A Guide To Dog Food: Choosing The Right Food For Your Dog
These days, determining your dog’s diet can be almost as challenging as determining your own. We all know that striving to provide the healthiest food for your pet will ultimately lead to a happier and longer life together, but how do you determine what is “healthy” for your pet? Dogs, just like people, need a diet based on their lifestyle and their individual health needs, so it’s up to you to do the research.
The most important factor to take into consideration when choosing the right food for your dog is their overall individual health. Pay attention to any issues that might already exist, as many are often related to an allergy or nutrition deficiency. A healthy dog should have shiny, healthy-looking fur, bright and clear eyes, strong bones, firm and small stools, good muscle tone, healthy teeth and bones, energy, little odor, few digestive problems, and few behavior problems. If all this is the case, your dog’s diet is probably fine. Simply continue to make good food choices for your pet. Keep in mind that the diet that works for your neighbor’s dog might not work for your dog, even if they are the same breed.
You also want to consider your dog’s lifestyle. Activity level and desired weight (check with your veterinarian for your dog’s ideal weight) will determine an ideal caloric intake and portion size for your dog. Puppies, for example, will require more food. They also need to be fed more often. Older dogs may require more protein because they metabolize it less efficiently than younger dogs.
Commercial Dog Food
Commercial dog food is receiving an increasingly bad reputation in today’s day and age. In many cases, manufacturers tend to produce a cost-friendly product by providing a lower quality of food riddled with artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. Commercial dog food can also contain cheap “filler” grains (corn, wheat, and soy) that are not beneficial to a dog’s nutritional needs. Of course, not all commercial dog foods are bad, but it’s important for you as the consumer to be smart when choosing this kind of food. Words like “gourmet,” “premium,” and even “natural” have no associated standard for quality or even content of food. Instead, learn to read the labels. Look for recognizable, whole ingredients (if you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not a smart choice). Ingredients are listed by weight, so opt for foods with protein-based ingredients toward the top of the list and fewer grain-based ingredients. If a package claims to use a certain ingredient (“Dog Snacks with beef!”), you should be aware of the fact that the manufacturer is often only required to have 3% of that ingredient (beef) in the actual recipe. If they want to claim a flavor (“Dog Snacks with beef flavor!”), they only need 1% of the flavor in their recipe, and it can be completely artificial.
Dry food (kibble) is typically the least expensive type of dog food one can buy. It also lasts for a long time and does not require any type of refrigeration. Dry dog food does also have some health benefits (crunchy kibble can help reduce tartar buildup), but picking the right mix for your dog is essential. As mentioned before, always pay attention to the labels and ingredients used. If you see a lot of “filler” foods or ingredients you don’t recognize, look for alternative mixes or brands.
Canned food is a great option for picky eaters, but it does tend to be more expensive than dry food. It has a shorter shelf life, and needs to be refrigerated after opening. In some cases, canned food is given to dogs that need to lose weight. It’s also fed to older dogs that require more moisture in their diets. If you decide to buy canned food for your pup, make sure to pay attention to the nutrient percentages on the label. To find out if canned food is right for your dog, click here.
Homemade Dog Food
Many pet owners are choosing to make their own pet food in order to avoid label confusion, which can sometimes hide dangerous preservatives and animal by-products in pet food. By preparing your own dog food, you can be sure about the quality of ingredients your dog is eating. You can also fully customize each meal to avoid ingredients that give your dog problems. It’s important to do your research to make sure your dog is receiving all the proper nutrients he or she needs. This requires careful planning and preparation. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary medicine conducted a study on 200 homemade dog food recipes found from over 30 sources (including pet care books, websites, and veterinary textbooks) to test for essential nutrients in concentration required for dogs, and only nine passed for the minimum standard established for adult dogs by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (eight of those nine recipes were written by veterinarians). So, although there are clear benefits to a homemade dog food diet, it is extremely important to check for the nutrition content with your veterinarian and a veterinary nutritionist.
Raw Food Diet
A growing number of pet enthusiasts are turning to a raw food diet, claiming it is the most natural way to feed a dog. Raw food diets help dogs steer clear of potentially harmful chemicals, by-products, preservatives, additives, and grain fillers. However, if choosing a raw food diet, you must be careful of foodborne illness and bacteria. In one study conducted by the University of Minnesota, researcher looked at 60 raw meat diets available at stores around the Twin Cities and found that 7 percent of them tested positive for salmonella. In addition to watching out for harmful bacteria, you must also make sure you are still creating a nutritionally balanced meal for your pet. Before trying a raw food diet on your dog, be sure to talk the option over with your veterinarian.
If you do choose to change your dog’s diet, be sure to do so slowly. Dogs do not typically respond well to rapidly changing diets. Give your pet time to adjust by slowly substituting portions of their old diet with their new diet until they have happily adjusted.
It’s important to take time researching and deciding which type of food is right for your dog. By educating yourself on the different types of dog food available, paying attention to labels and ingredients, and reading up on brands, you can help your dog live a happy, healthy life. If you're not sure which food is right for your dog, consult your veterinarian.
What other dog food tips do you have? Leave a comment for us below.