Today we have many options on the dog food market. So, how do you decide on a healthy, good dog food for your pup? Here are four things to keep in mind.
- Opt for the best-quality ingredients. Dr. Gary Richter, founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition, says, “Optimal nutrition comes from a balanced, fresh, whole food diet.” In order to create that type of diet for your dog, Dr. Richter recommends, “following a balanced recipe or purchasing a commercially prepared, fresh food diet — cooked, raw or freeze-dried are all fine.”
- Factor in your dog’s activity level and weight. Richter advises, “There aren’t really different nutritional profiles specific to breed; although, activity does play a role. More active dogs will need more food/calories than less active dogs.” So, if you have a more athletic dog, they will require more calories, but if they slow down due to medical issues or age, you may need to reduce their caloric intake.
Studies prove that dogs kept at a healthy body condition live up to 2.5 years longer than overweight dogs. For overweight dogs, therapeutic weight loss diets contain less than 260 calories per cup compared to maintenance diets that range from 325 to 500 calories per cup.
- Narrow your options by your dog’s age. Dog food is formulated for your dog’s stage of life. Puppies, for example, need a higher percentage of protein to make up their diet. They should not eat food formulated for adult dogs. Senior dogs, on the other hand, may be more prone to medical conditions that affect dietary needs and their reduced activity level will also mean that they’ll need reduced calories in their food. VCA Animal Hospitals advises reducing senior dogs’ calorie intake by 20 to 30 %. Ask your veterinarian for further recommendations. They may also recommend additional vitamins and supplements for seniors to maintain good health.
- Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s medical needs. An appropriate diet can actually improve your dog’s condition in many cases. Dr. Richter says, “Almost any chronic condition in dogs (organ disease, allergies, GI upset, etc.) all can be improved/supported with a fresh diet formulated for that specific condition.”
For example, when it comes to dental issues such as gingivitis, Dr. Richter again recommends fresh, whole foods. This can also help with allergies as “fresh diets will have fewer carbohydrate fillers than kibble,” he says. Dogs with diabetes benefit from a low-fat diet that is high in insoluble fiber. Dogs with skin conditions may require more Omega-3 fatty acids, and studies from nonprofit Ketopet, which studies dog diets and cancer, suggest that canines suffering from certain forms of cancer may benefit from a ketogenic diet.
Your dog’s ideal diet may change over time. Dog breed may have an effect on these factors, but that doesn’t mean every dog of a certain breed should have the same diet. Watch for food sensitivities or allergies. If your dog has a poor reaction to certain foods or seems to have chronic gastrointestinal issues, you may need to try an elimination diet with the help of your veterinarian to find out which foods are causing your pet’s distress.
Your dog is an individual with particular dietary needs, and you may not be able to get all the answers you’re looking for from one article. The best thing to do is to consult a certified nutritionist, your veterinarian or a professional pet care specialist who is familiar with your specific dog. You may choose to buy prepared food for your dog or prepare it yourself, but always follow a nutritionist approved recipe, and make sure to choose dog-safe foods.