We all want our pets to be healthy and happy; a great diet plays a starring role. Confused about what to feed Fido? (Us too! There’s so much advice out there.)
Let’s see what the experts have to say about chow time.
Dr. TJ Dunn Jr., DVM and Canine Nutritionist Specialists
Become a Label Reader
When we’re trying to eat better, we look to the label. Do the same for your dog. “Look at the ingredients list and a meat such as chicken should be listed as the first ingredient.” Dr. Dunn recommends foods with protein levels of 30% or more, fat of 18% or more, and omega fatty acids. What you don’t want to see: food coloring.
Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, and PetMD Contributor
Weigh Serving Recommendations with Knowledge of Your Dog
More label love from Dr. Coates. Feeding the appropriate amount is essential in maintaining a healthy weight. Look on the label of your dog food for the recommended amount. If you feed twice a day, divide it in half.
“Combine this information with your knowledge of your dog’s lifestyle to come up with the initial amount of food you are going to offer your dog.” If your dog’s inactive, feed a bit less. A bundle of energy? Give him a bit more.
Jennifer Larsen, DVM and Clinical Nutritionist
Buy food; not marketing
You’ve heard the hype. Grain-free is as trendy avocado toast. But, says Dr. Larsen, “Grain-free is definitely a marketing technique that has been very successful. But they’re buying an idea, not necessarily a superior product.” There is no evidence that grain-free diets are better for your dog. Balanced is best.
Dr. Cailin Heinze, DVM and Veterinary Nutritionist
Should you go organic?
Many people believe organic is “better.” The jury is still out. As yet, there is no conclusive evidence that organic foods are healthier or more environmentally conscious. There are various factors involved. Dr. Heinze bottom lines it for us.
Whether you feed organic or non-organic,“ You can be confident that if you give your pet plenty of exercise and enrichment, regular veterinary care, keep them lean, and provide lots of love, you’re providing them with the best of care.”
Dr. Patty Khuly, DVM and Pet Health Writer
A raw deal with raw diets?
Another big trend is a raw diet. But Dr. Khuly says, “Evidence suggests that raw or undercooked animal-source protein may be contaminated with a variety of pathogenic organisms that can cause infections in pets, often without their owners knowing they’re ill. What may be worse, however, is that recent studies have convincingly demonstrated that even pets with no symptoms can transmit these diseases to their humans.”
While Dr. Khuly admits to slipping her dog a piece of raw liver now and again, it’s best to cook meat thoroughly.
Dr. Amy Farcas and Board-Certified Nutrition Specialist
How can you resist those big puppy dog eyes? Dr. Farcas says, “If you give treats willy-nilly all over the place for no apparent reason, that can be detrimental because you may be giving too many treats and your pet may become overweight, but you also lose the opportunity to set up certain [behavioral] expectations.”
So use treats sparingly (no more than 10% of their daily calories) and to reinforce the behaviors you want. Avoid willy-nilly! Want a low-cal option? Try apples, carrots (raw or cooked), or sweet potato jerky to get some nutrients in there too.
Dr. Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, and Professor at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
There is so much conflicting information and advice out there. Dr. Freeman says, “Talking to your pet’s veterinarian should be the first step. Your veterinarian can help you select a food that meets your pet’s nutritional needs during different life stages, based on body condition and activity level, and if medical conditions should arise.”
What your dog craves most is love. Give him a big serving by talking with your vet about his unique nutritional needs.
Bone Appetit, everyone!