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Feeding Fido: Choosing the Right Dog Food

Feeding Fido: Choosing the Right Dog Food

Critter Culture Staff



Not all dogs are the same, and not all dog foods are the same. What's good for one pup isn't necessarily ideal for another: many factors come into play.

Choosing the right type of dog food can be a bit confusing. Yet taking the time and effort to figure out your pup's specific needs will set you on the right track. Learning the tricks of the trade will afford your pooch a happy and healthy life.


Always consult your vet

Close up of a young family taking their dog to the veterinarian Marko Geber / Getty Images

The best place to begin is at your vet's office. From your furry friend's first appointment and beyond, it's important to discuss nutrition at every visit. Your vet can lead you on the path to great decision-making. Whether you want to try a popular brand or need a prescription product, they can help. Even if you're an experienced owner who perhaps wants to try a raw or fresh diet, your vet can offer sound advice.


Feeding puppies versus dogs

abrador retriever puppy dog eating his food from green plastic bowl on a floor OlyaSolodenko / Getty Images

There's a huge difference between feeding a puppy and a full-grown canine. Puppies and younger dogs require additional nutrition for proper development and growth.

Many dog food companies make specific food formulated for a puppy's needs. Pay attention to the nutritional information, then gently transition to other food depending on the pet's particular stage of life. Carefully follow the instructions for ideal portion control, too. Often puppies are fed smaller meals and need to eat more frequently throughout the day.


Know your breed

Woman feeding her pet dog Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

Not all canines require the same nutrition and diet plans. Your dog's breed should be an important part of food selection.

Food should have a balance of digestible proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and fiber. But this is where the similarities end. All breeds have certain medical conditions and diseases they're predisposed to developing. To reduce these risks, tailored nutrition is critical. It's worth the financial investment to buy a quality product that's more likely to keep your dog healthy.


Size, health, and activity level

dog waiting a food and hand of woman holding a bowl with food PavelRodimov / Getty Images

If your dog is overweight or has a lackluster activity level, low-fat food is crucial; large dogs tend to require such a diet. For smaller dogs with a high energy level and elevated metabolism, an increased protein and caloric content works well to avoid malnutrition.

Food sensitivities, obesity, allergies, orthopedic diseases, dental complications, eye degeneration, and bloat aren't entirely uncommon in canines. Proper nutrition will reduce the likelihood of these problems, along with a healthy lifestyle and well-regulated exercise.


Do your homework

woman working on laptop at home while dog sits on her lap Eva Blanco / Getty Images

Know what's out there. Do your research. Read impartial reviews and learn from the experiences of others. When it comes to your pooch, it's definitely worth the time and effort. The information is out there, so take advantage of it: the internet, vet clinics, animal hospitals, pet rescues, clubs, organizations, and legitimate breeders are all invaluable resources.


Read the labels

Dark-haired girl choosing nutriments for her pet in a pet store Zinkevych / Getty Images

Get a feel for the ingredients before you decide to try or commit to a brand of dog food. You should select brands that don't list oils or fats as the first few ingredients: focus on whole foods, meats, and omega-3 fatty acids. See the primary sources for carbohydrates and proteins. Keep an eye on the water content. Stay away from high grains and fillers such as soy or wheat. Go for something that has been rigorously tested in clinical trials.


Don't fall for advertising trends

couple reading labels on a pet food in the pet shop yacobchuk / Getty Images

Advertising is designed to make a product look good. For dog food, phrases like "all-natural ingredients" and "human-grade" get tossed around frequently. These buzzwords aren't anything but hype, and they mean absolutely nothing. They're unregulated phrases that are purely marketing tactics.

Products will often use outlandish or deceptive words to cover up a lack of quality. "Dinner," for example, sounds like an all-encompassing source of nutrition. However, it's mainly used to describe unhealthy filler. This is why reading labels is so important when compared to the lure of promotional packaging claims.


Trying wet and dry

Different pet food in feeding bowls on floor indoors Liudmila Chernetska / Getty Images

A raw diet is okay for certain breeds if you're a knowledgeable pet owner with experience. But if you're like most dog owners, you prefer to purchase a commercial product. Wet and dry foods are your two main options.

Wet food has a much higher water content, which detracts from nutrition. However, it's also made of fresher ingredients and comes in a variety of textures and flavors. Dry food stores better lasts longer and is less expensive. Experiment with both types to see what works best, or use a combination of both.


Take advantage of samples

Dog tasting pet food at pet shop Capuski / Getty Images

A good route to take is product sampling. Your vet may be able to provide you with free trials, and some companies are willing to send out sample packages. Many also offer a satisfaction-guaranteed refund.

When your dog is trying new foods, look for symptoms of allergies or intolerance, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive licking. Find a suitable and healthy option that your pooch enjoys. Take your time and never settle for the first product you try.


Change it up

dog eating from his bowl Carol Yepes / Getty Images

Your work isn't done once you find the perfect food. Many experts recommend switching a canine's diet every 3-6 months. This reduces blandness and boredom while also keeping up with ever-changing health needs.

Gradually mix the new food in with the old over the course of a week or two. Look for signs of allergies or gastrointestinal issues. If you notice any adverse effects, immediately stop using the new brand.


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