What you feed your dog is the most important thing in his life. Through diet he must get everything his body needs. To live a healthy life all dogs need a wide range of nutrients. These will range from Protein and fat which are needed in large quantities to vitamins and minerals which are needed in smaller amounts but are just as crucial.
From when he is weaned right through to later years it is your dogs diet that will determine the length and quality of his life.
First you need to choose what you want to feed your dog on, there are a number of choices, it is really down to what you are happy with and what suits you best.
Most British dogs are fed on a complete dry food, this is convenient, doesn’t need any preparation, and is easy to store. Dry food is prepared from ingredients that are dried and then ground, they can then be cooked or finished in a number of ways.
Extrusion: This is where food is ground, steamed at high temperatures, then cooled, dried and given a coating of oils and fats to enhance the flavour. Because of the high temperatures involved in this method, many of the nutrients may be destroyed including vitamins, some amino acids and enzymes.
Baking: This is another method where the food is cooked, but at lower temperatures than the previous method, therefor leaving more of the nutrients intact. However, baking does rely on wheat gluten to bind the biscuit.
Cold Pressing: Ingredients for cold pressing are first broken down and then pressed together for a short time, all of this done at low temperatures. This preserves the nutritional content of your dogs food.
Air drying: Once again ingredients are broken down at low temperatures, then a current of heated air is blown through removing the water through evaporation, reducing damage to proteins, vitamins and enzymes.
Dog foods in tins, pouches and trays are considered ‘wet foods’, these are also quite popular and can be complete or complimentary. These foods don’t need any added preservatives as the process of cooking them in their sealed containers kills off any micro-organisms. The feeding amounts are much higher of wet foods than dry as they contain larger amounts of water, this can make them more expensive.
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Raw Food Diet
Otherwise known as BARF (Bones And Raw Feeding). Raw feeding has become very popular over the last few years and is regarded by many as the most natural method of feeding your dog. It is possible to prepare your own diet for your dog, but there are now a number of companies who have developed pre-prepared raw foods in the form of nuggets or frozen blocks.
Other things to consider:
Just as important as choosing the right food for your dog is feeding the right amount, you should start by following guidelines on the pack, if your dog stays a healthy weight, then stick to that amount. You should be able to easily feel the ribs but not necessarily see them and your dog should have a noticeable ‘waist’. Just increase or decrease the amount slightly if you feel the need. It is possible to mix the different types of food as long as you do it in percentages For example 40% wet food and 60% dry food.
How often should you feed your dog? Once you have established how much to feed your dog, how often isn’t so important, just divide the food into 1,2 or 3 meals a day. Some dogs get hungry and 2/3 smaller meals suit them better, others are quite happy with one meal a day. Of course puppies need to be fed 2 to 4 times a day depending on their age up until they are a year old as they are growing so fast and their stomach’s cant hold so much.
Dog labelling and ingredients list
Like us dogs are omnivores, they are capable of digesting and utilising a huge range of foods. However the dogs digestive system is much more set up for meat consumption and benefits from meat rich diet. Meat should therefor be the first and most abundant ingredient on the list.
All ingredients should be named starting with the greater percentage which should ideally be meat. Watch out for broad terms such as ‘cereals’ and ‘meat derivatives’ these could refer to a range of ingredients of varying quality, and this makes it impossible to know exactly what your dog is eating.