Our dogs rely on us to choose the right nutrition. We can’t leave it up to them. After all, you’ve seen some of the nasty things they like to eat!
Choosing the right food for your dog, though, requires more than simply filling up the bowl. A wide range of appropriate commercial diets are available, from grocery store “cost cutter” brands to premium and super-premium foods as well as therapeutic diets from the veterinarian. The ultimate choice depends on a couple of factors.
Questions to Ask Yourself (and Dog) to Find the Perfect Food
First, what kind of nutrition does your dog need? Second, find out the type of foods available and what you can afford. And finally, will your dog eat the food? Some dogs do great on dry diets while others prefer wet foods. Bottom line, the best food in the bag does no good if your dog refuses to eat it.
How old is your dog? Growing puppies need different nutrition than healthy adults, for example, so choose an age-appropriate diet. The manufacturers call these “life stages” and label products according to what life stage they’re designed to meet.
Most healthy adult dogs do well in diets labeled for an adult life stage. These are considered a maintenance food for moderately active canines. Remember, though, that the amount to feed varies depending on the dog and that product recommendations are only a starting point. You’ll need to adjust the amount up or down for your special dog.
Competition and working dogs do better on a performance food. These premium and super-premium foods tend to have more calories and higher quality ingredients because hunting dogs or other canine athletes burn enormous energy during competitions.
Food sensitive or allergic dogs may need special foods that avoid certain ingredients. While only your veterinarian can diagnose such a problem, these dogs often can find relief of itchy skin or vomiting symptoms by eating foods that contain unusual ingredients they’ve never before encountered—like salmon or turkey.
Other health challenges often benefit from therapeutic foods that help relieve symptoms of arthritis, for example. Veterinarians can recommend a therapeutic food that’s specific to your dog’s health challenges. But the best measure of success for any food is how well the dog does on the food.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.