We care about the wellbeing of every dog that comes through the Happy Home Dog Boarding door. Each one has their own unique personality and traits, just like we do.
The interesting thing we've noticed from doing boarding is how much a dog's personality and behaviour is linked to their diet. The dogs that are fed on a high-sugar diet, or who get a lot of human food, tend to be somewhat more energetic and bonkers than those on a more balanced diet.
But whilst we can choose whether to have broccoli and carrots for dinner, or gobble down a dirty McDonalds burger instead, your dog gets what they are given, so if you feed them a high energy food for breakfast and dinner, don't be surprised if he runs around your home breaking stuff - you put that energy in them.
It's therefore up to us as responsible owners, to ensure that our dogs get a nutritious, healthy and balanced diet, which goes hand in hand with regular exercise to ensure you have a healthy and balanced happy dog.
Okay, so far, so common sense. Why blog about it?
We’re not saying you should avidly mark up every last calorie pooch eats and add it to a spreadsheet, because that’s clearly not practical.
What we're saying is that it's worth paying close attention to the ingredients of your chosen dog food because the things they tell you on the TV and on the packaging aren't always on the up-and-up.
There are many flashy adverts on TV for dog food. Some have talking dogs, or dogs that dance or drive delivery vans. There was even one which used high pitched noises to make it more appealing to your dog at home, although apparently it didn't work anyway. The adverts always make it look like the perfect, healthy meal for your pup. The voiceovers often say it's tasty, balanced, nutritious.
Is dog food as healthy as TV adverts portray?
Although they might have fancy TV adverts, dog food on the whole may not quite be as good for dogs as you think - regardless if the have "premium" "pedigree" or "royal" in their name. Feeding your dog the right food, and avoiding the bad stuff, can add years to their life by keeping them healthier.
With so many types of food on the market, it's going to be impossible to study and compare the ingredients of all of them. I mean, take a look at some dog food the next time you're near a packet. What's Propylene Glycol? Or Mannanoligosaccharides? Other than winning you a game of scrabble, these words are meaningless to non-experts, so here at HHDB we like to turn to All About Dog Food for nutritional advice.
This website details all the ingredients of dog food, and gives them scores out of 5. Remember that advert I mentioned about using high pitched noises? It was for Bakers Meaty Meals, described as "Full of soft meaty chunks with all the goodness your dog needs". A quick trip to All About Dog Food reveals a rather impressive score.
0.1 / 5.
That's right, it's not a typo. 0.1.
Perhaps it gained this score because it isn't poison, but it doesn't seem to have much else going for it. And Bakers isn't alone - Pedigree Chum is also sitting at the bottom too. These aren't good foods for your dog. And is it a coincidence that Bakers is ultimately owned by Nestle, while Pedigree Chum and Royal Canin by Mars? These two Confectionery sweetie giants have never been seen as the purveyors of a healthy diet, have they?
It's not just food to watch out for
There is a massive worldwide market for dog treats. In 2014, 78.1% of US dog-owning households bought treats for their pups. It's still a growing market, which means the public are, on the whole, uneducated about the nitty gritty of the ingredients, and take at face value the TV adverts as the manufacturers clamber for our cash.
I'm now going to say a dirty word.
We don't have any time for Dentastix here at HHDB. Let me tell you a story for why.
A few years ago, we bought these for Sprocket, as we thought they would help keep his teeth clean, and would be a good chance for him to relax and have a healthy chew. We were wrong on all counts.
Sprocket, being a greedy dog, wolfed most of it down without chewing. He was really ill - out of sorts, and you can always tell when your own dog isn't quite right.
So we rushed him to the vet just to check just how serious this was. We've since changed vets because these ones were incompetent and told us he must have swallowed a tennis ball (have you seen the size of Sprocket?!) but that's a story for another time. Suffice to say we never gave Sprocket another Dentastix, and not just because of his wolfing it down.
But perhaps this is a problem with the dog - dogs who don't wolf their food down should be okay to eat them, right?
Nope. We've done some research and found this fantastic graphic, which the creators at Pooch & Mutt have kindly allowed us to reproduce here:
Just take a moment to read it. Click on the image to make it bigger. Would you feed your dog this now, knowing what's in it? They contain known skin irritants; chemicals that can cause irreversible blood cell damage and even possible cancer causing chemicals.
Sticking the prefix 'Denta-' onto your product and showing a smiling dog seems to be all they need to do to convince us that this is a healthy treat. The worst part is that it's perceived as an every day snack, which over time likely does more harm than good to your dog's teeth, irony!
We need to start fighting back and understanding what's in this food, because these aren't treats we're giving out to our best friends, but potential killers.
Oh and don't worry - Sprocket fully recovered!
What are our other feeding options?
Firstly it is crucial to remember that treats should always be counted towards your dog's daily food allowance.
One of the simplest and cheapest options is home made treats. We've touched on this before, including a delicious liver cake recipe (always in moderation) or even simple frozen banana treats for the summer and to help with puppy teething,
Stuffed frozen Kongs are fantastic for keeping dogs busy, particularly if they are chewers. This awesome blog from Just Dogs shop in Stockbridge, 'Why Kong is King' covers stuffing potential.
In fact you don't need to do anything to have a nice treat - buy a raw carrot or cucumber and give it to your dog. They might not take it immediately, but with a bit of enthusiasm and slicing it thin to begin with and they should start to love it!
Alternatively there are loads of healthy, natural treats you can buy reasonably inexpensively. As many regulars here at Happy Home Dog Boarding will know, we're a fan of the pizzle.
What is a pizzle? Well - men, look away now.
It's the dried out remains of a bull's penis. Yum! The dogs go mad for it. We're also a fan of lamb's scalps and fish skins, which entertain our boarders for a long time. We buy ours online and you can too from the ever reliable Howl Emporium.
Do your vets recommend your dog food?
Let’s be clear about this from the outset. We are not telling you to ignore your vet. We are not telling you that your vet doesn’t know what is best for your dog. And we are most definitely not advising you to not go to the vet if you think there is something wrong with your dog.
For the record, we are exceptionally happy with our vets – ICR Vets in Loanhead. There are very few people we trust the health of our dogs to, but they are top of the list.
What we are doing is looking at some freely-available evidence that suggests some dog food companies hold an influence over the choices vets make when it comes to food.
As one article put it, vets still have to make money, and if recommending one type of food over another gets them their summer holiday to Barbados, then guess what they will do?
There's nothing illegal about it, and all dog food has over 50 pieces of legislation governing their manufacture so it's safe. But try not to be blindly obedient in these situations. Ask questions, read ingredients, make up your own mind.
Here are some articles on the subject you may enjoy:
We would love to hear anyone who has experienced such advice from their vets, and also anyone who disagrees with the above articles.
Finally, to finish off, let's touch upon raw feeding. We have always fed our dogs kibble, so raw feeding was new to us before we started boarding. What we've seen through experience are well balanced dogs who enjoy their food.
Here's some more information on raw feeding:
Raw feeding is a massive - and controversial topic - so we'll keep it for a future blog post. And it'll be a good 'un!
And that's our thoughts on the matter! Do you think it matters what we feed our dogs? Do you think we're giving the big named brands a hard time? Let us know below or over on our Facebook page.