The times have changed and right now everyone is living in a situation that is unprecedented in the modern world. Right now we need to look after our dog’s health as much as our own. For many their routines have changed, with winter also looming, it is a time to make sure the pooch still gets the best life possible.
Many of you may have a set brand of food and follow a specific feeding and diet program for your furry friend. Now though it is a tricky time to advise the best solution with many forced to grab whatever they can for themselves and their dog.
Dry food, a staple of so many dogs, can be a cause of so many problems. We won’t detail all those but we need to be aware that most dry food and kibble is way too high in carbohydrates for dogs. This can be compounded by being less able to get out and burn some off.
Like humans, excess carbs (i.e. more than you can use) can be bad for your health. And like humans, this can make some dogs fat, others hyperactive and stressed. Although we realise that this type of food is convenient in this time of “buy and store.”
If you are feeding this, try to keep it to an absolute minimum. Nature dictates the diet a dog needs is around 60% protein (red meat, chicken, eggs, fish, sardines, yoghurt etc), and 40% vegetable / plant matter (most vegies, fruit etc), all with an ample amount of chewing material.
Butchers and supermarkets seem to again have ample supply of most fresh produce. Talk to your butcher about bones, offcuts – it doesn’t have to be costly. And in these crazy times any smart butcher will look after you for your business.
Vegies and fruit are ideally raw and blended or mushed up – this mimics how they would be naturally sourced. Cooked is not a bad thing, but raw is best. Dogs can’t break down whole vegetable matter easily.
Contrary to popular advice, dogs don’t chew up your house and garden because they’re bored. It’s because either they have kibble swelling in their gut (and therefore are lacking vegetable matter too) or because they aren’t chewing their food.
The more chewing material you provide, especially with meals, the more it happens as nature intended and not on your outdoor furniture.
3. SCATTER FEEDING
If you have an outdoor area, “scatter feeding” is a great way to feed some meals that suit – and easy for you. This means simply scattering the food across the lawn or outdoor area. This achieves a bunch of things. Even the most voracious eaters will take a couple of minutes instead of 10 seconds to eat their meal. This is much healthier.
It represents natural foraging – most dogs love it (yes, some dogs can’t be stuffed!). In times of lockdown, what better way to keep your dog entertained without leaving home… And just like the way humans rummage through the cupboard for one more chocolate, they’ll keep searching til they have the last morsel.
And it can refine toileting. Most dogs won’t toilet where they eat. If you make the eating area regularly wider, they might find other garden areas to go – where you don’t walk!
Change water daily.
Most owners do this in summer, but in winter it can get forgotten. It’s just as important to change every day in the cold weather. Fresh water is important not only to be hydrated (even when it’s cold), but to help with digestion.
Every house has different sleeping arrangements for their dog – there are no rights or wrongs. But if your dog has a basket, cushion or any type of bedding, these things need to be washed more often. Apart from sometimes wet or muddy dogs, damp is heaven for lots of germs and bugs. Even if you haven’t got time to wash (we know they’re hard to dry in cold weather), if you get a sunny day, make sure you expose your dog’s bedding to as much sunlight as possible. This can kill off lots of nasties.
NOW FOR THE HUMANS
Your dog depends on you. You need to stay healthy too.
1. FRESH IS BEST
Contrary to most media reports, most humans have an immune system. It does an amazing job every day to keep us safe, without us even knowing. Immune systems love fresh food – especially fruit and vegetables. Immune systems don’t particularly like the kind of foods that most people have had to stockpile – pastas, white bread etc.
These things are okay to eat, but do your best to ensure you have something fresh every day. And here’s the tip – try to make sure you have at least two hours between fruit and vegetables. Your tummy requires different stuff to process the two and if you have them all at once your tummy waves the white flag and you may not get the benefits.
Just like above for our dogs, we need lots of fresh water daily too. But in winter, we feel less thirsty and we often don’t have enough.
This is made worse now because many of us are out of our routines – drinking water at the gym, exercising, school, office etc – is not happening and it’s easy to forget at home.
Try to start the day with a large glass (room temperature – NOT cold) and have more handy all day. You’ll feel more energised.
We can’t guarantee this one at the moment.
But stress levels are up, challenges are everywhere and life is harder for most. We start shallow breathing. Did you know when you look at devices, you blink four times less? Your eyes get tired and strained. This is where your dog comes into.
Take 60 seconds, longer if you can, and just go stare at your dog. Focus on tiny details. Eyelashes, fur patterns, whiskers – the world gets blocked out for that time. Even a tiny break like that can give you a little re-set. Don’t worry that your dog might think you’re weird – they already did.
Pets, especially dogs, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health.
Scientists believe that the major source of people’s positive reactions to pets comes from oxytocin, a hormone whose many functions include stimulating social bonding, relaxation and trust, and easing stress. Research has shown that when humans interact with dogs, oxytocin levels increase in both species.
So this means if you are working from home or just spending more time at home because you aren’t allowed out, play with your dog more. Pat them, hold them, throw the ball or toy and just generally interact with them more. You will find they love it and you will feel better because of it.