Adorable puppy dog looking over owners shoulder

Keeping our dogs strong and healthy can be a challenge, but feeding them nutritional foods is an excellent place to start. While it’s easy to identify some of the best commercial dog foods by simply looking on the back of the package, some owners are finding better ways to get their four-legged friends the nutrition they need. If you’re trying to supplement part of their diets with other foods, here’s a great place to start.

Starting With the Basics

Before you get begin, remember that you shouldn’t overfeed your dog. It’s easy to think that simply adding these fresh foods is beneficial, but too much food can quickly become dangerous for your dog’s health. Instead, when adding additional foods, decrease the amount of kibble and canned food so your dog’s eating the same amount of calories. If you’re planning on adding additional foods to their commercial dog food, make sure the additional foods are – at most – 25% of the total amount eaten.

 Dogs Are Not Humans

Since it’s natural to treat our furry friends like part of the family, we sometimes forget that they’re not human. It’s so easy to slip into the habit of giving our dogs leftover scraps from the table or wanting to feed them the same “healthy” foods that we eat. But before you do, study up on the nutritional needs of dogs. In many cases, their diets need to be vastly different than humans. For instance, while humans need to monitor the amount of fat and meats consumed in order to prevent health problems (like high cholesterol), a dog’s diet isn’t complete without meals that are high in saturated fats. For most dogs, a healthy diet consists of protein, fat, carbohydrates, calcium and essential fatty acids.

Foods to Add to Your Dog’s Diet

As you begin to think about changing your dog’s diet, do your research (from a wide variety of articles journals) and speak with your vet. Make a plan that fits the needs of your dog’s unique needs. As you do that, consider adding some of these foods to improve their diets.

Calcium Boosts

Calcium is an essential part to any dog’s diet. It’s good for building strong bones, aiding the function of the heart and it helps with the secretion of certain hormones. While commercial foods do have the necessary requirements for calcium, you can supplement part of that food with dairy products, such as yogurt (probiotics can help with digestive issues), cottage cheese and milk. If your dog needs a low-fat diet, it may be better to use low or non-fat milk. At the same time, many dogs are lactose intolerant (especially adult dogs), and milk can cause some pretty gnarly intestinal issues. Firm cheese and yogurt are usually okay, but they should be started in moderation to see how your dog reacts. When adding dairy products, make sure they do not contain any artificial sweeteners or added sugars.

In reality, though, it would take a large amount of dairy to meet the calcium needs of your dog, so if you’re planning on adding nutritional foods, make sure the majority of their meal comes from commercial dog food.

Chicken and Beef

Supplementing some of their commercial dog food with meat, including lean beef or turkey is an option that’s attractive to some dog owners. Make sure that the meat is either ground or cut into chunks in order to prevent choking. If you’re already feeding your dogs a high-quality commercial dog food, adding meat to your dog’s diet is largely about giving them variety.

If you’re considering adding raw meat to your dog’s diet, start with speaking to your veterinarian for advice. There is considerable controversy about the risks and rewards of giving your dog raw meat.

Sardines

Sardines are full of nutrients that can be helpful to your dog. In a post on dogster.com, nutrition counselor Celia Kutcher explains that sardines, while small, pack a mighty punch in the nutrition department. “Sardines are full of omega-3 fatty acids and Coenzyme Q10,” says Kutcher. “The fatty acids have many health benefits, like cancer prevention, reducing inflammation, and keeping the immune system strong. CoQ10 supports a healthy heart and circulation.” The fatty acids also help develop the brains of puppies and kittens.

Eggs

If your dog has stomach problems, eggs are a great way to provide a digestible protein, as well as riboflavin, selenium and fatty acids. In some dogs – especially young pups – the enzyme inhibitors in egg whites can actually interfere with digestions, but this can only happen in large quantities. Therefore, the average dog is able to eat several eggs a week, but make sure that eggs are not the majority of their diet. In most cases, it is recommended that you use a whole cooked egg as raw egg whites could potentially cause salmonella and are more likely to cause a deficiency in biotin.

Green Beans

Among other vegetables, such as asparagus and broccoli florets, green beans make great treats for dogs. If you’re having trouble keeping the weight off of your dog, substituting traditional treats with green beans could be a good place to start. Green beans are also great sources of vitamin K (which enhances absorption of calcium), vitamin A (a powerful antioxidant) and Vitamin C (an immunity booster).

Pumpkin

While it may seem surprising, dogs are big fans of pumpkins, especially in the canned pureed form. There have been some circulating rumors that pumpkins promote a shiny coat in a dog, but that claim has not yet been proven. However, in an interview with petinsurance.com, Dr. Tony Buffington explains that small amount of pumpkin can be good for your pet’s digestive system. “Canned pumpkin sometimes is recommended by veterinarians for it soluble fiber content,” Buffington says. “Canned pumpkin is 90% water, so it is quite nutrient dilute. It adds mostly water and a little soluble fiber to pet foods.” So while canned pumpkin may not improve your dog’s coat, it will act as a binding solution in the digestive system, helping them with diarrhea.

Food For Thought

Keeping your four-legged friend healthy is a full-time job, and it starts with a healthy diet. If you’re worried about the different types of nutrients that your dog is receiving, it’s best to first speak with a veterinarian. Simply finding high-quality commercial foods is one of the best places to start. From there, take the time to find healthy options to add to their daily diet.

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