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What Is the Best Diet for Dogs? 5 Things to Consider

July 9th, 2019 by Cherished Companions

This spaniel chows down his kibble (he loves it) after his pet parent researched the best diet for dogs.

The best diet for dogs is a healthy diet, but

It can be really hard to figure out what a healthy diet is!

There’s a lot of confusing advertising about what your dog should be eating.

Our veterinarians are often asked: “What’s the best diet for my dog?”

Here are 5 things to consider when choosing a healthy diet for your dog:

#1: Feed your dog a food that’s appropriate for his (or her) life stage: puppy, adult or senior.

This one is pretty straightforward.

As dogs grow, their nutritional needs change.

Puppies, adult dogs and senior dogs all have different dietary and micronutrient needs. For example:

  • Puppy diets tend to include more protein, fats, calcium and phosphorus. (Puppies need more calories because they’re growing.)
  • Senior dog diets often have lower fat levels to help prevent obesity. They also tend to have antioxidants to boost your dog’s immune system, omega 3s to help with skin health and body functions, and glucosamines to improve joint health.

Most dogs are considered:

  • Adults by the time they’re one year old
  • Seniors by the time they’re seven years old

Giant breed dogs — like Great Danes and Great Pyrenees — are an exception. It can take 18 to 24 months for them to mature from puppyhood to adulthood.

With large breed dogs, it’s also important to feed them a large breed puppy food.

If they’re getting a general puppy food, they may be getting too much fat in their diet. They can grow too quickly and develop orthopedic issues.

These two chocolate Labrador puppies are eating a diet of puppy food.

#2: Avoid grain-free diets UNLESS your dog has a true allergy to grain.

Grains provide important nutrients for dogs. The key is to find a high-quality dog food that gets its grains from trusted sources with good quality controls.

So, what do you need to know about grain-free dog foods?

Grain-free dog foods often include ingredients like:

  • Peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Potatoes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating a possible issue with these ingredients.

There may be a link between dogs that are eating these ingredients and unusual occurrences of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (CDM).

CDM is a type of heart disease in dogs. It can result in congestive heart failure.

In the past, this type of heart disease has been thought to be due to a dog’s genetics. In some cases, this still applies.

Now, however, dog breeds that are not thought to be genetically prone to this heart disease are getting it too.

What’s the common factor among these dogs?

Their diets.

As of April 2019, the FDA is still researching this matter.

If you have a choice, though, it’s best to avoid a grain-free diet for your dog at this time.

If your dog has a true allergy to grains, our veterinarians are happy to discuss your options with you.

#3: Look for diets that are well balanced across dietary categories — from meat, to grains.

It’s 100% normal to think that a diet must be good if it:

  • Seems natural for a dog (like a raw or all-meat diet)
  • Is really expensive
  • Has just a few ingredients, or
  • Is how you want to eat (such as vegan)

Often times, though, these factors don’t equal a well-balanced diet for your dog.

Ideally, dogs should get a diet that represents more than one food group — from meat, to grains.

Your dog needs a range of micronutrients that are different from what we need as people.

Here are examples of concerns that come up with specialized diets:

  • An all-meat diet can be high in protein. This can put a lot of stress on your dog’s kidneys. The kidneys are working harder than they need to be.
  • With uncooked meat diets, your dog is at risk for bacteria (like salmonella) and gastrointestinal upset. You face the same risk if you’re handling your dog’s food or food bowl.
  • With vegan diets, it’s difficult to get your dog all the micronutrients that are so important.

Generally, it’s best to look for dog foods with both meat and grains.

James serves his dog, Sparky, a plate of dog food that includes meat and grains.

#4: Look for established dog food brands that haven’t had issues with recalls.

With start-up dog food companies, it can be hard to know how much research and testing they’ve put into their foods.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that established companies are off the hook either!

If you keep hearing about dog food recalls with a particular company, it may be best to avoid them.

You can find a list of recent dog food recalls on the FDA website here.

One of the reasons our veterinarians like iVet is because they have a strong reputation for quality.

iVet doesn’t source any of their grains or proteins from China — a country that has been at the root of some dog food recalls.

But iVet isn’t your only option.

You can find other high-quality dog foods at many pet supply stores.

#5: If you want to feed your dog a homemade diet, make sure it was formulated by a veterinary nutritionist.

Otherwise, stay away from homemade diets.

We know that pet parents are making these foods with the best of intentions.

But without guidance from a veterinary nutritionist, your dog may not be getting the micronutrients needed for his (or her) health and development.

If you have other questions about the best diet for your dog…

We’d love to answer them on your next veterinary visit.

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Cherished Companions Animal Clinic is a veterinary clinic in Castle Rock, Colorado. Specializing in the care of cats and dogs, our goal is to help you and your pet feel more comfortable, keeping your stress to a minimum.

This article is intended to provide general guidance on the best diets for dogs. If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact your local veterinarian. (If you live in or around Castle Rock, we welcome your call: 303-688-3757.)

© 2019, Cherished Companions Animal Clinic, All Rights Reserved

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