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Is A Premium Dog Food Really That Much Better For Your Dog?
===========The scoop on premium dog food========
If you are interested in premium dog food, then I probably don’t need to tell you about it importance of diet to keep your dog active and healthy. You already know you want something better than “average” for your furry friend.
But how much do you really know about what’s in premium food and what your particular pet’s needs are? I’m not a vet, but I know a thing or two about health and nutrition. (As a family dentist who practiced for twenty years, I have seen firsthand the effects of poor eating habits on human health – and especially on human teeth!!).
Just like you, your dog has to deal with the effects of stress, age, exertion, a polluted environment, and food grown in nutrient-depleted soils. Unlike you, they must obtain practically all their nutrition from a single food. Sure, you can give him a few treats or the occasional scrap from the table (hopefully not too much!) but otherwise he eats from the same bag day in and day out or he can. You want him to get complete nutrition from that one meal.
Even experts don’t seem to agree on exactly what complete nutrition is. Perhaps this explains why there are so many premium dog food formulas out there. But they agree on one thing: premium dog food is better for your pet than economy and grocery store brands. Although you will pay more, you usually get what you pay for.
Experts also agree on this, because premium foods are more nutritionally dense and easier to digest, your dog won’t need to eat as much. One study even concluded that if you feed your dog the recommended amount on each package, you end up saving money on premium formulas. This is because your dog needs to eat much less of it. (Save on pooper scoopers, too!)
Another way to tell if your dog is getting the right diet it is simply to observe him. Are his eyes clear, his coat silky and shiny, and his skin free of dryness and itchiness? Is she a healthy weight? What about his energy level? This can vary from animal to animal, but as you get to know yours, you’ll know when your dog isn’t feeling up to par.
Of course, any ongoing health issues should be investigated by your vet, as should any special dietary needs. But generally you will know if your friend is doing well on the diet you are giving him. If you see signs that this is not the case, try a different formula or brand of premium dog food.
Introduce new foods gradually, especially if you have a picky eater. And while we’re on the subject, it’s always nice when your dog likes to eat his food. This has much less to do with taste than with smell. Dogs have fewer taste buds than us, but about 40 times more smell receptors. So make sure he eats with gusto and doesn’t just pick up food.
Here are some basic guidelines you can follow:
Every dog needs the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. Your dog needs all of these in the right proportion to stay healthy. Needs vary by life stage, breed and activity level. Dog food companies produce premium dog food for all life stages, from puppies to seniors. The average adult dog needs a daily intake of about five ounces for every ten pounds of body weight, with the essential nutrients in the following proportions:
Protein –23% of total income
Fats –5% of total income
Carbohydrates –65% of total income
Other vitamins and minerals your dog needs are: vitamins A, D, E, B-complex, niacin, biotin, folic acid, choline and pantothenic acid; Calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium chloride, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine and selenium.
It is generally agreed that dogs do better on protein sources that are primarily meat, rather than soybeans and grains. Check the label. All food labels in the US must list the ingredients in order of quantity. If meat by-products are listed, they should follow the actual meat, not before it. Meat by-products are an inferior source of protein and are essentially what remains after quality meat has been removed. “Crude protein” can be a similarly poor source because it can include parts of the animal that the average dog can’t even digest or absorb (fur, beaks, etc.).
Omega fatty acids are a hot topic in human nutrition these days and have been found to be just as important in dog diets. Both should be present and in the right proportion. Most premium dog food companies have done their research and adjusted the ratios for this, but as always, ask your vet if you’re unsure.
You can buy premium dog food in almost any form, but which is the best? Again, most experts seem to agree. Dry food is less likely to allow plaque to build up on the teeth, less likely to harbor bacteria if left for too long, and result in firmer, more compact stools. Semi-moist foods are fine, but for some reason (I’m not sure what) they don’t offer the same nutritional benefits as premium kibble or canned food.
That said, I’ve also heard arguments suggesting that an all-dry diet can be a strain on a dog’s kidneys. So check with your vet to be sure.
