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What should I feed my dog?
Many owners struggle to decide which is the best food to feed their dog. There is no one answer, every dog is different. It is best that your dog is provided with a one to one consultation to better understand their requirements. It’s worth noting that not all diets will suit all dogs.
Never be scared to change your dog’s food at various points in their life. You may wish to change food based on age or an illness diagnosis. So you should always consult your nutritionist or vet before doing so to ensure the diet will be suitable and beneficial.
When choosing a diet it is important to do research on each category of food you would prefer.
These categories are dry, raw complete, wet, raw homemade, cooked homemade or mixer.
Manufactured foods can be divided into two initial groups complete and complementary.
Complete dog foods
With over 900 complete foods on the market, this is the most popular choice for UK dog owners. To be classed as ‘complete’ they must contain every nutrient required to be in a dogs diet. This must be done at the minimum amount, to enable a dog to survive. It means it can be used as stand alone food, and make up a ‘complete’ diet.
This choice doesn’t contain the full range or quantity of nutrients required to allow dogs to survive long term. Complementary foods include some wet and raw foods along with mixer biscuits.
Mixers are primarily cereal based filler biscuits some of which contain vegetables or herbs. Like all dog foods, complementary types range from very high quality to very poor.
Dry dog foods
In the UK the majority of our dogs are fed on dry complete foods. Their popularity is primarily down to their convenience. Due to this they don’t need preparation and only require to be stored in a cool and dry place.
Dry food ingredients are dried and ground which can be cooked in the following ways:
The most common cooking method for dry dog foods. During the extrusion process, raw ingredients are ground, then passed down a giant steam cooker. After the extrusion procress the food is cooled, dried and is given a coating of fats and oils. This is to enhance its palatability due to the loss of flavour during cooking.
Research on this method shows high pressures and temperatures may destroy a percentage of the nutrients contained in the food. This includes vital vitamins, amino-acids and enzymes. However, supporters state that the cooking process increases digestibility and kills parasites.
Baking allows foods to be processed at lower pressures than extrusion and as a result it may allow more of the foods nutrients intact. So it does require a certain amount of wheat gluten which allows the biscuit to bind. Wheat gluten is difficult for a dog to digest and has been shown to cause health issues such as allergies.
The process of pressing ingredients together for a period of only a few seconds at very low temperatures. This allows dry foods to be created without potentially damaging high temperatures or pressures. Cold pressed foods are highly specialised and because of this are not yet widely available.
This is the evaporation of water from the raw ingredients after they have been mixed. It’s done by exposing the food to a current of heated air over a period of time. Air drying decreases damage to proteins, vitamins and enzymes compared to generic cooking methods.
Dry complete foods can be fed alongside or mixed with both raw and wet foods. So, When mixing complete diets, care must be taken not to over feed. The easiest way to mix diets is to feed half and half. However, Some dogs may find it difficult to digest a 50/50 amount of wet or raw, if this is the case try different amounts such as 80/20.
Wet dog foods
Wet foods can be found in tins, trays and pouches at various levels of nutrition quality. These foods can range between 4-80% of meat and animal derivatives.
This choice should not require added preservatives as the cooking process kills all microorganisms within the air tight containers. As a result, feeding amounts are higher than dry due to the high water content causing them to be a more expensive diet to provide.
Raw dog foods
Growing in popularity, this method of feeding is as old as dogs themselves, which is making a wonderful comeback for our modern dogs.
Raw feeding is regarded by many vets, scientific studies and dog guardians as the most natural way to feed mans best friend. Because of this it is becoming the fastest growing feeding trend in the UK. However, this diet is more than just a trend, it allows your dog’s body to work as it was naturally designed to by digesting raw, unprocessed meat, organs, bones and vegetables.
There are two main ways to feed raw; pre-prepared complete diets which come in frozen nuggets or blocks which have been balanced with all the correct percentages and nutrients providing the health benefits of raw with the convenience of dry or wet food.
All pre-made raw food is frozen and requires overnight defrosting and contains a high proportion of water much like wet food. This is a huge positive due to a dog’s body being 70% water and allows your dog’s body to absorb a high proportion of their water needs naturally through their food. Because of this it will mean that a dog will not need to outsource from a separate water bowl as often.