It seems like only yesterday the biggest choice you had to make about your dog’s supper was deciding between dry biscuit or tinned meat. The pet food industry has grown in leaps and bounds, and now there is an endless myriad of diets boasting low-grain content, breed-specific nutrition and organic ingredients. Instead of one brand of specialist food on the market that promises to help with arthritis or gingivitis there are now several. And everywhere you look it seems there is conflicting expert advice on the best diet for dogs. Considering no cooking is involved, feeding your pet suddenly seems like a lot of work! Here’s a list of some considerations that will make is easier for you to choose a good diet for your dog.
This age-old question will ultimately be decided by your budget and your dog’s preference. By weight, dry food may wind up being the cheapest option. Wet food, on the other hand, is sometimes touted as healthier or better for your dog. So which to pick? It’s more important to choose a diet that’s appropriate to your dog’s needs and that offers high quality nutrients than to agonise over texture. If you own a large breed that needs many calories in a day, you may finder it more convenient and cheaper to buy dry food, whereas smaller or toy breeds may do best with a wet food that will be easy for them to chew. Some owners may feed a mixture of both. Whatever you or you dog’s preference always make sure offer plenty of fresh water throughout the day.
The good news is that for the all choice available on the market, it’s easy to find a food that meets your dog’s nutritional needs. Any complete diet can keep your dog healthy. You needn’t worry about whether your canine companion is getting the vitamins and minerals he needs to thrive as long as he is eating the amount of food recommended on the bag. However, there are certain times in your dog’s life when a special diet may be appropriate: puppyhood and the twilight years. In the case of the former, a growing dog can benefit from the additional energy and slightly higher protein content (28-30% of the nutrients in total) found in specially prepared puppy food. Investing in a top-notch diet from weaning through to neutering can yield returns later, as well-developed puppies grow into healthier dogs. Exposing your puppy to food in a variety of flavours and textures may also help prevent bad reactions to new foods later on – whether he encounters them in his bowl or whilst foraging through the bin! A good puppy food offers nutritional benefits that will support growth and development. As your pet ages, transitioning to a senior dog diet may help preserve his good health. Older dogs tend to be less active than they once were, and may start to lose their appetite. Switching foods can help you protect against weight-gain and inappetence – both of which can cause further health problems. A good senior diet should have lower calories and be easy to chew. Some foods marketed for older dogs may have supplementary additives like glucosamine or chondroitin to promote joint health. You can also purchase separate additives to put into your dog’s favourite food, but remember to speak with your vet to work out the right dosage.
Whether your dog is still raring to go after a 20-mile walk or is happiest reclining on the couch, it’s important to consider his activity level when choosing a food. There are diets available especially for both active and sedentary dogs, although most dogs are somewhere in between. Whilst these specialty diets aren’t a necessity, choosing a food tailored to your dog’s activity level will make it easier for you to feed an appropriate amount and prevent malnutrition or obesity. If your dog is recovering from surgery or illness, speak to your veterinary surgeon about whether you should to make any temporary changes to his diet. You may need to increase his food or add more easily digestible protein to help facilitate the healing process. There are also a number of veterinary diets created to help preserve health even after the onset of chronic conditions, like diabetes, kidney failure and heart disease, all of which can be affected by your dog’s diet.
How do you know if that premium-priced food is really worth the extra cost? Check the ingredient list and you’ll quickly learn that more expensive brands do not always have the highest quality ingredients. Most mainstream pet foods only contain a percentage of the meat indicated on the label (for example chicken-flavoured food may only have 5% or so guaranteed chicken content), whilst the rest may be listed simply as “meat” or even “meat derivatives”. These foods won’t harm your pet but think twice before spending extra money on food that’s not much different from the supermarket’s own brand. A good quality dog food should have high meat content with some fibre as this is closest to what your dog has naturally adapted to digest. Remember that dogs are omnivores, and they can and should be fed certain plant or non-meat foods. However, cereals and other fillers should be low on the ingredient list, as they are mainly added to bulk-up the food without providing much nutritional value. Owners looking for all-natural or even organic food should do their homework, as both of these terms can be misleading. Not every pet food calling itself organic has 100% organic ingredients. The “Campaign for Real Pet Food” website can help you learn more about how to judge “natural” pet food brands.
If you decide to change your dog’s food to a different brand or texture, be sure to do it slowly. Mix the old and new food together, gradually phasing out the old food. Taking care whilst making the switch will prevent indigestion and rejection of food.
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