Pet Care Advice 》 Dog food

 Dry vs. wet dog food 

The advantage of dry food is that it can be accurately and easily portioned to keep diets consistent, as they are easy to store and they rarely go bad as long as used within the expiration date. Similiarly, some of these foods are designed to help clean the dog’s teeth as they eat. Since some dog breeds tend toward tooth and gum problems, a dry food may help stave off such conditions. Of course, dogs with established tooth decay may find it painful to chew kibble and at that point, a wet food may less painful when eating, but a trip to the vet to get the teeth problems resolved, and stop the pain is a far better option.

To make kibble keep its shape, many dry foods have a reduced amount of fat and an increased level of carbohydrates. If your dog is extremely active, they may require higher fat than a dry dog food can provide. Some breeds of dogs may have a hard time breaking up kibble due to dental problems or facial structure (Pugs for example) making it more difficult for them to eat dry dog food. Also, as protein and fat content in dry foods rise, so do the price which negates one of the other benefits of dry food: the price.

Wet dog foods contain a significantly higher (80%) moisture content than dry kibbles, which can be important for dogs with urinary tract conditions, or dogs that don’t tend to drink enough water on their own. This water will also help fill your dog’s belly, which will temporarily help your dog feel satiated without actually consuming more calories. In this way, wet foods are a great way to make dogs on a diet believe they’re not being deprived in a weight loss plan. Wet foods often have a higher protein content than dry foods. Active and younger dogs may require this boost in protein to keep them energetic and active and to help build muscle.

Wet foods generally need to be refrigerated after opening, and even then its shelf life is limited to a day or two, so it may be relatively more expensive and wasteful than dry foods. Unlike dry foods, wet foods won’t won’t clean your dog’s teeth or massage their gums as they eat, which may lead to more plaque which can cause gum disease.  Owners who feed their dogs exclusively wet food may need to be more vigilant with brushing their pets' teeth. The higher moisture, protein, and fat content in wet food can sometimes cause digestive upsets, especially while transitioning from kibble. Some pet advocates argue that a dog food diet too high in protein can overtax the kidneys and liver, and they prefer a more balanced diet. Other nutritionists, however, argue that dogs’ diets should consist primarily of protein.

Please see our dental section about foods that are good to keep teeth healthy.  Dogs have evolved to eat carcasses, which we tend not to feed them, so they are more likely to get gum disease than they would if they lived in the wild.  Ideally chewing uncooked bones, such as ox tail, will help keep teeth clean, if used from a very young age If dental disease has taken hold, or if the dog is older than 3, then providing bones isn’t advised as the dog won’t be able to eat them properly.

 Best grain free dog foods 

Grain free dog foods are, as the name implies, diets that do not contain grain. They are currently popular choices for dog owners. While it is true that many pets do well on grain free diets, it is also true that these diets were developed more in response to consumer (i.e. human) preference than to the actual nutritional needs of our pets.  Dogs in the wild eat a lot of different foods, including intestines of animals that contain grains, so they are able to cope with them well enough.

Just like with any dog food, the best indicator of which formula is the most nutritionally sound is the ingredient list. An above-average or superior dog food is one that has an optimal level of good quality protein (a good quality protein is one that is digestible and has an amino acid content that is useful to the animal.  Soya protein is not the best, feathers used in cheap dog and cat foods are probably the worst, meat and egg is optimal); contains supplemental nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin; carries meaningful labels (like Certified Organic); and includes ingredients that are wholesome and hearty, like fish oil, carrots, sweet potatoes, and other real food products. The best dog foods contain real meat — optimally as the first three ingredients or more — and not “meat meal” or other vague, highly processed additive and fillers.  Cheap foods are often nutritionally quite poor, and lead to bulky stinking stools and flatus.

The better quality grain-free dog foods are those that meet these qualifications and are also free of wheat and other cereal grains.

Many pet owners assume that all grain-free diets are also low in carbohydrates, but this isn’t the case, especially when considering dry dog food. Grain-free diets can still be high in carbohydrates (thanks to high-carb, but healthy, ingredients like sweet potatoes). If carbohydrates are a concern for you and your dog, be sure to carefully read the ingredient list, and feed less of them!

 Best dog food for allergies 

Some, not all, itching can be caused by food intolerance.  Before you embark on an elimination diet, it is worth getting a proper investigation done to see if anything else might be causing the itching, either alone or in combination with food allergies.

The hallmarks of food allergies as being the cause of itching are recurrent ear infections in both ears, chewing the feet, especially the front feet in dogs, and crusty lesions over the head and neck in cats.  The lesions are symmetrical in their distribution.

To test if a dog has a food intolerance, the only ways to feed a protein and carbohydrate source that they have never been fed before, for a period of at least six weeks, and the diet must be exclusive.

Hypoallergenic dog foods typically share one of three basic dietary designs: limited ingredient diets, novel ingredient diets and prescription or veterinary diets.

The idea is that small molecules enter the blood stream in some animals directly from their digestive tract, and the body then recognizes them as foreign, and this sets off the release of histamines which cause the itching.  Feeding food that the animal has never had before means there is a least at window of time before that new food becomes an allergen as well; sometimes it's permanent.  It is this reasoning that is behind feeding dogs with enteritis or colitis a 'sacrificial' protein such as turkey; the intestines are ulcerated, so the antigens are more likely to enter the bloodstream and trigger an immune response.  If an animal become allergic to turkey it's not a big deal, as most pet foods do not contain it.

Limited ingredients diets contain fewer components; but are not for the very itchy animal. Next, novel ingredient dog foods contain components the animal might not have been previously exposed to — so, therefore, less likely to be sensitive to. These foods contain obscure ingredients like buffalo, pheasant, kangaroo, catfish, duck, as protein sources and millet, tapioca, rice, and not wheat.  

Prescription or veterinary dog foods are diets that have had the proteins in hydrolyzed, so that the amino acid chains are very short and so are none antigenic.  These diets are very expensive, but usually work well.

Dog foods that use a seafood base can help in two ways: by introducing rich omega-3’s and fatty acids into the diet, which help ensure there are not fatty acid deficiencies that can cause scaling and a dry coat, and by using protein sources that your dog’s digestive system may not have experienced before. 

A cheaper source of essential fatty acids for dogs is sunflower oil (not olive oil or palm oil/vegetable oil or canola).  The rate of addition to the food is about one tablespoon per 5kg bodyweight of the dog.

 Common Dog Feeding Errors

It is unwise to leave kibbles out all the time. Free feeding is the practice of pouring dry food into a bowl and letting your dog eat it whenever he wants, then filling his bowl when it’s empty. It may seem harmless, but it’s actually a problem. Most dogs are scavengers and are hardwired to eat as much and as fast as they can. So you shouldn’t expect your dog to control how much he consumes when he’s given an endless supply of food. 

As we mentioned, dogs tend to devour their food, and certain breeds like Labradors, Beagles, Bassets, Cocker, Corgis and Pugs are even more likely to eat as quickly as possible. Besides overeating, some dogs who eat their food fast are also prone to gas and bloating, a life-threatening condition.