Feeding Your Dog

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Most people make a mess of choosing a dog.  Puppy farms do big business because of it.  Sickness, starvation and suffering are the price the dogs pay. It’s a multi-billion industry you don’t want to fund. 

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It’s important to feed your dog a nutritious and healthy diet.  So I thought I would start with some top tips about how to choose a good commercial dog food, then move on from there.

Vitamins and minerals

All ‘complete’ dogs foods must have a minimum standard of vitamins, minerals and ingredients by law to be called ‘complete’.  But if you feed something basic, your dog’s health will also be basic.  It will probably shorten your dog’s life if you use it long term.  If you run out of money and need to feed a very cheap food, only do it for as long as you have to.

Top tips for choosing commercial dog food

I’ve often come across people who’ve fed ‘what the breeder fed’ and complained about their dog’s health, bowel movements, skin, temperament, breath or flatulence.  When I’ve enquired I’ve found the food has been unsuitable in some way.  Wheat based food is the killer culprit for most of these.  

Tip 1 – Feed a dry complete dog food

Cost per kilo, pound or whatever measure you’re using, a dry complete dog food will work out cheaper than tins and mixer.  With tins, you’re paying for extra packaging and water.  Mixer is mostly wheat, which dogs can’t digest well.

Tip 2 – Feed the best dog food you can afford

If you can afford a natural dog food – without ingredients that dogs would normally not eat, such as soya, wheat and even vegetables – do that.  Or find one labelled as ‘all human grade’.   All human grade means no condemned or contaminated meat has been used – only things good enough for humans to eat.  If it’s not good for you, it can’t be good for your dog. 

Tip 3 – Meat (meal) first

Your dog food should have ‘meat meal’ (eg lamb meal, chicken meal, beef meal) as the first named ingredient.  Most dog foods, even some expensive ones, have more wheat and cereals than meat. Dogs should eat meat, not cereals and vegetables. 

Tip 4 – Working dog food is cheaper

Food branded ‘working’ or ‘working dog’ often has no VAT (value added tax) or equivalent.  It is often therefore cheaper than something which is a ‘pet’ food.  But it has to be good quality.  Some ‘working dog’ foods are cheap because they are poor quality.

Tip 5 – Feed gluten free dog food

If you can afford it, feed your dog a wheat gluten free food.  Many dogs are intolerant to wheat especially.  This causes wind, smelly poo, loose bowel movements and bad/itchy skin.  Those ‘gravy bone’ treats are mostly wheat.  Don’t use them!  Cereals and grains can actually prevent your dog absorbing other vitamins from their food especially B vitamins.  (They do the same in humans too).

Tip 6 – ‘Best’ is not ‘most expensive’

Branded foods charge for the name as well as the ingredients.  And some non-branded foods are actually better than branded ones for half the price. Check the labels and ingredients.  You can often find a gluten free, working dog dry complete with meat meal as the main ingredient for much less than a branded product. 

Tip 6 – Moderate protein

Unless you’ve got a puppy or are doing a lot of exercise with your dog (eg half marathons, long cycles), opt for protein levels between 21-25%.  Too much protein will be too rich for a dog doing average exercise.  Puppies and active working dogs such as sled dogs and racing greyhounds need 28-32% protein.

Tip 7 – Moderate fat

‘Active’ high protein dog foods often also have a high fat content.  Again this will be too rich for a dog doing a ‘normal’ amount of exercise.  Too much fat can cause loose bowels.  Between 7% and 12% fat is ideal for a pet dog.

Tip 8 – Do you want a breed-specific food?

Some manufacturers are starting to specialise in food to meet the different nutritional needs of small dogs, large dogs or even certain breeds.  These foods can be very expensive.  Personally, I recommend always choosing  ‘Large Breed’ foods for breeds over 25 kilos.  These are specially designed to match the dogs’ high growth rates as puppies.

Tip 9 – Find agricultural merchants

You can often find an excellent unbranded food or even branded food cheaper than in normal ‘pet’ stores. 

Tip 10 – Don’t feed a highly coloured food

Coloured food looks great – to you.  It’s designed to appeal to owners, not their dogs!  All the dog cares about is does it taste good.  Food colourings can have the same effect on dogs as children.  In particular they can cause bad/flaky/itchy skin. 

 Bonus tips
  • If in doubt, a mid-priced gluten-free food is a great place to start.
  • You might have to try several brands to get one your dog likes/suits your dog
  • Buy in bulk for a discount if you can get it – once you know the food suits your dog.

I hope these tips have been helpful.  On the next page you can find out what NOT to feed your dog.  These are common human foods that can easily harm or kill your dog.  Click here to learn more.

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