Every dog owner knows that good dog nutrition is vital to health and wellness, and that dogs have differing needs depending on their age, condition and life stage. While it is to be hoped that any diet that sells itself as “complete and balanced” should fulfil all of your dog’s nutritional requirements, all pre-packaged dog foods are not necessarily so. As with people, there isn’t one diet that suits every dog. Some dogs will have allergies, sensitivities or may well just be fussy eaters!
But there are some good all round tips for maintaining optimum health, including:
Sounds obvious, but a free supply of clean, fresh water is not only essential to provide hydration, but to help your dog to get the very best out of their food. Water assists with digestion, flushing out toxins, and the palatability of dry dog food, and is vital for all dogs in order to stay fit and healthy.
No human food
While most human foods are not outright poisonous to dogs, neither are they designed to meet their dietary requirements. While you may think it is fine to give your dog the leftovers of your meals or the odd treat, doing this achieves one of two things: either your dog will eat the treat and not so much of their intended meal, or they will eat both. This can be a slippery slope to weight issues!
Balanced dog nutrition
When buying your dog food, check the labelling to ensure that the food states that it is nutritionally complete and balanced, often labelled as a “complete” food. Some dog foods may be labelled as complimentary or supplementary, meaning that they can be given as a treat, but are not nutritionally balanced for everyday.
Fats and carbohydrates
There are good fats and bad fats, and good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates. Make sure that your dog does not eat a lot of empty calories, or foods that are intended to fill them up over optimum nutrition.
Most dog owners feed a combination of both dry food and wet food. A diet of wet food only can have a negative impact on the teeth, while a dry diet can lead to dehydration. The third alternative, of course, is to feed a raw food diet or meals that you prepare for your dog yourself at home, but it is important to undertake a thorough amount of research as a novice can easily miss out on including essential minerals.
Good fatty acids
Dogs require a range of essential fatty acids to support the fat and protein structures that make up the cells of the body, including the skin and coat. If you find that your dog’s coat is dull or generally not in a really good condition, they may not be receiving enough fatty acids in their diet.
Your dog’s food can either help or damage their teeth over time, so it is important to feed well in order to protect them. Ensure that your dog has plenty of things to chew on to help to clean their teeth, such as dental treats, raw bones, and hard biscuits. The variety helps keep teeth and gums in top condition.
Even if you feed your dog the highest quality nutritionally complete diet that you can, you will soon run into trouble if they consume too much of it. It’s important to calculate how much food your dog needs in a day comparatively to their energy levels and age.
For dogs that are very active or lively, you may need to feed a special food for active dogs, which again can help to provide extra protein to support an active lifestyle. It is even more important to monitor food intake with smaller dogs as any slight increase in calories can tip them over into an unhealthy weight range and negatively affect their quality of life.