A proper diet of high-quality food is just as important for your dog as it is for humans. Surely you’ve heard that if you eat healthy food, you feel healthier and if you eat junk food, well, then you feel like junk. Almost every dog owner is willing to have in-depth discussions on which is better (or not) and why. Put quite simply, it almost always comes down to which food your dog processes the best and stick with it.
What should my dog eat?
Dry Kibble: There is a multitude of different brands of dog food out there and it can be overwhelming to try and pick the ‘right’ food for your dog. Just walking into a pet store’s food aisle can be dizzying! You can buy very high-end or choose a very basic chow kibble. There are no regulators in the pet food industry such as the USDA or FDA, which is troublesome. The optimal dog food ingredients include one meat (protein and fat) and one whole grain (carbohydrate).
Canned or Moist Food: Many canned foods generally contain much less grain than dry kibble and typically contains more proteins and fats. It can be helpful to a dog with food allergies. They can also contain more sugar so dry kibble may work better to keep your dog’s mouth, gums and teeth healthy.
Raw or “BARF” (bones and raw food) diets: This is a hot topic right now and is growing in popularity because of the 2007 pet food recall. Champions of this diet claim that it is a much better way to feed because it’s all natural (holistic), is the way the wolves still eat, helps to avoid food allergies and medical conditions like bloat, doesn’t contain any processed ingredients and provides all the nutrients and enzymes needed for a healthy pet. Opponents say that you are exposing your dog to unnecessary bacteria such as e-coli and salmonella which can cause severe illness, a higher choking hazard because of bones and that the domesticated dog hasn’t directly descended from wolves for many, many generations.
“People” Food: Because feeding your from the table or counters may cause behavioral issues, Acme Canine generally does not recommend giving your dog human food.
How much should my dog eat?
This is determined by the size, age and activity level of your dog. Obviously, a Chihuahua doesn’t need as much food as a German Shepard, who doesn’t need as much food as an English Mastiff. Puppies need more nutrients, as do working dogs and nursing mothers. And as your dog reaches a certain age, you may have to change to a senior formula to ensure they are getting the right dietary balance. A very general rule of thumb to remember: dog food companies are in business to sell you food. Stay towards the low or middle amounts of food recommendations on label.
How often should my dog eat?
This too can be decided by your lifestyle. Some people have the time to allow a lunch meal. Many feed breakfast and dinner meals, while some dogs may only choose to eat once a day. Be careful of the nibblers! It’s hard to determine just how much your dog is eating if you leave their food down all day. Structured meal times help regulate housetraining and aids in putting the dog on the human’s normal routine/schedule. In these times, we are usually rushed everywhere so within a few days you know how to ensure time allowances so that your dogs elimination needs are met.
What about treats?
Treats should take up no more than 5%-10% of their normal dietary intake. Many treats on the market today contain a high amount of sugar and fats. Choose treats that are high in fiber, low in fat or sugar. Biscuits or cookies are nice but contain many carbohydrates. Some human foods may be OK, such as tiny bits of cheese, ice cubes, baby carrots, green beans or apples but NO GRAPES. Think of treats as a “fun-sized” candy bar, like the ones given at Halloween. How many of these treats would you give your child? Ensure that everyone in the home is on the same boat so that your dog isn’t encouraging someone to giving them treats while the others aren’t looking!
Is my dog at a healthy weight?
Stand behind your dog with their tail towards your legs. Looking down at your dog, you should be able to see definition or curve behind their rib cages leading towards their hips but that curve should not be too shallow or extreme. From the side, you should be able to feel their ribs, but not see them.
What if my dog is too heavy?
Don’t panic. Remember that it didn’t get this way overnight. As with humans, crash diets are unsafe and don’t usually work for any length of time. Have a baseline weight of your dog so you know your goal. Start small by eliminating 10% of their normal meal size. You can accurately do this by using measuring scoops to serve their food. In two weeks, weigh your dog again. Any loss is a step in the right direction and you’ll know that you are on the right track. This is not a quick fix but is the safest method of weight loss for your dog. You should also introduce more exercise. Most dogs love to go for walks and it’s a wonderful way for you to unwind as well. In the normal course of a day, think FETCH not FOOD. Throw the ball a few extra times to interact with your dog. They will enjoy the special attention. Set up a special play date with another friend and their dog. The romping is a good calorie burner.
Most importantly, what you feed your dog and how much of it you feed will impact the dog’s level of fitness. Simply stated, do not allow your dog to become overweight. You must fight the urge to choose your dog’s food based solely upon price and instead base the decision on a food’s quality in conjunction with what you can afford to sustain. If you do nothing else to improve your dog’s fitness, choose a high quality, meat-based food and avoid feeding your dog too much. You have total control over what your dog eats; that’s a big responsibility and it impacts the dog’s physical fitness every single day.