There are so many benefits to having a family dog. Not only are they constant companions but they can encourage your kids to get outside and teach them responsibility. Dogs also have been shown to reduce stress and lower your chances of depression.
Keeping your four-legged friend fit and healthy is important. Dogs, like people, need regular exercise and they need to be active. But, it’s not just about making sure they get enough exercise. Taking care of your dog properly also means paying attention to their diet, too!
It’s easy to head to the store and buy a bag of kibble. But, a dog is a part of the family. So, why not make sure the food you’re giving them is just as good as what you’d feed your family?
You don’t have to feel ashamed about that bag of kibble, or buying standard dog food. But, if you want to upgrade your dog’s diet, you can improve their health and make sure they’re getting all of the nutrients they need. It can be especially helpful for dogs who are prone to weight gain, or for those with special health needs.
With that in mind, let’s look at a few tasty nutritional changes you can make with your pooch to improve their overall health.
Give Them “People Food”
You’ve probably scolded your kids more than once for giving the family dog table scraps, even though you might be guilty of it yourself at times, too! It’s hard to ignore that pleading face when you’re gathered around the dinner table, after all!
Typically, your dog should stick to their own food and shouldn’t be given bites here and there of what you’re eating. So, this tip doesn’t include giving your dog things like pizza crusts or bites of a burger.
What it does mean is that there are certain “human foods” that are actually very good for your dog. You can actually cook meals for your dog the same way you would for the rest of your family. You’ll know exactly what’s going into their food, and you can bulk up on healthy vegetables like green beans, carrots, and even kale. Lean proteins and brown rice are also great for dogs, and they’ll love the taste.
If you do any kind of “meal prepping” for your family, why not include your dog in the process? Cooking a big batch of healthy food for them once a week will help you to ensure they’re eating a nutritious diet, and it doesn’t have to be hard to do.
If you do start cooking for your dog, make sure you know which foods to avoid, too. Some foods are poisonous to dogs or could put them at risk for lasting health conditions. So, while making meals for your pet is great, never include ingredients like:
- Raw eggs/meat
- Snack foods
You should also make sure you never use an ingredient with any kind of artificial sweeteners. These can be harmful (and even deadly) to dogs. The best thing to do is to use real, whole foods, and double-check the possible effects of each ingredient before including it into your dog’s diet.
Give Them Better Treats
Even if you cook for your dog or get them the healthiest dog food on the market, you can cause detriment to their diet by giving them treats that are laden with preservatives, empty calories, and ingredients you can’t pronounce.
Dog treats are just that – something special to give to your furry friend, whether they’ve done something good or just because you love them. They shouldn’t be given constantly, but whenever your dog does earn a treat, it’s important to make sure it’s something you feel good about giving them.
If you spent all day eating healthy, exercising, and taking care of yourself, you probably wouldn’t want to end your day with a giant piece of chocolate cake and ice cream, would you? When you take your dog’s health into consideration in every other area of life but you’re still feeding them over-processed treats, you’re essentially throwing off their healthy diet.
Treats can be great motivators for dogs, and it’s good to give them rewards for things. But, it’s important to read labels whenever you buy dog treats. If you’re not comfortable with the ingredients, keep shopping, or make your own treats using ingredients like natural peanut butter, oats, unsweetened applesauce, and pumpkin.
Explore Your Dog’s Dietary Needs
You’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” right? Well, the same goes for your dog. Just like humans, animals have different dietary needs, and some even have health conditions that can be managed by a change in their eating habits. Once upon a time, pet owners could only get special foods or supplements from their dog’s veterinarian, which was often very costly and inconvenient.
Thankfully, the pet food industry has made some rather large strides in recent years when it comes to specialized foods for dogs. If your dog has special dietary needs or health concerns, the right kind of food can make all the difference in their wellbeing.
It’s still important to talk to your vet about any specific needs your dog may have, or what you can do to improve their health through the food they eat. Nowadays, you can find dog food specifically meant for pets with arthritis, urinary issues, gut health problems, or even food designed for weight management. If your doctor told you to make changes in your diet to improve existing conditions, you’d do it right away. Your dog deserves the same.
Again, a family dog is just that – part of the family. Making their diet a priority can help your furry friend to live a longer, healthier, happier life. By taking the time to make a few simple changes to what they eat, you can take pride in knowing you’re giving your dog the best nutrition possible. In return? They’ll be able to give you many more years of unconditional love.