Canine nutrition is one of the most controversial topics within the pet and veterinary industries. With new products constantly being brought to market, and veterinarians having varying opinions on what’s best to feed our beloved family members, pet owners are faced with a dizzying variety of options. Sometimes we make our choices based on the specific nutritional needs of our dogs and sometimes our dogs make the decision for us. But given the fact that Americans spend roughly $13 billion a year on food and treats for their dogs, the competition for market share is fierce which can make it difficult for the dog owner to wade through the never-ending choices and recommendations. The more we consider the variables specific to our dog, the better decisions we will make.
Some of the key factors that should be taken into consideration include the dog’s breed, lifestyle and age, whether they have been spayed or neutered, their ability to digest, if they have or are predisposed to any health conditions and their propensity for obesity.
But even after we make an informed decision on what to feed our dogs, we still need to monitor their eating habits. To best gauge if a dog food is appropriate we need to remember that dogs require a fixed diet of either dry, wet, or a combination of the two delivered at consistent times. If we abruptly change their diet or feeding times we run the risk of upsetting their sensitive digestive systems with the “fallout” being diarrhea, excessive gas and even vomiting.
Our overriding goal as dog owners is for our pets to enjoy a happy and healthy life. This is also the goal of our veterinarian so don’t hesitate to consult with them on what diet is most appropriate for your dog. Part of their work entails staying up to date on the latest products and nutrition science so they will be able to provide strong recommendations based on your dog’s specific needs.
There are signs we need to look out for that will help us determine if our dog’s diet is working or not. If they have lots of energy, appear fit and happy, and have a nice glossy coat, then the food we are serving is doing the job. But if we notice lethargy, a dull coat or problems with their stool, and that includes eating it, we will want to make some dietary adjustments.
It’s important to let our dogs properly digest their food so no strenuous
exercise or hard playing for at least 30 to 45 minutes after they’ve finished eating. The only exception is small treats when training.
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports that 53% of the adult dogs in the U.S. are overweight with 20% considered obese. Excessive weight can lead to a host of medical conditions in addition to creating a lesser quality of life. And while most pet parents hate to hear this, the reason dogs are overweight is because they’re being given too much food and receiving too little exercise. While some dogs will stop eating when they’re full, the majority won’t so it’s our responsibility to ration food in accordance with the activity levels of our dogs. There is some trial and error involved with finding the right combination but consulting the serving guidelines on packaging is the best way to start.
Even though your dog’s bowl might look like it’s been licked clean, and hopefully it has, that doesn’t mean bacteria won’t build up. Get into the habit of washing your dog’s food bowl with soap and hot water after every feeding just like you do with your own dishes. The same goes for the water bowl. Also, make sure to not let water sit for too long and clean the bowl thoroughly before refilling.
We might think that responding to our dog’s pleas with that leftover pizza crust or a few potato chips might not be a big deal but it is. Not only are we reinforcing our dog’s begging behavior but we’re adding something into their diet that they don’t need. People eat people food and dogs eat dog food. If you do insist on preparing homemade food for your dog, consult with your veterinarian first.
No one said that raising a dog would be cheap. And by trying to save a little money on inexpensive and lower quality food, you are increasing the chance that your dog won’t receive the important nutrients it needs. Shop around but always place the quality of the dog food at the top of the list.
If we do need to make a dietary change it’s important to introduce the new food slowly. An abrupt change in a dog’s diet routine can affect their digestive system and lead to diarrhea and possibly vomiting. Add a little of the new while removing some of the old until you’ve fully switched over.
If your dog chooses to not eat any or all of its food don’t leave it out for them to eat later. Pet food can become rancid quickly, particularly in hot weather, so start with a fresh serving at the next scheduled feeding time.
If we were to get lost in the wilderness the first thing many of us would fear is starving. However, we can live for weeks without food but a lack of water on a scorching hot day could be fatal within hours. Therefore, it is an absolute must that we always keep our dog’s bowls filled with fresh, clean water and clean the bowl frequently to avoid contamination. This is a non-negotiable responsibility of pet care. Also, pay attention to drinking habits as too much or too little can be an indicator of a medical problem.
If we learn to pay attention to the signs, our dogs are pretty good about telling us how they’re feeling and what they want. Whining at the door when they haven’t relieved themselves for a while? We know what to do. Wagging their tail when they see us pick up their favorite ball? A little fetch might be in order.
But when it comes to our dog’s nutrition we need to make the decisions for them. For the most part they will eat what they’re fed so it’s up to us to understand what they need and what will benefit them the most. While sifting through the countless food choices available can be daunting, if we take the time to consider the specific nutritional needs for our dogs, consult with our veterinarians to develop a proper diet and feed them with consistency, we will be rewarded with a happy, active and healthy family companion.
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