Tips from the Trainer: How Does Food Affect My Dog?

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By Steve Kotowske 

Dog Training Tips

With all of the talk lately about dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), it’s wise to step into a discussion about food, health, and behavior of one’s dog. First, DCM. It is not a new disease linked to your dog’s food. The first cases were discovered nearly 20 years ago in a paper from the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2001. The 12 cases described were from 1997 to 2001, before grain-free food was ever available. There are many factors that can be attributed to DCM. Several breeds are more at risk than others. Some breeds have a genetic predisposition to DCM; affected breeds include the Doberman Pinscher, Boxer, American Cocker Spaniel, Newfoundland, Irish Wolfhound, Portuguese Water Dog, Mastiff, and Great Dane. Other breeds, including Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Saint Bernard, Springer Spaniel, English Sheepdog, Afghan hound, Scottish Deerhound, Terrier, and English Cocker Spaniel also have a relatively high incidence of the disease. The rise in mixing breeds for designer dogs has likely exacerbated the issue.

How does overall health affect your dog’s behavior? A favorite saying about food is, “Feed the body, feed the brain.” Humans certainly understand this concept. When one eats for pleasure, sometimes they end up not feeling so well, needing to take a nap, or end up with a gastro-intestinal upset of some sort. If this is done over and over, one gains weight and starts taxing the complex systems of the bodies. Food affects overall health. Just because one ‘likes’ it, doesn’t mean it is best to indulge. What this new talk about DCM does is encourages all to question dogs’ diets. Since taurine appears to be the underlying issue with DCM, read labels, and ask questions of the food provider. Select foods from a smaller store where the staff are often better trained at answering questions about the labels and have access to the answers needed. Stop looking at the pictures and thinking about big brand names, and instead, read the label. Remember this valuable tip: no corn, soy, or wheat. They are common allergens for dogs. Feed your dog a diet rich in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Probiotics assist in balancing the system in such a way that veterinarians are now regularly doling them out to patients with stomach issues. Your dog might actually benefit from a more complex blend of probiotics and digestive enzymes. Also, possibly change your dog’s treats. Dogs often love certain treats, but then read the label to the owner. They cringe when they hear what the ingredients are. Some ingredients are linked to behavioral issues in human children, they are also probably inappropriate for a dog.

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