How to Switch Your Dog to a Better Diet

You’re time-strapped. You love your dog. You want your pet to eat as well as possible but budget and time may hamper your effort.  What are your options?

Nutritionally-oriented holistic veterinarians believe that the best diet you can provide for your animal is a home-prepared diet. That may be easier said than done, especially if you have a large-sized dog as well as a family to feed. Here are your options and tips on how to do the best you can:

Is Your Dog’s Diet Healthy?

Your dog’s appearance can often clue you in as to whether he or she’s eating a good diet. Look first at the coat – is the hair dull (not good) or shiny (good)? Dry, flaky, and inflamed skin are other common signs of inadequate nutrition.

As with humans, mood provides additional clues: if your dog’s irritable, hyperactive, and nervous, a poor diet – and not a propensity to be “a handful” – could be to blame.

And, yes, as unpleasant as it likely is, you should look at his or her poop. Anything less than formed, dark brown, firm stools is suspect.

Steps toward Feeding Your Dog a Healthier Diet

Consult with a holistic vet

The smartest thing to do is to work with a holistic veterinarian who can customize a “menu” for your pet based on your situation. You can find one near you on the website of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.

Switch to premium dog food

The next easiest thing to do is to keep feeding your dog store-bought kibble as you have been doing. But you can improve the diet by switching to premium products, often the kind found in stores that offer “health food.” More premium products usually contain fewer or no chemical additives, and their ingredients tend to be of higher quality. You get what you pay for. Most cheaper products contain questionable and inferior ingredients, such as ground up beaks, feet, and even diseased tissue.

High quality protein is important, and commercial dog food tends to contain low quality protein, an excess of which can tax your dog’s immune system, kidney, and liver. Holistic vets tend to recommend that a dog’s diet contain just 18 percent protein for most ages other than puppies. Feed older dogs even less. Read labels to ensure that the protein is of high quality.

Holistic veterinarians say that most animals stand to benefit greatly by being on a high quality diet. How will you know for sure? Signs of improvement show up as boosted vitality, healthier-looking coat, and fewer illnesses.

Now, switching diets can often be problematic, as animals can become addicted to a certain diet. They might not appreciate overnight change, which could also cause some digestive upset. This situation is particularly true with young and old dogs, and those that tend to vomit or have diarrhea. Go slow when you replace the old with the new. Make your switch gradually over a week to 10 days. Some veterinarians suggest adding 10 percent of the new food initially for a couple of days. Then increase gradually to 25, 50, 75, 90, and finally 100 percent.

Add quality human food: vegetables and meat

The next option – sharing wholesome table scraps, and adding meat and vegetables – is a powerful upgrade without a big sacrifice of time and money. The approach is simple: use the best-quality kibble you can buy as the base, then add broth, meat, fresh vegetables, and fruit, oatmeal, ground chicken, and egg yolks. See what your dog likes. Canines often go for broccoli, grated carrots, and string beans.  Though some people feed their dogs raw meat, I’m of the school that it should be cooked (too much risk of bacterial illness). Variety provides more nutritional intake.

Prepare homemade meals for your dog

If you do have time to prepare meals for your pet, the best way to go, consult with a nutritionally-oriented veterinarian to make sure that you cover the nutritional bases and get the biggest bang for your loving investment of time and money. For further details on making a homemade diet, you may like to read this article written by veterinary nutrition expert Jean Hofve, D.V.M.

References & Resources:

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