Depending on the age, size and type of dog that you have as well as the amount of physical exercise and overall health condition of the pet, different foods may be more or less beneficial. It is important to carefully monitor the quality of food that you buy for your pet as well as how the pet responds to the food, no matter what type you select. Often the highest priced foods are not nutritionally better than the more mid-range priced dog foods however the very low priced foods are typically of poor quality and not nutritionally or economically a good deal. The reason that lower priced foods are not a good nutritional choice is simply because they are made from the cheapest ingredients. These are a lot of by-products and fillers, neither which contribute nutritionally to the dog. The reason they are not a better price in the long run is also due to the filler used in the food. This bulking agent expands in the dog's digestive tract, resulting in more elimination of waste, noticeable at yard clean-up time. Feeding poor quality food will also lead to the dog actually eating more to try to get the nutrition needed for their metabolism. Feeding very low quality, low cost food also results in more vet visits, which are far more expensive than simply providing a better quality daily food.
There are three main commercially available types of foods. There are also specialty diets such as the BARF or bones and raw food diet that may be available commercially in pre-portioned and frozen packages or may be made entirely fresh by the pet owner on a daily basis. For purposes of this discussion the three major commercial types of foods will be discussed including the pros and cons of feeding each variety.
Canned food is a favorite for many people simply because it is seems more natural and appealing to humans, plus dogs typically love it. Even very finicky eaters such as the toy breeds will eagerly run to their feed dish when canned food is on the menu. There are some situations where canned food is ideal for dogs, although most vets recommend avoiding canned food for average, healthy dogs of any size or breed.
Canned food can be ideal for starting puppies out on solid foods. Kibble or dried food, unless softened, is just too difficult for little puppy teeth to break down, so canned food can be mixed with milk to form a thick slurry that puppies can learn to lap from a dish. After they have switched to this mixture then softened dried food can be mixed with the canned food until they have made the transition to dry.
Older dogs or dogs that are recovering from an illness or surgery can often benefit from a good quality canned dog food. Avoid anything that is labeled as "dinner" as this has the lowest amount of actual meat protein in the canned food. Like with puppies, these dogs should be fed some combination of dried and canned food.
The biggest issues with canned food include dental problems that can result from feeding only canned food as there is no abrasion of the food on the teeth to remove build-up, as well as the sheer volume of food that would need to be fed for a larger breed of dog. Canned foods are very difficult to actually determine how much nutrition your dog is getting. There are some very good, balanced canned food available but be sure to talk to your vet before switching or starting your dog on canned food.
Semi-moist foods have many of the same problems as the canned foods. They are very high in moisture and are typically sold in pouches with the food in a gravy or liquid. As with canned, semi-moist foods are highly appealing to dogs but are not always nutritionally good for the pets. They do have a far higher amount of additives and preservatives than either canned or dry food and are typically recommended only for short term feeding periods such as food transitions and illness and recovery.
Semi-moist foods tend to be a favorite of owners of small and toy breeds of dogs. Very often toy and small breeds become very stubborn about what they will and will not eat and once started on semi-moist may be very hesitant to go back to dry kibble. Dogs eating a diet of only semi-moist foods or canned foods are more likely to become obese due to the high caloric factor of these foods and poor portion control on the part of the owner. If you are feeding only semi-moist be sure to talk to your vet about just how much you should be feeding your dog.
Although not that appealing to humans, a good, premium dog kibble is nutritionally balanced and all that a dog really needs. The cheaper varieties are mostly grain products such as corn meal and are largely undigested by the dog, simply passing through their system with no nutritional benefit. A premium dog food will have a protein content of 21% for normal, healthy dogs and a higher protein for puppies and pregnant and lactating females. It is important to note that large and giant breed puppies should not be fed the high protein dog foods unless under the advice of a vet.
Dry food is recommended for all types of dogs and with new options for pet owners there is a great selection on the market. There are specialty dry foods for dogs with food allergies, tiny and small dogs, obese dogs, senior dogs and dogs with diabetes. There are also performance foods with higher protein and fat contents for working dogs. Occasionally an extremely finicky eater will simply refuse to switch to a dry kibble, so owners may have to become very creative with the diet to ensure the dog gets his or her nutritional needs met.
Feeding dry food based on manufacturers recommendations in consultation with your vet is considered to be the best possible option for your dog. Always watch how your dog responds to the food, but avoid constantly changing dog food brands, types and styles as this can lead to serious digestive problems.