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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Bad Dog or Bad Nutrition?

When it comes to pet food, quality does count.

We all know that eating the wrong foods can leave us feeling tired, wired or even grouchy. On the other hand, a wholesome, nutritious diet can provide us with lasting energy, optimism and a boost to our overall health.

What’s good for two-legged mammals is good for our four-legged friends as well.

It’s common for pet owners to carefully monitor an animal’s nutrition when it is young. As our animals grow older and stronger, they still need the kind of nutritional supervision that they received as pups or kittens.

“Animals are just like us—they learn and behave better when they’re feeling well,” says Rebecca Jones, a behaviorist and owner of Bark Busters dog training in Dallas. “Animals who are eating properly are more balanced and easier to work with. And of course, they’re also going to have fewer health problems.”

In order to give our pets proper nutrition, we may have to invest a little more time and money to learn and buy what’s best for them. Cheaper dog food, for example, has grain filler as well as food coloring that can create hyperactivity in pets.  And cats need animal-based protein, as opposed to the plant-based protein that’s often found in cat food kibble.

“The quality of food they eat makes a huge difference in their behavior,” says Jones. “Just like with humans, you can’t load them full of junk and expect them to perform well. For a healthy and happy pet, you have to provide them with a healthy diet.”

Knowing more about the eating habits of animals can guide us to the right diets, too.  Jones notes that dogs in the wild don’t eat grain, yet domestic dog food products are often filled with grain. And cats, who lack a strong thirst drive, can suffer from chronic dehydration when limited to a dry food diet. Canned cat foods, which contain nearly 80 percent water, are a better nutritional choice for your feline. Dry food is also too high in carbohydrates for cats.

Despite its unappetizing acronym, some owners have adopted the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet for their house pets. It combines raw meat, bones, fruits and vegetables to create an all-natural eating plan. Since the diet draws its carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables instead of grains, it helps to keep pets lean as well.

Mastering this diet can be complicated and expensive, but BARF proponents say that the benefits to their pets include improved immune systems, cleaner breath and teeth, fewer degenerative diseases, and more lustrous coats.

For those who aren’t ready to dive into the world of BARF, there are easier ways to improve pet nutrition.  Rebecca Jones says we can begin by tossing out unhealthy treats and replacing them with baby carrots.

Jones also recommends following a diet of protein-rich food, and carbohydrates such as broccoli, carrots, beans, and potatoes. Bones are great treats, too—as long as they’re raw. Cooked bones can splinter, and cause serious harm or even death in an animal.

“The exception to feeding them fruits and vegetables (is) corn,” Jones notes, “which they don’t digest very well, and grapes, which can be toxic.”

When it comes to digestion, a lot can be learned about pets from observing their stools. Dogs on a less nutritious diet will have large, more frequent bowel movements. (Most dogs on a BARF or all-natural diet will only have one bowel movement a day.)

“That’s just a sign that there is a lot of waste in their bodies,” Jones says. “If they’re going to the bathroom a lot, it’s their bodies trying to get rid of that waste.”

Ultimately, all of the good information and intentions will need to be taste-tested and approved by your pet if they are to succeed. And that may take some experimenting, says Jones.

“Some dogs, just like children, are not going to like some foods,” she says, “so it might take a while before you find the perfect diet for them.”

For more information about the BARF diet visit

Source: by Paula Felps

Additional Information:

Date: 2007/03/23 01:10:00 GMT-7

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