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, 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 are many different dog food brands 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 less grain than dry kibble and more proteins and fats. They can also contain more sugar, so dry kibble may work better to keep your dog’s mouth, gums, and teeth healthy. It can be helpful to a dog with food allergies.
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) are 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. To learn more, read acmecanine.com/the-raw-dog-food-diet.
“People” Food: Because feeding you from the table or counters may cause behavioral issues, Acme Canine generally does not recommend giving your dog human food.
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 get 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 the label.
If you care about dogs there is a great site to learn the most up-to-date research. It is vetnutrition.tufts.edu/petfoodology
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. We are usually rushed everywhere in these times, so you know how to ensure time allowances within a few days so that your dog’s elimination needs are met.
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 give them treats while the others aren’t looking!
Is my dog at a healthy weight?
Stand behind your dog with its 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. It would help if you also introduced 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.