It's dinnertime and your dog is looking to you to provide him with a nice, well-rounded and healthy meal. His diet should be selected carefully and you have several options. There's the BARF diet, prescription diets, vegetarian diets and commercial dog food. With such a variety, you'll find a healthy balance.
BARF stands for "biologically appropriate raw food," or "bones and raw food." Proponents of the BARF diet feed their dogs uncooked meats and bones. They believe that by feeding your dog raw bones and human-grade meat, he will enjoy many benefits, including a healthier coat, stronger immune system and increased vitality. Detractors believe that feeding your dog raw food exposes him to pathogens, such as salmonella, that can be passed on to humans when the dog gives sloppy kisses. E. coli and intestinal parasites also can be present in raw meat. Even handling the meat can put a human being at risk.
While cats are obligate carnivores, dogs are not; they're omnivores. If you're thinking of switching your dog to a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can do so only if you are meticulous. There are certain nutrients, vitamins and minerals dogs need to thrive. An all vegan or vegetarian diet may not meet those needs. Therefore, in addition to the fruits and veggies you feed your dog, purchase a commercially made vegetarian or vegan dog food. The manufacturers have done the research and know what elements must be present in plant-based dog food. The combination of fresh fruits and veggies with the vegetarian kibble or canned food will ensure your dog gets all the nutrients he needs to be healthy.
If your dog has some medical issues, your veterinarian may recommend a specific diet for your dog based on what kind of problems he has. For example, if your dog has a kidney disorder, your vet will suggest a diet made especially for dogs with kidney disorders. It contains a high-quality protein and less of it, which creates less work for the kidneys when they are handling waste products. There is a food for virtually any disorder or syndrome, from food allergies to weight loss. They are available through your vet or a pet supply store.
Your dog's diet should consist of a balance of nutrients, fats, carbs and protein. If you simply want to ensure your dog is getting everything his body needs to help her maintain a healthy weight and give her vitality, choose a high-quality, brand name dog food. In general, the more you pay for the food, the better it is; and it has the added benefit of less waste (dog poo). Check the label to be sure it has high-quality ingredients and avoid foods with lots of animal by-products and empty fillers. Choose a dog food made with human-grade meat so as to avoid the four-d meats found in low-cost dog food. Four-d refers to dead, dying, diseased, and disabled, and refers to the animal's state during transport to slaughter. Higher-grade dog foods do not contain four-d meats.
- Barf World: "Did You Really Say BARF?"
- The Skep Vet: Raw Veterinary Diets
- Science Daily: Bad to the Bone -- Professor Advises Against Raw Meat Diet for Pets
- Pets WebMD: Should Your Pet Go on a Vegetarian Diet?
- Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Chronic Kidney Disease and Failure
- Born Free USA: What's Really in Pet Food
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.