Each year, we strive for New Beginnings in our health journey. We often make New Year's resolutions to "Lose Weight" or "Eat Healthier," but have we considered making the exact resolution regarding our dog's nutrition?
January is Weight Loss Awareness Month, so I thought I would interview Lisa, a canine nutritionist I have hired for Cisco and Tito, to give my boys a well-balanced diet.
One of the reasons for hiring Lisa was that I wanted to know if I was on the right path regarding the fresh food I gave Cisco and Tito. Still, my main reason for having a dog nutrition consultation is that Tito was on a medical food ( the kibble food will remain nameless) that I was not fond of, so having a professional dog nutritionist educate me on what I should be feeding my boy was extremely important to me.
Here is my interview with Pet Nutritionist Lisa
What led you to specialize in dog nutrition? Can you share a bit about your background and experience in this field?
Like most other pet owners, I've always been concerned about what I was feeding my three dogs. You hear so much about pet food recalls, mystery ingredients and poor manufacturing standards. Overall, there seemed to be a growing mistrust from pet owners in regard to the commercial dog food industry and the ingredients and practices used in manufacturing. In 2019, my 18-month-old Brussels Griffon Oscar suffered an unexplained neurological/muscular condition that left him unable to walk or even sit up for Six months. After months of tests, including MRI's, spinal taps, parasite, viral, and bacterial screenings, both Neurological and Orthopedic specialists could not determine the cause or a diagnosis. The prognosis was grim. I had resorted to hand-feeding him small amounts of home-cooked meals in a desperate
attempt to provide him with any sort of sustenance. After a month of my efforts and some vitamin supplements, he began to recover slowly. It took him another six months and physical therapy to fully regain the ability to walk and run. I came to a couple of realizations from this experience.
- Did something in his food cause this illness and
- Did the homecooked fresh food and vitamin supplements restore his health?
I knew at this point I needed to pursue a career in dog nutrition. The more I learned, the more I
realized how little dog owners know, and the internet is not the place to seek valid answers. I
want to share everything I know with pet parents to ensure their dogs live the longest, healthiest life possible. It all starts with a healthy diet.
What are the key components of a healthy and balanced diet for dogs?
Dogs are facultative carnivores. This means that although they should primarily eat meat, they also thrive on nutrients that are naturally found in other whole fresh foods. Fresh meat, organs, and healthy fats should make up the bulk of their diet, followed by antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Healthy non-GMO grains may also be added in small amounts for both energy, vitamin and mineral content.
What foods should dogs absolutely avoid, and why?
Grapes, Onions, Macadamia Nuts, and Chocolate are all toxic to dogs and can be lethal if ingested. There are compounds that exist in these foods that dogs are not able to metabolize.
How can dog owners tell if their pet is getting the right nutrition?
An energetic dog with a healthy weight, supple skin and coat, fresh breath and good solid poops is a good indicator your dog is getting the nutrition they need. Regular vet checkups and blood work are always recommended.
What are some healthy treats or snacks that dogs can enjoy?
Single-ingredient treats made with dehydrated or dried protein or vegetables are the best. Try to avoid treats made with corn, wheat or soy and preservatives. The best treats you can give your dog are straight from your fridge! Bits of fruit, a dollop of plain yogurt, half a hard-boiled egg, a slice of skinless meat, and a slice of boiled sweet potato are all healthy options.
How does a dogs age affect its nutritional needs?
Nutritional needs change from puppyhood all the way to the senior stage. Puppies need high calorie nutrient dense meals to accommodate their fast growth rate. Higher protein and higher fat meals are ideal. Once a dog reaches adulthood and is spayed or neutered, their daily caloric requirements can drop by as much as 40%. At this point, good maintenance food is required. Once a dog reaches its senior years, a food that is higher in protein should be provided to prevent sarcopenia (muscle loss from age) and possibly lower in fat as they lose the ability to effectively digest fats and proteins.
Should dogs be fed once or multiple times a day, and why?
