The Secret Ingredients for a Healthier, Happier Pup.

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From organic vegan diets, raw food, premium canned food to the best grain-free dog food, navigating the many pet food options by figuring out how the ingredients benefit your pet is one of the most important steps.

The Guinness Book of Records officially recognises Bluey, a cattle-dog from Victoria, Australia, as the world’s oldest living dog. Aged 29 years and five months or 133 in human years, Bluey worked in a cattle and sheep farm all his life. 

So, what is the secret ingredient to his long life? Bluey’s hardworking and active doggy lifestyle called for none other than lean, high protein, low-fat Kangaroo and emu meat. 

Bluey, holds world oldest dog record Image source

On the other hand, we have veggie-eating Border Collie, Bramble from the UK, recorded to live just over 25 years. What’s surprising is his 100% plant-based diet of organic vegetables, rice and lentils, carefully and thoughtfully served up by his owner who is a vegan herself. 

Bramble, vegan dog
Image source

With completely opposite diets, it begs this age-old question every dog owner asks themselves, “What are the secret ingredients to my pup’s healthy and happy existence?”  Well, wonder no more; we’re about to let you in on it! Read on to learn the importance of creating a unique diet tailored for your pet, how a good diet can improve overall health and wellbeing, and what constitutes a raw food diet. 

Creating a custom nutrition plan

To kick-off, a necessary starting point is to create a healthy diet plan tailored for your pet. Ensuring pets get the right food and nutrition brings about many benefits. These include maintaining a healthy weight, a shiny coat, healthy skin and canine dental health support. In addition to personalising a balance of essential nutrients to suit your pet, it’s also essential to include variations in their diet. 

Constructing a diet that suits their needs takes time and research. So make sure you do your homework, and speak to your vet or an animal nutritionist. They specialise in understanding how nutrients affect animal health and can help you design a meal plan that is tailored to your dog’s specific needs whether it’s for weight loss, skin and coat conditions, allergies or even pregnancy.

If you’re considering any changes to your pet’s diet, for example, transitioning your dog to a raw diet, you’ll need to consult your vet. The reason is that when an animal’s gut microbiome — which helps break down food in the digestive system — becomes accustomed to a specific diet it can struggle to adapt to a new diet. 

Presuming it is for health reasons, that you need to tweak or change your dog’s diet to a new one, Baxta’s resident vet, Dr. Simone Maher advises, “Taking seven to ten days to transition to new food will help avoid tummy upsets. Slowly increase the proportion of new food mixed with the existing food over this period, until the new diet is fed by day 10.”

Weighing up your pet’s nutritional needs  

Just like humans, it’s important for pets to have the right portion size for their size, age, weight, and activity level. These factors will help you determine the perfect amount of food your dog needs for every meal. 

Original image source

If you’re unsure what your dog’s ideal weight is, speak to your vet as the weight to portion ratio will only apply to healthy dogs. If your dog is overweight, you will need to reduce their portion size, so they can reach a healthy weight. Alternatively, if your dog is underweight or emaciated, then do increase their portion size. To allow your dog to properly adjust to the larger portion, space the meal out in small portions to avoid intestinal issues. 

When it comes to fur babies, whether it’s a 6-week old puppy or a 15-year-old golden oldie, having a proper diet is equally important. Your dog’s age will impact their food portions in two ways – growth rate and specific dietary requirements. 

A dog’s growth rate affects their diet as they may require extra calories to maintain growth or growth spurts at certain ages. Take puppies, for example, they grow up fast, and for them to be at their healthiest, they need specific amounts of nutrients to ensure proper bone, organ, and coat development. Even though your pup may nap for most of the day, they surprisingly have an enormous energy output. Their energy levels need to be regularly and completely topped up to keep up their growth rate. 

On the other hand, older dogs need nutrients in smaller portions to support and maintain joint health. As the golden oldies slow down, it’s essential to maintain a healthy weight, so they’re not putting extra stress on their joints and organs.

