Because dogs are so commonly kept in captivity, the variety of commercial foods available for them is staggering. There is a wide selection of wet, dry, or semi-moist foods for you to choose from. Some people even choose to make their own dog food. At different stages of its life, your dog will have different dietary needs. Puppies will need different formulas than adults because they are growing and burning energy quickly and also because their digestive systems may be more sensitive than those of adult dogs. Among adult dogs, nutritional needs may vary with age, size, and athleticism. As your dog ages, it will again have a change in nutritional needs. Your veterinarian may be the best help you have in making the decision to feed your dog a certain variety of food. When buying dog food, take into consideration your veterinarian’s recommendation and read the packaging of the food. An ingredient list will be available to you, as well as a breakdown of the percentage of crude fat, crude protein, major vitamins and minerals, and calories in the food.
Various government or veterinary organizations may also place their stamp of approval on foods so you are sure they are nutritionally balanced. This is another item to aid you in your quest for the perfect dog food. Of course, you should also try to find food that your dog likes. If you are changing your dog’s food or diet, do it slowly. This can help to prevent an upset stomach. Mix in a little bit of the new food with the old food, gradually increasing the amount until the old food has been completely eliminated. Although many people have meal times for their dogs and feed them at set intervals during the day, some people may leave a bowl of food available to their dogs at all times. Generally, the first method is recommended as many dogs will eat without stopping if presented with a bowl of food that never becomes empty. However, for dogs who can regulate their food intake well, the latter method may be easier for you. Some people may allow their dogs to free feed on dry food and will offer one meal of wet food each day.
The most common commercially sold types of dog food are dry kibble, moist or wet food, and semi-wet food. Dry food or kibble is usually much less expensive than wet or semi-wet food and is easy to store. Also, dry food may have some dental benefit, as it may deposit less buildup on your dog’s teeth than wet foods and can have the advantage of scraping tartar from y our dog’s teeth as he chews. Some dry foods will make a “gravy” if mixed with water, creating a semi-wet food that is moist and easy for your dog to chew. Some dogs prefer semi-wet foods over wet foods, and they may even be necessary for older animals whose teeth are deteriorated. Wet food, although many dogs like it better than dry food, may cause buildup on your dog’s teeth and may have fewer calories than dry food.
You may have to refrigerate uneaten wet food or it can spoil; if your dog has not finished its meal within an hour, the food should be removed and discarded or placed in the refrigerator. Many people will choose to use a combination of food types in order to ensure their dog has a complete and varied diet. If you choose to make your own dog food, you must be sure that you know your dog’s nutritional needs and are able to meet them adequately. You should probably consult your veterinarian.
Various nutritional supplements are available to dogs. Generally, these are not necessary since good quality commercial dog food is uaually well balanced and excesses of vitamins or minerals may cause health problems. Some people choose to mix items like Brewer’s Yeast and Vitamin E into their dog’s food in order to make their coats shiny, but the scientific evidence for such supplementation may be inconclusive and you may wish to consult your veterinarian before beginning such a regime.
Treats may be given on occasion to your dog, but not too often. Generally, treats do not have much nutritional value and if overfed, your dog may not be hungry for its regular, more nutritious meals or it may become obese. Some people who feed their dogs dry kibble as a diet may offer wet food on occasion for a treat. Others will purchase dog treats to offer as rewards for good behavior or simply as a special snack. A wide variety of commercial dog treats are available. Some are more nutritious than others and some even claim to help clean your dog’s teeth. You can consult your veterinarian if you would like to know what sort of treats he or she would recommend.
Some dogs, terriers especially, have a tendency to develop allergies to certain foods. If your dog shows any unusual reactions to food, you should stop offering the food and consult your veterinarian. There may be some specific ingredient that irritates your animal and problems may be severe if they are ignored. Other dogs simply have sensitive digestive systems and may need foods that are bland or mild. Because of the wide variety of foods available, it should usually not be a problem to find food your dog can tolerate. It is usually not advisable to feed your dog table scraps. While human foods may cause digestive upset in dogs, they can also lead to bad or irritating behaviors like begging at the table or stealing food from your plate.
Some human foods, like chocolate, are actually toxic to dogs and if eaten in quantity can cause serious illness and even death. Others may make your dog obese if it begins to ignore its nutritious food for less nutritious or fatty table scraps. Cat food is generally not good for dogs either, as it is formulated for felines and can contain high amounts of some minerals which your dog may not need. In excess, such minerals can actually harm your dog. While some people give their dog bones, this may also be dangerous. Chicken bones are especially bad, as they can easily splinter and cut your animal’s internal organs or mouth, or even become lodged in the animal’s mouth or throat, obstructing breathing. These same problems are sometimes evident in a wide variety of meat bones.