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How to Choose the Best Food for Your Dog

Meeting your dog's nutritional requirements with tasty meals is a great way to show how much you love them. Here, our Memphis vets share a few tips on how to choose the best food dog foods for your companion.

How do I know what the best dog food is?

While each dog has their own health requirements in general a dog is not a pure carnivore. Dogs can benefit from some non-meat ingredients for the extra minerals and vitamins, but the bulk of their diet should be meat.

There are vegan options available but if this is something you are interested in consult your veterinarian about it. This dietary plan may not be suitable for your breed of dog.

There are also diets that involve not using commercially produced dog food but feeding them raw meat and vegetables that are human food grade. This takes more work and you should consult your veterinarian if this is an option you wish to explore.

The more common diets involve commercially produced wet or dry dog food. If you are trying to pick a dog food the best thing you can do is to look at the label. Check the label for information on what is in the product. Meat should be a main ingredient.

Another way to tell if it's one of the better options is to look for an endorsement by the AAFCO. It will appear on the packaging similar to the following “(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles”. The AAFCO will not tell you it is the best food but it will at least guarantee that they meet the minimum requirements for most dogs.

Do I really need to invest in puppy food or senior food?

When trying to decide on the healthiest dog food for your canine companion, it's important to take their age into consideration. The age of your dog plays a significant role when it comes to their nutritional requirements.

Quality puppy foods are formulated to meet the nutritional needs of your young dog, and some brands even have puppy foods for different breed sizes. This is particularly important if you have a giant breed dog and need to somewhat slow their growth to preserve bone and joint health. Speak to your vet to find out more about which brands they recommend to meet your pup's needs.

Senior dogs are normally dogs that are 7+ years old. Elderly dogs are typically less active than younger pups meaning that their calorie intake needs to be monitored in order to avoid health complications due to obesity. Older dogs are also more likely to experience health issues such as joint pain or kidney disease which can be helped with the right diet. Be sure to ask your vet whether your dog could benefit from a specially formulated food for senior dogs or those for dogs with underlying health problems.

Are the foods marketed for large and small dogs really different?

If your canine companion is a large or giant breed they will need a diet that is rich in nutrients that will help support their large skeleton and muscles.

On the other hand, if your dog is a smaller breed then the choice of food is more often to do with avoiding choking hazards. Small hungry dogs can choke on kibbles made for larger dogs.

It is best to pick a food made for the size of your dog.

Is it better to feed my dog dry food or wet food?

Dog owners often ask our Memphis veterinarians whether it is best for their dog to eat dry or wet food. Unfortunately the answer isn't entirely straightforward. Each food can be good or bad depending on the specific brand and formulation.

Owners of large breed dogs often find that the price of canned food is too high to make feeding a large dog canned food affordable. Of course feeding a toy, miniature or small breed dog canned food is much less expensive. Another approach is to feed your dog a mixture of canned and dry food. That way your pooch gets to enjoy the great taste of wet food and you get the money saving advantage of feeding your dog dry food.

Are some brands really more nutritious than others?

Your vet knows your pup's health requirements best, that's why vet recommended dog foods are a great way to ensure that your pup's nutritional needs are met at each stage of life. Your veterinarian will determine the best formulation for your dog by taking into consideration your pup's breed, lifestyle, age and size. Many vet recommended dog foods can also help to treat health concerns such as skin issues, kidney function, allergies and joint pain.

Let your vet know whether you'd prefer to feed your pup wet food, kibble or both. Your vet can calculate the right number of calories to feed your pup at each meal so that you are able to determine the correct serving size for your pooch. 

It's also important to note that vet recommended dog foods purchased directly from your veterinary clinic are often unique formulations not available in stores. If your pup has special health needs, these foods can often be particularly beneficial.

How should I introduce new foods to my dog?

Once you have purchased a food that meets your dog's requirements, slowly begin to introduce the new food to them. Suddenly changing your dog's food can make it more difficult for them to adjust to the switch. Try adding gradually increasing amounts of the new food mixed into the food your dog is used to eating.

As your dog transitions to the new food, keep an eye out for any signs of illness such as an allergic reaction or an upset stomach. If you have concerns about your dog's reaction to their food, contact your vet right away to have your dog examined.

Some dogs will eat whatever is in front of them while others can be picky eaters. Your dog may just need a few tries before deciding if they like their new food. Take it slow and don't give up after the first try unless you notice concerning symptoms.

How do I really know what food is best for my dog?

Ultimately, you know your dog better than anyone. Your insight into their daily life, activity level and overall health makes you the final say in what your dog eats. With proper nutrition, appropriate portions, and regular checks with the veterinarian, your dog is sure to enjoy nutritious meals for years to come.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Looking for advice on the best food for dogs? Contact PetVax Complete Care Centers to book a wellness exam for your pup. Our Memphis vets are always happy to help.

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