What should I feed my dog?
A nutritious balanced diet is essential to keeping your dog healthy. There are numerous brands of food on the market, and with dog food companies spending millions on marketing it can be difficult to choose one that is of maximum benefit to your dog.
We are often asked what food is best for an owners dog but unfortunately there is no one easy answer, every dog is different in their health needs, and lifestyle and their diet should reflect those needs. Finding the right food for your dog may involve some trial and error but you should not be discouraged about changing your dogs food at various points in their life to address changes such as aging or ill health.
When choosing a diet it is important to select a category of foods that most suits your dogs and your lifestyle; dry, raw complete, wet, raw homemade, cooked homemade or mixer. Each category of food has its pros and cons, and although this blog will help narrow down the food categories with the best ingredients, not every foods suits every dog. To ensure you are feeding your dog the most suitable diet for their needs it is advisable that you speak with a qualified canine nutritionist or holistic vet to better understand their requirements and plan a suitable diet. It is always recommended to consult a canine nutritionist or holistic vet before making any major changes to your dogs diet.
Manufactured foods can be divided into two initial groups – complete and complementary.
With over 900 complete foods on the market this is the most popular choice for UK dog owners. To be ‘complete’ foods must contain every nutrient required by a dog in the minimum required amounts to enable a dog to survive which means this food can be fed alone. Complete foods can be dry, wet or raw. It is important to note however that some complete foods contain higher quality nutrient levels than others.
Complementary foods are those that do not contain the full range or quantity of nutrients required by a dog to allow them to survive on that food long term. Complementary foods include some wet and raw foods as well as mixer biscuits; mixers are primarily cereal based filler biscuits some of which contain vegetables or herbs. Like all dog foods, complementary types range from very high in quality to very poor. Complementary foods are nutritionally incomplete, in so far as which other ingredients or foods must be added to the diet to provide a balanced meal.
In the UK the majority of dogs are fed on dry complete foods. Their popularity is primarily down to convenience as they don’t need any preparation and only require to be stored in a cool, dry place.
Dry food ingredients are dried and ground and can be cooked in a number of ways:
1. Extrusion – the most common cooking method for dry dog foods. During the extrusion process, raw ingredients are ground, then passed down a giant steam cooker. After the extrusion process the food is cooled, dried and is given a coating of fats and oils to enhance its palatability due to the loss of flavour during cooking. Reviewing the food after this process shows that the high pressures and temperatures involved in extrusion may destroy a percentage of the nutrients contained in the food including vitamins, amino-acids and enzymes.
2. Baking – this method of cooking allows foods to be processed at lower pressures than extrusion and therefore may allow more of the foods nutrients intact. Although Baking does require a certain amount of wheat gluten which allows the biscuit to bind, wheat gluten is difficult for a dog to digest and has been shown to cause allergies and health issues in some dogs.
3. Cold pressing is the process of pressing ingredients together for a period of only a few seconds at very low temperatures. This allows dry foods to be created without potentially damaging high temperatures or pressures. Cold pressed foods are highly specialised so it is advisable to speak with a nutritionist for advice on feeding your dog a cold pressed diet.
4. Air drying is the evaporation of water from the raw ingredients after they have been mixed by exposing the food to a current of heated air over a period of time. Air drying decreases damage to proteins, vitamins and enzymes compared to generic cooking methods.
Dry complete foods can be fed alongside or mixed with both raw and wet foods. When mixing complete diets, care must be taken not to over feed. The easiest way to mix diets is to feed half of the suggested amount of the first food with half the recommended amount of the second. Some dogs may find it difficult to digest a 50/50 feed of wet or raw when mixed with dry, so it advisable to vary the amounts until a suitable balance is achieved.
Wet foods can be found in tins, trays and pouches at various levels of nutrition quality from only 4% meat and animal derivatives to 80% fresh meat, so it is important to read the ingredients prior to purchase. Wet foods should not require added preservatives as the cooking process kills all micro-organisms within the air tight containers. Wet foods come in complete or complementary and can be mixed with dry diets. The feeding amounts are much higher than dry and raw due to the high water content causing them to be a more expensive diet to provide.
Growing in popularity this method of feeding is as old as dogs themselves, is making a wonderful comeback for our modern dogs. Raw feeding is regarded by many vets, scientific studies and dog guardians as the most natural way to feed our best friend and over the past few years has become a very popular option for pet owners. This diet allows your dog’s body to work as it was naturally designed to by digesting raw, unprocessed meat, organs, bones and vegetables. There are two main ways to feed raw. Pre-prepared complete diets come in frozen nuggets or blocks which have been balanced with all the correct percentages and nutrients providing the health benefits of raw with the convenience of dry or wet food. For those with a dog requiring specialised diet or who like to know every ingredient in their dog’s diet you can make a home raw diet also known as a DIY diet, this will be covered in following blogs.
All pre-made raw food is frozen and requires defrosting and contains a high proportion of water much like wet food. This is good as a dogs body is 70% water allowing your dogs body to absorb a high proportion of their water needs naturally through their food rather than out sourcing from a separate bowl as often.
When you have decided which type of food you would prefer your dog to eat, we at pooch Dog Spa can help you select some of the best varieties from those available. Always take into account your dogs current health status, weight, activity levels and life style when choosing a food, along with you as a dog guardians, budget, time available and life style.
To check the quality of the food you currently feed your dog check out the website All About Dog Food for independent ratings on most brands of dog food.
(Always remember no matter what type of food you feed always provide your dog fresh filtered water daily)