The Ultimate Guide To Getting Your Dog’s Diet Right

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We all know about the importance of a good diet. We have to carefully manage our own diets, after all. The wrong diet can cause nutrient deficiencies, becoming overweight, underweight, tiredness, and more. Our lives, health, and happiness all rely on our diets and how well we manage our eating habits.

dog food

This applies not only to us, though, but to our furry friends too. Their diets are just as important as ours, and how your dogs eat will have an impact on their health. Our dogs do not feed themselves though, we do, and this is why we need to ensure that we are properly educated on their needs and requirements in their diet so that they can live the healthiest lives.

dog sitting on a chair

What Do Dogs Eat?

There are varying diets for dogs, and it can be rather difficult to determine which diet is best for your dog. There are factors you can consider when looking into what your dog can and should eat, though, so let’s take a look at these things.

All Dogs Have Different Preferences

All dogs are individuals, and food that may be fine for someone else’s dog may not be for yours. If you are worried about your dog’s diet, you should contact your vet and ask them if you have any questions about the specific food types your dog should be eating. Dogs can also have intolerances and allergies too, so this is something to be mindful of.

Dogs are Mostly Carnivores

Domesticated dogs are mostly carnivores, but they do eat some omnivorous foods. You should ensure that your dogs’ food is complete and balanced for their stage of life, and that it is appropriate in the case that they have any medical issues that may need special care.

Dogs can eat vegetables and carbohydrates, some are better for dogs than others. Some omnivorous foods can offer an increase in nutrients that your dogs need and may not otherwise get enough of. Ensure that whatever you feed your dog, you feed them the appropriate amount. For example, if you were to give your dog a vegetable as a treat, only give them a small portion on a rare occasion.

Exercise Excellent Food Hygiene

As is for humans, you should always be careful with food hygiene, whatever you feed your dog you need to ensure that you prepare it properly. Canned and packaged foods are not such a worry, however, if you prepare food for them yourself, you should be as cautious as if you were preparing it for yourself.

Feel Free to Choose Human Grade Meat

You can only feed your dog a pure kibble diet, or you could mix it up with additions of some cooked or raw meat, fish, vegetables, or rice. A lot of owners enjoy feeding a raw meat diet to their dogs, and while this can suit some dogs very well. There are many considerations you need to be wary of.

If you do this, choose human-grade meat, as some pet and bone products can contain preservatives that are not good for your dogs’ health. A small amount of cooked meat is often a good option for dogs, however, avoid cooked bones and toxic substances such as onion sauces that may be present.

dog sitting on the floor

What Should I Feed My Dog?

There are many things you can feed your dog. However, there are even more things you need to be aware and cautious of before you choose the perfect meal plan for Fido. It is not the same for all dogs, as they are individuals, so here are some tips to help you know what you need to consider before you start buying specific foods for your dog.

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More Commercially Available Foods

While trying out a homemade diet can be ideal and suitable for some, it is not always the walk in the park you hoped it would be. So, you should always have some commercial dog food available rather than making your own at home. You can always do both of these things to try and make it a bit easier. Yet, if you do decide to go down the route of making your own food for them, having commercially available foods there just in case can be a lifesaver sometimes.

It can also be ideal to mix it up between homemade and commercially available foods. You can get commercially available foods at pet stores, the vets, and other stores.

Foods Labeled as ‘Complete’

If you are buying commercially available foods, you should always look for food that is labelled as ‘complete’ as this means that it contains all the nutrients that your dog needs in the right amounts. While it is very possible that these foods may be more expensive than others, giving your dog the right nutrients through a pricier food will be a lot cheaper than if your dog doesn’t get the adequate nutrients and ends up needing a trip to the vet.

Whatever you are feeding your dog needs to be ‘complete’, this also means that if you make your own food at home for your dog, you need to ensure that it is nutritionally balanced enough to support your dog’s needs.

Food According to the Dogs’ Life Stage

Not only are all dogs different, but all dogs are also different at different stages of life. A Labrador pup will need a totally different diet to a Labrador in old age. Different stages of life in dogs require different nutrients in different amounts. You can often find food that is specified for different ages of dogs.

Some food brands will also have a line of food that is separated into; puppy, adult, and senior age groups. If you are feeding your dog from your own recipes, making it yourself, then you need to ensure that you do plenty of research and speak to your vet about their nutritional needs and what you need to ensure you include for their age group’s requirements.

