You are what you eat- and so is your dog…
Some controversy exists concerning what you should feed your dog, and it’s quite hard to come by non-biased information on what food is best. However, you can be pretty sure that the cheap tins and bags of brightly coloured food nuggets you can find in supermarkets, pet stores, and at lots of vets, are not it!
Most dog food comes either as dry ‘kibble’, wet, tinned food, or as pre-prepared raw food. More recently, powdered type foods have also appeared on the market. And lots of people opt to home cook for their dogs. I do believe it’s possible to feed your dog a decent diet on any of the above, so long as you choose a high quality product.
Raw food is currently a popular option, and one for which I am an advocate. You can create your own raw meals, or if you can get the pre-packed raw food, where someone else has done all of the calculations, and frozen it.
If you are interested in home cooking for your dog, there are plenty of books you can get these days with recipes for home cooking for your dogs, and if you have the inclination and the time, this is a good option. You will know exactly what your dog is eating, and it’s likely to be fresh and good quality.
Of course, when it comes to dry food and tins or pouches of wet food, the options out there are endless, and vary in quality and price. When choosing a dog food, I examine the ingredients, and my considerations are as follows:
- Do I know what every ingredient listed actually is? I had a client who asked a vet who had recommended a food, on which the first listed ingredient was turkey meal, what exactly turkey meal was. The vet had no idea! Neither do I. And if I don’t know what it is, I’m not feeding it to my dogs!
- Is the primary ingredient identifiable meat/meats? Ideally, I want the first two ingredients to be meat, poultry or fish of some sort. Not meat meal, or animal derivatives! Eggs are also a good source of animal protein for your dog.
- Does it contain unnecessary additives and preservatives? I know I definitely don’t want colours, or those dreadful e-number (we’ve probably all heard about the concerns surrounding the effects e-numbers have on children’s behaviours, and there is research that indicates they can have a similar effect on dogs’ behaviour).
Take a look at the ‘typical analysis’ section of the food you’re looking at, but do bear in mind the moisture content when doing so- the nutritional content of wet/raw food will always look lower than that of dehydrated food. You can calculate the dry matter value using the following calculation:
Nutrient ÷ total dry matter ×100
So, for instance, if you’re trying to calculate the dry matter protein content of a tin of dog food that has protein of 10%, and dry matter of 30%, your equation will be:
So, your dry matter protein content is actually much higher than the typical analysis suggests. Kibble, on the other hand, will already be quite dry, so at a first glance, may appear to be higher in nutrients.
A note on protein… traditionally, it was believed that diets high in protein were bad for dogs and could lead to behavioural issues. However, this does not seem to be the case, and I would personally be a lot more worried about the effects that additives, colorants and preservatives in lower quality dog food would have. Furthermore, dogs do not really have the digestive tracts for digesting starches. They are carnivorous omnivores, so while they can survive on all sorts, they do best on a meat-heavy diet.
Please also bear in mind that just because a dog food is sold at your vet’s, doesn’t mean it’s good quality. Always look at the ingredients, and make an informed decision. If you don’t know what the ingredients are, ask your vet if they know. Some vets are very knowledgeable about canine nutrition, and will have informed themselves about the various options out there. However, a lot of vets will have only received a few days’ training in canine nutrition during their time in vet school, and that training will have been delivered by the big pet food manufacturers.
Here is a list of some of the dog foods I would recommend. There will be plenty of others out there, these are just the ones I have had the opportunity to look at in detail:
Raw food (complete):
(some supermarkets now also do premium quality own brand wet dog food- check ingredients though!)
Buying these foods online can also save you quite a bit of money. I buy dog food from Amazon, Viovet, and Pet Supermarket, and usually save around 20% on pet shop and supermarket prices.
For more information, I would recommend reading Lew Olsen’s book, Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs. This is quite an up to date book, and contains some very interesting and useful information.