When it comes to optimal nutrition, dogs are not too different from their human companions: Healthy and nutritious food should always make up the majority of their diet to help them lead happier and longer lives!
But the food that your beloved pup is naturally designed to eat is quite different from what we imagine healthy food to be. With so many great treats available to spoil your dog absolutely rotten, having them stick to a healthy diet can definitely be a challenge.
So, how can you make sure you’re choosing a dog food brand that will promote better health and vitality, all while allowing a few tasty treats on the side? And what is the best diet for your dog’s unique needs?
Here are our best tips and advice on how to choose the best dog food for your pup, including an answer to the age-old question: Wet or dry?
Get to Know Your Dog and What They Need.
Before you start loading up your shopping basket with the fanciest dog food brands you can find, you should first make sure you’re familiar with your dog’s specific nutritional needs.
The best diet and food for your pooch will depend on their age, breed, size, activity levels, reproductive status, and any food allergies or sensitivities they might have.
For example, puppies younger than four months usually need to be fed four small meals a day to develop properly, and switching food brands too often is generally not recommended — their tummies can get upset easily!
Naturally Cooling Dog Food Bowl Black.
Pale Blue And Pappa Dog Food Bowl.
Portuguese Water Dog 8 Dog Bowl.
Boxer Elevated Dog Feeder.
Senior dogs, on the other hand, need to be fed no more than twice a day, and their diet needs to be packed with small amounts of veggies and fruit to promote better digestive health.
Your dog’s reproductive status will also influence their nutritional needs: Pregnant pooches will need a lot more energy to sustain their growing puppies, so feeding them frequent but small meals is usually the best option. Neutered dogs, on the other hand, will need far fewer calories compared to dogs that haven’t had the procedure — this is why some owners believe that neutering your dog will make them fat!
Making sure to adjust your pup’s diet according to their current needs, rather than feeding them the same meals throughout their lives. This is the best way to keep them happy and healthy.
Get Educated About Nutrition Choices.
Once you’ve figured out what category your pup belongs in and how it can affect their diet, it’s time to get educated about the nutritional choices that will benefit them most.
As a general rule of thumb, what should be in the food they are eating will depend on their age, size, activity levels, and any special requirements they might have (such as nutrient malabsorption, pregnancy, or intestinal issues).
Because what your pup truly needs can vary so much depending on these factors, it’s always best to consult your vet or dog health specialist to make sure you’re feeding them all the right foods.
But if you’re just looking for a little inspiration and some helpful insights on what to look for in dog food, here are some of our best tips:
Check The Ingredients.
If you’ve ever dieted before, you probably already know how much ingredients matter when it comes to losing weight and staying healthy in the long term, rather than just focusing on the portion size of what you’re eating.
Well, things are not that different when it comes to doggie nutrition: Reading the ingredients list of a dog food brand will help you make more conscious choices from the get-go, so you won’t have to dramatically reduce what your pup is eating to make up for the unhealthy ingredients!
So, what ingredients should you be looking out for?
Let’s start with the bad ones first: Wheat, corn, “meat meal”, MSG, sugar substitutes, vegetable oil, and soy are all ingredients to avoid when choosing a dog food brand, as they are all difficult to digest, nutritionally void, and even toxic for your furry friend to consume!
On top of these harmful ingredients, BHA/BHT artificial preservatives, artificial colors, sodium nitrite, sodium tripolyphosphate, animal fat, cellulose, pea protein, and any animal by-products like organs can also be detrimental to your pet’s health.
Some of these hard-to-pronounce ingredients, like BHA artificial preservatives, are actually banned in some countries and believed to be cancerous, while others like the plethora of animal by-products you can find in mainstream dog food brands can be harmful due to a lack of regulations.
For example, common dog food ingredients like the vaguely-named “meat meal” and even the innocent “animal fat” are known for deriving from cheap, industry-scrap ingredients like diseased and expired meat.
There’s usually no way of knowing what exactly is in the meat and fat included in mainstream kibbles, so you should make sure to do as much research as you can every time you come across a suspicious ingredient!
What Should Be in Dog Food?
If there are so many common ingredients to avoid, what alternatives are there for conscious owners who want to feed their pups the very best?
Fortunately for all animal lovers, there are plenty of alternatives to each of the bad ingredients you’ll find in low-quality dog food!
For example, if you want to give your dog the healthy fats they need to thrive without buying dog food with vegetable oil and leftover animal fat, you can choose a dog food with descript fats such as salmon oil and flaxseed oil, both high in essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Instead of feeding your pup wheat, corn, or any gluten product, you can help them get their healthy carbs by choosing dog food with whole grains like oats and brown rice.
Fiber is also crucial when it comes to satiety and vitamin absorption, so you want to make sure your dog is getting their 5 a day by picking dog food with hearty legumes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and any other nutritious and easy to digest veg.