Dogs at different ages will need different things, younger dogs may not need so many nutrients that older dogs do require. As we age our bodies need certain things more, we need food that will grant us energy more, as well as foods that will aid in medical ailments, bone strength, and healthy skin… or for dogs, fur.

Look for Products that are Part of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association

If you are looking for good commercial dog food to feed your dog, you should ensure that the food you buy is from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA). Food manufacturers who are members of this particular organization will meet extra quality standards than the legal minimum. Anything less than this is not ideal. Yet, most foods you can get from your vet or your local pet store should be from the PFMA, yet it is still best to check to ensure that the food is of the best quality it can be. Lower quality food could upset your dog’s stomach, or not contain the nutrition that they need.

As we previously mentioned, it is possible that these foods will cost more, however, when it comes to your dogs’ health, it is better to pay out to get the good stuff and avoid any problems that could occur as a result of not having them.

Focus on Nutrients Instead of Just Ingredients

Do you notice how we have spoken about nutrients more than ingredients? We have not done this by accident, nutrients are very important, and while ingredients are important, it is what these ingredients contain that is very important. Ingredient lists can be baffling, you should be assured that all ingredients need to legally pass a vet inspection, so it doesn’t really matter what you choose, as long as your dog is happy that is what matters.

Yet, nutrients are very important, and if your dog needs more of a particular nutrient, then it is important you ensure you feed them the right things so they get it.

dog eating

The Amount of Food Dogs Need

Aside from thinking about what your dog should eat and what dogs do eat, we have to also contemplate how much a dog should be eating as well. As you can imagine, this again varies depending on the dog.

Depends on Size, Age, and Breed of Dog

What you feed your dog is important, but not nearly as important as how much you feed your dog. You can get all the nutrients right and if you over or underfeed your dog, there will be problems. Feeding the right amount will prevent obesity or being underweight.

Sadly, just like no two dogs are the same and so how much you feed them depends on their size, age, and breed. For example, a working sheepdog needs a lot more food/ energy, than a small dog that stays indoors most of the time. Food is not only for nutrition but energy, and so active dogs will need more energy than inactive dogs.

It is Important not to Overfeed your Dog

Using commercial food, you can use the packets as a guideline to know how much you should be feeding them. You need to feed your dog for their target weight, which may not be their current weight, just like us. It is therefore ideal to weigh your dogs’ food every day to ensure they are getting the right amount and ensure they’re not getting extra good from different members of your household.

If you are unsure of how much food your dog needs, speak to a vet, and they will be able to give you the information on how much food your dog actually needs to reach their ideal weight.

A vet can also help you come up with a feeding plan, an exercise plan, and they will help you figure out if your dog is under or overweight and if they need to lose or gain any weight.

Vets will typically recommend feeding an adult dog twice a day and split their food into two equally sized portions, as it helps your dog feel less hungry between meals, as dogs really should not go any more than 12 hours without food.

dog eating dog food

Different Age Dogs Require Different Amounts

Not only do different breeds and sizes of dogs need different amounts of food, but their age will be a defining factor in how much food they need.

8-16 weeks old

At this age, many pups will enter their new home, and it is important that you do not make any major dietary changes at this stage, as you can cause an upset stomach by doing this. You should continue feeding as the breeder fed, and if you wish to get them on a new diet, you should slowly introduce it in incremental stages over a few weeks.

The best food to feed them is a high-quality commercial kibble that is designed for puppies, as it ensures that all the nutrients your pup needs for growth and development are present in the food. You can also add cooked meats and vegetables or rice if you wish to. However, the main need should be commercial kibble.

Do not feed a pup raw meats yet, as they do not have the immune system developed to cope with this yet.

16+ weeks old

At this stage, you can feel free to introduce some meaty bones bit by bit. Around this time, permanent teeth are starting to erupt and so this will encourage them to actively chew on things. Giving them a bone to chew on will prevent them from chewing your couch and shoes into oblivion. One bone a week for a pup is enough.

Introducing new food to your pup at this stage requires a keen eye on the lookout for any signs of illness or distress. Dogs too can have allergies and intolerances. You should keep note of anything that is no good for your dog. If your pup has a reaction or illness occurs after they eat something, in particular, keep note of it and create a no-feed list for the future.

