The pet food industry in the US is worth a staggering $100 billion per year. That means there’s a lot of choice for the American consumer. It can also mean a lot of confusion!
We all want to give our four-legged friends the very best nutrition available. But how can you be sure you’re really getting what your pooch needs? Is there actually much difference between different products on the market?
Let’s take a closer look at this most important aspect of pet care!
What Do Dogs Need?
All experts agree that dogs need a varied diet. It should be rich in protein, fats, carbohydrates, and a wide range of vitamins and minerals. However, there is no consensus on exactly what that looks like for each breed of dog.
A good place to start is talking to your vet. He or she will treat all breeds and will have specific recommendations. After that, your choice will come down to:
- Your dog’s preferences
- Quality of ingredients available
- Your budget
One piece of pet care advice almost all agree on is to buy food with a high meat content. Meat should be one of the first three ingredients on the packet.
Make sure that protein is at the following levels. These levels are recommended by the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO):
- 18% protein for adult dog maintenance
- 22.5% for puppies and at reproductive stages
Dogs also need ten amino acids that they can only get from food. Talk to your vet about how to make sure your dog is getting a balance of all these nutrients.
What About Grains?
Grains such as soy, wheat, and corn are typically used as fillers and to give the dog needed carbs and fiber. Media reports have caused some dog owners to worry about feeding grain to dogs. Should you be worried?
The American Kennel Club advises that grains are fine for your dog. Grains also don’t cause allergies in dogs. But some dogs may have allergies to grains, in which case they need grain-free dog food.
Generally, avoid dog foods that list grains as their main ingredients. That’s because they will not provide high-quality nutrition for your dog. If you see them further down the ingredients list, that’s fine.
Different Food at Different Ages?
You’ll have seen dog foods marketed as suitable for all ages and breeds. That sounds great, but are the nutritional needs of a chihuahua puppy really the same as those of a full-grown husky? No, they aren’t.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t use these types of food to feed your dog at different stages of his or her life. But it’s important to understand how much they need, and when they need it.
Puppies are going through crucial stages of development and need more calories than adult dogs. That said, it’s important not to overfeed them, which can cause them to grow too rapidly. Research the particular nutritional needs of your breed of dog and then calculate how much to give them.
Puppies also need more protein and higher amounts of certain nutrients. Adult dog food may not provide what they need. However, once they reach their adult weight, switch them over to adult food.
Senior dogs also need some TLC. Just like humans, their nutritional needs can alter as they get older, and they’re more prone to food allergies. Generally, they need fewer calories and more protein.
If they have special nutritional needs, discuss this with your veterinarian. He or she may advise dog food rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, and/or fish oil.
Wet, Dry, or Both?
For bouncing, healthy pets, a combination of wet and dry food is the best.
Dogs need water, and wet food is a great way to give it to them. But kibble also has its place.
It is very convenient, and it also helps their dental health. As they eat the kibble, the dry food acts like a toothbrush.
To help them get the best of both worlds, try adding a small amount of wet food to their kibble. You can also moisten their kibble with a little water, which also helps to keep them hydrated.
If you leave wet food out, it will go bad and cause tummy issues for your furry friend. Start by serving smaller amounts so your dog is not tempted to leave half-eaten bowls of food. Once opened, always store canned dog food in the refrigerator.
Find the Best Brand for Your Dog
When you go to the store, the choice can be overwhelming. Plus, dog food is not the only thing on your mind. It’s easy to grab your usual brand or whatever’s on sale, without checking the ingredients.
That’s why there are advantages to researching your dog food online. It gives pet parents time to browse ingredients, work out nutrition, and read reviews. Some online pet food services and manufacturers allow you to enter details about your dog to find the best nutritional profile for them.
Another great way to buy high-quality food that supports pet health is with a dog food subscription. There’s no need to worry about whether your favorite brand will be available in the store. They will deliver high-quality food directly to your door at regular intervals.
The fact is though, your dog will tell you which brand is right for them! Even if the nutritional profile is exactly right, you need to monitor how engaged they are with the food. It might take a little trial and error to find one that’s nutritious and delicious.
One of the best pet care tips for a happy doggo? Change their food every six months. Not only does this keep things interesting, but it also helps to give them a better balance of nutrients.
High-Quality Nutrition for Optimal Pet Care
Nutrition is vital to pet care, and getting the best dog food means doing a little research. Make sure that it’s high in good quality protein and make sure to mix up wet and dry. Talk to your vet about what your dog needs at this stage in his or her life.
Just like us, dogs like variety too! Switch things around once in a while to keep life interesting for them, and give them a wide range of nutrients.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, we’ve got lots more on all things pets! Check out our Pet Care section for more great hints and tips.