There are a couple of age old mantras such as “you are what you eat” and “food is medicine”, both used to deliver the message that our nutrition and our diet, has a major impact on our health. It’s the same story for our pets.
Choosing the right diet is very important for our dog’s health and wellbeing, but choosing a diet can also be very confusing! According to the European Pet Food Industry Federation, there are 132 European pet food companies, who together produce hundreds and hundreds of different diets! So, with a huge range of choice, where do we start and how do we make the best choice for our pets?
HOW OLD IS YOUR DOG?
Just as human infants and toddlers have different needs to teenagers and OAPS, at different stages of their lives, a dog has different dietary needs. A young puppy, for example, needs lots of energy, protein and calcium for growth of muscle, tissue and bone. An older dog, perhaps starting to slow down, needs rather fewer calories.
WHAT BREED IS YOUR DOG?
Differences in the size and shape of the jaw may mean that different sizes or shapes of kibble are easier for them to chew. This is particularly true of smaller short-nosed dogs like Pugs, who can really struggle with some sizes of kibbles. Meanwhile, most Collies are the “always on the go” endurance athletes, while many smaller and toy breeds (such as Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas) tend to live a more sedentary lifestyle – and this dramatically impacts their calorie requirements.
HOW BIG IS YOUR DOG?
The (adult!) body size of your dog can affect their growth rate, and so their dietary needs, when they are younger. But alongside this, several scientific studies have found evidence which suggests that food moves relatively more quickly through a smaller sized dog, than through a large sized dog, meaning more frequent meals may be needed, or a diet with a different fibre content.
WHAT KIND OF LIFESTYLE DOES YOUR DOG HAVE?
Top performing human athletes require very different diets from your normal office worker – in the dog world a good equivalent example would be the Labrador Retriever. A working Labrador will have different needs to a couch cuddling Lab. Remember, too, that where they live is important – a dog who lives in a kennel probably needs more calories than one who sleeps indoors by the fire, for example.
DOES YOUR DOG HAVE ANY DIETARY SENSITIVITIES?
Some dogs sadly suffer from allergies and intolerances to certain components of a diet, and this can be a common cause of itchy skin or upset tummies. Understanding your dog’s specific needs, things to avoid, and even methods by which diets are made, all helps to select the right diet.
DOES YOUR DOG HAVE ANY MEDICAL NEEDS?
Some diets are “prescription diets” which have scientific proof demonstrating that they help to control or prevent health issues, such as bladder stones, kidney problems, or liver issues. Other diets are formulated to include nutrients which may help manage things like arthritis.
IS THE DIET YOU’RE CONSIDERING LABELLED A COMPLETE DIET OR A COMPLEMENTARY DIET?
These two terms sound very similar but what you may not know is that there is a very important difference. The term “complete diet” is a legally protected term in the EU, and using it means that by law, that diet must contain the required energy and nutrients (vitamins, minerals etc.) in the correct proportions. A complementary diet doesn’t have to meet these requirements.
Feeding a complete diet is essential to provide everything your animal needs. When a diet provides too much of something, it can lead to toxicities – for example, dogs fed too much Vitamin D can ultimately suffer from kidney failure. This is one reason it’s important not to feed too much offal in a raw diet.
ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS FOR SAFE HANDLING AND STORAGE OF THE DIET FOR YOUR DOG’S HEALTH AND YOUR OWN?
Some diets, especially raw ones, may require special storage – for example, to be frozen or refrigerated and consumed within a specific time period. Feeding these diets may also mean accepting an increased risk of encountering some bacteria which can be harmful to humans such as E.coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella . The best way to minimise this risk is to change your usual hygiene practices when preparing a pets meal, and when cleaning up faeces, to minimise the exposure of you or your family to the bacteria.
Every dog is an individual with their own specific needs, and no-one knows those needs better than you and your vet do. So, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by choice, or just looking for the best diet for your pet, talk to a member of our team today.
We can book an appointment with a member of our team and start a unique individual nutritional assessment for your pet and then discuss a refined range of diet options we’d recommend to start with.