Keeping your puppy or adult dog healthy is an important yet complex task. There are many aspects to consider when caring for your dog. Food and nutrition is just one of these areas. Puppies and adult dogs both need to have a proper balance of vitamins and nutrients to keep their immune system functioning properly and help fight off sickness.
Making sure your dog gets the proper amount of food with the right nutrients for their size, age and breed is very important. There are 3 commercial types of dog food that have been around for years and a couple of relatively new types of food that have just become popular recently. Dry, semi-moist and canned are the three most common types of dog food available and have been around since the 1850s. The Raw Food and Home Cooked Diets are relatively new when compared to these.
Barf (Biologically Approved Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food) is a relatively new type of food to hit the market in the past few years. BARF of was developed by Dr. Ian Billinghurst. It contains a mixture of raw meaty bones, raw vegetables, raw offal (entrails & internal organs) along with other supplements. This food usually comes in the shape of patties much like our frozen hamburgers. It can either be served whole or broken up into smaller bite-size pieces, depending on your dog's needs. This is a growing diet alternative that is supported by the fact that its ingredients more closely resemble the natural food that dogs have historically eaten throughout the years. In some cases dogs are actually allergic to the grain and preservatives that are present in today's commercial dog foods. This new type of food presents a great alternative for these dogs.
However, there are some downsides to this type of food. For one, it has a very short shelf life when compared to the other types of dog food. Freezing the food may extend the shelf life a little but it is still considerably shorter that the dry, semi-moist or canned food options. This type of food also poses some risk of bacterial diseases like are found in human foods like Salmonella and E-coli although these risks can be greatly minimized by properly handling of the food.
Another relatively newly accepted type of feeding is Home-Cooked or Home-Prepared meals for your dog. This typically consists of cooking meats, vegetables, rice and other natural foods that are safe for your dogs into a meal for this. There are tons of recipes available if you are interested in this type of feeding.
When choosing a brand of food for your dog it is important to read the packaging carefully to see what ingredients are in the food. A good brand of dog food will have whole meat as one of the first two ingredients followed by a specific type of meat by-products or meal and preferably whole grains and/or vegetables. Be wary of a food that just lists meat by-products as one of the ingredients this could contain almost anything.
Reading the label on dog food packaging is just like reading labels on human food. The ingredients are listed in order of the percentage contained in the food. This means that the first ingredient listed will be the most prevalent in the food and the last ingredient listed will be the least prevalent. So, it is extremely important to find high-quality ingredients like whole meats, grains and vegetables high in the list. Be careful of ingredient splitting which is common in pet foods. This means that they actually list the same ingredient under two different but similar names. This allows that ingredient, which is usually a poor quality ingredient to fall farther down the list.
Just like people, dogs go through different stages of their life that require different nutrients to keep them healthy. The length and timing of these stages depends on the size and breed of your dog. On average dogs are considered puppies until around 1 year of age. It is important to read the manufacturers label to determine the proper feeding requirements and amounts for your dog. Feeding frequency is another thing you need to consider. This refers to the amount of times per day you feed your dog. It is recommended that puppies have 2-3 meals per day because of their high level of activity and growing bodies. The frequent feeding will ensure they have adequate nutrients all day long. As your dog gets older you can limit them to 1 or 2 meals per day. Typically smaller dogs, like puppies, are able to eat less at one time and need 2 meals per day to get an adequate amount of food. If you need further assistance in determining the correct feeding instructions for your exact dog, consult your dog's veterinarian. Remember when switching your dog's food to do it gradually to avoid upsetting their stomach and digestive track.