Good food for dogs

Bangalore Mirror Bureau | May 18, 2015, 10.45 PM IST

Ayurveda teaches us that the digestive system is the single most important determinant of health and well-being. This principle is very much true for dogs too. Provide the right kind of diet to a dog and you will see several of the behavioural issues and recurring health issues go away. So it is important to understand what a good diet for a dog is.

Packaged dry food or kibble is becoming quite popular these days. Kibble is convenient. However understand the effectiveness of kibble, we need to know something about gut flora. Gut flora is the good bacteria that lives in our digestive tract. If an organism is on a single kind of a diet for extended periods, this gut flora becomes specific to that food and it is incapable of handling change. So every time the dog eats something accidentally, he is at risk of falling sick. Such dogs frequently have constipation or loose stools or vomiting. To prevent this, it’s important to introduce variety into a dog’s meal. If you are using kibble, selecting a few different brands and rotating between them may be one way to achieve this.

Kibble manufacturers claim that the product is nutritiously balanced. Some of our breakfast cereal make the same claim. But we know that one can never really get all the nutrition required by staying on a breakfast-cereal-and-water diet, all three meals a day, day after day. Apart from being terribly depressing, such a meal could cause deficiencies and toxicities. While convenient, kibble comes with all the trappings of processed food – plenty of preservatives and lack of diversity in food groups.

A mix of a home-cooked meal and high grade gluten-free kibble might be the right mix of wholesomeness and convenience. When cooking at home, do keep a few things in mind. In terms of the protein source, chicken is the best. It is high in tryptophan which gets converted to serotonin and calms the dog down. Gluten-free carbs are preferred. Of these, brown rice is the best, followed by red rice and then white rice. Rice and sweet potato form a good source of carbs and work wonders on stressed and hyper dogs. 

Spinach, red pumpkin and papaya are good to add. Coconut oil, sesame oil, turmeric and curds are power foods that do wonders to health and behaviour. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, strawberries, avocados, chocolates, grapes, raisins and caffeine are absolutely not to be fed. A dog’s meal is only complete with big bones (not chicken bones). A good ten-minute chewing session in the morning and evening can take all that stress away. See most behavioural problems vanish with this secret recipe.

If feeding meat is not an option for you, then I will admit that it will be a lot more work. You will need to actively look for protein sources. In particular, tryptophan is what you are looking for. Paneer, cheese, nuts, spinach, drumsticks, amaranth, sesame oil, chickpea and kale are some good sources. The bigger challenge, however, for you will be replacing bones. Rawhide or “fake bones” available at pet shops are a possible replacement. But they rarely elicit the kind of interest a bone does and so it’s rare that a dog will chew on it for ten whole minutes at a stretch. Secondly, you need to be aware that these raw hide bones are made of bleached leather.

Work on figuring out the right diet for your dog. Ayurveda and my experience say that if the gut’s okay, then all’s okay, well, most of the times. 

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