Adult Dogs

Adult dogs are beyond the stage where you are figuring everything out. They should be fed once or twice a day (twice a day is better). You should use high-quality commercial dog food and make sure it is appropriate for their life stage and their health condition.

Small or medium breed dogs are typically seen as being adults from a year old, but larger breeds are seen as being adults at 18 to 24 months. You should check with your vet to ensure that your change from puppy food to adult dog food is smooth.

There is no difference between puppy and adult in the need for a complete and balanced diet. You can add meat, be it cooked or raw, as well as vegetables or fish for a wide variety. You can also include large, raw, and meaty bones, but be cautious of overfeeding.

Senior Dogs

As dogs age, you need to keep tabs on their overall health conditions. A great deal of over dogs will have chronic health issues that can be affected or improved by the diet you feed them. For some senior dogs, you may find that frequent small meals will keep them satisfied and happy.

For others, you should keep things the same as before, some senior dogs may also need more fiber, more protein, or other particular nutrients to ensure their bodies are best looked after.

Talk to your vet about the specific needs of your dog, as every dog is different, in age they may have more specific needs. Remember that older dogs may also need other medicines mixed in with their foods, so you should check if the food is compatible with any medicine they need to take as well.

dog food

Special Dog Food

As well as the traditional commercial food products, there are other food types as well. Some dogs will have specific needs that traditional commercial foods do not meet. This means that dog food can come in many shapes and sizes for many types of dogs.

For example, there are multiple types of food out there for dogs who suffer from kidney disease, this is a type of food you might find yourself buying if your dog is older. These dog foods are best for if your dog is getting over an infection, if they are getting older and worn down, or if you need to change your dog’s diet in order to protect their kidney health.

There are also dog treats for diabetic dogs as well. One of the best brands of this seems to be PureBites, which have the best overall review of their dog treats for dogs with diabetes. These treats won’t just be a great treat for your dog, they will also give your dog all the nutrition they need while keeping their diabetes symptoms at bay.

You can also get dog food for shedding, as a sort of home remedy in a way. There is much dog food that will help to shop, shedding being so madness-inducing, and improve your dog’s coat health, which is even more important.

If your dog has joint pain/ problems, you can also get dog food with glucosamine. Dogs do often suffer from joint pain, however food with glucosamine can help with this. This is something that senior dogs may need, as it is often senior dogs who suffer from this the most. Large dog breeds such as the Great Dane are more likely to suffer due to their larger size. Glucosamine is a combo of amino acids and sugar and is naturally produced in large dogs like the Great Dane, however, this slows with age, so your older big dog may need a helping hand.

And do not forget, you can also get dog food for weight gain as well. This means helping underweight dogs gain weight. Underweight dogs will have weak immunity, a hormonal imbalance, and a shortened lifespan. It is not something that should be taken lightly, and you can remedy the situation with some tasty food for weight gain. There is just as much food to help your dog gain weight as there is to help obese dogs lose weight. Getting the right food is a large part of what will help your dog change their situation and start gaining weight and getting healthier. This food will usually have a high-protein content and a healthy fat content, but always check if the food is ideal, or ask your vet, before you buy.

beagle sitting down

Food to avoid for dogs

While there is much to be said about all the things that dogs can eat, there is plenty else to be said about what dogs can’t eat. We often know the most common foods that dogs cannot eat, but there are many more foods we are unaware of.

This is an especially important thing to know if your dog often goes around munching on anything they find on the floor. Do not let your dog eat anything that contains any of these foods.

Chocolate

The most well known of the bunch is chocolate, everyone knows that chocolate is toxic for dogs, meaning it can never be fed to your dogs. Chocolate is enticing for us, and for dogs too, it is poisonous for dogs, however. It contains a stimulant called theobromine, of which is at its highest content in dark chocolate, which is highly toxic to dogs and can even go so far as to cause kidney failure.

So while your dog might love it, want to lick your chocolate bar and try to steal it from you, never let them have any, it is very dangerous, and stopping Fido from sneaking any can save you from an expensive vet bill, or even from losing your furry best friend.

Onions

While you might love them in your stir-fry, or adore them as a burger topping, dogs cannot consume anything from the onion family. This includes onions, garlic, and chives. This applies whether they are dry, raw, or cooked. These are all particularly toxic to dogs, and they can cause gastrointestinal irritation and red blood cell damage.

