Feeding Time – Know the Options

There are so many varieties of dog food, choosing the right dog food is crucial to owning a healthy pup! You can choose from large breed, small breed, natural, vegetarian, lamb and rice, chicken and rice, and even beef and rice! With all these choices, how can you figure out which one works best for your dog?

Before you get too confused, realize that most premium dog foods* are very similar. In fact, the variations in premium foods are quite slight. For instance, a large breed dog food may contain specialized calcium levels and have a larger bite size than a small breed food. But, generally speaking, the ingredients are very similar. However, picking a food that your dog likes and that is the absolute best for them is important, so here are the facts that you need in making this important decision.

 

Dog Food vs. Puppy Food
Generally speaking, your dog should eat puppy food until it is about a year old so that he has the extra nutrients he needs to grow to his full potential. There are large breed and small breed variations of puppy food designed to suit their special needs (see below). Once on the adult food, the directions on the label should be used as a guideline. Monitor your dog’s weight and switch him to a low-energy or a high-energy food if necessary. When your dog becomes a senior, consider switching him to a food specially made for older dogs to help his digestive process.

Treats
A common cause of obesity in domestic dogs is an overabundance of treats. While you don’t have to count calories for your dog, beware of giving him lots of fatty treats. If your dog becomes overweight, look first at the number of treats he is getting and their contents. You can be much more confident of the nutritional value of treats if you buy those made by companies that also make high-quality dog food.

Large Breed Puppy Food
Usually, large breed puppy food formulas contain specific calcium and phosphorous levels needed to sustain a puppy’s quickly growing body. If a large breed pup such as a Great Dane were to eat a normally balanced puppy food for its first year, the chances are that his bones would grow faster than they are supposed to (and he may wind up with subsequent orthopedic problems). Sometimes these formulas are glucosamine fortified, to support joint function. Some vets recommend switching a large breed pup to adult food earlier than other breeds, so check with your puppy’s doc for his or her recommendation.

Small Breed Puppy Food
Small breed pups also require a large amount of energy. Therefore, these foods purport to give the puppy the extra energy it needs. This variety usually has smaller-sized kibble and is more densely packed with nutrients because smaller animals eat smaller amounts.


Natural Formulas

There have been speculative reports that some processed and chemically altered foods contain toxins and carcinogens that may be harmful to your pet, which is why natural foods came onto the market. “Natural” generally means that the food has not gone through chemical processes. It could also mean that the food is naturally preserved. Check with the manufacturer to see exactly what the company’s use of “natural” indicates. If you are serious about natural foods, you might consider making puppy food at home instead of purchasing it. However, take comfort in knowing that most brands go through feeding trials to make sure that food is palatable and safe for your pet. Look on the label to be certain.

Vegetarian Diets
Yes, dogs can successfully be vegetarians (while cats cannot). You’ll want to make sure the food that has been trial tested and approved by veterinary associations. Also, supplementing a vegetarian dog’s diet with other sources of food such as tofu, grated vegetables, and vitamin and mineral supplements is suggested. If your vegetarian pup starts exhibiting dull coat, dry skin, behavior issues, lethargic or restless behavior, or upset stomach, consult a veterinarian about changing his diet.

“Meat” and Rice Diets
What is the difference between chicken, lamb, beef, and other meat and rice diets? Some speculate that chicken is harder to digest and that some dogs are allergic to chicken, although it is usually extremely tasty. Lamb is supposedly better for a pup’s coat and skin, and also easier on the gastrointestinal tract. Beef is a source of major protein, and therefore may be used more in working dog’s diets. The bottom line is that if your puppy likes it and does not seem to have any physical reactions to it, you probably have a winner!

* “Premium dog foods” are those that are found only in pet stores. With two notable exceptions, the dog foods sold in grocery stores are of a much lower quality than these premium foods. Feeding your dog a higher quality food is generally noticeable in their clear eyes, shiny coats, consistent energy levels, and healthy stools.

by Rachelle Boatright