Nutrition

 

Give your senior dog the best food you can afford.  Most people provide manufactured food for their dogs.  The choices are infinite.  One major caveat: avoid the cheapest brands, as, according to most reviews, the protein content is of very poor quality and the remaining content is often “filler” that may not be optimal for your dog’s health.  Choosing a cheap food is likely to have a negative impact on your dog’s overall health and, in the end, any savings you derive will be spent on fees for veterinary visits.

We’ve noticed that there is a range of advice that veterinarians give about the best commercial food for dogs — everything from widely available, aggressively advertised brands to freeze-dried raw and small-batch premium diets.  Because information and advice on canine nutrition is constantly evolving, we plan to provide updates on this site on a regular basis.  Please stay tuned!

Raw food diets have come into favor recently, and some are available in a freeze-dried form that is convenient and has been getting excellent reviews.  You’ll find endless information on dog nutrition on the Internet.  If you’re inclined toward preparing raw food or cooking for your dog, you can find recommendations for various types of home-prepared food. Recipes abound — from the BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet to cooked.  Many veterinarians are totally against home-prepared raw diets.  Evaluate the choices carefully and introduce your dog to any new food gradually to prevent g.i. upsets.

Regarding raw food diets, the American College of Veterinary Nutrition has this to say:

“Raw diets, both home-prepared and commercial, have become more popular. Advocates of raw diets claim benefits ranging from improved longevity to superior oral or general health and even disease resolution (especially gastrointestinal disease). Often the benefits of providing natural enzymes and other substances that may be altered or destroyed by cooking are also cited. However, proof for these purported benefits is currently restricted to testimonials, and no published peer-reviewed studies exist to support claims made by raw diet advocates. No studies have examined differences in animals fed raw animal products to those fed any other type of diet (kibble, canned, or home cooked) with the exception of looking at the effects on digestibility. Typically raw meats (but not other uncooked foods like grains or starches) are slightly more digestible than cooked meat.

There is, of course, nothing like fresh, unprocessed food when it comes to maintaining the good health of either humans or dogs.  However, most people don’t have the luxury of enough time to prepare fresh food for their dogs’ meals, or haven’t found consistent information on how to do it, or just can’t deal with the inconvenience of shopping for and storing ingredients, and the other aspects of fresh food preparation.  PetMD offers a comprehensive discussion on home-prepared diets that will help you decide if that’s the direction you’ll follow.

The best advice we can give you for finding the best nutrition program for your senior dog is: (1) discuss the topic with your veterinarian and spend some time online reading about dog food (here’s just one resource to get you started); (2) if you decide on dry food, add fresh foods on a regular basis; and (3) keep an eye on consumer alerts concerning product recalls.

If you are inclined toward “natural” approaches to good health, you should review the information on how to prepare fresh food at Dr. Dobias’ site.  The Balance It and PetDiet sites also provide recipe creation instructions.  (A forthcoming revision on the Balance It site promises an easier interface for recipe creation; the company has not provided a date for the revision.)  These three recipe-builder sites require that you purchase proprietary supplements to create the best nutrition program for your dog.  Here’s additional  information on supplements.  Another option for home-prepared food, is to consult a veterinary nutritionist.

Does a dog need variety in his meals?  It seems to make a lot of sense, and many commercial brands offer it.  Variety means a dog will be getting nutrients from different sources.   Being observant about how your dog behaves around mealtime — his level of interest in the food, for example — along with his energy level, the sparkle in his eyes, and the appearance of his coat and skin — will tell you a lot about whether the food he’s eating is keeping him in optimum health.

Two meals daily rather than one large meal are better for an older dog’s digestion and to maintain energy throughout the day.  That’s probably true for most adult dogs. Evaluate carefully and introduce your dog to any new food or eating routine gradually to prevent gastrointestinal upsets.

Pet Food Recalls

Pet food, treats, and toys, etc., are recalled all the time, due to health and safety issues.  Up-to-the-minute information on recalls is now available via an app that enables you to,  “Search all pet-related recalls from the FDA, American Veterinary Medical Association®, and Animal Health Foundation. Our list is updated daily and includes toys, meds, and equipment recalls — not just foods.”  Click here to access the app.

FDA Says Midwestern Corporation’s Response Is Inadaequate After Hundreds of Dogs Are Sickened and Die

SPORTMiX brand dry dog food manufactured by Midwestern was clearly the culprit in the illness and deaths of hundreds of dogs, news that was revealed in January 2021.  Now the Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to the Midwestern Corporation, citing the company for poor manufacturing practices at multiple plants.  The letter states, “During the inspections at your facilities, FDA investigators found evidence of significant violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals regulation, Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 507 (21 CFR Part 507).”  At one plant, samples of the food were found to contain levels of aflatoxin as high as 558 parts per billion (ppb); the FDA considers pet food to be adulterated if it contains more than 20 ppb.  Salmonella was also prevalent in many samples.  The FDA letter states that the company  has not responded in meaningful ways to prevent the contamination that has sickened and killed so many dogs.  Makes you wonder if the company has your dog’s best interests at heart…..