Go to a pet shop or supermarket and look at the ingredients of the dog foods you find on the shelves. Has this made you think about making changes in recommending a healthy diet?
(The above is a question from my ISCP Canine Psychology course, and below is my answer):
Most, if not all manufactured dog food claims to be “complete and balanced”. Complete as in it contains all the essential nutrients, vitamins, amino acids etc that a dog requires to maintain optimal health. Balanced as in these ingredients have been added in the correct proportions. Balance is important because if a dog is getting too much of one element, but not enough of another, its health could suffer or it could get diseases.
Ideally, dogs would be fed a commercially prepared food, specifically for its size, weight, or even breed. Most commercial feeds nowadays can be quite specific, with different preparations for different life stages of the pet (puppy, adult, mature), levels of activity of the pet (e.g working dogs vs house pets), prescription diets (e.g for obesity, heart conditions, renal failure, allergies etc), even grain-free alternatives (which release energy without the bulk and are better for animals with weight and digestion issues). The manufacturers would have conducted experiments and researched the correct amount of food to give the animal and how often. The ingredients in a quality food product should include vital supplements such as vitamins, minerals etc, that an animal requires in a balanced and complete diet, or that an animal may not manufacture enough of/can’t manufacture at all in its own body (e.g cat food should contain taurine and arginine). Dry commercial pet food will state how many grams to feed and how often, wet foods such as “dog sausage meat” will have markings on the packaging showing every 100g or 200g, and will also have recommendations as to how much to feed and how often. If the animal is eating normally according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and if the food is of a high quality and contains all the nutrients and supplements for a balanced and complete diet, then the job’s done. Always ensure an ample supply of water.
I would not recommend homecooked foods for pets (these should be only for occasional feeding), as these will not be complete or balanced, and the owner would have to find out what nutrient or supplement was missing, and then struggle to balance the equation, ending up with over-feeding, or feeding the animal the wrong type of food, which will lead to problems with digestion and weight, or other ailments, such as pansteatitis (yellow fat disease) which are painful fatty lumps within the skin. Finicky eaters, which may eat little but often, should not have their uneaten food added to at a later time, but should eat what’s left on the plate. Adding food indiscriminately will lead to obesity and other problems. Also, feeding dogs scraps from the dinner table, especially after it has already eaten its recommended amount of food for the day, will lead to obesity, and should be discouraged. Dogs that gobble up everything that’s put down before them should not be given more food just because the bowl’s now empty.
Here in Australia pet food stores and some supermarkets sell BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, or Bones and Raw food) in the frozen foods department. This food is as close to what a wild dog would get from hunting in the wild – it contains raw meat, uncooked bones, animal organs, fruit, seeds and vegetables. It claims to be easier on the dog’s digestive system, to reduce allergies and to improve the dog’s skin, teeth and coat. (Personally, I have not tried my dogs on BARF, and it does not appear to be too popular in Australia, possibly because it resembles tripe too much).