Tootsie was a small terrier I brought home with me from the Philippines. She was my only dog, and I fed her something I bought at the local superstore. Tootsie used to have to regularly visit the vet due to impacted anal glands. The trips were becoming so frequent, and the treatment so painful, that the vet and I were discussing surgical options. Before we came to a decision, I married and moved a few states away. A month later my husband and I adopted a Lab, and chose to feed him a higher quality food. For simplicity’s sake, Tootsie ate the new food, too. I didn’t notice the absence of anal gland issues until a distribution problem forced us to switch foods temporarily. Almost immediately, Tootsie became impacted. At that point I realized that the corn in the food was the problem. As soon as she was back on a corn-free food, her problem went away and never recurred.

Your dog’s diet greatly influences his health, happiness and longevity. Last week we examined protein sources and grains. There are other things to consider when choosing your dog’s food.

Your dog requires both soluble and insoluble fiber in his diet, which comes from vegetables and grains. The two types working together normalize the bowel and can help prevent both constipation and diarrhea. It can also help an overweight dog lose weight, as it absorbs water and helps your dog feel full on fewer calories. Some healthy sources of fiber in your dog’s food might include peas, pea fiber, red lentils, barley, oatmeal and rice bran. Millet is a source of fiber that is naturally rich in B vitamins. Chicory root is rich in inulin, both a source of fiber and a prebiotic, used to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in a dog’s digestive tract. Flaxseed meal, is not only rich in fiber but is one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-three fatty acids. Another source of fiber is sweet potato, which also contain beta carotene and other healthy nutrients.

Many foods have some sort of fat as an ingredient. Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-six fatty acid. By contrast, animal fat, often used in lower quality foods, does not mention a specific animal and can come from almost anywhere, including restaurant grease, slaughterhouse waste and diseased cattle. Sometimes animal fat is preserved with BHA, a suspected cancer-causing agent.

Another thing to look for in a dog food is chelated minerals. Minerals are basic metal compounds needed by all animals for life. However, some minerals can be very difficult for a dog to absorb, in which case they pass through a dog’s intestines unused. Minerals can be chemically chelated, though, by being attached to something like a molecule of protein or an amino acid, which allows them to be easily absorbed.

Probiotics are friendly bacteria applied to the surface of the kibble after processing to help with digestion. Their presence in food is a positive thing. Omega-three and Omega-six fatty acids are also positive elements to find in a food.

Two frequently found elements in lower quality dog foods can be considered dangerous in your dog’s food. Propylene glycol is an additive used to help preserve the moisture content in many dog foods. It’s a cousin of ethylene glycol, used in antifreeze, and has been proven to cause a dangerous blood disease. Because of this, the FDA has banned it’s use in cat food, but it’s still allowed in dog food. Another dangerous element is Ethoxyquin. This is used as a preservative in dog foods, but it’s also used as a pesticide and as a hardening agent in the manufacture of rubber. It is not allowed for general use in human food, but is quite legal in dog food.

Artificial colors are not dangerous, but they are unnecessary. Your dog doesn’t care what color his kibble is. The color is put in for your benefit, not his, and the dye doesn’t help anything.

Another thing to consider when selecting a food are the protein and fat percentages. The “best” ratio can vary depending on your dog’s breed, age, size and other health conditions. For this reason, it’s best to discuss your dog’s requirements with your veterinarian. Remember, too, that the ideal percentages for your dog can change as he ages, so reevaluate it on occasion.

Feeding your dog a high quality food is one way to thank him for being your buddy. Read the nutrition information and study the ingredients, and find a great food for your dog.

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcomed to send their questions to: Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist. If you visit the Lee County Fair Friday or Saturday, stop by the Karlene’s K-9 Academy both and say hello!