Your dog is one of the family, and when it comes to their nutrition, it can get confusing. There are so many different websites and different opinions in favor, and against, raw diets. We hear that a raw diet can relieve your dog of many allergy agents found in kibble, whereas on the other hand, we here that a raw diet has harmful side effects, such a salmonella poisoning and bacterial infections.
When your dog adds so much to your own life, you want to keep him/or her healthy & happy – so where do you start?
Well, it’s important to remember that dogs are individuals, just like people. This means that there is no one food that is best for every dog. It is common to find that if we were to feed a group of dogs a brand of very well formulated food, most of them may do great on it, some not as well, and it may actually cause gastrointestinal upset in a few dogs. Again, there is no single food or product that will guarantee your dog has the very best health.
But not to worry, there are many well formulated dog foods to choose from today, and it is fine to try several to determine which one works best for your dog. Below are some tips to consider when buying dog food.
1. Consider your dog’s stage of life
Make sure that the food your choice is suited to your dog’s stage of life. A puppy eating an adult food will not get the higher amounts of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals he/or she requires for proper growth. An adult dog eating puppy food is likely to become overweight. An older dog may need a senior food that is more easily digested. When it comes to nutrition, one size does not fit all.
2. Nutritional needs, and reading ingredients
People often wonder if they should feed dry food, semi-moist or canned. Although dry food is widely recommended, this is dependable on the individual dog, and you will need to consider prioritizing nutritional needs. We also have to remember that just like human food, the best-tasting food is often not the most nutritious. Usually foods with “tasty bits” are sold to satisfy the human’s emotional needs more than the dogs nutritional needs and are often the cause of obesity (a common killer of dogs).
Look at the ingredients.
High-quality ingredients are essential for a healthy food. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has established guidelines for regulators to govern claims a pet food company can make on its label. If the food is said to contain a single ingredient, it must contain at least 95% of that ingredient, not including water. If a combination of ingredients is advertised, that combination has to make up at least 95% of the food. For instance, if the food claims to be made solely of beef, beef makes up 95% of the food.
Reading and trying to understand the ingredients in your dog’s food will serve as a very important stage to finding the right dog food for your pet. Reason being, is you will find that some brands of dog food are made from inexpensive ingredients that are not easily digested, and will not provide the best nutrition. While they may technically meet the legal specifications for percentages of protein, fat, carbohydrates, etc., these foods have lower energy values and lower-grade proteins. Because of this, many health-building nutrients may pass right through your dog’s system without being absorbed.
3. Take your time in switching foods
If you find that your dog is not reacting well with a certain brand or type of dog food, it is important to switch a dog to a new food over the course of 7-10 days. Make sure you allow ample time for your dog to make the transition from his current food to the new one. Normal bacteria in the intestine help your dog digest food. A sudden change in food can lead to changes in the number and type of these bacteria, making it harder for food to be digested, and resulting in intestinal upset. You can help prevent this by mixing 25% new and 75% old food, and feed that for at least 3 days. If all goes well, go to 50% of each type of food for 3 days, then 75% new and 25% old for 3 days. By now, your pet should be ready to eat only the new food. If problems occur, consult your veterinarian for advice.
Once you have found a food that is nutritionally sound and works well for your dog, take a look at your dog after he/or she has been on the new food for at least one month. Bright eyes, a shiny coat, good body condition (not too thin or overweight), and good energy will let you know you are doing a good job with your pet’s nutrition.