What food is the best for your dog?
It’s an age-old debate that has been going on for decades as there are so many different options out there that it becomes hard to find which one is right for you and more importantly, your pet. If you walk into any pet shop, you’ll be greeted by a huge variety of different dog food brands and types, which can be overwhelming to pet owners. Vets are noting that pet obesity is on the rise, and according to animal charity, Pet Rescue, this is a concern not only for pet owners, but for the companies that create and supply pet foods:
“Pet food companies spend a large amount of money, time and research to develop high quality and nutritious food. A good brand will have all the specific nutrients that the dog needs to eat. However, there are many different reasons to feed other diets such as owner preference and medical.”
With this in mind, we have taken a look at the different food options available to help you make the right decision for your dog.
Dry dog food
It’s the most popular choice in the UK, with the majority of pet owners opting for dry food over any other type. Dry food is widely available from a huge range of popular brands and can be found in most pet stores and supermarkets.
Dry food can be used as training treats and is usually cheaper than other food types. Many dry foods come with dental benefits, as the dryness of the kibble may help to remove built up plaque and tartar from the teeth and massage the gums. Another reason we may love dry food so much is because it’s simple to store. It doesn’t spoil over long periods of time, so it can be left in the bag it comes in or a container without us needing to worry about it going off.
Dry foods don’t come with any moisture content, so if your dog isn’t drinking as much water as they should be, this could be an issue. Make sure your pet always has fresh, clean water available to reduce the chances of dehydration. The text on the packaging can sometimes be misleading and confusing to the consumer, making choosing the right one even more difficult. Plus, dry food contains more carbohydrates such as rice and grain which can lead to bloating in certain breeds as it can take longer for the dog to digest their meal.
Wet dog food
Closely following on from dry dog food, wet food found in tins, pouches and rolls is also hugely popular. This is still easy to find in pet stores and supermarkets, with plenty of brands to choose from.
Wet dog food is ideal for older dogs with dental or jaw problems as it’s easier to chew compared to dry food. Wet food also usually comes with more protein than dry, which is an essential nutrient for healthy dogs. Another reason that many owners choose wet over dry is that it is more palatable to their dogs’ taste. It comes with a smell to entice your pup, a more natural flavour and a higher moisture content to make it an enjoyable meal. Canned food can be better suited to picky eaters too, as the smell and texture is more pleasurable, mainly thanks to the higher meaty protein content that your dog will love.
The soft texture of wet food doesn’t give your dog the opportunity to do all the crunching needed for dry food, which can help to remove built up bacteria and plaque from their teeth. Unlike dry food, which can be left out in a food bowl all day, wet can only be left in open air for a couple of hours before it starts to turn. Any food left for over two hours in the dog bowl should be discarded, which means you will have to portion meals well to make sure you aren’t wasting food.
Raw BARF diet
Don’t worry; the raw BARF dog food diet isn’t as disgusting as it may sound. BARF is an abbreviation of Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (sometimes referred to as Bones and Raw Food). Although it’s not as easy to find in the supermarket, many pet stores will offer a premade blend, which delivers all the needed nutrients.
Before they were domesticated, dogs would have to forage and hunt for their food, which would normally be raw meat-based. The BARF diet is an all-natural option, containing essential nutrients including protein, fat and fibre, sourced from pure ingredients including meat, bones, fruit and vegetables. Speaking from personal experience, Sarah Deadman, CEO of the Good Vet & Pet Guide, says the raw food diet can improve dogs’ overall energy, health and digestion:
“Their coats are magnificent, their teeth are spotless and since being fed raw, their poo is easy to pick up as well!”
Some vets argue that years of domestication have made modern pets less well-suited to raw food, and that the BARF diet relates more to wild wolves, which are far from our cuddly lap dogs. There are also concerns that the bones in the diet could damage the mouth or digestive system if not properly ground up, leading to perforations and impactions. Raw meat is a breeding ground for bacteria such a salmonella and E. coli which can cause illness in both the dog and any humans who come into contact with the food – before or after being digested. According to Fiona First, the resident pet nutritionist at Vet’s Kitchen:
“If owners are keen to establish a raw food diet, commercial raw diets are the best option as they are balanced, tested for parasites and can be purchased with minced bone to ensure there is no risk of internal blockages.”
A raw food diet for dogs is the one of the most expensive options, but it can be easily stored in the freezer so it will last a long time.
How to choose
When choosing an appropriate food, it’s important to consider your dog’s age, as many brands offer bespoke options for young or mature animals, containing the nutrients that they need at these specific stages in their lives. For dogs of all ages, any dietary changes should be introduced slowly and with care. According to the RSPCA spokesperson:
“Any changes to your dog’s diet should be made gradually to avoid an upset stomach. Over a period of days gradually mix the new diet in with your dog’s existing food. Always follow the feeding guidelines set by the manufacturer and accurately weigh out their food to ensure they aren’t receiving too much or too little. It is important to ensure your dog eats a diet suitable for their age, lifestyle and health status and that they are fed at least twice each day, unless advised otherwise by your vet.”
If you are still unsure which diet you should choose, the best thing to do is to speak to your vet to get advice which will be tailor-made to your pet’s needs.