Today, the dog food industry is immense and can be overwhelming to even experienced pet owners. With an enormous variety of diet options available, it can be hard to decide what’s best for your pet and source quality products that give your dog all the nutrients it needs to enjoy a long and healthy life. In this week’s article, we’ve put together a checklist of how to go about choosing the right food for your dog. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines only, and we recommend consulting your vet to find a diet that is tailored to the health requirements and lifestyle of your pet.
The decision around how to feed your pet is one of the most important ones, as this has a huge influence over their overall health and wellbeing. A dog’s diet should contain six basic nutritional components, these are:
Water aids in digestion, nutrient absorption, body temperature regulation and joint lubrication.
Proteins provide dogs with the essential amino acids they need to grow hair, skin, muscles, nails, tendons ligaments and cartilage. It assists with building and repairing body tissues and plays an important role in the production of chemicals such as hormones and enzymes, provides energy, and supports immune function.
Fats provide energy, help in vitamin absorption, play a role in the development and function of cells, nerves, muscle and tissue and are an important component in the production of prostaglandins which reduce inflammation.
Carbohydrates provide energy, can assist in regulating blood sugar levels, aids in digestion, supports colon health and provides beneficial fibre.
Minerals perform an important role in the formation of cartilage and bone, in hormone production, in supporting nerve and muscle function, and in fluid balance regulation as well as in the transportation of oxygen in the bloodstream.
Vitamins aid in vision, skin and coat maintenance, appetite, teeth and bone development, reproduction, blood cell production, metabolic and digestive function, nerve and hormone function and immune function.
Factors to consider
Whilst all dogs need these six nutritional elements in their diet, the amounts and proportions they require of each can vary greatly. Some of the factors which you need to consider when finding the right diet for your dog include:
Metabolic function and nutrient requirements vary between different dog breeds.
Working dogs require a different ratio of fats and proteins in their diets when compared to lap dogs because they have different energy needs.
Your dog has different nutritional requirements and different stages of life. A growing puppy for example, needs a diet rich in calcium to support the growth of healthy teeth and bones whilst a senior dog with reduced energy levels will need a lower calorie diet to avoid weight gain.
The management of some health conditions require diet adjustment. For example, dogs that have trouble with constipation require a high fibre diet to ensure regular digestion, whilst dogs with diabetes will need a low far, high fibre diet to help regulate blood sugar levels.
Packaged dog food
For dogs, the basis of any diet should be premium dog food that is high quality, balanced, and complies with the Australian Standard: Manufacturing and Marketing Pet Food AS 5812:2011. When buying commercial dog food, look for:
- Lots of a named animal protein at the top of the ingredients label (avoid meat and poultry by-products as these tend to be lower quality)
- If fresh meat is the number one ingredient, look for animal protein meal as well. This is because fresh meat alone, often does not contain enough protein for dogs.
- Whole vegetables and grains
- A best before date that is at least six months away
Try to avoid commercial dog foods that contain:
- Generic fat sources like ‘animal fat’. Look for foods that mention the animal the fat source has come from like ‘chicken fat’ or ‘duck fat’ as this means it is traceable
- Artificial colours, flavours and preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ehtoxyquin
Raw meat and raw meaty bones can be a great addition for your best friend, but make sure to check with your vet first. Sometimes dogs may have misshapen jaws or dental disease, and this could make bones difficult for them. You can also include a small amount of cooked vegetables, but make sure that your dog has access to grass, as this is often their source of vegetable matter and micronutrients. When feeding your dog a natural diet, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- You should NEVER feed your dog cooked bones of any kind as these can eaisily splinter and cause serious injury or even death
- Organ meat should not make up more than 15% of your dog’s diet
- Raw meaty bones include chicken backs, necks, wings, whole carcasses, lamb necks, turkey necks, pork necks, beef ribs, ox tails and any other meaty bone that can be completely consumed by your dog
- Marrow and knuckle bones are NOT considered Raw Meaty Bones and shouldn’t be given. We see too many broken teeth and digestive issues associated with Marrow Bones.
Regardless of what kind of pet you have, fresh water should always be available to them. If you’re looking for more information about the right diet for your pet, or want advice specific for your dog, seek out help from a vet. The team at Vets On Balwyn are experts when it comes to the nutritional requirements of dogs and will help you find the right dietary solution for your pet’s needs. Get in touch with us by calling 03 9857 8100.