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The pet food industry is a large one, with hundreds of dog foods to choose from. A quick search for ‘best dog food’ brings up a huge choice, from Hills to Chappie to Skinners and many more. This is excellent, as it means that every dog should be able to find the perfect food for them. However, all this choice can be bewildering. As pet owners, we just want what’s best for our dog.
So, if you’re feeling puzzled by Purina or concerned about Cesar, read on for some helpful advice so that you can feel confident choosing the right food for your pooch.
Good nutrition is important in so many ways: it plays an important role in keeping dogs healthy and reducing disease, and can affect how long they live for. The most important thing when choosing a food is that it fulfils your pet’s needs for basic nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, fats, and essential nutrients. The easiest way to do this is to choose a ‘complete’ food: this means that it contains all the nutrients a dog requires, in a balanced proportion. UK diets that conform to the recommended levels of nutrients outlined by FEDIAF will say ‘complete and balanced’ on the packaging. ‘Complementary’ foods are not complete and balanced and should not be your dog’s sole source of nutrition.
A dog’s needs will vary depending on their age, size or breed, and their activity level. Large breed dogs need a very different food from miniature breeds, a working spaniel will need different energy requirements than a lap dog, and puppy food will be different to senior dog food. It’s therefore important to choose a diet that’s tailored to your dog’s age and lifestyle.
Home-prepared foods, either cooked or raw, are becoming more popular. However, home-prepared meals can difficult to get right nutritionally. Taking expert advice is necessary if choosing this approach to make sure your dog gets a balanced diet.
Wet foods are those with a high water content (often 60-90%) and are available in cans, pouches, tins, and trays. They can be fed alone or in combination with a dry diet. They are available in lots of different textures and can be warmed up, both of which can be helpful for fussy eaters. Read about .
These are diets that have a low water content (under 14%), and are often referred to as ‘kibble’. They are easy to store and can lead to less wastage as they can be left down longer for those dogs who like to graze. They may also be better for your dog’s teeth. Read about dry food here.
Some pet food companies now offer breed-specific diets. Most pedigree dogs do not need a breed-specific diet to thrive, but they can offer useful tailored nutrition for your chosen breed.
If your dog has a medical condition, making sure their nutrition suits their specific needs can help mitigate certain symptoms or help them manage their condition as best they can. Examples include low protein diets for dogs with kidney disease or hydrolysed diets for dogs with food allergies. Read about veterinary diets here.
Some dog foods are not prescription but can help with certain needs. Perhaps your dog is a bit on the chunkier side and could use a lighter food, or maybe they are prone to tummy upsets and thrive on food suited to those more delicate gastrointestinal systems. Working dogs often need high-energy food to maintain their condition, pregnant and lactating bitches need extra calories, and our beloved golden oldies may benefit from a senior diet.
The price of a bag of dog food can vary alarmingly, and it can be unclear why. Generally speaking, the main difference between saver and premium brands is the quality and quantity of the meat used. This being said, most dogs are very adaptable and don’t need the most expensive food on the market to thrive.
If your dog is happy and healthy on their current food, there is no need to change. If you do need to move your dog to a different food, it is best to do so gradually over the course of a few days, by slowly adding more of the new diet and reducing the amount of the old. This can help avoid stomach upsets.