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Common questions about dog nutrition answered by Canine Nutritionist, Melissa Otta

We've been so fortunate to have partnered with so many awesome brands and retailers. That's why we're especially excited to be sharing this content with you, featuring one of our retailers, Poochable, and their founder and Canine Nutritionist, Melissa Otta! Let's get started.

Melissa, Why did you decide to become a Canine Nutritionist?

When trying to determine the best diet for my own dog, Frankie, I did a lot of research and found the information available was overwhelming and not founded in science. I wanted to learn more so decided to become a Certified Canine Nutritionist through CASI so that I could help Frankie and all the other dogs who need help with their nutrition and wellness.

Why or why not might your local vet be the best source for info on your dog's nutrition/recommendations of food they should have?

We all know that when our dog is hurt or sick, our local vet is the place to go, but this has not been my experience when it comes to nutrition.

I’ve heard many client experiences on discussing canine nutrition with their vet and unfortunately they haven’t been provided with the advice they were looking for. I think it’s important to note that nutrition is not taught extensively at traditional veterinary schools and much of what vets learn in school focuses on diagnosing symptoms and treating injury and disease.

Nutrition and lifestyle factors often take a back seat. What nutritional education is provided at veterinary schools comes from nutritionists employed by large pet food manufacturers (think processed foods). It’s not that your local vet is withholding information or doesn’t want the best health and nutrition for your dog, but they can only do what they can with the information they have.

The good news is, there has been an increasing demand from concerned pet parents for more nutritious, less processed food for their canine companions, which has put pressure on the veterinary industry to be more focused on food and how it can prevent disease. There are also a number of really great holistic veterinarians out there that are focused on preventive nutrition and natural options. 

Kibble or raw dog food?

This is a personal question for each and every pet parent and depends on individual factors such as lifestyle, budget and time constraints.

Feeding raw food is widely recognized as being species appropriate and a healthier, more natural form of nutrition than overly processed kibble. But it’s not for everyone and that’s ok too.

I have seen many dogs switch from kibble to raw and almost instantly see improved health, more energy, better digestion, and even improvement in diagnosed health issues. On the other hand, some dogs refuse to eat raw (although this is rare).

If raw is not the right option, there are also brands of less processed kibble that are healthier and more nutritious. And there are many fun ways of improving the nutrition of your dog’s bowl without having to feed 100% raw. It needs to be the right choice for each dog and each family.

Is there a difference in types of kibble and raw foods? How do I know which is best for my pup?

There are definitely so many different options for both raw and kibble. There are different forms (ex. prepared, freeze dried, or DIY raw), a wide variety of proteins (ex. beef, chicken, duck, rabbit, etc.), and kibble that is grain free or grain inclusive, just to mention a few.

Firstly, you want to consider any allergies your dog has and of course avoid those ingredients. This can take some trial and error until you find the right protein or even the right brand for your pup. When it comes to raw, it will also depend on lifestyle.

Some people choose to feed freeze dried raw because it’s more convenient, or commercial prepared raw because it’s guaranteed nutritionally complete, while others prefer the DIY approach of sourcing their own meats and bones.

Each option is perfectly okay and it’s great to see so many options available to suit the needs of individual dogs and pet parents.

As for kibble, I’m sure everyone has seen the many, many brands and formulas that are available. It can be overwhelming to decide which is the right choice. I have so many clients that come to me for that reason. They are so overwhelmed with the number of options and mixed information online that they don’t know what to choose.

In general kibble should have a quality protein as it’s first ingredient (ex. chicken vs chicken by-product meal), whole fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. You should also avoid any kibble that include corn or soy, artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives (ex. BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin) and meat by-products. 

What should I avoid when looking at dog treats to purchase?

A long list of ingredients!

There are so many dog treats available with a long list of additives and fillers, or artificial preservatives. These are not healthy options, especially when they are some many great alternatives. I always look for single ingredient treats or treats with a few simple ingredients. Look for a list of whole foods and not a list of preservatives or additives.

What do you like about Billy's Treats (*shameless plug*)?

Billy’s Treats check off all of the nutrition boxes. I love that you use limited ingredients and only include whole, natural items that everyone can identify, and are produced locally.

You can tell that Billy's Treats' treats are made with real food just by looking at them and the peanut butter treats smell delicious!

We have heard from our clients that their dogs love Billy’s Treats and have even experienced better digestion since adding them into their diet. It’s also great to be able to work with a fellow business owner that has a shared passion for the health and nutrition of dogs.

Want to learn more about Melissa?

Melissa is a Certified Canine Nutritionist and founder of Poochable, a brand committed to helping every dog live their very best life. Melissa's passion for dog health and wellness started when she welcomed her dog Frankie into her home. Since then, Melissa has been on a mission to learn about healthy food, supplements, natural products and innovative toys for dogs. 

Poochable's mission is to share products that are effective, natural, delicious and improve overall wellness. Often partnering with local small businesses who have a shared passion for dogs, to bring the dog community unique products that every dog will love.


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