Keeping your dog healthy is key to keeping them happy, and a happy dog is always easier to housebreak. Before bringing your new puppy home, you should make an informed purchase of quality dog food. Below, we’ll cover the basics of what to feed your new puppy.
Dog food is not held to the same standard as human food, but if you purchase any quality commercial food, your dog is almost certainly getting all of the essential vitamins and minerals. Commercial brands are usually highly regulated and tested by veterinarians. Dog’s are not strict carnivores like cats; they can consume some fruits and vegetables. For a well balanced diet, look for vegetables, grains, and fruits in the ingredients of your puppy’s food. Higher end foods will contain higher-quality, less processed ingredients.
There are two main types of dog: dry food and wet (or canned) food. Dry food is only about 10% water. It is easy to store and requires no refrigeration. Wet food, however, contains lots of water and should be refrigerated after opened. It is more expensive, but usually tastier to your dog.
A good look at the ingredients list of your dog food can tell you a lot, but also be aware of some of the ways that the ingredient list can be misleading. Some ingredients, while basically the same, can be split up on the label. For example, ‘Corn’ may seem low on the list, but ‘Flaked Corn’ and ‘Ground Corn’ could be listed separately. ‘Whole Meats’ may be listed, but a large portion of these meats is water weight, so the actual amount of meat in the food may be less than it appears to be on the list. ‘Meat Meal’ contains no water weight, and therefore means that the percentage on the ingredient list is more accurate.
If a dog food is advertised as ‘Complete and Balanced’, this is a very good sign. This labeling is regulated by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. They have strict guidelines on what qualifies as ‘Complete and Balanced’. You can be assured that this dog food contains the minimum amount of each ingredient that is required to make a balanced nutritional meal.
If you have any questions about a certain dog food, reputable manufacturers will have simple ways to contact them, and should be happy to answer any questions. If you have unanswered questions, look into a different dog food.
Different dogs have different nutritional requirements. Lean, active dogs can have a diet higher in protein and fat. Older dogs should have a diet with more lean protein. Dogs susceptible to urinary tract infections should get less acidic food (in chemistry, the higher the pH number, the less acidic something is). Start your puppy on a ‘puppy formula’, or on a food advertised for all stages of a dog’s life. As they age and as you notice changes in their lifestyle, adjust the food source accordingly.
There is misinformation online on what your dog should and shouldn’t have. Despite claims that grains are bad for your dog, whole grains are actually a great source of nutrients. Also, animal byproducts such as entrails and organs can actually have higher nutritional value than traditional meats. There are ‘byproducts’ that have been included in less regulated dog foods, such as manure, hair, floor sweepings, hooves, or intestinal contents that are NOT good for your pet, but the more well known brands are safe.
The only reason to completely avoid grains is if your pet has a grain allergy. Symptoms of food allergies include diarrhea and vomiting after meals, swelling and itching, and hives. Severe allergic reactions can lead to a closing of your dog’s airways, known as anaphylactic shock. Less severe food sensitivities may include diarrhea, itchy and irritated skin, and frequent foot and/or ear infections. If your dog has any of these symptoms, see a veterinarian. Your vet can test for allergies and sensitivities, or otherwise help you find the root of the problem.
Just like with your own food, you can shop for ethical and organic dog foods. Look for natural, unprocessed ingredients for your puppy. Find a commercial food preserved with a natural preservative such as Vitamin E. Publications such as The Whole Dog Journal have lists of safe, healthy dog foods.