What is worse is that the signs of illness as a result of consuming something from the onion family are not always immediate and can take a few days to occur.

Anything from the onion family should never be seen in your dog’s diet, avoid it stringently. Most dog owners may not be aware how dangerous onion is to dogs, causing oxidative damage to red blood cells causing them to rupture, thus leading to anemia.

Citrus

Another thing that dogs cannot consume is citrus. We all know that cats hate citrus, but of course, this has nothing to do with any illness that it could cause. But in cats it is different. The citric acid found in fruits such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, and orange too, can easily cause diarrhea, vomiting, and even at the very worst possibility, the depression of the central nervous system.

All citrus fruits contain a chemical compound that is toxic to dogs. This includes juices, such as lemon juice, as it is just as acidic as the fruit itself, not to mention the high sugar content.

Milk

We know that humans can often be lactose intolerant, where we cannot digest milk and milk products easily. Would you be surprised to learn that dogs can also be lactose intolerant too? Some dogs can actually be lactose intolerant, which, just like with us, can result in stomach upsets, such as vomiting and diarrhea. So, if your dog has a strong reaction to any milk products, it is probably a hint that they are lactose intolerant, and you should avoid getting them to consume any more milk based products. This means, milk, cheese, cream and so on.

Although your dog may like it or want to consume it, do not let them have it if they have a strong reaction to it. This means also keeping an eye on any foods that contain milk or lactose.

Fatty foods

It might seem a little like stating the obvious, but dogs eating fatty foods should not be a regular occurrence, even rarely it can be problematic. If you want to maintain a healthy weight for your dog, then sweet and fatty foods should be off the table and avoided strongly. Fatty foods can also lead to illnesses in dogs, such as pancreatitis.

Just because you like it and can eat it does not mean that your pup can, or should. We may not mind eating McDonald’s once a week, but it could make Fido really sick if he has one too many chicken nuggets.

Salty foods

While salty foods are also good for your dog in some ways, being an essential component to your dog’s diet, thus helping the nerve and muscle function, like many things, it is good, in moderation.

Also, some dogs with chronic diseases, such as kidney, heart, or even liver problems need to be cautious of their salt consumption. You should also always seek out advice from the vet on your pet’s diet. However, this is ever more important if your dog has health problems. Some foods can be very salty, and the last thing  you want is for a food to be a bit too salty and end up causing extra problems for your dog, who may already not be doing so well.

Raw yeast dough

Dogs can consume small bits of bread from time to time, however, any raw dough is a massive no-go. As yeast rises it can cause gas inside the dog’s digestive system, which can be painful, and can even rupture their stomach, causing gastric dilatation and volvulus.

The consumption of raw dough is risky anyway, but for dogs it can be even riskier still. Dough should always be cooked into bread before consumed.

Baked bread is safe in small portions, however, raw yeast dough is not so much. This is simply down to the yeast, bread without yeast is not so much of an issue, as the yeast can be an unexpected poisoning hazard for dogs, in fact if you were to eat it yourself, you would probably feel some discomfort too.

Risks of raw chicken and other raw stuff

While dogs can’t eat raw dough, there could be another reason. If the bread contains raw eggs, it could be an issue there too. This is because dogs should not eat raw meat, especially things like chicken, which can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, E.Coli, and so on. Red meats tend to be safer, such as beef and lamb. However, white meats are more likely to contain bad bacteria, and need to be cooked to a safe temperature to kill off these bacteria.

By feeding uncooked meats to your dog, there is a higher chance they can develop a foodborne illness or a bacterial infection.

dog food on the bowl

Summary

Your dog’s diet is imperative to their overall health. Exercise, water, and a cozy bed can only do so much. Food is where they get their nutrition, their energy, and any other sustenance they need. Dogs need to have good food and a good amount of food to be healthy. The ideal food, and the ideal amount will vary depending on the unique dog, their breed, age, and size.

If you are unsure of what your dog should be eating, the best way to find out is to simply ask the vet. If your dog has health issues, you may find that there is an ideal food to help their health issues.

Be wary of the foods that your dog should avoid, for a sensitive tummy, even just the littlest bit can cause issues. Be as tentative to your dog’s diet as you are to your own, or even more so. Our dog’s tummies can be extremely sensitive, we need to take care of them as much as we can.

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