Top 10 Tips for a Healthier and Happier Dog in 2024
1. Reduce carbohydrates in your dog’s or cat’s diet: This recommendation is always at the top of my nutrition “watchdog” list. Despite all of the advances in natural pet food, excessive carb consumption and high-carb commercial diets are still the chief cause of obesity in dogs and cats. Just because a food, treat, or topper is “grain free,” it is not necessarily low in carbs.
- How to Spot High Carb Products: Avoid products with too many ingredients like wheat, corn, rice, and potato. Sweet potato, pumpkin, quinoa, and other healthier carbohydrates are better but still should only be fed in moderation. No bread and pizza crust as snacks! If you see too many of these non-protein ingredients listed high on the ingredient panel, you are probably looking at a HIGH CARB food, treat, or topper.
2. Make identifiable MEAT PROTEIN from clean sources the cornerstone of your canine food choices. Healthy meat protein ingredients include fresh or freeze-dried Chicken, Turkey, Beef, Lamb, Egg, Fish, etc.
- VIP “Very Important Point:” A high quality kibble food must contain not only fresh meats but concentrated dry proteins such as Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Dried meats, Dried liver, Dried egg, Fish meal, etc. Without these concentrated protein ingredients, it is very difficult for a dry food to perform optimally by delivering the proper levels of digestible animal-based proteins.
3. Don’t feed your pets anything with chemical preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, or other food additives. Stay away from foods, treats, toppers, and supplements with chemical preservatives. The NO GO list includes propylene glycol, BHA, BHT, propyl gallate, potassium sorbate, ethoxyquin, and all artificial colors. Xylitol Warning: Xylitol is used as an artificial sweetener in chewing gum and other products for humans, but it can be fatal for dogs and the sweet taste and smell can attract them. Prevent your dogs from gaining access to any products with Xylitol, and educate all household members including young people that no candy should ever be given to a dog, especially “low sugar” and “sugar free” which may include this canine-killer ingredient.
4. Get Rid of Glycerin! Glycerin deserves a separate mention because it is used very widely in dog treats and chews, even those labeled “all natural.” It is chiefly used as a preservative to prevent mold in “soft chews,” jerkies, and tender moist treats.
- Although it is used in products called “natural,” glycerin is not found in nature, it is an engineered ingredient derived from the distillation of Ethanol or grain-based alcohols, as well as other industrial food processing operations. While it’s not as harmful as Propylene Glycol when used to prevent mold in moist products, glycerin is far more widely used. When you start looking for it, you’ll be shocked as to how many products include some form of glycerin.
- It particularly concerns us that almost all of the “functional” soft-chew treats on the market with CBD, Joint Care support, and other nutraceutical supplements include some form of glycerin. The bottom line is that glycerin is not a natural food ingredient. We don’t believe that it has any place in your pet’s diet, and the Clear Conscience Pet® CleanLabel™ Pledge forbids the use of any form of glycerin.
5. Sugar is bad for dogs! Eliminate all sugar from your dog’s diet. Sugar may be listed in many forms, including evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, fruit juice concentrates, maple syrup, and honey. Exception: small amounts of these ingredients may be used as natural preservatives in moist treats instead of glycerin or glycols.
6. Avoid OVER-SUPPLEMENTATION with synthetic vitamins and minerals. Any pet food approved by AAFCO as “complete and balanced” to meet the daily nutritional requirements of a dog or cat is required by law to include a long list of vitamin and mineral supplements. We have been conditioned to believe that vitamins are always a positive addition to the diet, and therefore if a little is good, wouldn’t more be even better? The answer is an emphatic “NO! The concern is that certain vitamins are fat-soluble only, so they accumulate in the fatty tissues of the body rather than being excreted in the urine like water soluble vitamins. For example, vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins. In excess they can actually cause toxic effects, including damage to vital organs with synthetic Vitamin A, D, and K, and internal hemorrhaging with overdoses of synthetic Vitamin E. DON’T PANIC: These effects are rare and would only be triggered by heavy and frequent over supplementation, or inadvertent toxic overdoses such as a dog consuming a whole bottle of supplements at once. Nevertheless, these cautions should be taken seriously, especially with very small dogs for whom a little of anything goes a long way.
- The alternative is to feed a varied diet with whole foods that naturally supply essential micronutrients, including fresh muscle and organ meats, vegetables, antioxidant-rich superfoods like chia seed, and mineral-rich cold water Sea Kelp. It is impossible to “overdose” on whole food ingredients! The body will simply excrete them. Therefore, we developed all of our products including SuperGravy and treats with ZERO synthetic supplements. Instead, we use only whole food sources to supply nutrients. This is the essence of our award-winning CleanLabel™ Pledge and formulation philosophy which promises that all ingredients are Pure, Pronounceable, and PURPOSEFUL.