This depends on the dog. Puppies should be fed 3-4x a day. Adult dogs can be fed twice a day, but some do well only once a day. Certain health conditions may require dogs to eat more frequently. Kibble companies back in the 1950s advocated for dogs to be fed twice a day, with the hopes that folks would buy more dog food. Before commercial foods were invented, dogs only ate once a day!
What are three vegetables that dogs should be eating? Three to avoid?
Any vegetable that is packed with nutrients is great! I choose spinach, broccoli or red peppers steamed and chopped. A small amount is all they need! If dogs are fed kibble, I would avoid any starchy vegetables such as white potatoes, winter squash or peas as they are higher in sugars and carbohydrates.
Raw or kibbles?
This depends! Every dog is different. Many believe that raw is the answer to all health issues especially allergies and gastrointestinal sensitivities. This is not always the case and, in some cases, can make the condition worse. Kibble, which uses high-quality ingredients, may be a great option for your dog. There are even more options on the market, from freeze-dried to gently cooked. The trick is to find what works best for both your dog, your lifestyle and your budget.
What should dog owners look for when choosing commercial dog food?
Products should be complete and balanced to NRC or AFFCO standards. This ensures that your dog is at least getting the minimum amount of nutrients needed on a daily basis. Proteins listed should be fresh or whole, traceable, listed at the beginning of the ingredient list and ideally human grade. Any grains or vegetables added should ideally be GMO-free and organic. Avoid any wheat, corn or soy ingredients.
The shorter the ingredient list, the better! If you can't pronounce the ingredients listed, it's most likely a synthetic or chemical additive.
Can you offer tips on transitioning a dog to a new diet?
Regardless of what diet you have chosen for your dog or what form of food, always transition slowly to make sure your dog adjusts. Sensitive dogs can take up to two weeks to adjust to a new food. If you are going from kibble to raw, this process may take even longer while your dog develops the proper level of digestive enzymes to digest whole fresh foods. Even when transitioning between kibble formulas or brands, take it slow. Your dog may benefit from a good probiotic or digestive enzymes to help the process go smoother.
An example transition schedule would be as follows:
Day 1-3: 80% old food, 20% new food
Day 4-6: 60% old food, 40% new food
Day 7-9: 40% old food, 60% new food
Day 10-13: 20% old food, 80% new food
Day 14+ 100% new food
If you could create a dream menu for a doggy birthday party, what kind of food and treats would you include?
Definitely no cake or ice cream!
Appetizer: Boiled chicken hearts (perfect bite-sized)
Main Course: Sous vide lean turkey with boiled sweet potato, steamed green beans smothered in a bone broth jus.
Dessert: Home-baked peanut butter, pumpkin and tapioca cookies
(disclaimer – this is not a balanced meal, but your pup guests will love it!)
Can you tell us about yourself, your business, and how people can find you?
I am a canine nutritional consultant. My business, "The Kibble Coach," is mobile, and I come to clients homes or consult via Zoom. I educate dog owners about all aspects of canine diet and nutrition. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Western Ontario and multiple canine nutrition certifications from The Companion Animal Science Institute and The University of Southern Illinois. I specialize in diet formulations for both healthy and some clinically diagnosed dogs. I am currently completing the certification for Canine Holistic Health through the British College of Canine Studies.
My Consultation With Lisa
The canine nutrition consultation took place at my home. It was a one-hour consultation, but she is so passionate about what she does, we went over an hour.
Lisa broke down precisely what was in Cisco's and Tito's kibble, what was missing from their diet, and what I should be adding and avoiding to give them a well-balanced diet.
Since Lisa's consultation, Tito has been off his medical kibble food and is doing great. No accident around the house has happened.
I have always boiled vegetables and meat for my dogs as a snack, but since the consultation, this is what I have added to their diet:
- Boiled chicken hearts
- Boiled liver
- Open Farm Broth (for dogs)
I know they won't live past their acceptance lifespan, but when they are here, I want them to have the best quality of life.
I hope this blog helps you find a New Beginning to your dog's diet.
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