What do I feed my dog?
It’s easy to answer this question with the obvious… Dog food. Duh. BUT! There is so much more to this question than at first meets the eye. In this article, I will address this question and the reasons I draw the conclusions that I do.
During my tenure as a manager at a large pet specialty chain store, this must have been one of the most frequently asked questions I heard from pet parents, new and old alike.
After learning more about dog food and all things dog, I realized there is a science to feeding your dog.
The first guideline, but which I was amazed to find out a lot of people did, is to not feed your dog cat food. Allowing the dog to lap up the left over cat food, or spills, will not cause harm, but feeding a regular diet is not recommended. Cat food contains higher fat, which of course the dog will love, but it’s also going to contribute to the obesity of your pet.
Cat food also contains vitamin A, which dogs synthesize internally, and an overdose can have adverse effects. Cat food also contains predominately animal protein, and dogs require a source of plant protein as well.
Puppy food versus senior versus adult. All these foods are specially formulated for the specific type of dog. Puppies need more calcium for bone development as well as higher fat requirement to provide the energy of a puppy. The adult food is a balance between the puppy and the senior food. The senior food provides for lower fat, because usually, the senior dog does not maintain the high activity level of a puppy. In some cases, the kibble is smaller and softer as well.
Of all the different dog foods, which is the best dog food? That was another question I received quite frequently. With dog food, the expression – You get what you pay for – holds true… For the most part.
There are three “grades” of dog food. Grocery, premium, and super-premium. Grocery is the “cost-effective” variety. The store brands like Ol’ Roy, Purina dog chow, and Pedigree. Premium foods are Mid-grade foods like Natural Choice by Nutro, Eukanuba, and Science Diet by Hills. Super-premium are the high-grade foods that have more meat than by- products. These include the likes of Blue Buffalo, Bil-Jack, Royal Canin, Ultra by Nutro, Hills also has a line of the high end food as well. This list is not exhaustive.
The main difference between the premium food and the grocery food is the amount of by-
products. Examine the ingredient label. The ingredients are listed in order of quantity contained within. If one bag says chicken by-product, or chicken meal, and the fourth or fifth ingredient is chicken, then be sure that it is not a premium food.
Another advantage of the higher quality foods with less by-product is this. Meat protein is more easily digestible by your dog than the by-products. This aids in more digestible components. Two things happen as a result of this. First, your dog requires less quantity to receive the same amount of nutrition obtained from lower quality food. This directly correlates with the amount of waste expelled. The fewer digestible, the more you have to clean up in the yard.
So not only does your dog benefit from a better diet of high quality food, you benefit from less cleanup. And as a result of the dog consuming less, the high quality food will last longer than the grocery food because they require less, thereby somewhat offsetting the increased price.
And dogs, like humans, benefit from an improved diet. Their system will function better if kept in shape. They are less susceptible to heart disease and other illnesses if their diet is sound.
Contrary to most of the hype we are exposed to, corn is not easily digestible, if at all. Corn is cheap. Corn is the perfect filler. But it passes thru your dog almost completely intact providing little or no nutritional value for your dog and contributing to additional clean-up in the back yard. The grocery dog foods use corn, corn meal, and corn by-products as the main filler in their products.
Some other considerations are the type of dog. Large dogs, for example, the Rottweiler, have problems with their joints and hips. This is due to having to support the weight of the big dog. Some foods are formulated with this in mind. The two ingredients known to promote joint health are chondroitin and glucosamine. You can also supplement these two bone-integrity enhancing ingredients by providing your pet vitamins that contains these.
Some other food ingredient considerations are the primary protein ingredient. Beef, fish, chicken, lamb, venison, a whole plethora of protein sources can be found. Of all those, lamb is the easiest to digest. If your dog is having trouble with keeping the food down, or having trouble with their stool, try a lamb-based food. Lamb is also known to produce fewer allergic reactions than the other protein sources.
Sometimes allergies can contribute to a poor coat. Again, lamb has been shown to improve coat condition due to the natural oils and vitamins present in the lamb protein. Fish oil, or Omega 3 fatty acid, is also known to assist in reducing skin allergies and can be fed with the food. Some foods even include this ingredient, foods tailored for “skin and coat.”
Feeding your dog is not a difficult task, but take into account what you feed. You wouldn’t eat junk would you? I mean, an occasional lunch at the fast-food drive thru is fine, but you don’t want to eat it every day do you? You want your healthy diet and your fruits and veggies every day because you know it promotes a healthy lifestyle and prolongs your life and contributes to a better quality of life.
Doesn’t your four-legged family member deserve at least this much for everything he gives back?