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Dishing the Truth: Exploring the Link between your Dog’s Diet and Behaviour

dishing the truth exploring the link between your dogs diet and behaviour
10 August 2023

The adage “you are what you eat” applies to dogs too. Often, we overlook the relationship between a dog’s diet and its behaviour. Research now indicates that a dog’s nutrition can significantly influence its behaviour and ageing process due to the critical role of nutrients in physiological and biochemical functions.

How can pet owners modify a dog’s diet to impact its behaviour positively? This involves understanding the effect of essential macronutrients.

The Role of Protein

Protein is crucial in a dog’s diet. Many commercial dog feeds, despite stating meat as a primary ingredient, contain minimal animal protein. Instead, these feeds use soy, corn, peas, lentils, corn meal, and gluten meal for protein content.

Protein quality varies based on the amino acid profile and bioavailability. Animal proteins are superior due to their comprehensive essential amino acid (EAA) profile and high bioavailability. In contrast, plant proteins often lack one or more EAAs and have lower bioavailability due to fibre and anti-nutrients, reducing the dog’s ability to absorb nutrition.

Two essential amino acids, tryptophan and tyrosine, significantly impact behaviour. Tryptophan influences mood as a precursor to serotonin, affecting anxiety, stress, fear, and aggression. Suboptimal dietary tryptophan leads to increased anxiety and aggression in dogs.

Tyrosine benefits aggression and stress and plays a part in thyroid hormone production. Insufficient tyrosine can hamper thyroid hormone production, leading to aggressive behaviours. These amino acids are abundant in protein-rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.

Understanding Carbohydrates

While carbohydrates are common in dog food, dogs do not require them. Not all carbohydrates are alike, and the type can influence a dog’s behaviour. Refined carbohydrates in kibble can lead to high blood glucose and insulin levels, resulting in hypersensitivity, disobedience, and hyperactivity. Conversely, a diet containing slow-digesting complex carbohydrates from whole fruits and vegetables may be more beneficial.

Gut Health and Behaviour

The gut-brain axis, bidirectional communication between gut bacteria and our brains, can influence behaviour and cognitive function. Different bacteria species produce different chemicals, affecting behaviours like learning, memory, social behaviours, and sleep-wake cycles. A healthier gut microbiome, attainable through a natural raw food diet, can help manage these behaviours.

The Benefits of Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients, compounds found in plants, promote cellular health, thus improving overall health, quality of life, and longevity. They can also reduce the risk of chronic diseases and boost mood, cognitive function, and performance.

Balancing Fats

Fats are vital for brain and body function, hence impacting behaviour. Dogs on kibble diets often consume more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s, which can lead to chronic disease development and mood disorders like anxiety. Foods rich in omega-3 fats, like flaxseed, hempseed, chia seeds, salmon, and sardines, can support good behaviour.

The Quality of Diet

Artificial additives in pet food may cause learning difficulties and behavioural problems. The best way to support a dog’s health and behaviour is to avoid artificial ingredients.

In conclusion, a dog’s diet can drastically impact its behaviour. Pet owners can support their dog’s behavioural health by feeding balanced, natural diet rich in protein, low in carbohydrates, enriched with fruits and vegetables, and high-quality omega-3 fats.

If you are interested in finding out more on this topic, please click here. We can work with you to take your pup from ruff to refined, contact us today to find out about our training services.

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