As dog owners, we want to give our dogs the very best of everything—including food.
With a rise in health and wellness over the last decade, people are paying more attention than ever to what they feed their dogs.
But how do you know you’re choosing the right food for your dog? What nutrients does your dog really need? And what ingredients should you avoid when purchasing dog food?
Read on to find out the answers to all of those questions and figure out what your furry best friend needs in their diet!
Types of Dog Food
There was a time when dog owners could only choose between a handful of dry dog food brands. But those days are long gone. These days, not only are there plenty of different brands to choose from but there are also several types of food. Let’s look at the five main food types for dogs:
When we hear “dog food,” most of us think about dry kibble first, and for good reason. Kibble is easy to store, easy to keep fresh, and affordable.
Dry food helps keep your dog’s teeth strong and can provide a strong foundation for their diet. However, because there are so many different brands, there’s a wide variety in quality.
Most dogs do great with at least some kibble in their diet, as long as it’s a quality brand with wholesome ingredients.
Canned or wet food is another fan favorite for dog owners. It helps with water intake, and most dogs love it! It can also be great for elderly dogs whose teeth can’t handle kibble.
Wet food can be pricey, and because it has so much water your dog will need more of it to get the same amount of nutrients as their kibble.
For most dogs, the best bet with canned food is to offer it as a supplement rather than the primary diet.
Semi-moist food is a balance between kibble and canned food. It often comes shaped like pork chops or meat.
This food is typically very processed and low in nutritional value, although it is very appealing to our dogs. Because of this, it’s recommended that semi-moist food be reserved for special treats instead of being a staple of your dog’s diet.
Frozen or Freeze-Dried Raw Food
Raw diets have grown in popularity recently. People love the idea of feeding their dogs in a way that is similar to their own diet. Raw food comes in either frozen or freeze-dried food due to the potential for bacteria.
There’s a big debate on whether raw food is worth all the fuss. Many vets have concerns about raw food, particularly about the safety, regulation, and handling. But it is full of nutritional value.
Another downside to a raw diet is the expense. Maintaining a fully raw diet for your dog can get pricey fast.
You might consider adding in some raw food in addition to kibble. However, it’s very important to be safe when handling it—always keep it frozen or refrigerated and follow the directions for expiration dates. Make sure to also wash your hands before and after handling.
Some dogs have allergies and dietary sensitivities. This has led to an increase in home-cooked diets for dogs.
You can choose to prepare all of your dog’s food at home, following a healthy and balanced diet. It does take plenty of effort and money to do it right though.
Make sure that your dog is getting a healthy balance of all the important nutrients, and consult with your vet so that you can cater the diet specifically to your pet.
What Does Your Dog Need in Their Diet
No matter what food type (or combination of food types) you choose, you’ll want to make sure that your dog is getting the nutrients they need.
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, your dog needs six important nutrients:
The most important part of your dog’s diet is water. Dogs need to drink an ounce of water per pound of bodyweight every day. Offer plenty of fresh, clean water throughout the day—especially if you stick to kibble.
Proteins are also vital for your dog, providing the energy they need to tackle their day. The amount of protein your dog needs will depend on its breed, size, and weight, but you want to aim for at least 8% protein in their dry food if your dog is an adult, and 18% for growing puppies.
It’s also best to offer food with multiple protein sources so you can ensure that your pup is getting all the amino acids they need!
As for fats, make sure your dog is getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. Just like in humans, these are great for your dog’s heart and overall health.
Finally, don’t skimp on carbohydrates. Your dog should actually have a diet with 20% carbs. It helps give them energy and fuel them, and it also provides important fiber for digestion.
Factors to Consider
What about grains?
In recent years, there’s been plenty of buzz about grain-based diets full of wheat, corn, and soy. Owners have been concerned that their dogs shouldn’t be eating these filler grains and looking for more protein-driven alternatives.
While protein is vital for a healthy diet, most dogs can easily digest grains. In fact, they provide those important carbohydrates mentioned above.
So you don’t have to ditch food with grains altogether. Just look for brands that contain plenty of protein too.
What about allergies?
If your dog suffers from allergies, stomach issues, or sensitivities, they might respond best to a limited-ingredient diet.
Certain protein sources might trigger allergies, along with dairy products and eggs. You might need to experiment with different protein sources to find what works for your dog.
If you do suspect an allergy, consulting with your vet is also important. You want to find a food that works for your dog’s stomach but still provides the essential nutrients they need.
Which brand is the best?
With so many brand choices, dog owners can get overwhelmed trying to find “the best.” But just like with humans, the answer is individualized.
The most important thing is to pay attention to ingredients. Find dog foods that have whole proteins instead of “meat meal” and that offer the right balance of protein, fats, and carbs.
Also, look at recalls and reviews to help determine the quality of the food. Don’t forget to ask your vet for a recommendation.
A Healthy Dog Means a Happy Dog
It’s important to care about your dog’s nutrition. After all, health means a longer and happier life that the two of you can spend together.
Remember that the answer is balance, quality ingredients, and experimentation to find what works for your dog.
Just like us, dogs are individuals with unique dietary needs. If you work to provide a healthy, balanced diet for your dog, they’ll thrive with energy, health, and plenty of love to share with you.