How does food impact a dog’s immune system?
A nutritious diet is an essential first step in keeping your dog healthy, happy and energetic. It also helps to prevent some illnesses like infections of the ear and urinary tract.
Like humans, you should add fresh whole foods to your dog’s diet with minimal chemical additives and preservatives.
These days, there are a wide variety of food types that you can feed your canine. They include:
• Raw or “BARF” (biologically appropriate raw food) diet consisting mainly of raw meats and bones, with a little cooked or pulped vegetables on the side. Although dogs don’t need carbohydrates, they can utilize them. Those who have fed generations of dogs a raw diet with few if any carbohydrates will attest to healthy, long-lived dogs with fewer chronic problems. However, the raw diet is not feasible for many owners, and choosing better carbohydrates will go a long way toward building a strong immune system.
• Home-cooked diet, which takes a little more time but, with practice, can be put together efficiently and inexpensively. NOTE: Make sure you do this under the guidance of your veterinarian to ensure that the meal is balanced.
• Commercial foods: There are many excellent kibbled and canned foods available, using minimal grains, high-quality whole meats and natural preservatives like mixed tocopherols and antioxidants.
Understanding Your Dog’s Digestive Tract
Dogs have a short gastrointestinal tract designed to efficiently digest high-protein foods like meats. They digest cooked grains inefficiently, which is why they seem to produce gas and exhibit GI challenges when fed low quality kibble. Many people find that their dog’s health improves when they stop feeding low-quality, grain-based proteins like brewers rice or corn and wheat gluten. Look for higher protein grains in the ingredients list, like millet, oats, pearl barley or rice. Many foods are now grain free and higher in protein, using sweet potatoes as a carbohydrate source. Although some of these foods are more expensive, much less needs to be fed because the dog utilizes the proteins more efficiently.