Providing our dogs with a healthy balanced diet is important. We all want our beloved pets to live a long, happy and healthy life and diet has a big impact on this in many ways. A balanced diet that is suitable for your dog’s age, breed, size and activity level will help maintain a healthy weight. Dogs that are overweight have less energy, but more importantly it can lead to other health complaints such as arthritis. A good diet can also affect behaviour in our dogs. A diet that is full of over processed foods that contain lots of additives, preservatives and sugars can lead to a dog that has unsustainable energy levels, finds it harder to focus on training and tasks, also excess energy will most likely be fed into undesirable behaviours.
There are various options to consider when choosing your what to feed our dogs. Kibble is probably the most common form of food found in pet dog households and on the shelves of pet stores. It has most likely got this position as it is easy to store, last a long time and is generally cost effective. Do consider the quality of the kibble you choose however, as like all dog foods, it can fall foul of the dreaded additives and sugars being involved. You also want to check that it has a good meat, fish or vegetable constituent as its main ingredient. Although this has improved over recent years, it was much more cost effective for manufacturers to bulk out food with things such as wheat and cereals to use less of the expensive meat content. It is also important to ensure it is a complete food, this means that it includes all of the nutrients that your dog needs. Wet foods are also quite a staple in lots of pet homes. Wet food can be complete and many more are becoming complete foods these days, rather than the kibble topper that they were originally thought of as. That being said a complete wet food can still be fed with a dry kibble, it is important to look at the amounts that are being fed for the dog’s daily intake. Another positive of wet food is that it makes meals a little tastier and can be used to add variety. Of course, you can change your dog’s kibble flavour regularly but it can still be quite bland on the whole, so some wet food for texture and a flavour boost is understandably desirable to some owners. A couple of the more up-and-coming foods are raw and air-dried foods. Raw fed simply means that the dog’s diet is made up of natural raw meat and in some cases vegetables too. The word that all owners love there is “natural”, however it is important to do your research to ensure that your dog is still getting all of the daily nutrients they need. Alternatively, you can buy one of the ever-growing pre prepared raw diets to help with the homework. Air dried food is food that is heated on a low heat to take out the moisture whilst maintaining more of the natural nutrients and meaning that the food is less processed whilst remaining easy to store.
Lastly it is important to consider another couple of elements when choosing your dog’s diet. Life stage – does your dog need puppy, adult or senior food. Puppy foods will have the right amount of nutrients to support a rapidly growing puppy. Adult food acts to maintain a healthy weight once your dog is fully grown. Senior foods are easily digestible and will support the aging body of the dog with things like added joint support. Does my dog need to eat meat – this is the common thought, especially with the popularity of raw feeding that this is the best and most natural way to feed when in fact our dogs are omnivores so can eat both a meat or a plant-based diet, some dogs may need to limit or completely omit meat from their diet due to allergies. Look out for the Pet Food Manufacturers Association mark on your food – these companies meet extra quality standards than the minimum requirements.
Kerry - Behaviour Counsellor