We’ve all heard it a million times: You are what you eat!
But that phrase doesn’t just apply to you. It applies to your family pet as well. Your dog may love sneaking table scraps or scarfing down bacon treats, but a well-balanced diet is paramount to his overall health.
The importance of canine nutrition has received even more attention over the last decade as research continues to prove the direct correlations between nutrition and lasting wellness. A “just okay” diet can’t give your pup the vibrant life he deserves, especially as he recovers from an injury or illness.
How Does Canine Nutrition Help Injury Recovery?
When we think of injury recovery, we tend to imagine medications and bandages, but food is one of the most powerful healing tools of all. Consider the following responsibilities of optimal nutrition after an injury:
- Controls inflammation
- Provides injured tissue with key nutrients
- Minimizes muscle atrophy
- Supports process of regaining strength
- Prevents weight gain while movement is restricted
If your dog’s diet isn’t customized to maximize his injury recovery, those essential tasks won’t happen efficiently. That leaves your dog vulnerable to swelling, pain, nutrient deficiency, muscle atrophy, obesity, and other unwanted consequences.
Think of it this way: your dog’s body can only use what it’s fed. If his diet lacks protein, collagen, elastin, and other vital building blocks, recovery will become stunted and take much longer.
In fact, the consequences can be severe: when the body can’t obtain the proteins it needs from food, it replaces those proteins with artificial substances that compromise the entire healing process.
This is why it’s essential to work with your dog’s vet to create a critical care diet. A vet can identify if your pet needs a diet designed to be nutritionally dense, highly digestible, highly palatable, rich in electrolytes, or a combination of all.
Compared to maintenance diets, care diets are best used to address canine eating habits during periods of recovery from illness or injury.
What Diets and Foods Do Veterinarians Warn Against?
If it’s unhealthy for humans, it’s probably unhealthy for dogs. Even if you have trouble sticking to an ideal diet yourself, you know which foods contribute to or threaten optimal health. Your dog should steer clear of those choices as well:
- Highly processed or artificial foods
- Simple carbohydrates
- High-sugar foods and treats
- Artificial sweeteners
Your dog needs to rest during his rehabilitation, but a dog lying on his side uses about 30-46% less energy than a dog sitting or standing. By avoiding the unhealthy choices listed above, your dog can prevent weight gain from excessive calorie intake.
Keep in mind that dog food is not regulated by the FDA. It may be sitting on a store shelf, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for your dog!
Many name brands spend millions of dollars on marketing, yet they can’t show any research to support their claims. These brands are more interested in capturing the pet owners’ money than formulating nutritious, laboratory-tested dog food. Cost doesn’t always equal quality!
The Best Diet For Your Dog’s Injury Recovery
Instead of taking recommendations from pet store employees, make sure you discuss your dog’s diet with his veterinarian. A qualified vet can help you design an eating plan that gives your dog nutrient-rich food customized to his specific condition and healing needs.
Before you select your dog’s next bag of dog food, make sure to read the AAFCO statement on the back of the bag. You only want to select a bag that states it has been “tried” in a certain stage of life, not “formulated for” a certain stage of life.
Dog food that’s been tried for a certain stage of life has been clinically tested and shown to deliver specific results. This is the most rigorous laboratory assessment possible.
Finally, remember that your dog’s muscles will need extra support during the recovery period. High-quality sources of protein will nourish the body with amino acids that stimulate muscle protein synthesis and reduce the breakdown of muscle strength:
You can also ensure your dog enjoys healthy meals by removing skin and fat from meat, reducing dairy intake, and limiting his ability to munch on table scraps.
Signs Your Dog’s Diet Needs to be Adjusted
Imagine eating a 20-piece McNugget from McDonald’s for lunch and dinner every single day for three weeks. You would never want to look at another chicken nugget again! You’d also be suffering a range of side effects like gastrointestinal distress, weight gain, acne, and maybe even depression.
Your dog also experiences unpleasant reactions to any diet that doesn’t meet his nutritional needs. If you notice your pup exhibiting any of the following symptoms, it may be time for your vet to reassess his eating habits:
- Dry and dull coat of hair
- Itchy skin and increased scratching
- Decreased energy levels
- Weight gain
- Increase in thirst and urination
- Change in stool
The good news is that your dog’s body will adapt eagerly to a better diet. As soon as you can implement changes, the faster your pup will be able to recover and embrace life once more.
Finding the Right Vet For Your Dog
Nutrition is hardly a one-size-fits-all solution. Your dog deserves a vet who will assess his health, injuries, and nutritional needs, then work with you to create a customized dietary plan.
With the right nutrition, your pup can recover efficiently from his injuries and get right back to his favorite Frisbee game in the backyard.
This is why the team at Stem Cells For Dogs is devoted to connecting dog owners with highly qualified and innovative veterinarians in their local areas. Give us a call today to learn more about the clinics that make your pet’s health and wellness their top priority.