Dogs Eat What Is Tastiest, Not What Is Best
Don’t feed your dog a meat-only diet. It might seem natural to you but plain meat lacks balance in its calcium:phosphorus ratio. A whole rabbit, skin, bones, intestines and their contents, is probably as natural a dog diet as there is. Fur and intestine content provide fibre while the liver and meat and bones provide protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Any diet you choose to feed your dog, be it commercial or fashionable such as raw meat and bones is a compromise between potential benefits and possible risks. Canine nutrition is common sense, not a religion. And common sense means striking a balance between experience and new information.
Antioxidants Protect Your Dog
An antioxidant is a substance such as vitamin C or E or carotinoids such as lutein or beta-carotene that destroys free radicals. Free radicals are molecules and atoms in the body that destroy cell membranes. Dogs have their own natural free-radical scavenging systems. Eating food with the vitamins and minerals that act as free radical scavengers may boost these natural systems. Pet food makers claim that their added antioxidants significantly improve the immune systems of mature dogs, restoring them to the efficiency levels of youth.
Vitamins Assist Metabolism
Vitamins are nutrients needed as catalysts for the dog’s metabolism. For convenience they are divided into fat-soluble and water-soluble groups. The fat-soluble vitamins enter the body with dietary fat and are stored in the liver.
Dogs can make vitamin A from substances called carotenoids found in plant cells. They get most of their natural vitamin A from eating the liver of another animals. Fish oils, milk and egg yolk are good sources of vitamin A. Some Cocker spaniels may have a problem manufacturing enough vitamin A, leading to oily skin conditions. Vitamin A serves many roles including maintaining healthy eyesight.
Dogs synthesise vitamin D in their skin and get the essentials for this activity from the diet. Heavy coats can reduce a dog’s ability to make the precursor of this essential vitamin. Because virtually all diets contain enough vitamin D, deficiency, causing rickets, is now rare. Excess vitamin D is more common, and leads to calcium deposits in soft tissue and skeleton deformities.
Vitamin E, together with the mineral selenium, acts as an antioxidant, neutralising chemicals called ‘free radicals’ that can damage cell membranes. A dog’s need for this vitamin increases with higher levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet. Vitamin E appears to help anti-inflammatory activity for some dogs with skin disorders, Dachshunds in particular, and may be of benefit for vascular, heart or neurological conditions. This vitamin is deficient in some dogs with the skin parasite Demodex. Stressed and hard working dogs have a higher requirement for vitamin E.
Vitamin K is necessary for blood coagulation. Some vitamin K is manufactured by bacteria in the dog’s intestines. Eating a rodent killed with the anti-blood-clotting rodenticide warfarin may create a sudden and unattainable demand for vitamin K in a dog.
There is virtually no risk of overdosing with the water-soluble vitamins. If food is deficient in vitamin B complex, yeast-based tablets are a safe supplement. Some intestinal conditions interfere with vitamin B12 absorption. These dogs need their B12 given by injection. Another B vitamin called folic acid has been found to be vitally important in human heart disease. It also plays a vital role in the synthesis of prostaglandins, chemicals with many roles in the body including naturally protecting the lining of the stomach. Here in Britain, medical experts have recommended to the health authorities that flour for baking is supplemented with folic acid. Many of the B vitamins are synthesised by bacteria in the dog’s intestines. Because antibiotics interfere with the bacteria that manufacture these vitamins, your dog might benefit from yeast tablets such as Pert-Tabs if it needs prolonged antibiotic treatment.