A healthy dog is a happy dog, and much of their happiness comes down to what they eat. A dog needs a balance of nutrients to ensure that both their body and mind is in peak condition, so feeding your dog an unhealthy diet could result in an unhealthy dog.
Scavenging and hunting for nutritious meals is the way of the world for dogs in the wild, but for domesticated dogs, they rely solely on their human carers to provide them all their dietary requirements.
Malnutrition can take many forms. It’s not just about thin bodies on the outside, but also what is going on on the inside. Very well cared for dogs who look healthy on the outside could be suffering health issues associated with malnutrition because of a lack of balancing in the nutrients they are consuming.
A lot of dogs are actually overfed, which can have just as bad an effect on a dog’s health as being underfed.
Dogs with malnutrition aren’t necessarily those being neglected or starved by their owners, Often, it is just a case of lacking the knowledge needed to provide a dog with a healthy, nutritious diet.
This article looks out how you can prevent your dog from becoming malnourished by providing a nutritious diet. It also provides information abut your dog’s dietary requirements, how to spot the symptoms of malnutrition and how to avoid it.
What Should A Dog Eat?
Wild dogs are known as scavengers, hunting down prey to fulfil their needs. Dogs, however, are not obligate carnivores and tend to thrive better on a diet that is predominantly protein, with added plant matter. A 100% protein diet can actually be detrimental to a dog’s health.
A diet consisting of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water is the best for your dog’s health. Wild dogs did this by scavenging for berries, fruit and vegetables. Domesticated dogs are totally reliant on their owner to provide a balanced diet. So, how does one do this?
How Can You Fulfil Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs?
Thankfully, there is no big secret to fulfilling your dog’s nutritional needs. All you have to do is buy commercial dog food.
Of course, if you prefer, you could always make your dog’s food at home, following research into his specific needs. Let’s face it though, most people have such busy schedules that this isn’t an option. Commercial dog food, therefore, is the answer.
There are different types of commercial dog food, but in order to ensure your dog is getting all the nutrients it needs, look for brands that offer a ‘complete and balanced’ diet. This means that you will not need to add supplements or other food.
Complete indicates that all the nutrients a dog needs are contained within the food.
Balanced means all the nutrients are in the right proportions to promote a healthy dog.
Pet food manufacturers are only allowed to say their food is ‘complete and balanced’ if it actually is, as a result of strict regulations being implemented in the industry, so you can trust what you are buying is good for your dog. Avoid any commercial dog food that doesn’t have ‘complete and balanced’ labelling. It’s likely that your dog could end up with symptoms of malnourishment if you feed him unlabeled food.
What Is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition describes the effects of eating a poor diet without enough nutrients in the right proportions. It can also describe not eating enough food.
Too little of a particular nutrient (or even too much!) can have a big effect on your dog’s health. Whilst people often think of malnutrition as being caused by under eating, in the western world, malnutrition is often caused by overeating, whereby an excessive intake of nutrients occurs.
As an example, a puppy taking in too much calcium and more calories than he needs can lead to problems with skeletal development.
The most common form of malnutrition in dogs today is obesity.
Obesity Is A Form Of Malnutrition
It’s a fact of life that dogs like food. Us as humans then equate giving food to their dog and making them happy equals love. Unfortunately, feeding too many table scraps and treats can lead to overfeeding of fats and calories, resulting in an obese dog.
Obese dogs tend to be unhappy dogs. Excess weight causes them to be sedentary and slow, instead of exuberant and bouncy. Lack of exercise as a result of obesity can further worsen physical wealth, but it can also negatively impact on mental health.
Obesity also brings with it a multitude of related issues: diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, joint problems…the list goes on. Obese dogs are also harder to treat for illnesses and take longer to recover due to their bodies not functioning as they should be.
Dogs will eat anything you give them. They don’t have a ‘stop’ button when it comes to scoffing food, so it is up to you as a responsible owner to ensure your dog is being fed the right stuff, in the right amount, at the right time.
Symptoms Of Malnutrition
Some symptoms of malnutrition are evident to the naked eye, but there are other indications that are less easy to spot.
Weight Loss / Excessive Thinness
If you can see your dog’s ribs and spine clearly through his skin, it could be a sign of malnutrition (or illness). Many dogs that end up in rescue shelters show signs of malnutrition in this way, as they have often been abused or abandoned.
Tiredness And No Lust For Life
Dogs naturally tend to be rambunctious and playful. A dog that loses his zest for life and seems lethargic or depressed may be malnourished.
