With the vast selection of commercial dog foods on the market, knowing what's healthy and what's not can become confusing. Dogs naturally are omnivores that eat a variety of proteins and plant materials to stay healthy. In the wild, dogs often will get their plant nutrients from their herbivore prey, although our beloved pets will snack graciously on various fruits and vegetables to get carbs, fiber and other nutrients.
The term "whole foods" is thrown around quite a bit in the world of human foods, but it's just as important for a healthy pooch. Whole foods are those that are unprocessed and unrefined. They don't contain fillers or empty calories. Because they're lacking the unnecessary ingredients, you can feed many whole foods to your pet without worrying.
When looking at dog food labels, stick with products that have real meats as the first ingredient. Meat meals, such as chicken meal or beef meal, are not whole meats, and don't provide the proper types of fats and proteins for your beloved pooch. Byproducts are the same, except byproducts typically are the parts of slaughtered animals that humans typically don't consume. These leftover parts include stomachs, spleens, kidneys, blood, brains and lungs. In short, stick with a dog food that lists a whole meat, such as chicken or beef, without the words "meal" or "byproduct" after them. Cooking your pooch lean meats also is a great treat as long as you forget the seasoning and make sure the meat is well done.
Fruits and Veggies
Most veggies are devoured graciously by your pampered pooch, and provide fiber, carbohydrates and other nutritious benefits. Some doggy favorites include peas, carrots, broccoli, kale, apple slices, sweet potatoes and various squashes. Cooking these can give your pooch a soft, mashed-up snack of healthy deliciousness. Many commercial dog foods now add various fruits and veggies to their recipes for the nutrition and the dog-approved taste. A few fruits and veggies are dangerous, however, including the seeds and pits of fruits, green parts of tomatoes and potatoes, avocado, and grapes and raisins.
Tips and Tricks
Remember to avoid giving your pooch bones, especially poultry bones, because they can splinter easily or may be swallowed in large pieces. Ask your vet first if you want to give bones to your pup, since some pups may be able to handle larger, thicker bones that don't splinter as easily. The opinions of different veterinarians and experts vary on the topic of bones, with some saying that raw bones are OK and some stating that no bone is safe. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a consumer update April, 2010 stating that bones are unsafe. The trick to keeping your pooch healthy when supplementing his diet with "people food" is to do so in moderation. Providing him with a well-balanced dog food is a great way to keep his nutrition in check.