Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Almost everything I've learned about dog food was taught to me by the Cockers - but what I learned can apply to any breed of dog. Cocker Spaniels are prone to food allergies and these usually show themselves with skin problems - from dry patches to red, itchy areas to a dog chewing on his feet throughout the day to frequent ear infections. No, not all Spaniels will lose luster in their coat if they eat inferior foods, but just as you wouldn't want your human kid to live on McBurgers every day, three times a day, you probably wouldn't want your fur-kid to eat less than healthy food either. And another plus - improving your Cocker Spaniel's diet may just help keep many of those flare-ups of ear infections at bay!
Whether you feed bagged or canned food, or a mixture of the two, be sure to read the label for ingredients. The three big "no-no's" to avoid are: corn, wheat and by-products (including both meat by-product and chicken by-product). That's it, really - just three ingredients that are too easily found in our pets' food choices. This is just a minimum standard in my home. When I ran the local Cocker Spaniel Rescue this minimum restriction was usually enough to bring an unhealthy dog back to proper health. Sometimes we had to explore and restrict further (soy, for example, is a common allergan in the breed) - but for almost all the foster dogs, limiting the "Big Bad Three" was enough.
Corn is basically a low-cost filler and usually found in the top 5 listed ingredients. Not much nutritional value as it is not an easily digestible ingredient. You might as well just tear up your dollar bills and put it in the food bowl as you will feed a bigger amount of food for proper nutrition (the filler comes out the other end and is, literally, wasted!). Corn is also a seratonin trigger, changing the brain chemistry of your dog, making him more reactive to stimulus (more likely to bark at the mailman, less likely to fully concentrate during training, etc). Wheat is a common trigger for food allergies in our Cockers and is best avoided at all costs. As for by-products, beware! Animal heads, feet, beaks, necks, bones, intestines, cattle hide and feathers are all commonly found in pet quality by-product ingredients. Many ingredients inedible to humans end up in pet and animal feed, usually marked as "by-products". Have you seen the documentary "SuperSize Me"? about the health issues the writer had after eating only fast food for 30 days? That is exactly what we are doing to our dogs by constantly feeding them food with by-products in the ingredients.
Grab your feed from the shelf right now and read those ingredients. While you are at it, read the label on the box of treats too. These ingredients shouldn't worm their way into your pet's diet by way of snacks and cookies, either. Has it been a while since you read the label? Better check again. When one company buys another, the bag may look identical - everything except the list of ingredients that is. Think that just because your kibble came from the vet's office and cost $50.00 a bag that you are safe? Read the label and learn otherwise!
Yes, the initial purchase price of decent food may be a bit more at the cash register - but pound for pound, you'll actually be saving money! A healthy food means you don't have to feed three cups to our little Cockers ... you can feed closer to the average of 1/2 cup am and 1/2 cup pm (adjusting based on your dog's metabolism and activity level). That "more expensive" bag will likely last a lot longer than the bag you've been used to feeding! And, over the life of the dog you will save even more - a healthier dog means less money being spent at the vet's office.
Hugs to your pooch!
foods my Cockers eat: