Raw? Cooked? Kibble? Grain-free? Homemade?
Brand? Type? Pet Speciality or Grocery store?
Where does your food come from and what are you feeding your dog?
Availability? Diet Restrictions? Price?
What factors effect how you make decisions on what to feed your dog?
These all seem to be highly controversial subjects these days plaguing pet owners. It can be really difficult to sift through all the right information and choose a food. While there is a ton of information available about pro’s and con’s of different types of diets, selecting food doesn’t have to be so difficult or controversial. Let’s explore some simpler points to help find the right food for your dog.
First, select a life stage appropriate food, relative to your dog’s age. Puppies (and nursing females) require a higher fat diet to keep up to their demanding metabolism as they grow. Puppy food also has a different ratio of calcium and phosphorus (and other vitamins and minerals) to build strong bones. Adult dogs need a maintenance type food. Seniors will require a lower fat, higher fibre diet to keep things regular and to account for their lowered activity rates. There is however, an emerging trend of all life-style food which is appropriate to feed from puppy right through adulthood and into senior. This is good for dogs without any special needs, and also great for homes that have more than one dog in each age bracket, that only want to purchase one type of food.
Regardless of which type of food to feed your dog know that food comes in varying qualities.
While price may not always be indicative of quality, as a general rule, it is relatively safe to assume you get what you pay for. Foods available in convenience or grocery type stores are likely to be a ‘bargain brand’ made from inferior ingredients when compared to a food that would be purchased in a pet specialty store. This means they will have less quality protein, and include more “fillers”, ingredients like cheaper grains (corn, wheat or barley) to make up the bulk of the food. That is not to say they are all bad, just try and do a little research on the ingredients and find the best one you can afford.
When it comes to price, shop within your means.
There is no reason to go broke over buying the most expensive food on the market. There are always good and better options in all price ranges. Do a little bit of research about the types of food available in your area, and in your price range, and buy the best option you can afford. Despite all the controversy with dog food, a food prepared for dogs is still better than garbage, scrounging or no food at all - a sad fact that is a reality for millions of dogs on this planet.
Special diet needs or restrictions is one area to not overlook.If you have a dog that doesn’t fit the norm, you may need to pursue a specialty food. If you have a dog with a medical reason (illness, medical condition or allergies) you will need to be more selective about the type of food you feed. You should seek guidance from your veterinarian or pet nutritionist for consultation. Food can have huge impact on treating or managing afflictions. Many pet owners will branch out with food to meet some of these demands. This is often what leads pet owners away from traditional kibble diets and into exploring alternative options like home cooked, and raw diets as they try to fill a void with limited ingredient options. Some dogs may require a higher calorie diet, or lower fat. Managing these conditions could be as simple as switching to a puppy food or senior food temporarily to help get your dog back on track. There are many options available, don’t be afraid to try new things to find what works best for you and your dog, but always speak with your veterinarian about what is appropriate first.
When in doubt, ask questions!
Do your own research. Educate yourself. Not enough pet parents put enough thought into what they are feeding their dogs and why. Sure, you can read a million blogs on food, which I do recommend. Just be sure that the writer is knowledgeable and credible. The downfall of blogs is that there are so many, and it can be hard to know the value of what you are reading. Choose reputable sites, and read an array of articles so you can get a feel for different perspectives. If that doesn’t answer your questions, ask the pet professionals. Your vet, a pet nutritionist, breeders, trainers, and your local pet speciality store are all valuable resources. This site is also incredibly helpful to lookup different brands and see how they rate and the breakdown on ingredients: www.dogfoodadvisor.com.
When it comes to finding the right food, don’t sweat it. Do a little research, buy the best food you can afford, find something easily available, and enjoy life with dogs. Pet companies have done a good job of simplifying the process: preparing readily available, commercially prepared food for our convenience. They have done the hard part in formulating a food appropriate for our pets so we don’t all need to become chemists ensuring we have properly balanced our dog’s diet, but hey, if that’s your thing, all the power to you.
By Katie @Pet_IQ
Katie is a Pet Industry Consultant, Dog Trainer, Rescuer, PetCoach Advisor, and specializes in “All things dog”. She proudly shares her home with three lovely rescue mutts, and one special foster.