The average annual cost of feeding and caring for your dog or cat can run anywhere from $600 to $900 per year, according to the ASPCA. Yet if you’re not feeding your dog the right kind of food, you are throwing your money away. The diet you feed your best friend may be negatively affecting his behavior.
No dog owner wants to come home to an “accident” after making the effort of installing a pet door from petsafe.net, or spend a fortune on chews from Petco that could end up hurting them more than helping. Before assuming that your dog is misbehaving, take a second look at his diet. Keep in mind that your dog’s diet isn’t limited to the food that ends up in his bowl. Dogs have a natural instinct to scavenge. Open garbage bags, fallen morsels under the dining room table and loving bites secretly handed out by your children are all extra sources of food for your dog. Some of these delectable bites might cause stomach discomfort, loose stool or full-blown diarrhea. So it might be that your dog simply couldn’t make it out the doggy door in time.
To help prevent this in the future, try to make sure trash is inaccessible and floors are kept clear of crumbs. Instead of prohibiting your children from feeding your dog (a tactic that seldom works!), fill a clear cookie jar on your kitchen counter with healthy doggie treats just for Fido. On the label, write down the daily allowable limit. By monitoring the levels, you can better keep track of how many times hands have dipped in to extract doggy snacks.
Healthy From the Inside Out
Poor nutrition can affect your dog’s behavior in less obvious ways. If your dog shows signs of depression or lethargy, it could be that he is not receiving adequate protein or vitamins from the food you’re buying. Just as humans might feel blue after ingesting processed, dye-laden junk food, canines suffer emotionally when they consume empty calories. Many commercial dog food brands contain an exorbitant amount of simple carbohydrates such as corn and soy. A quick glance at the first three ingredients listed on the back of your dog food package will show you the truth. Canines need an abundance of protein for their bodies to synthesize the amino acids taurine and l-carnitine. These two amino acids are essential for your dog’s healthy heart function. Strong evidence suggests that a poor carbohydrate-to-protein ratio is linked to hyperactivity, noise hypersensitivity or a lack of energy.
An Action Plan
Ensuring that your best friend gets enough daily vitamins, minerals and protein can be accomplished in several different ways. You might try a special commercial mix recommended by your veterinarian. Be sure to go over proper serving sizes. Humans have a tendency to equate food with love, and typical dog lovers overfeed. If you can’t bear the expense of specialty food, you might try cooking for your dog. Liver, eggs and chicken are all excellent sources of protein, provided they are cooked thoroughly. Recipes can be found online— just be sure they come from a trusted source. Another way to reduce bad carbohydrates in your dog’s diet is to make the switch from food treats to attention treats. Instead of rewarding good behavior or tricks with a doggy biscuit, make eye contact with your beloved while giving him a much appreciated scratch behind the ears or under his chin.
Attentive dog owners know that dogs are some of the best animal communicators. Pay a little extra attention to your dog’s diet and he will love you even more— if that’s even possible!
Heather Nelson: In her spare time, Heather volunteers at animal shelters. She’s a freelance writer from New Orleans.