May 25, 2024

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Pet Blog

The Impact of Diet on Your Dog’s Behavior

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While you may not realize it, the food you feed your furry friend has an enormous influence on their behavior and temperament. From energy levels to cognitive function to anxiety and aggression, your dog’s diet directly affects how they think, act, and feel. Understanding this connection between nutrition and behavior is key to raising a happy, healthy, well-behaved pup.

The Brain-Diet Connection

Your dog’s brain relies on a steady supply of nutrients from their diet to perform at its best. Nutritional deficiencies or imbalances can disrupt normal brain chemistry and functioning in ways that manifest as behavioral issues.

For example, insufficient levels of amino acids found in proteins can cause low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes calmness and emotional well-being. Low serotonin often leads to anxiety, restlessness, and obsessive behaviors, like excessive licking or paw chewing.

Likewise, omega-3 fatty acids are crucial brain fuels that boost cognitive development. Dogs lacking proper omega-3 intake may struggle with memory, learning ability, and decision-making skills as they age.

Energy Highs and Lows

The intricate mix of proteins, fats, carbs, and other nutrients in your dog’s diet also directly affects their energy levels throughout the day. And an over- or under-energized pup is often an ill-behaved one who suffers from:

  • Restlessness and inability to relax.
  • Destructive chewing or digging. 
  • Excessive barking or whining.
  • Jumping up or rough play. 
  • Lack of focus or short attention span.

On the flip side, diets too high in simple carbs and sugars lead to a burst of energy followed by a sugar crash, leaving dogs lethargic and sluggish.

Balanced healthy dog foods provide a steady supply of complex calories from quality protein and fiber sources. According to the experts at Nextrition, this helps sustain even energy levels that allow for calmness when it’s time to relax but enough get-up-and-go for walks and playtime.

Stress and Anxiety  

Does your dog suffer from anxious behaviors like shaking, drooling, panting, or even aggression around new people, places, or situations? Their diet could be the root cause.

Stress depletes the body’s supply of B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, and antioxidants, which are all essential for normal brain chemistry and hormone regulation. When lacking these vital nutrients, dogs are more prone to anxiety, fear, and nervous behaviors.

Thankfully, many healthy dog food formulas are now fortified with therapeutic doses of ingredients that naturally combat stress, like:

  • L-Theanine (an amino acid). 
  • Chamomile.
  • Melatonin and tryptophan to boost serotonin.
  • Omega-3s. 

Choosing one of these calming pet food formulas can be an easy, affordable way to take the edge off for anxious pups.

Allergies and Intolerances

If your dog suffers from environmental or food allergies, their discomfort can definitely affect their mood and conduct. Symptoms like itchy skin, digestive upset, and general malaise often cause:  

  • Irritability and snapping.
  • Restless pacing or circling.
  • Loss of appetite. 
  • Compulsive licking or scratching.

Many dogs have allergic reactions to common pet food proteins like beef, chicken, dairy, or wheat. Switching to a limited-ingredient, novel protein diet eliminates exposure to trigger foods and allows their system to rest and reset.

As their condition improves thanks to the new diet, so too should any related anxiety or aggressive behaviors.

Conclusion: Working With Your Vet

If you have tried changing your dog’s diet but still struggle with persistent behavior issues, consult your veterinarian. They can recommend supplementation, therapeutic prescriptions, or conduct allergy testing to identify underlying nutritional deficits or intolerances.

With some experimentation and their professional guidance, you can get your pup’s diet properly balanced to optimize cognitive function, calmness and overall good temperament. After all, a well-behaved dog makes for a much happier owner.