I must admit, I put my hand up to this. I have always had big male dogs, and feeding them has become automatic, I have never weighed a thing. I knew from experience what to feed them, which brand suited them and what quantity.
Then we got a smaller dog, a female, a different breed, and I was concerned about underfeeding or overfeeding, and this made me think a bit more about how much food she should get. I had a look on the side of the bag of dry food to see what was recommended for her weight, and it occurred to me that I really didn’t know what was in the food.
All dog food is different, though we would like to think otherwise, and there is an overwhelming selection that all claim to be the best, the most nutritional, the healthiest or the most affordable.
How to make the right choice? High protein dog food sounds like a good thing. After all, dogs are supposed to be primarily meat eaters... aren’t they? This claim is often made, but if you know dogs, you know that if left to their own devices they'll go for whatever edible thing is easiest to get to - be it your defrosting sausages, vegetables, potato chips, or the contents of your cat's litter box.
I always thought a high percentage of protein in dry dog food was good, but it turns out that too much protein is also bad! Dogs apparently aren’t carnivores, like their cousins, the wolves, and according to experts, dogs have evolved and changed over the millennia, with their systems being well able to digest a wide range of foodstuffs, including grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs, fish, chicken and more, making them more of an omnivore.
While most dog food brands are specially formulated with at least the minimum nutritional requirements for dogs, it is important to remember that not every dog has exactly the same nutritional needs. While meat makes up the majority of their diet, dogs can also derive nutrients from grains, fruits, and vegetables. These non-meat foods are not simply fillers (which I thought they were) but can be a valuable source of essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre. A good dog food will contain meat, vegetables, grains, and fruits. The best dog foods contain high-quality versions of these ingredients that are appropriate for your dog’s digestive system.
Yes, you are right to select puppy food for a puppy, food marked for ‘an older dog’ if your pooch is getting on a bit, high protein foods for working dogs, and food for small dogs that is different than food for large dogs. All dog foods are subject to strict processing regulations, and when shopping for dog food, it's important to look beyond the marketing claims on the package. Instead, be sure to check the list of ingredients and nutritional makeup of the food - high quality protein sources should be high on the list, but so should quality sources of grains or vegetables and fats. Vitamins and minerals should finish the list, as the processing of dry food can remove some of the vitamins and minerals, so you should ensure these have been added back in. This will help ensure that you're feeding your pooch a high-quality dog food that will provide not just one component, but all of the nutrition they need to help them live long and healthy lives.
And don’t forget that this is a ‘dry’ food, so ensure plenty of water is available. I mix a cup or so of water to my dog’s food to ensure some water is taken, especially in the hotter times of the year, as insufficient water intake can result in kidney problems.
And lastly, if you have a sack of dog food open, ensure it is sealed up – apparently storage mites can rapidly multiply in dry food, and dogs can become hypersensitive to these, resulting in itchy inflamed skin, hair loss and ear infections.