while nursing, research concludes dogs do not need carbohydrates. However, carbs aren't bad for dogs, either. Carbohydrates, such as cooked sweet potatoes or brown rice, have healthy nutrients and are a source of fiber.
Dogs are meat eaters but are not designed to be solely carnivorous. They are omnivores, and for balanced nutrition they do need their veggies, such as broccoli and carrots. An all-vegetarian diet, however, tends to be frowned upon. Dogs need the nutrients found in proteins, and the fats within these proteins, especially in organ meats. If you insist on feeding your dog a vegetarian diet, make sure and consult an expert animal nutritionist. Supplements will be needed, and you should see your vet at least twice a year for an exam and blood work.
Advocates of the raw diet say it improves a dog’s coat, teeth, overall health and longevity. These diets contain red and white meats, including organ meats and fish, ground or whole bones, as well as an assortment of vegetables and fruits.
Opponents of the diet say cooking the food will give a dog the same nutrition and has a lower risk of contamination for the dog as well as owner. Cooked diets also have a longer shelf life and can be frozen. Also, whole bones can break teeth, or possibly cause an intestinal obstruction.
Before starting a homemade diet for your dog, consulting your veterinarian is imperative. Although homemade diets can be healthy, they also run the risk of unbalanced nutrition. Your dog’s needs depend on his activity level, size, age and breed. Also, certain healthy foods for people are toxic to dogs, such as grapes, avocados and onions. If your dog has a medical problem, certain foods will also need to be avoided.
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