Before I worked with dogs, I was a personal trainer and nutritionist for humans. Eating healthy and exercising has always been an important part of my life and I’ve learned that what you eat is the most important factor to overall health and well-being both inside and out. What you eat has a profound effect on your body, energy, intellect, concentration and behavior.

When I changed my focus from people to dogs, nutrition was something I knew was equally important to our canine friends. Most of us just assume that the food we are feeding are dogs is good because that’s what the package tells us, but that is not always the case. It’s important to remember that, just like with us, there is good and bad food out there and an uniformed person may have a hard time distinguishing between the two.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to make the wrong choices. It’s very cheap and convenient to go to Burger King and eat off the dollar menu, while it you have to go out of your way to go to Whole Foods and buy organic. The same holds true for dogs. Every supermarket and super pet store had shelves full of crap food for our dogs. It will take us an extra trip to go to a small, specialty pet shop and we’ll have to throw down a few more dollars to get a good, quality food.

Yes, it is more time consuming and it will cost you more money, but I’m here to tell you that your dog is worth it.

Another problem is that everyone with fur clinging to their clothing is all too happy to give you advice on what to feed your dog. Everyone will recommend something different and swear that it’s “the best!” The breeder will tell you have to use one food, while your vet will tell you another, you’re neighbor will recommend yet another, and on and on it goes . . .

The one thing that they all have in common is that none of them are trained in canine nutrition – no, not even (most) vets. The reason people came to me for nutrition and fitness advice was because that was what I was trained for -that was my area of expertise. Get ready for a news flash, but most vets are not trained on nutrition. They get a day or two of nutrition in school and that’s it. When I got my nutrition certification for humans I immediately realized that my father and brother – both well educated and successful medical doctors – know almost nothing about nutrition. Why? Because that’s not what they are trained for.

The reason why most traditional vets recommend Science Diet (a food I put very low on the nutritional scale for dogs) is because the company that makes it, Hills, markets almost exclusively to vets. If your dog is sick or injured your vet is the person to go to, but if you have nutrition or behavior questions go to someone trained in those areas. Some vets have educated themselves canine nutrition (and behavior) but not many, so beware.

Bottom line is that the pet food industry is changing very rapidly and I predict you will see better food for your dog become easier to find in the near future. I don’t have the space here to go into what food is better and why. All I hope to accomplish here is to make you think before you put that food bowl down and investigate on what the best choice is for you and your dog. Sure, dogs are great adapters and can survive by eating just about anything, but do you want your furry best friend to survive or thrive? I finally switched to a higher quality food because one simple fact hit me: if switching to a higher quality, more expensive food gives me one extra day with my dog, it’s worth it.

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