We all want the best for our dogs, but many people often are not sure what food is most suitable for their dogs needs, especially with all of the different products on the market. Fret not, for we at Pet Food Plus More have written this article to help you understand what the nutritional needs of your dog may be, and how to best fill them.
Without further ado, let's begin by discussing the most important factor - your dog's age. The nutritional needs of a dog will fluctuate with it's age - puppies, adults, and senior dogs all have different nutritional needs, which is why many dog food brands will produce foods specifically for puppies and older dogs. The main concern for getting the right puppy food is making sure that your pup get a good balance of nutrients. In particular, the puppy needs sufficient amounts of fats, vitamins, and protein. It is important not to feed a puppy a low-fat diet, as fats are important for them to develop healthy skin, hair, and vision. If your puppy seems to be getting a bit chunky, it is often best to consult a vet before switching them to a low fat diet. Vitamin needs are a bit more complicated to get into - but rest assured that as long as you use an appropriate puppy food they will get all of the vitamins that they need to stay healthy. Protein is an essential nutrient that is just as important in dogs as it is in humans - it is the building block of muscles and is very important for body growth. As you may be able to predict, this means that puppies need a large amount of protein in their diet to help them grow big and strong, with this requirement starting to curve off as the dog reaches it's adult years, and will reach it's lowest levels of requirement as the dog becomes a senior. For an example of some quality puppy food, we suggest one of our most popular - Skinner's Field & Trial Puppy! This food will prove suitable for any puppy's needs.
When you can consider your dog an adult varies by dog, but generally a dog will be considered adult after between 1 year and 1 year and 3 months. The exact nutritional needs of adult dogs varies slightly from breed to breed, but generally align. Most dry dog foods are considered to be 'complete foods', meaning that they fulfill all of your dog's needs to an appropriate ratio. There are some exceptions to this, where some dogs may need some extra nutrition under certain circumstances - this will be explained further below - but generally if you have a stay-at-home dog with no medical issues one of these complete dog foods will suffice. Most dog foods on the market are complete foods, but the best way to check is to either ask the staff or to check the bag. Complete foods usually mention somewhere on the bag that they are complete, where as non-complete foods are typically labelled as 'mixer biscuits' or something similar. If you wish to regularly feed your dog meat, such mixer biscuits are your most ideal choice, mixing the meat in with the biscuits to provide the dog's full nutritional needs. Further, if you wish to feed your dog wet food, it is best to use a complete wet food and complete dry food, and to adjust the quantities that you are feeding to ensure that you are feeding your dog an appropriate amount.
When a dog becomes considered a senior also varies, but to a higher degree. Small dogs often are not considered to be seniors until they reach approximately 10 years old, while large dogs are considered seniors when they reach around the age of 6 years old, with medium dogs fitting in the middle at 7-8 years old. With senior dogs, it is often fine to continue feeding them the same diet as they had during adulthood (if you must change your food at any point, however, try to find a food high in fiber to help them with digestion!) but it is important to decrease the amount of food you give them. Dogs usually become less active with age, and as a result they need to have their caloric intake reduced or they may start to become overweight, which can cause some real problems! If they do become overweight, it is often best to switch to foods specifically formulated for senior dogs. These foods are designed to be lower in calories but will make your dog feel more full after eating, helping them to decrease their caloric intake without making them feel hungry. An example of some good dog food for senior dogs would be Salter's senior, which will be sure to give any senior dog the care it needs.
The next point of consideration is how active your dog is. Most adult dogs are fine being fed a regular complete food, but if you have a working or performance dog, they will need more food with a nutritional balance that will better meet their needs, or else they may end up exhausted or might even get ill. In particular, your dog will need high proportions of protein to keep their muscles healthy, carbohydrates to give the dog enough energy to continue working without tiring, and supplementary fibres such as beet pulp to keep the dog's digestive system healthy enough to absorb all of the other extra nutrients it needs. A good example of some high-quality working dog's food is Skinner's Field & Trial Working 23.
Additionally, pregnant and lactating dogs also have different nutritional needs from your standard adult dogs. In particular, these dogs will need double the amount of proteins and almost as much more calcium. In general, food that is nutrient rich, especially in protein and calcium, should start being fed to a mother-to-be approximately 40 days after she becomes pregnant, and should remain on this diet until she has finished lactating and her puppies are put onto dog food. It's important to increase her food intake to meet both her energy and nutritional needs, which can be done little-by-little over the weeks until it eventually reaches approximately an extra 1/3rd of what she is normally fed. The way that you feed her also needs to change. Regardless of how you normally feed her, when you start to put her on her 'puppy diet' you must start to give her controlled proportions. Many pregnant dogs who are allowed to eat whenever they want end up over-eating during their pregnancy, making them obese and possibly even harming her developing pups, whereas controlling her proportions can prevent this. However, as the mother starts to become heavily pregnant, it is important that you switch this around, and instead of controlling when you feed her letting her feed herself. The reason for this is that, due to the puppies inside her, she cannot eat in large quantities, but rather needs to eat small quantities often. This can be hard to control, and it is unlikely that she will become obese during this time, so it is often much better to simply keep food available and let her eat when she wants. One of the best foods to feed a mothering dog is Master's Eclipse Dog & Puppy. This food is not only excellent for pregnant and lactating dogs, but also is suitable for her pups, meaning you can feed them all the same meal and take confidence in knowing that all of their nutritional needs are met.
The final consideration you must give to feeding your dog is whether they have any medical conditions that may change their nutritional needs. Usually the foods that are appropriate for your dog will say somewhere on the packaging that they are suitable for such dogs. For example, if a dog is obese, it is often best for them if you look for a 'light' food, which will be designed to make the dog feel more full on less food, reducing their overall food intake. These foods usually say 'light' or 'low fat' or something similar on the packaging, or if you are not sure you can always ask the staff. Another example would be that if a vet diagnoses your dog with a digestive problem, it is often best to look for a food that says something similar to 'digestive care' on the packaging, or once again ask a staff member. These foods often contain higher amounts of fiber and ingredients such as beet that aids a dog's digestive system. Dogs with allergy problems are also similarly simple - every dog food must have it's ingredients stated on the back of the packaging, so you can always check, but dog foods often advertise when they are suitable for dogs with allergies, either by labeling themselves 'hypoallergenic', meaning that they are suitable for dogs with most allergies, or by directly advertising themselves as grain free, gluten free, e.c.t. If you are ever unsure where to find a specific food for your dog or whether the food you are using is suitable, it is always best to ask a vet or shop employee.
And with that we bring this article to a close. If any part of this article has raised any questions for you, please be sure to either contact us by clicking here, or visit one of our shops and ask a member of staff, where we will be more than happy to help you. If you wish to browse our full offerings of dog food, you can also click here to see what dry food we offer, click here for what wet food we offer, or click here for what frozen food we offer.
Hope to see you in-store again soon.
Henry Jackson, Head of IT at Pet Food Plus More.