THE GOOD DOG DIET by Anna Patfield
Book Review

 

What is the best food to feed your dog? Can one compare dogs and wolves when it comes to suitable nutrition? Is commercial pet food dangerous? Is raw really better? Finally, can nutrition affect behaviour?

These questions and more are answered in this book, with some surprising answers. The Good Dog Diet, is a simple and straight forward guide to choosing the food that is right for your dog and identifying aspects of your dog’s diet which could be contributing to behaviour or health problems. It is NOT a prescriptive manual aimed at swaying anyone to feed a particular type of food. The aim is to increase awareness of what is required for proper nutrition and to help every owner ensure that their dog is getting the optimum nutrition for their specific dog, in the form they feel most comfortable with.

The book helps one to focus on “nutrients” (what the body needs to grow, heal and thrive) as opposed to ingredients (the source the nutrients come from) and explains the function of each nutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and water) within the body and what excesses or deficiencies of each may result in. Written for dog owners, there is guidance on how to read dog food labels, recognise possible allergens in foods and adjust diet to improve behaviour and health.

The book also importantly spends some time busting the many myths that exist around food and feeding today, such as:

Myth: Dogs NEED meat

Fact: Dogs NEED amino acids (found in protein). Amino acids can be obtained from meat, beans or lentils, so technically dogs don’t HAVE to have meat at all. (The author is not suggesting a vegan diet for dogs, but merely stating the facts).

Myth: Dogs can’t digest starch because they don’t have the enzyme amylase

Fact: Dogs do not have amylase in their mouths, but they do have plenty of it in their intestines. Unlike humans, dogs do not chew their food thoroughly, so very little “digestion” takes place in the mouth. Dogs are not wolves – they have evolved over 10 000 years to be scavengers, not predators. There are genetic differences in the dog’s digestive system which specifically enable dogs to digest starch.

Myth: Dogs’ intestines are short, so they need a high protein diet (which is digested more quickly)

Fact: Actually, comparing a dog’s intestinal length to body length shows that proportionally, their intestines are longer than ours!

Myth: Dry dog food is digested more slowly than fresh food and it is unhealthy for food to sit in the gut for that long.

Fact: Numerous studies have shown that when food particle size is the same, fresh food leaves the stomach more slowly than dry food and that meals high in meat content leave the stomach more slowly than cereal based foods. Again, the author is not advising that cereal based foods are the ideal diet, but simply clearing the myths out of the way, so that more informed choices can be made.

An important focus of this book is also how nutrition affects brain chemistry. When studying to become a behaviourist, I found this to be one of the most fascinating areas of study: Few people know that while protein contains the amino acids necessary for building dopamine (neurotransmitter involved with alertness, movement, reward and learning) and noradrenaline (stress hormone), carbohydrates contain the amino acid needed to build serotonin (regulates mood, keeps emotions in check, regulates sleep patterns and helps one cope with the perception of pain). Anti-depressants primarily increase serotonin levels, while anti-psychotics decrease dopamine levels - this might help you understand their function a little better.

 

Very poor diets may result in unstable levels of any of the key neurotransmitters, so for example, a protein deficient diet could result in an inability to learn. However, more often these days with the rise of raw feeding culture, diets that consist almost exclusively of meat and do not include any digestible form of carbohydrate (most raw vegetables cannot be digested by dogs at all) can lead to lowered serotonin levels and increased dopamine and noradrenaline. My colleagues and I can cite many cases where we have witnessed how this has resulted in hypervigilance and reactivity.

 

Another area of nutrition that is easily overlooked is essential fatty acids (essential meaning that they have to be taken in through diet as they cannot be manufactured by the body). EFA’s are vital for healthy neurological function, but many people forget to add their Omega 3’s and 6’s to their home prepared meals.

 

Whatever your philosophy with regards to feeding, The Good Dog Diet highlights the facts around nutrition and gives you the opportunity to make informed decisions. The author stresses that every dog is an individual and that what suits one dog may not suit another. Lifestyle, energy level, behaviour issues, age, intolerances and preferences can and should all be taken into account.

 

For more information or to order the eBook, go to: http://thegooddogdiet.com/

Kommetjie Canine College

Kommetjie

Cape Town

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