You want what’s best for your pet. But how do you figure out what food is right for them? With the recent Beneful fiasco, you may feel more confused than ever about what, how, and when to feed your dog. Today, we’re going to break down some of the concerns about dog food to help set you straight.
It’s probably no surprise, but dogs don’t have the same food needs that we do. Your pet doesn’t need the same level of variety in his diet that you do. Your dog is good eating the same type of food every day. In fact, switching it up could cause digestive issues and make him sick! If for whatever reason you do need to change your dog’s brand or style of food, do so as gradually as possible, over the course of several days, so their systems have time to adjust.
The human body can accomodate a variety of diets, from omnivorous to vegan. Some dog owners want their pet to eat the same animal-free diet they do, but that’s just not what’s best. Dogs’ bodies need meat, and can’t adapt to a meatless diet the way a human system can. As much as it might pain you to feed your dog meat, you’re doing him more harm than good on a vegetarian diet.
Another area where dogs need consistency is feeding time. Feed your dog at the same time each day, and only leave food out for 15-20 minutes. Put any unused food away for later. Dogs who have fewer restrictions tend to become finicky eaters or develop weight problems.
Your dog probably loves to beg for treats when you’re cooking something tasty. While it’s always best to feed them at regular mealtimes, an occasional treat of human food is okay. (You can also occasionally enhance their regular meal with a treat!) But what human foods are okay? Cooked pasta and rice are safe bets (as long as they aren’t mixed with any unsafe spices or vegetables, of course). And well-cooked, boneless meats are always welcome. Veggies like carrots and bell peppers are nutritious, and many dogs love them. Fruits (except for grapes and raisins) are generally safe bets. Lots of dogs love apples, bananas, and berries! Small bites of bread are also safe.
But like humans, dogs can get food allergies! Symptoms of food allergies include vomiting, itching, and fur loss. Even if your dog has been eating the same food for years, she can develop allergies to wheat, eggs, soy, or certain proteins found in many dog food brands. If you think your pet might have a food allergy, see your vet ASAP.
And, like people, dogs have different needs at different phases of life. Adult dogs usually only need to eat twice a day, but growing puppies may need to eat four times! Again, consult with your vet about your pet’s specific needs.
What type of food is best for your dog? There have been lots of debates over wet food versus dry food. Both wet and dry food offer the same nutritional benefits, but when push comes to shove, dry food is best! Why? Because crunching and chewing on kibble helps a dog’s teeth. She’s nourishing her whole body, including her mouth! (Of course, if your dog has health issues that require a different diet, follow your vet’s advice!)
In terms of food hazards, most people know that chocolate is not safe for dogs. But other common foods are toxic to dogs, and not many people know about them. Keep your dog away from avocado, alcohol, onions and garlic, caffeine, grapes and raisins, dairy products, nuts, gum, fat trimmings, peaches, plums, raw eggs, raw meat and fish, salty foods, unbaked yeast dough, sweets, and human medicines.
What happens if your dog gets into the cat food? Do you panic? Call the vet? If he ate just a little bit, it’s probably not a big deal. Yes, cats and dogs have different nutritional needs, but a little cat food is probably not going to do damage to your dog. It’s no substitute for proper dog food, but it’s not the end of the world, either.
How do you know your dog’s food is giving her the best possible nutrition? First, check her coat? Is the fur full and shiny? Is her skin healthy? That’s a good sign! Second, keep an eye on her poop. (Hey, you have to pick it up anyway!) Firm, brown stool is the sign of a healthy pet!
Want more information? Check out these great resources!
“Foods Your Dog Should Never Eat” at WebMd.com
“People Foods Your Dog Can Eat” at WebMd.com
“What Do You Really Know About Dog Food?” at WebMd.com