Puppies they need more calories and essential nutrients than adult dogs. They need up to twice as many calories per ounce of body weight and should get 25% to 30% of their energy from protein, depending on the breed.
Most premium dog food brands take this into account in their puppy formulas, but it doesn’t hurt to check the label. By six to eight weeks of age, the puppy should be completely weaned and consistently eating dry food. After that, different breeds reach their mature weight at different rates, ranging from 9 months to 24 months of age. So it’s hard to tell the age or weight at which you should wean your pet off puppy food. Again, your vet can help you here.
Also, remember not to try to “rush” the growth process by overfeeding. If it grows too fast, the dog may develop a bone growth disorder. A puppy should be fed three to four meals a day as he is growing fast but still has a small tummy, but don’t overdo it with the portion sizes.
Adult dogs need to eat according to their size and energy requirements and should receive two meals a day. This is often referred to by premium dog food companies as a “maintenance diet”.
Unlike cats, dogs are not strictly meat eaters. A dog is actually more of an omnivore and will eat just about anything, whether it’s good for him or not! A certain amount of plant matter is part of a dog’s natural diet. Dogs love vegetables like broccoli, carrots, zucchini, peas, and beans, and fruits like bananas, apples, and watermelon. They are also great low calorie treats!
One thing you should never feed your dog is chocolate – it contains a chemical called theobromine, which is toxic to dogs.
Senior dogs need premium dog food to help them stave off and manage the effects of aging. Since different breeds vary greatly, it is difficult to determine the age at which you should switch to a senior diet. The ASPCA recommends using weight as a guide and offers the following:
Small breeds or dogs weighing less than 20 pounds: 7 years of age
Medium breeds or dogs weighing 21 to 50 pounds: age 7 years
Large breeds or dogs weighing 51 to 90 pounds: 6 years
Giant breeds or dogs weighing 91 pounds or more: 5 years of age
The ASPCA recommends that you do so start tackling the signs of aging before they become apparent. Just like us, dogs begin to accumulate more body fat as they age, even though they consume fewer calories. (At least we’re not alone!). Muscle mass will tend to decrease, but that doesn’t mean you should reduce your senior dog’s protein intake. Protein is more important than ever to maintain muscle mass, so avoid senior food with reduced protein content.
One thing you’ll want to feed him less of is calories. Obesity is a real problem for adult dogsand many owners don’t even realize their dog is overweight. In addition to portion size and calorie content, one way to prevent your dog from becoming overweight is to not give him leftovers. Most human food is not good for your dog.
============How much to feed=============
How much does your dog weigh? You should be able to feel your dog’s spine and ribs with light finger pressure, but you can’t actually see them. If you have to “dig” them, your dog is overweight, and if you can actually see her ribs, she is underweight.
If you’re not sure how much to feed, you’ll love the interactive dog food calculator on the PetsMart homepage! It is the result of extensive research that has been published in scientific journals and accepted by experts in the field. You can determine the right amount of food for your dog and see how long a 40 pound bag will last you!
If you are all set to feed a nutritionally complete premium dog food, do you still need supplements? This is another hotly debated topic. It usually seems so most dogs are fine without supplements. For certain dogs and certain conditions, supplements may help. For example, a dog that is not doing well and there is no other medical explanation for it may improve with supplements. Or dogs with certain skin conditions have been known to improve with supplements. Because there is a danger of doing more harm than good, you definitely should discuss supplements with your veterinarian.
If you decide to use one, choose one that is made from natural sources and is designed as a multivitamin developed specifically for dogs. In this way, he gets everything in the right amount and proportion. Add it to the diet twice a week so as not to overload or suppress your dog’s own internal regulatory mechanisms.
There are many reasons why a dog may be put on a special diet. Some dogs are very sensitive to certain ingredients in commercial dog foods. Even if you’re feeding her the best premium dog food, if your dog isn’t thriving, her diet may be a problem. Owners have turned to alternative diets—holistic, raw food, even kosher—to optimize their pet’s health. Some choose these diets simply because they believe they are better, not because their dog has any problems.
We will cover special diets in the next article. For now, I hope you have gained some useful insights into the benefits of premium dog food over economy brands.
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