When I was young my brothers and I hauled off lunch bags to school packed with sandwiches made from thick slices of homemade bread which our peers would gladly trade for theirs’ made of Wonderbread. Granola was something that came out of our oven and not the box. The only time we savored the delicacies of sugar-coated cereals was when our grandparents smuggled them into our house guised as Christmas packages. They were the first to be opened. Fast food was something I defined as devouring my lunch so I could squeeze out some extra time at recess. I’ll never forget the landing of McDonalds in Roswell. As the golden arches crawled up the New Mexico skyline, illuminating our small town with an extra terrestrial presence it seemed as if the world was suddenly on the edge of an exciting gastronomical revolution. Once a month, on Mom’s payday, we were treated to a gourmet banquet of Big Macs & fries. Sweets were rationed out like gas in the 70s and as a result I never developed a craving for sugar nor have ever experienced the feeling of a cavity or a tooth being drilled…ah yes, I was definitely robbed of my childhood. Why is it that even now I still saunter through flu season without so much of sneeze? The answer is simple: good nutrition. Thanks mom.
Nutrition is a preventative measure for health problems just as obedience is preventative for behavioral issues. So let’s dish about the dog dish. Conventional dog food was developed in the 50’s and reading the list of ingredients alone would make any man or animal nauseous…boil, boil, toil, and trouble. Most commercial grade dog foods are made from one or all of the 4 D’s of food groups: Dead, Disease, Dying or Disabled. Basically whatever not fit for human consumption is sent to the factory, thrown into a vat, rendered and through a process known as protrusion spits out a kibble that consists mainly of fillers, by-products, supplements and sprayed with flavor enhancers to make it tastier…getting hungry? Many commercial grade foods are the equivalent of feeding your dog a diet of fast food…and while there’s nothing more satisfying than a six pack of White Castle cheeseburgers at 3:30am after a night on the town…my morning-after blues are usually due to that junk and not the Margaritas.
Thankfully, many pet food companies are catering to owners who realize the importance of a diet that is nutrient rich and made of clean, quality ingredients that even Mom would eat. We are seeing an increase of high quality foods that are “human grade.” Meaning you can actually dine on the stuff yourself. And there’s an added benefit…less poop! When selecting dog food here are some “ingredients” to avoid: chemical preservatives (BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin), non-specific meat & bone meal, meat by-products or by-product meal, non-specific fish products, cellulose, blood meal, ground corn or wheat flour, rice & peanut hulls, animal digest, sweeteners/sugars such as beet pulp, fructose and cane molasses, salt or mineral oils. Good stuff are specific wet meats such as fresh chicken, turkey, lamb, herring or their dried counterparts (these are listed as “meal”), whole grain barley, rice and oats, fresh vegetables like tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts and potatoes, natural preservatives like rosemary extract, vitamins A, C, & E. Also, feel free to dress up your dog’s dish with fresh vegetables (dogs are omnivores) either cooked or raw. Carrots and Apples make wonderful treats. And remember, gradually introduce a new kibble, rushing the process is a sure way to give your pet a case of the “runs.”
As we have choices, so do our pets. There are many brands of animal nutrition to choose from, many which I can recommend. To discuss your pet’s personal nutrition, shoot me an email and I’ll give you the 411 before Fido gets the 911.
About the Author
Zack Grey is a veterinarian-recommended professional dog trainer specializing in obedience and behavior. After launching his own company, UrbanTails (www.theurbanpet.net/ ), Zack was quickly lauded for his innovative personal training and technique. He has been profiled by numerous publications including DailyCandy.com, IN Los Angeles, MSN.com and currently writes an “Ask Zack” column in The Pet Gazette. Television credits include appearances on Access Hollywood, Fox Reality, TV Guide’s Reality Chat and starring as the trainer in the Lifetime’s reality show “Off the Leash.” Zack can also be heard on XM satellite radio, The Agenda with Joe Solmonese. His celebrity client list includes Ellen DeGeneres, Portia De Rossi, Michael Eisner and Milla Jovavich, among many.