The best food for dogs contains all the healthy nutrients and vitamins your dog needs during its varied stages in life. It should help your dog’s growth, support, and feed strong bones and muscles and supply enough energy according to your dog’s body weight.
Dog foods should contain natural ingredients without harmful allergens or chemicals. They should have a well-balanced quantity of :
- Proteins – containing the 10 essential amino acids a dog needs in its diet for a healthy and long life. Proteins can be sourced from meat and plants.
- Carbohydrates – derived from vegetables, cereals, certain fruits.
- Fat and fatty acids – essential to maintaining healthy skin and fur. It also supports the brain cells’ development and aids the cell regeneration process. These fatty acids are sourced from animal fats (fish, beef) and oily seeds.
- Vitamin D – to support healthy bones (in a small dose, otherwise it becomes dangerous)
- Vitamin E and Vitamin A
- Minerals – calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.
These components must meet the nutritional requirements of the dog’s size and breed, age, and lifestyle. The quality of the ingredients in the dog’s food is of utmost importance to maintain a dog’s general health and wellbeing.
What does a dog eat?
A dog’s dietary need requires a good amount of protein that comes from meat, along fibers from grains and vegetables. Thus dogs belong to the omnivorous species, meaning that they can eat all plant-based and meat-based meals.
Before being domesticated and during history, before the 1700s dogs’ diets consisted mostly of raw food. Dogs were kept for the protection of humans, farm animals, the household as well as companions and for hunting.
A dog can be fed with:
- Raw meat (minced, small chunks – beef, chicken, rabbit)
- Liver, kidney, heart (raw or cooked)
- Raw bones with lots of meat on them
- Homemade food (without excess salt)
- Vegetables (always cooked) – green beans, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower
- Tinned fish without bones and in water, not oil
- Plain steamed rice, preferably brown, or cooked pasta
Food or ingredients that dogs should not eat
Some foods are toxic to dogs and can lead to poisoning. Ingesting certain components found in these ingredients lead to unpleasant side effects that can become very quick health-damaging unless treated immediately by a vet.
- Chocolate – dangerous for dogs as it increases the stimulus leading to shaking, racing heartbeat, tremors, and seizures. This happens because chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, both components being toxic for dogs.
- Boiled sweets – raise the blood sugar level
- Caffeine – toxic for dogs
- Dough – raw dough contains yeast that will ferment in a dog’s stomach, causing severe abdominal pain
- Avocadoes – create intestinal discomfort (vomiting and diarrhea)
- Cheese – high in fat it could lead to fast weight gain
- Onions, garlic, leek, and chives – are toxic for dogs, damaging the red blood cells
- Grapes and raisins – can cause kidney damage and kidney failure.
Types of dog food
The dog market food has grown rapidly with advertising being seen everywhere: in shops, on billboards by the roads, in media and online and all of it backed by vets as well. It’s no wonder that sometimes dog owners can get confused and overwhelmed by it all especially if their pet is a new addition to their household.
Dog owners can choose from:
- Dry dog food (kibble)
This is commonly packed in bags and is the most used type of dog feed. It contains a mixture of meat, fibres, starches and vegetables. Its moisture is reduced at 6-10%. Storage and feeding is easy and convenient as it can last for long periods of time whilst opened. It costs less than other types of dog meals and is beneficial to maintain a good dental health.
- Wet dog food (canned)
Contains mostly meat ingredients, thus having more fat and proteins and fewer carbohydrates. Its moisture is around 60-90% depending on the producer. The risen level of moisture makes it necessary to feed a bigger quantity to your dog. Thus, it can be proven as a costly option, nevertheless necessary to add to a dog’s diet.
- Semi-moist dog food (pouches)
This type of food comes in smaller packages and it requires storage in a cold place. It’s very convenient as it’s easy to dose your dog’s meal time and can be taken when spending time outdoors (storage should be in a cold place).
- Organic dog food
Made with organic grown ingredients, can be more expensive as all organic foods tend to be due to the specific way they are grown. It can be found as dry food, canned or small treats.
- Grain-free weight control dog food
Specially produced for overweight dogs, it has a low energy density with increased protein and fiber content. This type of food should be discussed with a vet before starting a dog diet.
- Low-fat food dog
It’s aimed at dogs that need to start a low-fat diet at the vet’s recommendation. This type of food has a formula that aids digestion, includes probiotics, and has a lower fiber content. It can be wet or dry.
- Dog treats
These can be used for praise during training or at home. Also, they are good for on the go snacking due to their convenient packaging in small pouches or packets. These treats consist of funny shaped dog biscuits, chewy bites, strips of dried meat or sticks.
- Dog food for a dog’s different life stages – puppy, adult and senior
Probably, the most important for dog owners, is to feed their pets the right type of food for the dogs’ life stage.
Puppies need more energy and have a higher nutritional need to help them grow. Higher calcium content is also needed to support their bone growth. They need to be fed puppy meals until around 12 months, when puppies can switch to adult food. Some producers also developed meals for junior dogs.
Older dogs, over 7 years old, need senior dog food with a higher protein content, lower calories and less carbs.
- Dog food for different breed sizes
The dog’s size is a must in taking into consideration the choice of food. To help with this, there are specialized pet shops or online review websites giving information on the best dog food choice for your dog.
Different breeds might have varied dietary needs. You will then have to check for either small breed foods or larger dog breeds meals.
- Home made food
A rising number of pet owners prefer to feed their animal companions homemade food. Knowing the food types a dog is allowed to have is essential. It is also important to check the nutritional values and make sure a healthy balance is maintained to support the dog’s needs at all times.
Recipes with friendly dog food ingredients can be found online and in dog cookbooks in book shops or on Amazon’s website.
How many times should you feed your dog?
This highly depends on your dog’s age, size and lifestyle.
On the food packaging there is always guidance on the quantity of each feed according to your dog’s weight.
A vet can discuss with you the best options in terms of your dog’s feeding time, especially if the dog needs to follow a diet.
Puppies need their daily feeding quantity spread over the day in small quantities. As they grow, the meals can be reduced to 3 times per day and after 6 months will be fed twice a day.
There should be formed a routine for feeding (morning and evening) and uneaten food disposed of. Water should remain available for your dog at all times during the day.
Choosing the best dog food for your pet amongst the hundreds of brands available can be confusing and challenging. There isn’t a way to know which is the healthiest brand of dog food, however, by reading the ingredients’ content on the label, checking reviews from other dog owners and discussing with dog health specialists, will certainly help you decide on the best feeding alternatives to suit your dog’s needs.