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Back to Basics: The Foundations of Your Dog’s Nutrition

Jane McDonald | March 22, 2018

Walking down the dog food aisle and making a decision is more complex than ever. Unlike decades ago, there are endless options when it comes to your pup’s diet. And we mean endless - from bargain bulk kibble to daily home-delivered raw meals, how you choose to feed your beloved dog has become a tricky decision, not to mention a divisive topic amongst owners.

In lieu of your dog being able to educate himself and review food labels as he peruses the many options, here is a quick guide to understanding the foundations of your dog’s nutrition.

Consider Contributing Factors

  • Size: Your dog’s size will impact the food you buy, as smaller breeds require smaller kibble that is proportionate to the size of their mouths, throats and tummies. (Psst, this rule also applies to selecting dog treats and toys, too!)

  • Age: Foods are frequently formulated to support different phases of your dog’s lifecycle. For example, senior dogs benefit from a diet that is rich in antioxidants and glucosamine to fight inflammation and support aging joints, while puppy diets require ingredients rich in fatty acids that support growth and development.

  • Health Issues: If your dog struggles with weight maintenance or a disease, you will want to select a food that supports those issues. Dogs struggling with obesity can enjoy a reduced-calorie food and perhaps an extra walk around the block!,

Know What to Look for on the Ingredients Panel

  • First Ingredients: The first items listed on the ingredient panel represent the majority of the dog food’s composition, so be sure to review closely to ensure proteins are listed there vs. fillers and by-products. While foods with proteins listed in the first few ingredients may be a bit more expensive, the serving size will be smaller than filler-heavy bargain kibble, offsetting costs as well as providing a complete diet for your dog.

  • Never Evers: Here is a list of ingredients you never want to see on the ingredients panel on your dog’s food. Ever.

    • Artificial Colors: Colorants are a marketing scheme to make dog food pleasing to the human eye. Don’t fall for it! Your dog doesn’t care what color his food is and neither should you.

    • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) / Butylated Hydroxysanisole (BHA): Synthetic preservatives that according to the National Institute of Health are, “found to consistently produce certain types of tumors in laboratory animals."

    • By-Product Meal: After good meat is cut-off an animal, by-product meal is created and can include brain, intestines, hoof, manure, beaks and organs. By-products are not fit for human consumption, and should not be fed to dogs either.

    • Propylene Glycol: Sometimes added to dog food to regulate bacteria, this chemical is the main ingredient of anti-freeze, is banned by the FDA in cat food and can cause serious health issues in dogs when ingested, according to the Pet Poison Helpline.

Banish Bad Habits

The fact is your dog will love to eat whatever you give him - as frequently as you want to give it to him - simply because he doesn’t know any better! As his trusted human, it is up to you to establish and uphold good habits. Help your dog maintain a healthy weight and balanced diet by skipping table scraps, unhealthy “junk” treats and overfeeding.

Consult Your Vet

If you find yourself confused, skip the headache sorting through your friends’ varied opinions, and instead opt to have a conversation with a professional about your dog’s diet. They will provide factual information about nutrition, unbiased by trends and marketing, which can muddle decision making.

While choosing your dog’s food has become more challenging, you are now armed with basic information about the foundations of your dog’s diet that will help guide future decision making. (Yay YOU!) Remember that diet is the #1 factor in your dog’s overall wellbeing and longevity, and he can’t make choices for himself so it is up to you to feed him a high quality and nutritionally balanced diet to keep him healthy, happy and around for a long time!

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