One of the biggest reasons for behavioural changes in dogs comes down to inconsistencies in their diet. Picture: Supplied

From rumbly tummies to skin allergies and changes in mood and behaviour, not being able to help them feel their best is heart-wrenching. However, half the battle is won if you’re confident that the food you’re feeding them on the daily isn’t the root cause of bringing them down.

Head Behaviourist at Dogtown South Africa, Gordon Banks, offers these helpful tips to better understand how your dog’s food and diet could lead to unwanted conditions.

Unexplained changes in behaviour

One of the biggest reasons for behavioural changes in dogs comes down to inconsistencies in their diet. To ensure that your beloved fur-child always feels their best, focus on feeding them a scientifically-formulated and balanced food that is nutrient rich and filled with high-quality proteins.

Do some research on the various dog food offerings out there and stick to a specific, good-quality brand to prevent unexplained behavioural issues. 

“Nutrients in the food need to be balanced and in the correct ratio,” says Banks. “Any changes to a dog’s diet – whether it’s switching to a new brand or adding some home-made extras – can alter the balance of the food, resulting in both physiological and behavioural issues.”

Depression, tiredness and irritability

If you’ve noticed that your dog has become less playful and energetic, preferring instead to lie around or sleep longer hours, or perhaps even lashing out at you or family members, it’s time to investigate the nutritional content of their food.

“An excess or deficiency in protein, carbohydrates, and fat content can all be attributing factors in behavioural disorders like depression, lethargy, irritability and aggression,” says Banks. “In addition, physiological disorders like obesity, cardiovascular problems, mobility, joint problems and neurological changes can also be attributed to improper diet.”

Excessive weight gain or loss

Too much food can cause breathing problems, joint issues and even heart disease, while too little food at meal times not only impacts energy levels but may also result in nutritional deficiencies.

“It is vital that your dog receives the recommended quantity according to breed, size and activity levels. Not feeding your dog enough can leave them feeling irritable, and excessive feeding is also a contributing factor in unwanted behaviours like depression and aggression.”

Be sure to check the back of food packaging for recommended daily portions or consult an expert for help. Look for products that mimic the ancestral diet of dogs as closely as possible, as these diets would not have included the quantities and additives found in many of today’s foods.

Destructive chewing and ‘guarding’

Dogs that chew up everything from your shoes to the living room sofa or tend to ‘growl’ and become territorial of their food are often stressed or even bored.  Stress and boredom are the most common causes of destructive chewing in domestic household dogs, but it could also be the case that they need more food at mealtimes.

“Most experts recommend feeding adult dogs twice a day to help with their digestion and stabilise their metabolism. Dogs that experience an empty stomach for a large portion of the day will often display these and other adverse behaviours,” Banks says.

Stomach torsion

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), more commonly known as stomach torsion, is when the stomach twists and dilates into itself. This causes excessively bloated tummies in dogs and puts pressure on the internal organs.

“While feeding dogs just one meal a day in the morning might seem like a good way to get them to burn off the energy during the day, this also places their digestive systems at risk of being ‘overloaded’ with too much food in one serving,” says Banks. “This can lead to an inefficient processing of nutrients in the longer run, which gives them a greater chance of developing a stomach torsion.”

Allergic reactions due to incorrect ingredients

Animal protein contains essential amino acids required in a good healthy diet. A dog’s digestive system, by nature, is designed to process protein from meat sources rather than from grains, which are known to lead to skin irritation and eczema in canines.

“Diets that include an excess or unbalanced amount of grain content can place strain on internal organs that are not intended to readily process it, and many allergies – skin related allergies in particular – can be attributed to a high grain content in the diet,” says Banks.

A balance of protein, vegetables and good fat content is essential for ensuring your dog has the best chance at a healthy, happy life! 

When your fur-kids aren’t feeling their best, start by taking a closer look at their diets, and be sure to look at the nutritional information on the pack before deciding which dog food to feed them. 

Look out for ingredients and related information on protein sources to ensure your pet receives the right amount of nutrients on a daily basis.