Obesity is an American epidemic. It increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and joint pain. Obesity is also prevalent in a quarter of American dogs. Is your dog one of them?
A trim healthy dog has a waistline. Flesh covered ribs can be felt.
Not the case with an obese dog. Excess weight causes the body to appear sausage-like. Ribs may be difficult to detect.
Dogs and dog owners can take charge of weight gain with diet and exercise. However, there is a human element to dog obesity. It is the human that puts the food into the dog’s mouth.
Dogs don’t shop for their food. That’s why it is important that dog owners read dog food labels when considering what is best for their dog.
A visit to the pet supermarket to compare labels is a good start. However, with so many food choices available, how do you know what dog food is right for your dog?
If you purchased your puppy from a breeder, ask the breeder what he or she has been feeding the puppy, how much, and what he or she recommends as the puppy approaches adulthood. You can also search for canine nutritional information on the internet or at the library.
Then, when you take the puppy to your veterinarian for its well puppy check-up and vaccinations, ask the vet for his or her advice. They can help you sift through the multitude of health benefit claims and declarations made by pet owners and pet food manufacturers and give you an idea as to the quantity of food your puppy needs now and into the future.
For example, my golden retriever gets 2 cups of dry kibble per day. The package instructs me to feed 3 3/8 cups per day. If I did that, my dog would go from the fit dog in picture one above to the sausage-looking dog right below it. You must monitor your dog’s weight. Take your veterinarian’s advice over the dog food package recommendations that are oftentimes overstated.
There are four basic types of dog food:
1) RAW: Also called the BARF Diet (Bones And Raw Foods). A raw food diet is just what it sounds like: you feed your dog raw meat (including organs), bones as well as some fruits and vegetables. The raw food diet attempts to mimic the eating preferences of dogs before they were domesticated. Although there are no official studies to support the fact that a raw food diet benefits a dog long-term, some raw food advocates claim health benefits such as a shinier coat, increased energy from protein and less stool. Disadvantages of the raw food diet include bacterial contamination from raw meat, dietary imbalance resulting from misinformation and the possibility of bone ingestion resulting in a choking or intestinal hazard.
2) DRY: Often referred to as kibble, dry dog food has many advantages. Dry dog food is low in moisture (a dog needs less food to feel full). Many dog owners think that dry dog food is better for a dog’s teeth and that dry dog food produces better smelling dog breath. The shelf life of dry dog food is usually one year. Therefore, dog owners can purchase large quantities of dog food. The disadvantage of dry dog food is that with the dry comes an increased risk of more filler product. Thus, it is important to check the dog food labels to be sure that the main ingredients are not fillers but instead quality ingredients.
3) SEMI-MOIST: Semi-moist dog foods, the dough-like food products shaped into burgers, ground round, steaks or candy-like ribbons are not a good choice for a healthy dog diet. Often full of preservatives, additives and sugar, these moldable food products have a shelf life equivalent to a certain golden American snack cake. Some dogs have had reports of stomach upset and diarrhea. For nutrition’s sake, avoid semi-moist dog foods.
4) CANNED: The shelf life of unopened canned (or wet) dog food is two years. Therefore, dog owners can purchase large quantities of dog food. Canned dog food is very appetizing to most dogs. Canned dog food contains water. The mixture of water and food produce a strong odor that dogs like. Some dog owners claim that dogs prefer canned over dry dog food because it is more flavorful (although no one I’ve read admits to actually tasting it). This flavorful food makes dogs want more. Knowing this, dog owners should be aware of portion size. There is no need to preserve canned dog food, so it contains little or no preservatives. However, there have been claims that wet dog food contains more additives and is bad for a dog’s teeth (wet food can lodge between teeth). People claim wet dog food gives their dog bad breath and sometimes causes gastrointestinal upset. Others claim that once a dog is accustomed to eating wet dog food that it is a grueling chore to switch the dog to dry dog food.
7 Things to Consider When Comparing Dog Food Labels:
1) Package label portion sizes are oftentimes overestimated. Consult your veterinarian for the proper portion size for your dog.
2) Dog food contains protein (animal or plant/grain), vitamins and fatty acids. Look for meat, fish or eggs as the main ingredient(s). Chicken and lamb are preferred. These ingredients are of high quality and are easily digestible and absorbed.
3) While both chicken and chicken meal contain protein, chicken meal is preferred over chicken because the volume differs. (Guarantee Analysis) Chicken meal is ground into small particles with water removed. Chicken consists of three-fourths water.
4) Look for dog foods that contain corn versus soy or wheat. Certain dogs are more susceptible to allergies when eating dog food that contains soy or wheat.
5) Remember that there is no one dog food that is best for dogs. Each dog has different tastes and may react physically to one dog food over another.
6) The cost of a dog food does not necessarily translate to a better dog food. Check the labels and compare.
7) Certainly diarrhea or a consistently loose stool are good reasons to check with your veterinarian to determine if a change in diet would benefit your dog. An itchy dog or a dog with a dull or dry coat could be another reason to consult your veterinarian for a dietary switch.
Where dog food is concerned, one size does not fit all. Taking the advice of your breeder and/or veterinarian and monitoring your dog’s eating habits and portion size can result in a healthy happy dog.
Bonnie Sweebe is a dog lover, dog owner, dog advocate, and rescue and service dog volunteer. She is also the owner of WelcomePup.com, an online dog gift delivery company.