By Sujata Bhattacharya*
Over the last few years, there has been a paradigm shift in the way pet parents look at dog food. A lot of education and debate on what should and should not be fed to dogs have given rise to many new dog food choices – one of them being Fresh Food for Dogs. While some pet parents believe in the power and benefit of Fresh Food for Dogs, others wonder if fresh food can give all the essential nutrients that their dog needs in the diet. Let’s discuss this…
If there is one thing that we all agree upon, it’s that our dogs are members of our family and they deserve nothing but the best. We want them to have a long and healthy life and food plays a very critical part in that.
When it comes to nutrition, dogs are just like us – the better they eat the healthier they are. Making the right food choices for your dog is one of your most important decisions as a pet parent.
With thousands of different food choices available in the market, choosing the right dog food is a tough call. Opinions about canine nutrition vary among experts; and many times they do not agree with each other, leaving the pet parents even more confused. This is because there is no one right answer to what is the best diet for dogs.
What might work for one dog might not work for the other, but it is universally accepted that a balanced, high-quality species-appropriate diet, rich in all the essential nutrients, that gets easily absorbed; will give your dog a long and healthy life.
THE RISING TREND OF FRESH DOG FOOD
With the large number of dogs suffering from food-related diseases like obesity, diabetes, pancreatitis and even cancer, pet parents are now more careful about what they feed their dogs. They shy away from Commercial pet food brands, which are made with feed-grade ingredients, are highly processed, and loaded with preservatives, colors and artificial flavoring.
Fresh Dog Food, on the other hand, is made with human-grade ingredients, requires minimal processing and devoid of preservatives and chemicals. Fresh dog food is more palatable and moisture-rich, with ingredients that you can see, making it a safer and healthier option.
The only cause of concern when shifting to a completely fresh food diet is whether it is enough to meet all the nutritional needs of your dog.
ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS THAT ARE MUST IN YOUR DOG’S DIET
There are six major classes of nutrients that every dog needs for energy and functioning of their body: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. A fresh dog food diet should have the right amount of each of these.
PROTEIN: Protein is a very important part of a healthy, balanced canine diet. Protein has several functions in the body and is the building block of the body. It builds and repairs muscles, grows new skin cells, builds muscle tissue, and more. Protein is essential in the making of hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and antibodies to keep the body functioning optimally. Protein also provides energy and keeps the immune system strong.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, and dogs require 22 essential amino acids to make the necessary proteins. A dog’s body can make only half of these amino acids, and the rest must come from food. Make sure that your dog’s diet is rich in high-quality protein as deficiencies of any of the essential amino acids over time can lead to health issues.
Natural Sources of Protein for Dogs: Animal protein is present in lean muscle meat, eggs and fish. Plant-based protein is found in beans and lentils.
FATS: Fats and oils are a necessary part of a balanced diet for dogs. Fat is the most concentrated source of energy for your dog’s body with releases twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates. It provides omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to the body, which enables the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, promotes a healthy nervous system, protects the internal organs and regulates the body temperature.
A normal, healthy dog needs about 10-15% fat in their diet. A low-fat diet can cause dry, itchy skin with a dull fur coat while a high-fat diet can lead to health issues like obesity, heart condition and pancreatitis.
Natural Sources of Fat for Dogs: Some common sources of fat in fresh dog food are chicken, fish oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil and hemp seed oil.
CARBOHYDRATES: Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose, which is the fuel of the body. Although carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient for your dog as they can synthesize glucose from dietary protein and fats also, a diet with healthy carbohydrates will supply the body with some important vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and promote overall good health.
The amount and quality of carbohydrates in the diet is very important, Steer clear of high glycemic carbohydrates like table scraps, etc.
Natural Sources of Carbohydrates for Dogs: Grains like rice, oats, barley and gluten-free grains like quinoa, amaranth are some common sources of carbohydrates for dogs. Pulses like peas, beans, chickpeas and some dog-friendly vegetables like sweet potato, tapioca and potato are also good carbohydrate source.
VITAMINS: Vitamins are carbon-based compounds that are essential in small quantities for the proper metabolic function of the body. Vitamins are either fat-soluble which are stored in the fatty tissues and liver or water-soluble which are not stored by the body. As your dog’s body cannot synthesize vitamins in sufficient quantity, so they must come through the diet.
Vitamins play a very critical role in regulating the calcium-phosphorous levels in the body, boost immunity, strengthens bones, keeps fur and skin healthy, maintains nervous system, enables blood clot and maintains organ health.
Natural Sources of Vitamins for Dogs: Organ meats, eggs, fatty fish, dairy products and some dog friendly fruits and vegetables add vitamins to dog’s diet.
MINERALS: Like Vitamins, Minerals are also essential for life and proper metabolic functioning of the body. Iron, calcium, zinc, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, selenium and potassium are some of the essential minerals of the body.
The mineral requirement differs by age and activity levels of dogs and as your dog’s body cannot synthesize minerals so food is the only source for it.
Natural Sources of Minerals for Dogs: Different food sources are rich in different minerals. A diet with a wide variety of food sources including high-quality meat, organ meat and dog-friendly plant-based food can give the body the required minerals.
WATER: Although mentioned at the end of this list, but water is the most critical component for life. Water makes up to 70-80 percent of your dog’s lean body mass. Water has many functions including dissolving and transporting nutrients to the cells, hydrolyzing proteins, vitamins, fats and carbohydrates for digestion, flushing out wastes and toxins, protecting the organs and nervous system, etc.
Dog’s water requirement is dependent on the health, age, activity level and temperature. A fresh food diet is generally high in water content keeping their additional water requirement less than those on a dry dog food diet.
Natural Sources of Water for Dogs: Besides the water content in the diet, fresh tap water is enough for most dogs.
Proper nutrition is one of the basic needs of your dog and many canine nutritionists believe that high quality, balanced fresh food diet made with real ingredients is the best diet for most dogs.
The only downside of fresh food is when it is prepared at home and is not nutritionally balanced. An inappropriate dog diet, when fed over a long period can lead to many health conditions.
Canine nutrition is not a simple science that can be mastered with some Google searches. If you plan to prepare the meals for your furry, make sure that you have complete and comprehensive knowledge of canine nutrition. Read extensively, talk to vets and nutritionists and start thinking of ingredients in terms of their nutritional value.
Alternatively, choose a Fresh Dog Food supplier in your city. They have the knowledge and expertise to make the right diet plan for your dog, customized to your dog’s unique requirements. With subscription plans and weekly delivery of portioned meals, it not just makes life simpler for you but your dog also enjoys the benefits of a healthy and balanced fresh food diet!
* Author is Founder FurrMeals Pet Food