Nutritional Considerations When Selecting a Diet for Your Biewer
by Barbara Sherman
Like any parenting decision, what we feed our Biewers is a very personal choice based on many considerations including work schedule, lifestyle, veterinarian recommendations, and budget. When we know better, we do better. To help Biewer parents become informed consumers, the Nutritional articles of our newsletter will explore and summarize some of the more recent thinking in the areas of canine nutrition and health. Because the commercial pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar business that spends more money on marketing than it does in nutritional research, creating an optimal diet for your Biewer can be challenging. There is much pet food marketing misinformation to sort through. This is complicated by the fact that our fur kids tend to be fussy eaters; however, they may be more discerning food connoisseurs than we think. In some instances, they may be rejecting over-processed food.
Although small, cute and feisty, many of us forget that our Biewers have the genetic heritage of a fierce hunter, a carnivore. Carnivores don’t move their jaws and chew as we do. They tear their prey apart into consumable pieces and swallow without chewing. Also, their digestive tract is very short, which enables them to better tolerate bacteria and eliminate food quickly to reduce pathogen exposure. The canine ancestral diet was fresh and varied by season depending on available prey. Prey animals were high in protein, minerals and moisture content and moderate in fat. Additionally, prey animals consumed vegetable and fruit matter, which naturally added additional vitamins and minerals to the canine diet.
Balanced homemade and prey model diets replicate the ancestral diet and therefore, are considered more species appropriate. Food is fresh, human grade and well sourced. Processing is minimized to preserve natural vitamins, trace minerals, and antioxidants. Moisture content is high or biologically correct (70%). Despite an abundance of love for our fur kids, most of us don’t have the time or knowledge to prepare a nutritionally balanced homemade diet, so other feeding options are available. When making food choices for your Biewer, it’s important to strive to provide food that is minimally processed (to avoid destruction of natural vitamins and minerals in heating and extrusion that will need to be replaced with synthetic vitamins to meet AAFCO standards) and well sourced. You can find out about the sourcing of your dog food by contacting the manufacturer (and trust that they will be honest and forthcoming) or request a paid listing from a nonprofit independent source, such as Susan Thixton’s Truth About Pet Food.
Given these guidelines, prominent holistic vets and independent researchers rank canine diets from best to worse, as follows:
- Nutritionally balanced raw homemade diet
- Nutritionally balanced cooked homemade diet
- Commercially balanced raw diet
- Dehydrated or freeze-dried raw
- Commercially cooked or refrigerated
- Canned food
- Dry food (kibble)
- Semi-moist pouched food
- Unbalanced homemade diet (raw or cooked)
Not all of us have the time, money or expertise to prepare a well-balanced, homemade diet on a daily basis. There are some fine commercial foods available from which to choose. Additionally, homemade meals can be interspersed with commercially prepared diets.
Other considerations when choosing ANY commercial dog food:
- Make certain that the food is labeled “nutritionally complete” rather than “for supplemental or intermittent feeding.” Make certain that the food you choose meets AAFCO guidelines.
- Choose food that is well sourced from companies utilizing healthy, grass-fed animals and organic vegetables. Avoid meats and proteins imported from China and other countries that have resulted in documented death and illnesses when used by certain US pet food companies. Please be aware that some food is packaged in the US and labeled as made in the US but it is sourced overseas. Because of questionable health and humane issues, avoid factory farmed, GMO-fed and antibiotic- laden animals raised in feedlots in the US.
- Raw and minimally processed food retains natural vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. Processed food, such as kibble, has vitamins replaced after cooking to ensure nutritional balance. In these instances, synthetic vitamin formulations are sprayed on (frequently with chemical flavor enhancers and preservatives to prolong shelf life). Many synthetic vitamins are not biologically equivalent to natural vitamins. Additionally, synthetic vitamins sourced from China have caused illness and death in US pets (melamine poisonings; arsenic contaminations, etc)
- Read ingredient labels, which are listed in order of the percent of content. Since our kids are carnivores, an animal-based protein should be listed first.
- Meat “meals” should be avoided. Meals are a rendered byproduct after much or all of the real meat has been removed. For instance, by law, chicken meal CAN include slaughterhouse waste, such as feathers, beaks, feet, etc. as well as some beneficial ingredients. Why take the chance?
- Avoid corn, wheat, rice, and grains. Grains are used as carbohydrate fillers to boost satiation and protein content from non-meat sources. Grains are digested into sugars that can contribute to dysbiosis (leaky gut syndrome), weight gain, inflammation (such as arthritis) as well as exposing your Biewer to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) Mycotoxins. In addition, most cornmeal and soy used in pet food today has been genetically modified.
- Grain-free foods are NOT necessarily deficient in taurine, an amino acid that has been associated with digestive disturbances, muscle degeneration, eye disease and dilated cardiomyopathy in cats and dogs. Taurine is found mainly in muscle meat, in organs such as the heart, kidney, and liver and in seafood. It is completely absent in cereal and grains. Good natural sources of taurine include organ meats, dark meat of poultry, beef, lamb, eggs, and fish. Again, sourcing and food preparation make a significant difference in the degree of taurine that is naturally retained. Natural taurine is available at its highest levels in raw food and lost completely when processing food, such as kibble, at high temperatures. Synthetic taurine must be added to kibble after cooking to avoid taurine deficiency, which can affect your Biewer’s health over time. If you prefer to feed kibble, there are high-quality kibble products on the market that are grain free and supplement with synthetic taurine. Be sure to check the label.
- Rotate commercial food brands as well as food proteins to ensure optimal Biewer nutrition Additionally, if your preferred brand changes formulation, is recalled, or goes out of business, your furkid will be comfortable with the change, particularly if that brand is part of her normal food rotation. Proteins should be rotated as well for balanced nutrition. Feeding one type of protein indefinitely can contribute to an acquired food allergy.
Pet Fooled (film documentary) Netflix; https://www.petfooled.com
Truth About Pet Food; Susan Thixton TruthaboutPetFood.com
Dr. Jean Dodds; Pet Health Resource
Dr. Karen Becker; https://healthypets.mercola.com
Rodney Habib; Facebook Blog, Planet Paws
Dr. Dana Scott, http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com