When it comes to feeding our dogs, there are essentially three types of diets that pet parents utilize to provide the best nutrients for our furry companions.
Commercial diets are processed and manufactured pet foods (both wet and dry) by both small and large profit-seeking enterprises. When deciding on a particular manufactured product, you should consider the following factors.
According to The Whole Dog Journal, cheap food is not the best option for your dog’s health. Typically, inexpensive food is made with inexpensive ingredients. Good- and top-quality ingredients are more expensive, and companies that use them must charge more for their products; therefore, a high price can be indicative of quality. However, higher prices may also reflect a company’s advertising budget or the increased expenses associated with operating an independent pet supply store in a remote area. Checking the label’s ingredients and determining which food is best and most cost-effective for your pet’s health is the way to go.
Determine if you want a “grain-free” diet, or if your pet can safely eat foods containing soy, wheat gluten, and corn derivatives, by examining the source of the ingredients in your pet’s food. In addition, you should consider which ingredients are organic, local, non-GMO, and humanely raised and slaughtered.
Determine the number of food recalls in which the manufacturer has been involved. Any company is susceptible to a single manufacturing accident. However, if accidents or recalls occur more than once, this may influence your choice.
Some individuals distrust the corporate behemoths that produce the better-known and more heavily advertised pet foods, preferring the care and attention of smaller pet food companies that typically produce high-quality products with organic ingredients. In contrast, the largest food corporations can employ the most educated veterinary nutritionists in their research and development departments, thereby advancing the industry’s understanding of animal nutrition.
Choosing the best foods for your pet should be based on a discussion with your veterinarian and your understanding of your pet’s preferences. If there are multiple competing products, choose the one that best meets your pet’s needs for protein, fat, and calories, taking into account the animal’s body condition and level of activity. Unless your pet is emaciated or obese (and in need of a high-calorie or “light” food, respectively), look for a product with calories, fat, and protein levels in the middle of the remaining products’ range.
Homemade diets are pet foods that can be prepared in the kitchen using ingredients from the refrigerator and pantry. As long as pet owners adhere to specific guidelines, many animals can live long, healthy lives on ‘human’ foods.
It is essential that the diet you feed your dog is “complete and balanced,” meeting all of its nutritional requirements. However, it is not essential that each meal be complete and balanced, unless you feed the same meal daily with little or no variation. Diets prepared at home and consisting of a wide variety of foods served at different meals are balanced over time, not at each meal. Similar to how humans eat, your pet’s diet will be complete and well-balanced so long as every essential nutrient is provided over the course of two weeks. Remember that puppies, pregnant and lactating females, older dogs, obese animals, and those with chronic illnesses require very specific nutrient sets in their diets.
According to veterinary nutritionists, at least 50 percent of your pet’s homemade diet should consist of protein. Grains and starchy vegetables should comprise the remaining fifty percent of the diet. Meals can be prepared using lean meats (less than 10 percent fat), raw meaty bones, fish, organ meat (chicken or beef liver), eggs, dairy products (plain, non-fat yogurt and kefir, non-fat cottage and ricotta cheeses), fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and brown grains.
Your dog’s homemade diet may require supplementation. Calcium and oils (fish oil, cod liver oil) can be added in proportion to your pet’s weight and level of activity. Homemade diets may be deficient in vitamin D, vitamin E, and iodine; multivitamins with mineral supplements can be used to provide your dog with complete nutrition.
Raw food diets are also referred to as BARF diets, where BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. The diet consists of human-grade whole foods, such as raw meat, finely ground bones, offal, and other nutritious ingredients such as fruits and vegetables.
Proponents of the diet claim that veterinary studies conducted over the years have demonstrated that feeding a raw diet can improve the overall health, reduce obesity, reduce the risk of certain diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as enhance the temperament and energy levels of domesticated dogs. Generally, animals fed raw bones have fewer instances of gingivitis and gum infections, better breath, and fewer digestive issues.
Common sources of protein include raw beef, chicken, turkey, and lamb, as well as small amounts of organ meats like beef heart, chicken liver, calf liver, and sweetbreads. Some dog owners opt to feed their pets extremely fresh or lightly cooked fish or shellfish. Raw milk and cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese that have been treated with lactase enzymes can constitute dairy proteins. Raw eggs are another excellent source of natural, organic protein. If you choose to feed your dog raw or lightly cooked fish, you must ensure that the meat is parasite-free.
This program allows all types of vegetables to be fed to dogs. Carrots, parsnips, cucumbers, zucchini, peas, sweet potatoes, sprouts, wheat grass, sweet bell peppers, and herbs can be grated finely and added to proteins or used as natural treats. Small pieces of raw carrot or sweet potato, in particular, can be a sweet and tasty treat for your pet while also helping to keep its teeth and breath clean.