Dog Food Buying Guide

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Dogs will eat anything, really, but that doesn't mean that everything is good for them. It is up to you to make sure that your canine friend is eating food  that provides him or her with the most nutrients and vitamins possible. Ask your veterinarian for advice on the type and amount of food that your pooch needs. Below is a basic guide to dog food for the average dog. Some dogs have special needs, so make sure you follow the advice of a veterinarian.

Basic Dog Food Tips

  • Feed your dog around the same time every day. Keeping your dog on a steady feeding schedule will also keep him or her on a bathroom schedule. Avoid emergency dog walks in your pajamas  by sticking to a schedule.
  • Feed your dog the same kind of food. Dogs cannot handle variety in food very well. Changing food can cause digestive problems. If your dog needs to change foods (from puppy food  to adult dog food , for example), do so gradually. Mix in larger and larger amounts of the new food in with the old food.
  • Do not leave extra food around for "snacking". Dogs are prone to obesity, so stick to the set amount of meals a day.
  • Do not feed table scraps. Not only will this harm your dog's digestive tract, but table scraps usually do not contain the nutrients your pooch needs. Human food can also lead dogs to gain some pounds. Overweight dogs, however "huggable" they may be, are not good. Obesity leads to severe health problems in dogs, and may significantly reduce your dog's life expectancy.
  • Give your dog food made for dogs. Cat food and other foods are not good for dogs.
  • Keep fresh drinking water available at all times. Change the water at least once a day, and more often for dogs that drool.
  • Don't overfeed your dog. Follow veterinarian recommendations for how much food to give. A basic, and obvious, rule of thumb is to reduce the amount of food if you notice your dog getting chubby and increase the amount of food if your dog is looking rather gaunt. This, however, is tricky because there are a lot of factors that go into weight. For one, really furry dogs can appear to be much heavier than they actually are. Sometimes exercise is a better solution than less food, so definitely consult your veterinarian before making any adjustments.

Dry or Canned?

No one can seem to agree which one is really better. The truth is, it probably doesn't matter too much. Both have their own benefits. Dogs fed canned food  seem to live equally long and enjoyable lives as dogs fed dry food . It's best to ask your veterinarian about which food is best for your dog. 

Dry 

  • Less water content.
  • More nutrition per bite, so it takes less food for your dog's nutrition needs to be satisfied.
  • Helps prevent tooth decay.
  • More economical.
  • Better for larger dogs.
  • May be too hard for some dogs and puppies, but it can be softened with water.
  • Some dogs, particularly those used to canned food, may reject dry food.

Canned 

  • Can build up on teeth and contribute to tooth decay.
  • Hard for dogs to resist.
  • Great for dogs having trouble eating.
  • Greater water content.
  • Mix with dry food to create a dish your pooch can't resist!

Types of Dog Food

Puppy

Puppy food  is intended for dogs up to 1 year old. Sometimes veterinarians recommend puppy food for dogs that are pregnant or nursing.


Adult Dogs

'If your dog is healthy, happy, and grown, you can probably just coast along and feed it the same food every day. Just remember to follow the directions of the vet, the packaging, and to keep an eye on your dog's health to make sure nothing changes.

  • Maintenance Diets  -- for healthy adult dogs
  • Small Breed  -- for dogs less than 25 lbs.
  • Large/Giant Breed  -- for dogs more than 75 lbs.
  • Weight Control  -- for dogs that need to lose weight. Don't trust "low fat" claims on packaging; read the nutritional labels and look at percentages. And fasting is definitely not a good dieting option. Just check with your vet before starting any kind of diet plan.

Lifestyle Diets

Some families may want their pooch to follow a similar diet as their own. Dogs may go on organic or vegetarian diets, but it takes a lot of time, effort, and should not be done without consulting a veterinarian. Here are some common lifestyle diets:

Treats

Dog treats  are great for training your pooch or just rewarding him or her for being a great friend. Make sure you buy treats that are made for your dog's size. Treats usually come in sizes ranging from "Extra Small" or "Puppy" to "Extra Large". Avoid treats containing milk  or dairy if your dog has a sensitive stomach.

Essential Ingredients

As in all cases, consult a veterinarian for the best advice when it comes to your pet. If you're not sure what to get, these are some, but not all, of the requirements that should make their way into your dogs' food. Everything should be certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

  • Healthy, adult, 35-pound dogs need about 1000 calories a day.
    • Sick dogs need twice that.
    • Puppies need twice as many calories per pound as adult dogs. (But they're smaller, so the overall calories may be fewer.)
    • Mother dogs need four times the average.
    • Lazy and old dogs need 80% of the average.
  • 20-30% protein content.
    • Read what the Pet Center has to say about which proteins are digestible. While many things have protein, if dogs can't break them down, they're useless.
    • Younger dogs should get 10% of calories from protein but older dogs may need up to 50% of their calories from protein.
    • The quality of the protein is usually directly reflected in the price of the food.
  • 2.5-4.5% dietary fiber.
    • 10% fiber is good for dogs trying to lose weight.
    • Too much will cause your dog to get diarrhea, and fail to absorb nutrients.
  • High quality brands have lots of meat. Lower quality dry foods are soybean, corn, or rice-based. (The order of ingredients listed reflects the quantity in the food.)
    • This means that higher quality foods will probably be more expensive and healthier. Your dogs will have to eat less of it to be full and healthy, though. It's a worthwhile investment.
  • Calcium and magnesium are essential minerals.
  • Omega-3 (Linolenic Acid) and Omega-6 (Linoleic Acid) fatty acids.
  • Taurine is an amino acid that is often left out of dry food. Your dogs need it. Make sure it's on the label.
  • Vitamins A, D, and E are essential, but should not be overdosed upon. Feed your dogs the amount recommended by the food brand is sufficient.

Related Guides

Woof Woof!

Dog Food Storage 

Dog Bowls and Feeders

Dog Housebreaking

Leashes and Collars

Dog Bedding

Dog Toys

Dog Grooming

Dog-Proofing

Flea and Tick Control for Dogs

Dog Houses

Dog Transport

Sick and Elderly Dog Care

International Resources

For this resource in your home country, please see:
NL: Hondenvoer Shopgids


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