Watching your dog’s eyes light up with sheer excitement during feeding time never gets old. If there’s one thing our dogs love deeply, almost uncontrollably at times, it’s a good feeding. But judging from the fact that a dog’s nose seems to be attracted to just about anything, good or bad, it’s clear that their idea of good nutrition isn’t always the same as ours.

Have you ever heard the saying “You are what you eat?” Well, so is your dog. That’s why naturally vibrant and healthy dogs are made in the kitchen. Providing your pooch with a nutritionally complete diet means a longer and happier life together. But despite having their best interests at heart, and considering how they gulp just about anything down, sometimes it’s easy to miss the vital signs that you’re giving your dog the wrong food.

So, how can you tell if your pup is on the wrong kind of diet?

Red Flags – Here are some indicators that you need to watch out for:

1. Gas is often the first sign of something off with your dog’s digestion. Although some breeds are more prone to flatulence than others, observe for changes in the frequency and smell.

2. Coat and skin changes are common signs of poor nutrition. Shiny fur may become dull, may shed in excess regardless of the season, or may fall out in patches. The skin may become dry and flaky. Brushing your dog regularly gives you a great opportunity to assess your pup’s condition.

A word about allergies: dogs can be allergic to almost anything, and signs can emerge in many ways. For example, you may notice itching and ear problems resulting from an ingredient in your dog’s food.

Many vets also report that dogs routinely given a poor diet with cheap fillers often develop general allergies and medical problems related to reduced immunity.

3. Bowel issues, which can include loose stools, constipation, mucus, and abnormal odors. A healthy dog usually poops once or twice daily, often after eating. The stools should be formed solid instead of liquidly, without numerous bits of undigested substances, and in no surprising colors.

4. Appetite and weight changes indicate that something isn’t right. You can’t miss it if your pooch feels extra hungry! He may “hound you,” refuse certain foods he’s normally used to, or eat unusual things.

It’s normal for puppies to explore the world with their mouths much as human babies do. However, adult dogs who devour grass, dirt, dog or cat droppings, or even rocks can be suffering from a dietary deficiency.

5. Dental problems definitely can indicate an imbalanced diet. Continuing to eat soft foods without a balance of crunchy, chewy “scrubbers” will promote plaque, gum disease, and tooth loss as well as bad breath.

6. Slow growth during puppyhood can mean that your pup isn’t getting the specific vitamins and minerals needed in the first year of life when rapid development is supposed to take place.

7. Unusual behaviors can point to nutritional issues. A decrease in energy levels with increasing weakness or lethargy is a significant red flag. Your dog might attempt to steal food, root around in the garden or trash bins, or scoot his rump on the carpet or grass.

Scooting often means that there’s an issue with your dog’s anal glands and there may be a lack of fiber in his diet. Take note of any nausea and vomiting. In case of sudden onset, repeat episodes, and abdominal pain, notify your vet immediately to prevent a possible critical emergency.

Dog on the Toilet

The Poop Journal and Other Ways to Make Things Right

Start a Dog Doo Log to record your observations and any questions you may have for a vet. Keep a record of what, how often, and how much your dog eats. Watch for changes and usual patterns in behavior. Be aware that dogs have different nutritional needs throughout their lifespan. Remember, different breeds have different needs. After thousands of years partnering with humans, dogs have very different lifestyles from their wolf ancestors in the wild.

Avoid unnecessary amounts of carbs, fats, sugar, cat food, and heavily processed human food. The same goes for food that is old, moldy, or insect-infested. Your vet may have you do what allergists have patients with unknown allergies do: restrict all but a single food item, monitor what happens, and very gradually add new items one at a time. If transitioning to a different diet is challenging, introduce small pieces mixed with familiar good-tasting foods. Another trick is letting your dog see and smell you eating something before you share the rest – this is easy with, say, cooked green beans, but you might need to get creative with liver or canned pumpkin.

What About … ?

  • Natural chew treats: pigs’ ears, rawhide, bully sticks (uncooked dried steer penises), etc., are technically regulated by the FDA and other agencies, but inspections and enforcement may not be up to par. In addition, too many such treats will fill up your dog’s stomach with empty calories and decrease his appetite for other more nutritional foods.
  • Bones: You may hope that your dog will just chew off the meat, but too often dog’s will crunch bones into sharp bits, cracking their teeth and injuring their intestines. Yes, wolves in the wild eat bones, but dogs aren’t wolves any more than zebras are horses.
  • Grains: Dogs are omnivores, meaning that they need a variety of foods. Labels can be misleading, though. You may see oats listed but you don’t know if that means the chaff or the seed part. Bargain kibbles often use a large amount of filler to help your dog feel full, but he won’t get enough of what he needs unless you overfeed.
  • Vegan, paleo, and other diet trends: Your vet can advise you what’s best for your furry friend. And if you’ve ever heard someone say, “I give my dog — insert latest dietary trend — all the time and he’s fine,” your inner voice should warn you about that kind of advice!

There you have it, now you should have a good understanding of the top signs to look out for, that may indicate an issue with your dogs nutrition.

Remember, for a vibrant and healthy life offer the best nutrition possible, set good eating habits and balance it with appropriate exercise, hydration, rest, mental stimulation, and plenty of fun times. Fun is a nutrient too, just one for the soul rather than the body!