How a dog acts, looks and feels is intrinsically linked to their diet. If we think about our own diets for a second, if we eat well, generally, we feel well. If we have a day where we take on too many sugars, carbs and calories, and don’t burn it off, often we’ll feel sluggish afterwards.
What we consume fuels us. So if we’re taking on too many of the wrong ingredients for our age or lifestyle, then we’re bound to feel the effects of our actions and it can impact on everything from our energy levels to our mood.
It’s the same for our dogs.
This month with the help of Dr John Lowe, canine nutritionist for Autarky, we are taking an in-depth look at the subject to help you work out if your dog’s diet is impacting on their behaviour by asking yourself three key questions.
Is your dog moody or seem hungry, even after being fed?
Just like humans, if a dog is hungry their activity levels might dip and for this reason, sometimes they can become moody. John tells us the same is equally true if a dog is tired.
If you answered yes to this question, here’s what you need to know:
Dogs who appear hungry after eating aren’t necessarily being fed on the wrong diet. John tells us, “Satiety is about gut fill and changes in blood glucose.”
So we asked him what ingredients dog owners should look for on pet food labels to help boost or balance a dog’s serotonin levels to help even out their mood and behaviour.
He said, “Typical dietary ingredients per se do not alter these things. It’s about overall nutrition and the balance of certain nutrients, for example, various amino acids.
“A number of herbs may induce calming behaviour, but it is not clear whether this is an anxiolytic or sedative effect.”
Is your dog destructive?
It’s important to make sure a dog’s diet is suitable for their age and lifestyle to make sure they have the right balance of nutrition to take them through the day.
Essentially a dog's diet should be balanced to help them avoid being lethargic or too boisterous because they are taking on too few or too many calories than they can burn off.
If you think this may be an issue for your dog, here’s what you need to know:
Dogs who act out of boredom might easily be stimulated by interactive toys or games to play, as well as exploring new places.
From a nutritional standpoint, John explained, “Much of excessive boisterousness is more about mental boredom than excess calories.”
John says some of the most obvious telltale signs that a dog’s diet isn’t right for them will be shown through poor quality faeces, loss of coat and/or a dog’s skin condition.
Does your dog have any food intolerances?
The interest surrounding grain free, gluten free and ingredient specific dog food has grown over the years. But how can you tell if your dog is intolerant and just how common are food allergies?
John explains that it’s “hard to know the exact incidence but reports are 1-6% of dermatoses are related to food.”
If this is a concern for your dog, here’s what you need to know:
On the subject of whether some dog breeds are more susceptible to allergies, there is no clear or hard data to suggest this at the moment but John says there is some suggestion that “dogs under 1 year are more prone”.
Some common signs that a dog is allergic to an ingredient in their food will be shown their bowel movements (upset stomachs) and skin conditions (such as itchy skin).
Pet Food Labels: How to read & what to look for
Over the years, pet food packaging has become more transparent about what ingredients make up their dog’s food, but it can still be confusing to read if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Here are John’s top tips on the easiest way to read a pet food label and what you should prioritise.
“For a normal fit and healthy dog, there is no reason to be selective about ingredients. The diets are formulated to meet nutrient requirements/allowances and thus should be fine. The dog has the ability to cope with and benefit from a wide range of ingredients.
“It is more about selecting a diet to suit your dog’s lifestyle, whether a sedentary pet, active agility dog, old or young etc; this is about the fat, carbohydrate and protein content, and not necessarily the ingredients.
“If however, a dog has an intolerance or idiosyncrasy to a particular ingredient or ingredients, then choosing a product with open declaration, for example, all ingredients listed will enable you to avoid those diets that contain ingredients you believe to induce problems in your dog.”