If you’re interested in the welfare and wellbeing of your dog (and as an owner you surely should be, legally if morally isn’t enough), then one of the most important ways you can influence it for the better is diet. If you’re able to feed your dog the most nourishing, healthy diet, you’ll stand a better chance of having a dog that’s healthier and happier for longer.
The Perils of Changing Diet
For robust, energetic animals, dogs can be surprisingly sensitive to changes in their diet. Don’t be surprised if you’re making dietary changes and find that leads to some stomach upsets!
Try to give yourself and your dog time. Allow a week for the changeover, and give your dog a small amount of its new food to start with, gradually changing the proportions from meal to meal until the new food dominates and then replaces the original. This should prevent the worst risks of reactions.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of more serious problems that have gastric trouble as a symptom. If you find yourself complaining “my dog has diarrhea and vomiting for three days” then it’s time to call the vet and have them checked over.
The most important thing to do first is look at your dog’s basic food. Does it provide all the nutrients your dog needs and is it appropriate for their age?
Foods that are intended to provide for your dog’s entire diet are labelled “nutritionally complete”. This labelling is enforced by law within the EU, so if a dog food uses those words you know it contains all the nutrients your dog needs to live healthily.
Dog foods differ in their precise make up according to the age of the dog they’re intended for – puppies have different needs to adult dogs which have different needs again to senior dogs. The ages at which different species of dog move between these different phases of life can vary based on their species so make sure you do your research and know what you should be feeding your dog when.
Dry, Wet and Raw Food
There are lots of debates in dog owner circles around what the best diet is for a dog. Some argue that a dog can quite happily subsist on dry food (kibble). Others believe that a dog requires wet food – a meaty diet – to be truly happy and healthy. Yet more contend that only on a ‘natural’ raw food diet will dogs thrive.
The only opinion around which there is true consensus is that a raw food diet is likely unhealthy for dogs. While it’s ‘natural’, raw food increases the risks of food poisoning and contamination (for you and for your dog!).
While it’s nutritionally possible for some dogs to live on kibble alone – and many are quite happy to do so – it’s worth providing some variety for the sake of wellbeing and enrichment. A combination of dry and wet food can satisfy your dog nutritionally and provide a stimulating mix of flavours and textures for them.
Do be aware that if kibble tends to dominate your dog’s diet you’ll need to compensate with more water, as they’ll be getting less moisture from their food. And of course, the most important thing you can do is be guided by your dog! Find what gets them excited about dinner time and play to those tastes!