Feeding active, high energy dogs

Another prominent factor is your dog’s activity level. Have you ever compared your couch potato pup with your friend’s hyperactive dog? Breed and daily routine are the two main factors that can impact a dog’s energy level. 

It’s good to know that some breeds such as Kelpies, Border Collies, and German Shepherds are genetically prone to have higher energy and require more significant amounts of exercise than others. However, some dogs naturally need increased energy output for their daily routine, regardless of their breed. Examples of these dogs include assistance dogs, hiking dogs, and dogs with numerous children in the family.

What is a raw food diet?

Proper pet nutrition is trending, and at Baxta we’re all about what’s the latest and healthiest. As pet owners become more vigilant and conscientious about ingredients found in store-bought pet food, many are carefully evaluating the different food and diet options available, one of them being a raw food diet. 

So, what is a raw food diet? The Raw Meat Based Diet (RMBD) and Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) research explains in detail the benefits of feeding your dog a raw food diet if you want to learn more. However, in a nutshell, raw food diet in umbrella terms covers many ways you can feed your dog, with the differentiating factor being that this diet excludes highly processed dog food. 

New pet diet research was inspired by the idea that dogs evolved to survive on wild meats and natural plants, which should be reflected in their diet. And so with pet owners being more aware of the use of preservatives and the lack of regulation in the pet food industry, many pet owners have chosen to switch over to a raw food diet for their pet’s benefit.

What’s the difference between BARF and RMBD?

Both diets aim to provide the correct nutrient-filled diet for dogs through raw, unprocessed, and natural sources. The main difference between the two is the ingredients. BARF relies on sourcing nutrients from meat, fruit, veggies and grains whereas, RMBD sources nutrients only from meat. There is research surrounding both theories, but neither has been proven more effective than the other. 

Many people have mistaken a raw food diet to only include raw meats, fruits, and vegetables. This is not necessarily the case. Many ‘raw food diet’ meal options also include cooked meat and vegetables. Cooking meat and vegetables can make it easier for some dogs to digest and tolerate their meal. 

Breaking down a raw food diet

Dog ‘kibble’ or dry dog food is the most common diet owners give their pet dogs. Some kibbles may meet your pup’s nutritional needs; like the ones you get from your vet. Here’s what you need to know about non-prescription dry dog food:

  • Usually made of ingredients that aren’t specified

  • ‘Meat’ listed in the ingredients list could be a range of different animal meats

  • Added preservatives, synthetic supplements, stabilisers, gelling additives, and taste enhancers 

  • Reports of dogs dying and contracting illness from unregulated and sketchy pet food brands

If you have been thinking of switching your pet over to a raw food diet, make sure you consult your vet to see it’s suitable for your dog. If your vet gives you the green light, it’s important to know that it will take time to transition your pup’s diet as advised earlier. So it’s important to remember that transitioning your pup’s diet slowly when making any changes is crucial to ensure their gut health is in tip-top shape. 

Some things to look out for:

  • Intolerances of allergies to specific foods

  • Changes in your pet’s stool, appetite, energy levels, coat and skin, teeth, and weight

Things to keep in mind:

  • The adjustment period lessens the risk of vomiting, diarrhea, and bloat

  • Adding higher quality food to their diet will make your pup defecate less

  • Your dog’s drinking habit is likely to change, with your dog needing less water throughout the day

  • Don’t forget that you can cook meat or veggies on a raw food diet to help ease digestion. Be sure not to add any salt, oil or flavouring as this is all harmful to dogs. 

  • Despite the popularity of a ‘grain-free’ diet, dogs can digest carbohydrates however, if you are including grains in your pup’s diet such as rice, oats or pasta, ensure to cook it to make it easier to digest. 

Although diet is a key factor in your pup’s happiness and health, it’s also important to keep them mentally stimulated and active. Read this blog for easy tips on how to keep them entertained, even when you’re stuck at home! 

To make it easy for you, we’ve compiled a list of the best fruits and veggies for a raw food diet and toxic food items to avoid as they are particularly poisonous and dangerous for dogs.