Everyone who knows dogs understands that these beloved companions need lots of training, attention and exercise. While this is certainly true, they also need good balanced nutrition as part of their daily care routine. When dogs and puppies don't get the right type of food they have many different health issues. These can range from serious digestive problems through to allergic reactions, weight loss or gain, poor dental health and sometimes even neurological and physiologic disorders.
Feeding your dog the correct food is less about what brand you are buying and more about being able to correctly read and understand the label as well as what is basic in a dog's natural diet. It is important to buy good quality dog food, which are often going to be some of the better known brands, although it may not be the brands that are available at your local grocery store. Many of the best dog foods are sold only through farm and ranch supply stores, veterinary offices and even through kennels and dog training centers. Buying the best possible dog food also means that you will be spending more than you would for the common lower quality brands at the grocery store, but it also means your dog will be healthier and have fewer problems throughout their life. Feeding the right type of food will also help you pet to live as long as possible, so in reality it is a cost saving measure.
Dogs and Nutrition
Understanding how a dog would naturally eat and what nutrients they need is the first step in selecting the right dog food. All dogs evolved or descended from wild ancestors that were likely similar, at least in diet and general behavior, to the wild wolves and coyotes of today. There is a common misunderstanding that dogs and other canine species are carnivores, which means that they only eat meat. In reality dogs are omnivores, which means that they eat literally "all things" or that they consume meat as well as grains, fruits and vegetables. Cats, on the other hand, are considered obligate carnivores as they must have mostly meat in their diet to remain healthy.
There is no doubt that meat is the main ingredient of a wild canine's diet, although the same cannot be said for many domestic dogs. Generally domesticate dogs do need meat as a source of protein with bones as a source of calcium and other minerals. Dogs should not be fed a full vegetarian diet, despite what some misguided owners believe. On a fully vegetarian diet dogs are more likely to have health problems, poor growth, anemia and other protein deficiency symptoms and diseases.
Vegetables and fruits provide vitamins and minerals, as well as complex sugars and dietary fiber. All these ingredients are necessary for proper growth, body functioning and digestive system health. Whole grains are also a source of some limited amounts of carbohydrates as well as different vitamins and of course natural fiber.
Basic Types Of Dog Foods
There are three basic types of commercially prepared dog foods on the market today. The three types all have their own individual pros and cons, however there is a marked preference indicated by vets and animal nutritionalists for the premium quality dry kibble over the other two. Most breeders will feed either a premium dry kibble or a natural diet, also know as a BARF diet. BARF stands for Bones And Raw Foods or Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods, and is now commercially available in frozen form in some markets as well as over the internet.
Canned foods are considered to be an ideal food for several types of dogs and puppies, especially those that are recovering from surgery, in treatment for some health condition, senior dogs or for those dogs that have difficulty with chewing. Often smaller breeds, especially toy breeds, have serious dental health problems that are genetic in nature, meaning that they can't be simply corrected. When dogs have significantly misaligned teeth, tooth decay and degeneration or serious gum deformities or diseases chewing hard food may be impossible. In these cases canned food is a good option, often mixed with softened kibble.
Canned food is not recommended as a full time food for healthy dogs of any size. The biggest problem with canned food is that it doesn't provide either enough dietary fiber or enough scraping action to keep the teeth clean and the digest system working properly. Often cheap or discount types canned food are largely water and filler with very little actual nutritional value to the food. Many dogs will have problems with diarrhea and very loose stool when on canned foods.
Semi-moist food has the same benefits as well as problems as canned foods, however it may even be a bit worse with regards to actual nutritional content. In addition semi-moist foods, typically sold in pouches, are not easy to store and the food can spoil if there is a slight puncture in the packaging. Semi-moist also has no abrasive benefits for the teeth and gums and tends to coat on the teeth, resulting in tartar build up and gum disease.
Again, in cases where the dog is in ill health or is recovering from an illness, semi-moist food can be a good feeding option but only in very small amounts and when mixed with kibble that has been softened.
A good, premium kibble is the most highly recommended choice of foods by vets and breeders. For small breeds most manufacturers make small dog kibble, ideal for tiny mouths and teeth. Even puppy food now comes in kibble form. It is important to read the label, there are lots of very low quality, poorly balanced and formulated dry kibble brands on the market. Often the very lowest priced dog food, especially dry kibble, is mostly "filler" or dried vegetable material and animal by-products, which provide little or no nutritional benefits to the dog. Dogs that are a good quality kibble will have a healthy coat, good digestion and regular bowel movements and will eat the recommended ration of kibble and be satisfied and full. Dogs on poor quality kibble that is mostly bulking materials will have lots of bowel movements, appear hungry all the time and will have a dull coat and overall poor appearance.
If you aren't sure about the food you should select, talk to your breeder, the local vet, or even talk to an animal nutritionalist to get the best possible food for your pet.