Bringing a new furry family member home is always exciting – be it a puppy or a wise old dog, they’re always a welcome addition that we look forward to petting and playing with. But just what should you feed your dog?
The team at PDSA reckon that there are 9.9million dogs in the UK – that’s 26% of the population with furry friends, and they all have their own opinions on the best dog food. They’ll recommend dry, homemade puppy food, even a vegan diet for dogs – it’s a billion-dollar market with a huge variety of choices such as raw feeding, wet, natural, and eco-friendly dog food too. When you add in claims like hypoallergenic, grain-free, and human-grade food, it gets kind of overwhelming.
This collection of tips, tricks, and advice aims to help you make the right dog diet decision for your pooch, so let go and find out all about dog food.
Choosing healthy food for dogs
Each dog is different, just like us humans. There are common dog food allergies you need to consider and you know large breed dogs will need more food than small breed dogs. They’re individual, and as such, what works for one won’t work for all. The best diet for dogs is one that is completely balanced to ensure they’re getting all the essential nutrients they need. If you notice a lack of energy or lethargic behaviour, their diet may need adjusting.
You’ve also got to consider the logistics of it all. Do you have the freezer space for a raw diet? Do you have the cupboard space for a stockpile of wet or dry food? And does your kennel have the same facilities in case you go on holiday without your dog?
Always read the fine print
When browsing the aisles, there are dog foods to avoid, specifically those including derivatives and cheap, unhealthy fillers like wheat and barley. There’s little nutritional value in these ingredients, and while they may be cheaper, you’ll have to feed your dog more to get all the nutrients they need. Avoid artificial preservatives and sugars too – they offer no health benefits and can negatively impact your dog’s health and wellbeing.
This can be particularly harmful to growing pups. They need more calories, valuable nutrients, and protein to grow big and strong. You can find some good advice on protein levels here, but at the very least, check the label of your dog food before purchasing to ensure good quality, tasty food for your furry friend.
Focus on the ingredients, not the opinions
While you’ll find hardcore advocates for every type of dog food, you should buy based on your dog’s dietary requirements. It doesn’t need to be pretty or fancy or even smell good to you, it only needs to be right for your dog.
Consider their current diet, do they have allergies or intolerances? Do they have any diseases or conditions like diabetes? Are they a healthy weight? Choosing simple foods with high-quality ingredients is best, and if you’re not sure, just ask your vet for advice.
Raw dog food diets
This diet is rooted in the idea that dogs thrive best on what their ancestors ate before they were domesticated. We’re talking raw meat here, and while it is unprocessed and has multiple benefits, dogs won’t get all the necessary nutrients from meat alone – they are omnivores after all.
A lot of raw foods claim they help improve digestion and stools, that they give your dog healthier skin and shinier coats, and even reduce inflammatory conditions. It all sounds great, but if you’re going with a raw dog food diet, it would be good to go with one which includes some vegetables to ensure their diet is complete and balanced. You should also make sure to choose a producer with exceptional food hygiene. And get some advice on handling it at home too – raw diets carry a much higher risk of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.
Wet Dog Food Diets
Generally considered more appetising, wet food has a noticeable taste and smell and can help keep your dog hydrated if they don’t drink a lot. It has a lot of similar benefits to raw dog food diets, and as long as it’s steamed to retain nutrients and stored correctly, wet food is a nice safe option for your dog.
The high moisture content is why wet food is completely sealed in trays, pouches, tins, and cartons. These containers make the food easier to store at room temperature and some innovative cartons, like those made at Tetra Pak®, keep the food inside fresher for longer as well (bonus points because Tetra Pak® is recyclable too).
Dry Dog Food Diets
Because it takes longer to digest and moves slower through the system, dry food is a good choice if you have a dog struggling with its weight. The issue here is there is a huge range of options for new pet parents to choose from. There are baked, freeze-dried, air dried, and more dry foods, but the same point stands – look at the ingredients first. Avoid the fillers, cheap proteins, and meat-meal of lower quality food. Stick to premium instead.
Dog Food Mixers
This is exactly as it sounds – it’s a mix of dry and wet/raw food. It gives your puppy choice and helps keep their diet balanced and varied. The key thing here is to get the split right so they’re getting the nutrients they need. The customer service team of your dog food producer should be able to offer some advice on that front.
Fresh Food or Homemade
Some brands are now advertising their Dog Food as ‘home-cooked’ or ‘cooked as you would at home’. This emphasises the fresh, natural ingredients they use and the minimal processing, but they do have to be kept in the fridge or freezer.
Cooking dog food yourself is not to be taken lightly – Dogs are a part of the family, but they don’t need the same things. Do a lot of research and understand what your dog needs in a complete and balanced diet first.
Research and gaining professional advice is key when choosing your dog food. You’ve got to make sure you can store it, afford it, that it’s right for your pup and your lifestyle.
Here are some things to remember as you go forward:
- Unless you have issues, try and stick with the brand and diet you choose. Don’t add in any supplements unless instructed by your vet.
- When changing brands and diets, do it gradually over two weeks to avoid upset tummies.
- Not all dogs suit the same diet. They’re individuals, just like us humans.
- High-quality, natural food is best. If the brand you choose also happens to align with your personal preferences, like eco-ness or UK-based ingredients, all the better.
- The package feeding recommendations are more like guidelines. If your dog is energetic and active, they may need more food. Or if they’re older and less active, they may need less. Keep an eye on their waistline and judge if they need more or less through that. Alternatively, use a “body conditioning score” like vets do to see if your pooch is overweight, here’s a good one:
More than anything, you should enjoy the unconditional love that comes with your four-legged friend. They’re sure to let you know if there’s something wrong with their dog diet, and their actions will too. Just keep an eye out for unusual behaviour, sickness and weight changes – if you notice anything odd, go to your vet for advice.