Nutrition is among the most overlooked areas of responsible pet ownership. Many people simply buy what is on sale at their local grocery store, never realizing that there are huge differences in quality between pet food brands. But just like with people, the quality of your dog’s diet can dramatically affect their short and long-term health.
Many pet owners are surprised when they change their dogs’ diet to a higher quality food. The pet parent immediately notices better teeth, coat and skin changes in their dog. And there are other improvements in your pet’s health that are not visible to the naked eye.
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing food for your furry best friend.
Ingredients in Dog Food
There is substantial debate among dog experts about whether or not dogs need fruits and vegetables and in what quantity, but one thing is clear: dogs need protein, and lots of it. Consequently, protein should be the main component of your dog’s diet, and it’s very difficult to give your dog too much protein. If you’re feeding a store-bought food, check the ingredients list. The first two to three ingredients listed should be meat, and not grains or vegetable by-products. If you feed a homemade diet, aim for a diet that is at least 80% animal protein. Remember that dog treats and chew toys count as food, and many of these foods are low in protein, so check their ingredients and adjust accordingly.
Filler and Additives in Dog Food
Several recent news stories about pets being poisoned by pet food have spurred more awareness among dog owners about what dogs eat. Just like people, preservatives and filler items are not good for dogs. Generally speaking, dog foods with fewer ingredients are healthier. If you see tons of ingredients with long names you don’t recognize, this may indicate a food with cheap filler and preservatives that is not particularly healthy for your dog. Some studies indicate that excessive use of preservatives causes cancer and other illnesses in dogs. Similarly, these ingredients may increase parasite infection, increasing the money you must spend on vet care and pet medications.
Special Formulations Added to Dog Food
Puppy, senior, and large breed dog foods all offer benefits, but not all special formulations are created equally. A few factors to consider when choosing a specially formulated dog food include:
- Senior formulas should contain glucosamine and chondroitin to protect joints;
- Puppy formulas should not contain large quantities of wheat, which can cause excessive weight gain and bloating;
- Sensitive stomach formulas should not contain pork, turkey or corn, all of which can exacerbate allergies and increase stomach problems.
Your vet can advise you about your dog’s specific nutritional needs, and you should always check the label to see what exactly is in the food you feed your dog.
Homemade Dog Food
More and more pet owners are making their own dog foods. Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinarian, advocates feeding dogs a raw diet, and many owners have had success with this approach. Feed dogs raw, meaty bones but never cooked bones. Cooked bones can splinter and kill your dog. If you want to feed cooked foods, ensure that the primary component of all meals is meat. If you feed your dog vegetables, you must puree the vegetables first. Vegetable walls contain cellulose, an ingredient that dogs cannot naturally process. Without pureeing, dogs don’t get the benefits of plant matter. Perhaps most importantly, if you want to try a homemade diet, get a good book on dog nutrition with recipe ideas that can guide you until you’re comfortable making food on your own.
About the Author:
Jane Warren is a writer providing valuable tips and advice for consumers looking to care for their pets. An avid animal rescuer, she sometimes wonders if people looking for good homes for their dogs know where she lives! She frequently points consumers to good deals on pet products such as stairs for dogs.