By choosing the right food, you can support the growth, health and condition of your pet friend and thus prepare him for the essential conditions for a happy and long life. At present, there is an incredibly wide selection of feeds of various compositions and consistencies on the market. They are designed for dogs of different breeds, sizes, ages and also vary in price.
You can feed the dog a home-made mixture of meat, cooked rice and vegetables. However, you will never be sure that such a diet will 100% cover the animal’s nutritional needs. Industrially produced feeds, on the other hand, contain a balanced ratio of proteins, fats, vitamins, fatty acids and other substances balanced to meet all the needs of the dog’s body and it is not necessary to feed the animal. Such feeds are called complete or even complex.
What to focus on
The basic parameter is the balance and completeness of the feed, which must contain all the nutrients in the right proportions. However, this “right ratio” is different for each life stage of the dog, size and breed. It is also necessary to take into account the individual health condition and possible restrictions caused by, for example, allergies, overweight, etc. For example, the organism of pregnant and lactating bitches and the like have specific needs. So it is clear that we cannot feed a single dog one type of food all our lives. The choice of food, its availability, so that we can buy it at any time and, last but not least, whether the dog will like it also plays a role in the selection.
In addition to complete feedingstuffs, there is also a whole range of supplementary feeds on the market, which are always rich only in certain substances and are intended to compensate for the current increased demands of the animal. At the same time, the animal must be fed a complete diet. Complementary feeds are in the form of granules, mussels, candies, salami, etc.
Distribution of feed
Feeds according to the age and activity of the dog
- Milk for dogs can be given from the first day of life as a substitute for breast milk to raise puppies without bitches. They are sold in dried form and are prepared by mixing milk powder in water.
- The porridge for puppies is a supplementary food for three-week-olds and older puppies, who need the food, taking into account the individual situation.
- Feeding for puppies after weaning – for these feeds always consider whether they are intended for puppies of small, medium or large breeds.
- Food for adult dogs without specific needs.
- Feed with increased energy content is intended for active dogs living outside all year round, for dogs of working breeds with regular daily activity, etc.
- Energy-reduced feeds, on the other hand, are intended for low-activity domestic companion dogs and animals with overweight problems.
- Feeds for senior dogs compensate for the usual problems associated with aging – loss of calcium, collagen and the tendency to obesity due to lower activity.
- Hypoallergenic foods are most often simple without allergens – allergy sufferers are also common among dogs.
- There are also vegetable feeds (vegetarian and vegan) and organic feeds made from 95% of organic products on the market. Unlike food, however, it must not be marked with a typical green logo.
Feeds according to race size
Follow how many kilograms your dog should reach in adulthood.
- very small breeds – up to 4 kg weight
- small breeds – 4 to 10 kg
- medium breeds – 11 to 25 kg
- large breeds – 26 to 45 kg
- giant breeds – more than 46 kg
The feeds differ both in the size of the granules (in the case of dry feeds) and in the composition. Small breeds have a more energy-intensive metabolism and need to take in more quality protein and nutrients per 1 kg of weight than large dogs. They have relatively more ballast substances and ashes in their feed compared to small breeds.
Feed by type
Feed also differs in consistency, which is determined by the total water content. The dry granules contain only 10% water. Properly stored, they have a long shelf life. They are the most cost-effective.
Cans, pâtés and pouches are also durable, but only until the first opening, then it is necessary to keep unused contents in the cold and ideally feed until the next day. The content is soft, unlike granules it smells and the humidity is 60 to 80%. On average, they are more expensive than granules per feed ration.
You will also encounter semi-dry feeds, in which the water content is 14 to 60%. These must be stored in the prescribed manner (in the cold and for a limited time) and can be chemically preserved.
Dry food or cans?
The granules are well stored and transported because they weigh less per ration. Their disadvantage may be that some dogs do not like them because they do not smell and in addition it is necessary to provide the dog with sufficient water to dry food, which can be a problem, for example, when traveling.
Canned food (pockets, trays) is usually tasty for dogs, the quality ones contain pieces of meat and smell attractive. The disadvantage is the higher weight of the package in terms of feed ration and also the fact that the contents must be consumed as soon as possible after opening. It is therefore not possible to buy cost-effective large packages for small dogs.