A dog needs both calories and a balanced range of nutrients to give them energy. Without this, they are unable to move around as much. Being inactive can be a sign that malnutrition is present.
If your dog is pooping too often, not pooping enough or pooping weird stuff, they may be having problems digesting their food. This comes about when the wrong nutrients and wrong proportions are being fed.
A dog cannot digest food properly and so fails to absorb enough nutrients, leading to some pretty dodgy scenes below the waistline…
Coat And Skin Problems
A dog with skin problems, a brittle coat or hair loss could be showing signs of malnutrition. It’s easy to start treating the symptoms with moisturisers and food supplements, but a better course to take is to treat the cause: buy your dog more nutritious food!
Increased Risk Of Illness And Slower Recovery
A malnourished dog is more susceptible to diseases as they have a weaker immune system and are less able to fight illness.
Sicknesses in dogs can also last longer and cause more acute symptoms as it can progress further in a malnourished dog’s body than a fully healthy dog.
Other Problems Caused By Malnutrition
There are a variety of issues that can arise as a result of malnutrition, including weakened bones and joints, bad teeth and oral problems, poor eyesight, erratic temperament and behaviour problems.
The above list can be caused by other health issues so it is always sensible to consult with your vet if you notice any symptoms.
Supplementing Food For Your Dog
If you are feeding your dog a quality complete and balanced commercial brand, you should not to supplement their food.
A complete and balanced commercial food will already have the right amount of vitamins and minerals and by adding extra, you could upset the delicate balance of nutrients your dog is already consuming.
If your dog receives too many nutrients, it can prevent absorption of other nutrients in its diet. Adding food supplements could actually harm your dog.
For this reason, you should only use food supplements if instructed to do so by your vet.
Is It ‘OK’ To Feed A Dog Treats And Table Scraps?
As with everything, yes, but in moderation.
If you use treats in training, or just as a thank you for your dog being awesome, you need to balance out the calorific intake by reducing the amount of conventional food you feed your dog.
Table scraps and treats can be given, just not too much and not too often. Many people advocate a zero tolerance approach to feeding scraps, but dogs are wily scavengers – in the wild they will munch on anything they find to help vary and balance their diet. Try to keep treats and scraps to less than 10% of their complete diet and all should be well.
NEVER replace complete meals with human food. A dog has differing nutritional needs. An occasional slice of bacon or a bone won’t upset the balance, but a diet of fast food leftovers every night of the week will.
The Benefits Of Providing A High Quality, Balanced, Nutritious Diet
These are just some of the benefits:
- A better quality of life is an obvious benefit – a healthy dog is a happy dog!
- Looking good – a shiny coat, clean teeth, brighter eyes and a healthy physique;
- Fewer bouts of sickness and an improved immune system, meaning reduced vet bills;
- Fewer occurrences of sickness, less severe and shorter bouts of sickness and faster recoveries. All due to a stronger and more efficiently performing immune system and body.
- Smaller serving sizes that provide all the nutrients your dog needs means less poop and less cleaning it up!
- Higher quality ingredients means easier digestion and a more comfortable dog. It also means less puppy parps making your house smell like the fifth circle of hell!
Recommendations For Puppy Food
For our list of top puppy foods, please check out our article:
<Puppy Food Article>
Recommendations For Dog Food
Check out our article giving hints and tips on how to choose the best commercial food for your dog:
<The Best Dog Food Article>
A responsible owner will feed their dog a complete and balanced diet that contains all the nutrients they need to stay fit and healthy.
Feeding your dog a nutritious diet will ensure they are in their peak, physically and will enhance their mental health through offering energy and vitality and reducing the chances of malnutrition. It will also reduce the instances of illness and encourage faster recovery from sickness and injury.
Whilst cheap food may be appetizing to you as an owner because of the lower price, the fillers that are included means that it won’t give your dog the nutrition it needs, leading to potentially costlier health issues and additional vet bills.
Malnutrition can be caused by both under- and overfeeding. It is important to feed your dog a complete and balanced diet. You don’t need to add any food supplements as this could upset the balance and cause obesity issues.
Stay vigilant in looking out for symptoms of malnutrition and seek professional advice from a vet if you are concerned.
Monitor and control your dog’s eating habits, minimising treats and scraps and ensuring their calorie intake remains steady.
You are the person that stands between your dog and his nutrition. Be a responsible owner and feed him a nutritious, balanced diet and make sure he is a happy dog!