7. NO ONE FOOD OR TREAT IS PERFECT FOR EVERY PET! After 30 years of dedication to animal health and nutrition, the question we still hear most is, “what food should I feed my dog or cat?” That’s a great question, and we wish that we could provide a simple answer for every dog and their guardians. But the truth is that no food is great for every pet, even if it’s the most expensive product on the market. The recommendation of your veterinarian, breeder, or best dog-loving friend might not work optimally for your animal companion. To complicate matters further, the food you’ve been using for years may stop working well for your pet. This can happen as a function of changes in your pet’s body as they age, development of sensitivities or allergies to certain ingredients over time, or changes in a product that may not be transparently revealed by the manufacturer. Pet Food companies operate in a legal environment allows them to change products without changing the label for a certain period, presumably to allow them to use up packaging or adjust to changes in ingredient availability. So, the question is, when should you question your current daily pet food choices? One of our popular past articles, “Is it Time for a Pet Food Divorce,” offers some great guidance. Some of the signs to look for are changes in stool consistency that last more than a few days, or if your dog’s once beautiful coat gets dull, “stiff,” or greasy. Another red flag is if your pet gets a sudden case of the “itchies,” or you start to see skin irritations sometimes known as “hot spots” popping up. These are all signals that your pet may be developing an allergy or sensitivity to the food or treats you are using. Don’t ignore these signs, seek out a new food for your companion.
8. HYDRATE DRY FOODS THOROUGHLY, including kibble or freeze-dried foods. It doesn’t matter what brand you use, how much it costs, or the ingredients. DRY is DRY. The evolutionary nutritional biology of canines and felines requires lots of moisture at the molecular level. Think about it logically for a moment. Is there any instance in nature in which a canine or feline gathers hard and dry chunks of combined protein, fat, carbohydrates, and micronutrients to sustain life? The answer is obviously “NO.” They eat game, which is by definition a moist food.
- For decades, since the introduction of dry food in the 1940s and 50s, veterinarians and other pet care providers have been influenced by grain-based pet food manufacturers to push dry foods. The rationale is that dry foods are better for the dental health of dogs and cats. But if this were true, wouldn’t wild canines and felines suffer from constant dental disease? The truth is that a wet diet rinses through the oral cavity more effectively than a dry diet. And in our experience, pets eating a hydrated diet have fewer digestive issues.
- How to hydrate dry and freeze-dried foods? You can do this by simply adding water and allowing the product sufficient time to absorb moisture. The problem is that kibble is difficult to hydrate because it is manufactured as a “sealed” chunk to resist moisture for long shelf life. To help solve this problem, Clear Conscience Pet invented SuperGravy, our multiple award winning all-natural dry gravy mix. SuperGravy not only helps moisture to BOND with dry kibble or freeze-dried foods, it adds delicious taste from whole superfoods to please even the pickiest eaters. SuperGravy also improves gut and immune health with our Trigestive™ blend of live probiotics, prebiotics, and active digestive enzymes that bring “dead” kibble back to life.
9. LESS VACCINES: MORE TITER TESTING. Reconsider “routine vaccines” as part of annual vet exams; instead, ask your veterinarian to do blood work and send it out for titer testing by a reputable lab. This testing assesses your individual pet’s level of antibodies to a wide variety of canine and feline diseases. The argument sometimes made against titer testing is that if you determined that your dog does not have sufficient immunity then you’re going to have to get the vaccine anyway yeah, which means you’ll pay both for the test and for the vaccine. But if you think about it isn’t it worth it to spend a little extra money to prevent over vaccination? People don’t retake routine vaccines every year because it is a known medical fact that these immunities last for years or even for life. If people don't need to be re-vaccinated every year, why should pets? If your veterinarian doesn’t agree with this common sense approach, you might want to consider a different veterinarian.
10. DELAY SPAY and NEUTER UNTIL EARLY ADULTHOOD: If you have a new puppy or kitten that has NOT yet been spayed or neutered, consider allowing the animal to reach early adulthood before performing these surgeries. This means waiting for a year to 18 months, depending on the breed. Yes, we know that this recommendation will not be popular with those who look only at preventing pet overpopulation, rather than the impact on an individual animal. We have been harshly criticized for making this recommendation in the past, but we stand by it. The reason is that early removal of the reproductive organs can have a profound impact on the growth and maturation of a dog. Instead of reaching their full growth potential, bone strength, muscle density, and mental capacity, their development is frozen at a pre-adolescent level. Think about it: if we performed hysterectomies and castrations on human children, we would have a population of humans who could never reach their physical or mental adulthood.
- Although there is much heated debate on this subject, a growing number are starting to feel that there are significant benefits to having a dog or cat fully develop “adult strength” bones, muscles, and other organ systems before artificially stopping their hormonal and endocrine systems from functioning as nature intends. But choosing this path requires very disciplined human guardians who have control of their dogs to protect them and others from inadvertent pregnancy.
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