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CHOOSING THE RIGHT TYPE OF FOOD FOR YOUR DOG

Proper nutrition and a good diet underpin your dog’s health and well-being. Yet when it comes to choosing the right food for your dog, the answer is not always clear-cut. With a range of feeding options, brands, and ingredients, it can often be daunting for dog owners with an abundance of information to navigate through – some of which are often conflicting! We help you break down the options available so you can choose the right dog food for your best friend.

Canine nutrition 101

Before you can evaluate what form of dog food is best for your dog, it’s helpful first to understand canine nutrition and the type of foods dogs thrive on that will suit their digestive systems. Visiting https://completecaninecompanion.com/nutrition would be a great help in this regard. You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘ dogs have descended from wolves and are, therefore, carnivores.’ While dogs and wolves share a common ancestor (the grey wolf), it is now believed that dogs and wolves split from their shared ancestor over 25,000 years ago. No scientific evidence supports that dogs have evolved separately to digest plant-based food and meat since that time. Dogs cannot only digest plant-based foods but also possess three genes that allow them to digest glucose and starch, allowing them to digest grain-based carbohydrates.

Another factor that helps determine if an animal is a carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore is the length of an animal’s intestine. As a general rule, carnivores (for example, cats) have shorter intestinal lengths than herbivores, as meat is easier to digest than plant-based material. On a relative basis (adjusting for size), a dog’s intestines are longer than that of cats (carnivores) but shorter than that of humans (omnivores). This suggests that while dogs are omnivores, they are closer to carnivores than humans, and as a result, their bodies are designed to eat a greater amount of meat than humans.

Taking into account the above factors, we recommend feeding your dog a diet that is higher in protein than a typical human diet – for example, a diet that has at least 50% meat, including some organ meats – however, balancing this with the right vegetables and fruit to provide a nutritionally complete diet for your dog.

What type of food is best for my dog?

When it comes to the different types of food you can feed your dog, the most common forms of dog food are dry (kibble), wet, and raw, and more recently, we have started to see a lightly cooked diet for dogs gaining popularity. The type of food you decide to feed your dog depends on several factors – most of these factors will depend on your dog (for example, if they have any specific health needs). Some relate to your lifestyle and what is feasible for you (for example feeding a raw diet can often be more expensive and time-consuming than feeding dry food). While there is no ‘right’ choice, to choose the right option, you’ll need to consider all the factors relevant to you and your dog. If your dog has special needs (for example, needs to gain or lose weight or has special medical conditions), we recommend speaking to your vet and working with them to determine the best option for your dog.

We go through some pros and cons of each different type below:

Dry food – Most popular type of dog food with many options available, including options for specific needs – for example, for dogs on a diet or dogs with special medical conditions. Dry food is very easy to feed however, given the nature of the food, commercial brands can often include dubious ingredients (including nasty fillers) that you need to look out for. When choosing kibble, we recommend carefully reading the ingredients listed on the back of the pack. In particular, pay close attention to meat in dog food. Dry dog foods often use meat meal – a form of meat that is dried and cooked to remove extra moisture content and then ground up. As a rule of thumb, we’d recommend avoiding dog foods that contain a generic form of meat meal that does not specify the animal source (for example, ‘Meat Meal’ or ‘Animal Meal’) or uses the word By-Product. The best meal meals in dry food are ones where the meat source is specifically named – for example, Chicken Meal, Beef Meal, Turkey Meal, etc. One of the benefits of feeding dry food is that most dry foods are formulated specifically for dogs and usually have all the vitamins and minerals that dogs need.

Wet food – Similar to dry food, canned wet food has been around for some decades and is nutritionally similar to kibble. The key difference between dry and wet food is the moisture content – wet pet foods can contain up to 80% water, whereas dry foods typically contain up to 10%. The key benefit of wet food is that the increased moisture content can increase the palatability of the food, which is great if you have a picky eater on your hands. Unlike dry food, wet food requires different storage and handling and will need to be kept in the fridge and fed within days of opening.

Raw food – A raw food diet for dogs (commonly referred to as the BARF diet) has gained much popularity over the last decade. A raw food diet typically consists of fresh muscle & organ meat, bones (ground or whole), raw eggs, vegetables, fruit, and some dairy. Because the food is fresh and unprocessed, supporters of the diet claim to notice many health benefits for dogs over time. Unlike commercial dog foods, you also know exactly what is in your dog’s food and can tailor the ingredients to your dog’s specific needs – which can be particularly handy for dogs with special needs or allergies. Raw food diets, however, can be more time-consuming and expensive to prepare. There is always a risk of spreading harmful bacteria, as raw meat can contain parasites and bad bacteria. The other thing to be watchful of when feeding a homemade raw diet is ensuring your dog gets all the necessary vitamins and minerals – specifically calcium and phosphorous.

Lightly cooked food – In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in the popularity of lightly cooked diets for dogs. This diet involves gently cooking fresh meat, vegetables, and fruit at low temperatures. Like raw, this diet gives you greater control over what goes into your dog’s bowl. Being lightly cooked also greatly reduces the risk of spreading bad bacteria while preserving the nutritional integrity of the ingredients. A lightly cooked diet can be time-consuming (involves cooking, packing & storing appropriately). Like all home-cooked diets, to ensure your dog’s food has all the necessary vitamins and minerals, you may need to do some additional research and add supplements as necessary.

While there are many different feeding options, remember that you also don’t need to go with just one option. A great option for your dog with a balanced and varied diet is mixing two options together to give them the best of both worlds – for example feeding half dry/half raw or half lightly cooked food. While it can be daunting to figure out what food is best for your dog, there is no right or wrong answer – balancing your dog’s needs against the pros and cons of each option. We’re sure you’ll make the right decision to keep your dog happy & healthy!

 

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