A well-balanced diet is the most important thing you can give your dog in terms of regular health care. But some people are confused about what a healthy balanced diet is for a dog, and whether natural dog food is a healthier way to go, rather than picking up a 40 lb bag of whatever is on sale at the supermarket.
When choosing a healthy food for your dog, keep the following in mind:
Dogs need meat. Dogs are carnivores by nature. Their digestive systems are designed to consume and digest raw foods. While not everyone chooses to feed their dog a raw food diet, meat should still be your pet’s primary source of protein. Grains are not an optimal source of protein for dogs; a diet heavy in grains and carbohydrates may cause allergies and weight gain.
Freshness counts. Just like with people food, dog food that has been heavily processed loses nutrients and therefore some of it’s health value. Try to look for dog foods that have been minimally processed; they will be healthier for your pet. Ideally, we would feed our dogs a raw food diet, either prepared at home or frozen (and thawed). Raw foods like freshly ground meat and bones are available from the market or a pet store. The next best thing would be freeze dried foods because the freeze drying process helps retain the food’s nutrients. Canned dog foods are more processed, but they tend to have minimal grains and more meat. Using canned dog food as a supplement to dried kibble is an option and it gives your dog more variety.
Dry dog food, also known as kibble, is the most popular kind of dog food, and it’s also the easiest and most inexpensive to feed. Some dried foods are pretty decent; others are heavily processed and low on the nutrition scale. Read the label carefully to make sure that meat and not grains are the primary source of protein. Human grade whole meat such a chicken, beef, or lamb (not meat byproducts or “meal”) is the best choice, and should be listed first on the ingredient label.
Size matters. Although more economical to purchase than a smaller bag, a giant bag of food may not be the best idea because the nutrients in it deteriorate over time once the bag is opened, and it gets stale. Would you want to eat stale cereal? It’s best to buy a smaller bag and keep the food in the original bag, tightly sealed to hold in freshness.
Fruits & Veggies – Adding vegetables and fruits to your dog’s diet can be beneficial. My dog loves tomatoes. We give her some chopped fresh tomato with her regular food every day. She also loves green peppers and apples. Don’t be afraid to give your dog fresh fruits and veggies; they add needed nutrients and antioxidants to your dog’s diet.
Variety is the spice of life – Yes, even for dogs. How would you like to eat the same food day in and day out? It’s pretty boring, and maybe not that nutritious, either. While in the past we’ve been told to feed our dogs the same thing or it will upset their digestion, it is okay to give your dog some variety, either by rotating different dog foods or by mixing different brands or flavors together.
Whatever diet you choose, you may want to give your dog a health food supplement, such as essential fatty acids for a shiny, soft coat, or a vitamin supplement to be sure he is getting all the nutrients he needs. Dog health foods and supplements are available at most good pet stores and pet websites.