What you put into your dog's body and the food they eat has a huge impact on how they feel and behave overall. Think about it: a healthy, balanced diet leaves them satiated, full of energy, without discomfort and ready to take on the world. An unbalanced diet and food that is highly processed and high in carbs and fillers does the exact opposite: either leaving them uncomfortable and lethargic or hyperactive and destructrive from too many sugars. Many commercial dog foods rely on carbohydrates and simple sugars as their primary ingredients. We'll explain why that might be leading to behavioral and mood issues, and what foods can get you back on track. Food is fuel and changing your dog's food can definitely help correct some of their behavioral issues.
How could your dog's current food be contributing to behavioral issues?
A starchy, high carb diet creates blood sugar spikes and energy crashes: Most commercial dog foods and kibbles are made with starches and sugars as their primary ingredients using corn, grains, etc. These ingredients cause blood sugar spikes where you'll see glucose peaks and energy surges followed by glucose troughs and energy crashes. By switching your dog off kibble and onto a a high-protein diet, you promote stable blood sugar levels and fewer energy spikes and troughs.
An unbalanced diet leaves them irritated and aggressive: Just like with humans, when a dog is eating an unbalanced diet, it leaves them feeling uncomfortable. A lot of dogs then channel that discomfort into aggression. When your dog's diet has too many filler ingredients and low quality carbohydrates like most commercial dog foods do, he'll end up feeling uncomfortable and translate that discomfort into aggressive behavior.
Too little protein can lead to depression and low moods: Your dog needs protein above any other macronutrient to survive. When your dog is eating a diet too low in protein as many commercial kibbles are, they will end up with a tryptophan deficiency. Trypohan is the essential amino acid that assists in the creation of serotonin, the chemical neurotransmitter known for creating feelings of happiness. On a low protein diet, you end up with unstable moods as low levels of tryptophan compete for absoprtion and your dog has difficulty producing serotonin.
Low quality protein causes overexcitability: Many of the meats used in commercial pet food are either meat byproducts or are so refined and broken down that complicated chains of amino acids become single amino acids. You go from complex and protein-rich foods to highly processed single amino acids. When this happens, the amino acid Glutamate becomes the most readily available amino acid to digest and Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter. When a complex protein gets broken down so that all that is left is Glutamate, you see over-excitable behavior in your dog.
How can I change my dog's diet to help stabilize their mood and lessen behavioral issues?
- Choose an unprocessed, whole foods diet that's high in protein: We're obviously big time fans of a raw food diet. Major benefits when it comes to behavior include the fact that it's high in protein, which helps in serotonin creation. It keeps protein in its original complex state with chains of amino acids that reduce excitability and a raw food diet is low in carbs, which means less discomfort, bloating and aggression.
- Use a tryptophan supplement: Researchers at Tufts University found that supplementing your dog's diet with tryptophan holds promise for aggression. In both high and low protein diets, a tryptophan supplement showed significant improvements in aggressive behavior.
- Break up your feeding schedule: If you're used to feeding one big meal a day, consider breaking up your dog's food into two or three meals a day. Multiple small feedings aids in digestion and keeps your dog's metabolism and energy levels stable. You should also take into account your dog's activity levels. If your dog's breed is known for being super active, feeding your dog three times a day keeps their energy levels stable without any major crashes.