Dogs do not tolerate frequent food changes of various consistencies. Their digestive system adapts to a certain type of diet and after the change, digestive problems, such as diarrhea, usually occur. The dog will adapt to a different diet over time and digestion will adjust, but the change should not take place often.
Some producers offer cold-pressed granules with a high proportion of meat and almost zero cereals. Their disadvantage is the short shelf life (3-6 months).
Recently, the nutritional trend of BARF (Biologically appropriate Raw Foods) has also been promoted, the philosophy of which is a diet close to the wolf’s natural food, ie. high proportion of meat and vitamins, especially from the raw diet or digested stomach contents of herbivores. To meet the specific needs of the dog, which are different at different times in life, it is advisable to add supplements to the diet, which supply vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, collagen, etc.
Animal or vegetable proteins?
Some breeders look with contempt at feeds that contain proteins of plant origin. But there is no a priori reason for this. If the granules are produced at high temperatures and pressure, the hard-to-digest plant proteins are converted (split) and become usable for the dog. What matters is what amino acids they contain, rather than what they are of origin. Therefore, feeds containing vegetables, cereals and soy do not have to be automatically bad.
Food for dogs with specific health problems
Dogs may suffer from food allergies. This is usually manifested by digestive problems, skin problems, increased hair loss and the like. It is sometimes time to find out which ingredient in a dog’s diet is irritating. Therefore, complete hypoallergenic feeds made from generally well-tolerated ingredients are intended for sensitive individuals.
A veterinarian can recommend a diet with a special composition, so it is possible to successfully support the treatment of some clinical diseases, in diseases of the digestive system, diet is even necessary. Normally, you will get foods with a reduced phosphorus content for a kidney diet or foods with a different special composition, but their use should be approved by a veterinarian.
Dogs with a tendency to be overweight, which also include dogs after castration and already obese animals, are fed foods with reduced fat content.
Also pay special attention to the nutrition of pregnant and lactating bitches. In the last third of pregnancy, the requirements for energy yield increase up to threefold and a breastfeeding bitch needs up to eight times the energy compared to a bitch who does not have puppies.
It is a well-known fact and feed manufacturers are working with this fact that some dog breeds have a genetic predisposition to diseases that can be properly modified by diet.
Cheap, premium and super premium feeds
Manufacturers further divide feed into three categories according to the raw materials used and the recipe.
Supplements of the highest quality are referred to as super premium, the packaging states the specific composition, the basic raw material is meat of the specified type. In terms of kilograms, they are the most expensive, expect a price higher than € 40 for 15 kg of feed.
Medium quality is marked with the term premium, on the packaging you can read the percentage of raw materials used, these feeds guarantee the content of individual substances, but proteins can be of various origins. The price of premium feeds ranges from € 12 to € 40 per 15 kg package.
As a standard or economy (cheap), the basic range of feeds is usually described, which meets the requirements for a low price of the product while maintaining the nutritional value. The price starts at 10 euros for a 15 kg package.
Advice at the end
There is so much food on the market that a healthy dog always has a choice of several species of approximately the same nutritional value. Before you buy supplies of one kind, you can buy sample packages and try what the dog will like. You will immediately know that you have chosen well: the dog should not have any digestive problems, the stool should be firm and regular, it should not have constipation. If prolonged indigestion occurs, it may be an allergy to any component of the feed and a change would be necessary.
If for some reason you need to change the feed, it must be done gradually over several days. The existing feed must be mixed with the new one so that at the beginning the original feed predominates in the batch and gradually the content of the new feed gradually increases. This will prevent digestive problems that can occur during a sudden change.
In case of any difficulties, consult a veterinarian.
What should a dog not eat under any circumstances?
Although human and dog diets have a lot in common, there are foods commonly consumed by people that are dangerous to the dog. These mainly include cocoa, chocolate and all their products. The alkaloid theobromine is toxic for dogs, even in a surprisingly small amount. Cardiac arrhythmia, chills, nausea, or extreme collapse may occur. Chocolate candies for dogs do not contain this alkaloid, but it is necessary to verify that it is really a treasure for dogs.
Furthermore, dogs do not tolerate grapes and raisins. So far, it is not exactly explained why. After ingestion, dogs vomit, collapse, and fatal kidney failure can occur. First aid is always the induction of vomiting and then the dog should be examined by a veterinarian.