11 Jun What should I feed my dog?
There was once a time when feeding your dog was as simple as grabbing a handful of dried dog food and adding a few table scraps. These days dog owners have a plethora of choices so it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you should feed your dog. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the main things you need to consider when it comes to your dog’s nutrition.
Before making any major changes to your dog’s diet always consult your vet, especially if they have health issues.
What should I feed my dog?
Traditionally there are two main types of dog foods – dry foods and wet foods.
Dry foods are usually a ‘complete’ food meaning it contains all the nutrients your dog needs without needing anything to be added to it. It is entirely acceptable to feed your dog a diet that consists only of dry food. It is generally a cheaper option than wet food, but many dogs tend to find it less appealing than wet food.
Wet foods can come in cans, pouches, or trays, and also usually contain the nutrients your dog needs in one food. They have the benefit of having a high water content, which is great for dogs who don’t drink enough (though you should always have fresh water out all day). They are also a good option for older dogs who have trouble chewing dry food and dogs on weight management programs. Wet food is usually the more expensive option, and if you opt for fresh wet food (rather than canned or ‘long life’ food) you will need to be able to store it in a fridge or freezer.
Mixing wet and dry food
It’s not uncommon for dog owners to mix wet and dry foods to get the best of both worlds. If you plan on doing this, be sure to choose wet and dry food from the same brand where possible and mix the two together in your dog’s bowl.
Alternatively, you can feed one type of food for your dog’s morning meal and the other type for their evening meal. Whatever you decide, make sure you portion the food appropriately, accounting for your dog’s age, weight, and activity levels.
At some points in your dog’s life you may need to feed them more tailored dog food. These include:
- Puppy food, with high calories to help them grow in their first year
- Senior dog food, with low calories and high fibre to help manage their weight and digestion
- Working/active dog food, with high calories to help dogs who expend much more energy than the normal pet dog
- Weight management food, with low calories to help dogs get back to a healthy weight
- Breed/size specific food, catering to the needs of your dog’s breed
Choosing a tailored food should be done when appropriate, and on the advice of your vet. For most adult dogs, a standard dog food is perfectly acceptable.
Some dogs can have allergies, intolerances or digestive issues that mean they struggle with normal dog food. In these cases, your vet may recommend a specialist diet that your dog can eat without any problems. They may recommend a specific food by a specialist brand or give you instructions for making your own dog food.
Raw Food Diets
Raw food diets typically consist primarily of raw meat and other uncooked fruits and vegetables. Raw food diets for dogs have become popular in recent years on the premise that it reflects a more natural meal for your dog.
However, it’s not for every dog, so before making any decisions about changing your dog’s diet you should consult your vet. Introduce raw food diet slowly into their diet and stop if you start seeing any adverse effects.
If you do decide to make the change to a raw food diet, you need to practice impeccable hygiene to prevent bacteria and parasites affecting you or your dog and you need to ensure that your dog still gets a balanced diet. There are now many prepared raw food diets available that help to mitigate these risks.
What about scraps and leftovers?
Historically, table scraps used to make up a large proportion of a dog’s daily food. This is still a viable option if you want to use up leftovers provided you take a few things in account:
- Make sure you do not feed your dog anything that is toxic to them or could give them an upset tummy, such as very spicy or very sweet foods.
- Make sure you account for all your dog’s nutritional needs – it is usually best to feed leftovers as a supplement to normal dog food for this reason.
- Make sure your dog is not being overfed by portioning their food according to their age, weight, activity levels and breed.
How often should I feed my dog?
Most adult dogs should be fed twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. Your vet may recommend smaller, more frequent meals if your dog has digestive issues or other health problems that affect their appetite.
Puppies will need 3-4 small meals each day, reducing as they mature.
Female dogs that are pregnant or nursing a litter should be a high calorie puppy food in small and frequent meals. If she has a litter of more than 4 puppies, she may need constant access to food whilst she is still nursing them. Always consult your vet for advice on caring for your pregnant or nursing dog.
How much should I feed my dog?
The amount of feed your dog will vary depending on their size, activity levels, breed, age, weight, and the type of food you are feeding them on.
Almost all prepared dog foods will have serving size recommendations printed on them – for a healthy dog with normal activity levels this should be about right.
However, you may decide to increase or decrease the amount recommended if your dog is over or underweight, has certain health issues or has higher or lower than average activity levels. If you use a PitPat, you can check how many calories your pooch has burned and adjust their portion sizes as needed. As always, follow your vet’s advice on this.
Keeping track of weight and activity
Just like any animal, the amount of food your dog needs is directly related to their weight and the amount of activity they are doing.
If your dog is over or underweight, you’ll need to adjust their portion sizes and/or put them on a weight management diet. You’ll need to track their weight over time so that you can spot when they have reached a healthy weight and put them onto an appropriate diet.
Equally, if you are changing your dog’s food or diet, you will want to keep track of their weight to ensure they do not suddenly gain or lose weight as a result.
The easiest way to keep track of your dog’s weight is to use the free PitPat app. Just input your dog’s weight on a regular basis and you’ll be able to spot any trends. You can check your dog’s body condition score using our step-by-step guide in the app.
Dogs with particularly high or low activity levels may need their diets and/or portion sizes adjusted to take their activity into account. With a PitPat dog activity monitor you can get information about how many calories your dog has burned each day alongside their daily activity allowing you to make an informed decision about how much to feed them on a daily basis.
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