Supermarket shelves are full of all types and brands of dog food, which can get a tad overwhelming and confusing. So how do you know which food is the best choice for your pet? This article will guide you through the different options and show you how to choose the best food for your dog.
Dogs are a lot like people. In order to be healthy a dog needs to eat a varied well-balanced diet consisting of meat, grains and vegetables in the correct proportions so as to meet their nutritional requirements.
Feeding requirements are determined by three primary factors:
- Your dog’s age
- The ideal weight of your dog
- Your dog’s activity levels
Maintaining an Ideal Weight
The labels on most brands of dog food typically contain a list of ingredients, the nutritional values, as well as recommended meal portions. While most dog food labels provide information on calorific content of the food within, they rarely if ever provide information on how many calories your breed needs to meet his nutritional requirements. Your vet will be able to determine the total amount of calories your dog requires each day based on the breed and the factors listed above. You can also consult your veterinarian on the best choice of food for your dog’s age and condition, and he or she will also be able to advise you on how often to feed — once; twice; or in the case of a growing puppy, even three times a day — and the recommended size of the meal portions.
Life Stage of Your Pet
Dog food is typically classified according to the life stage it has been developed for, and can be grouped into one of the following categories: puppy stage, adult stage, or all life stages. Puppy food contains the highest number of calories and nutritional values, followed by all life stages dog food, with adult dog food containing the least. If your pet is a relatively inactive adult dog then it would be wise to refrain from purchasing dog food suitable for all life stages, as this typically contains additional nutrients and calories to meet the demands of an energetic growing dog. Puppy food contains even more nutrients and calories than dog food suitable for all life stages, and should not be fed to adult dogs unless you are trying to fatten up your pet. There are times when you may want to put weight on an adult dog, and puppy food may do just the trick. For example, I adopted a two year old dog that had recently had a litter of puppies, and who was in poor condition as a result. Being such a young dog, she is super energetic and I struggled to put weight on her, no matter how much I fed her. I decided to switch to puppy food for a month or so, and she filled out in no time at all. Those extra calories are just what she needed to put on weight given her age, activity levels and circumstances.
Nutritional Value of Commercial Dog Food Brands
When it comes to purchasing dog food there a couple of things you need to take into consideration. Read the product label to check the nutritional value of the contents — the label should also contain a statement to the effect that the product meets the required standards set by the appropriate regulatory body, such as the Association of American Food Control (AAFCO).
Things to look for when choosing dog food:
- Good quality dog food typically contains meat and vegetables at a ratio of 50:50, with no additional fillers to boost protein levels (i.e. they are wheat- and grain-free).
- Check the ingredients listed on the label to ensure that the contents is sufficiently high in protein, and that these come primarily from a meat source, such as beef, lamb, fish or chicken rather than grains, which are often used as a cheap protein filler.
- Avoid dog foods that contain artificial preservatives, such as Ethoxyquin, BHT, and BHA, which can cause health issues such as skin problems.
- Where possible opt for premium brands over economy brands as cheap ingredients are more likely to be less healthy.
Wholesome Homemade Food
If you prefer to feed your dog a wholesome homemade fare rather than a commercial dog food, that is all well and good; however, it is essential that your pet receives a balanced diet consisting of protein, fats, minerals and vitamins in sufficient quantities to meet his or her dietary needs. As this can be fairly difficult to get right, if you want to go this route you would be well advised to consult the services of a pet nutritionist, who will prepare a well-balanced diet for your pet.
Is Your Dog Getting a Healthy, Balanced Diet?
If you are concerned that your pet may not be getting the correct dietary requirements from the food you are feeding it, the best way to determine this is to monitor your pet’s condition. Signs of malnourishment include weight loss, a dull coat, and a lazy, lethargic dog. If your pet is well covered (without being too portly), has a shiny coat, is energetic, and seems to enjoy the food you serve at mealtimes, then chances are that the food you are feeding is suitable for your pooch.