Food Glorious Food……

It is just mind boggling the amount of information out there these days about dog food. Today’s blog I’m going to focus on what’s available, how to choose your food and some interesting facts that you may not know about feeding dogs in general. So firstly, lets discuss some pros and cons of dog food. The most common types are as follows:

HOMEMADE
Pros
• Sky’s the limit when it comes to variety
• You are in control of what your dog eats
• Dogs usually enjoy the taste better than commercial foods
• Ingredients are normally minimally processed and fresh
• All the above, can contribute to marked health improvements in your dog
Cons
• It can be easy to neglect certain necessary ingredients resulting in nutritional deficiencies
• Special attention is needed for a “complete and balanced” meal and supplements are often needed.
• Takes longer to prepare
• Can potentially be more costly

DRY COMMERCIAL FOOD (KIBBLE)– to many brands available to list 
Pros
• Generally, the most cost-effective diet
• Travels and stores well (providing kept within a specified time and specified storage instructions)
• Generally, guarantee nutritional completeness
• Wide range is available e.g cost, flavour, life stages etc
• No preparation required
Cons
• Your putting your trust in the company and manufacturer (if different) as to the ingredients quality and safe processing practices
• It can contain low-quality ingredients like meat-by-products, sweeteners artificial colours and preservatives
• Are typically carb orientated
• Expiration does matter! The longer the packet is open, vitamin levels and preservation can diminish over time.

CANNED WET FOOD– to many brands available to list
Pros
• Can be more appetising than dry kibble
• Most canned foods use fresh or frozen meats instead of more rendered (processed) varieties
• Normally preservative free, yet it is shelf-stable for a long time
• Canned foods seem to be less carb oriented than dry kibble
• No preparation required
• Generally, guarantee nutritional completeness
Con’s 
• Your putting your trust in the company and manufacturer (if different) as to the ingredients quality and safe processing practices
• Lower quality canned food can contain meat by-products
• Generally, more expensive than dry kibble
• BPA maybe present – check labelling
• Smell can be offensive to humans
• Can sometimes contain too much fat

STORE-BOUGHT RAW FOOD– BARF, Leading Raw and Local Raw Dog Food Suppliers
Pros
• Should use fresh unprocessed ingredients allowing nutrient retention
• Raw meat is the closest diet to the evolutionary & biologically appropriate ancestral diet
• Most commercial raw foods claim no preservatives, artificial flavours or colours 
• Has been known to show marked health improvements
• Generally, guarantee nutritional completeness
Cons
• Your putting your trust in the company and manufacturer (if different) as to the ingredients quality and safe processing practices
• Raw diets are not good for sick or old dogs as the meat can contain pathogens that is a risk for immuno-compromised dogs
• Hard to travel with
• Needs to be brought frequently or takes up freezer space
• Can sometimes contain too much fat
• Must be maintained at safe temperatures (no thawing until consumed)

DEHYDRATED DOG FOOD-Absolute Holistic, Balanced Life (by Vets All Natural), KiwiPeak etc.
Pros
• Most manufacturers use fresh, minimally processed ingredients
• Meant to retain more nutrients after processing than canned or kibble with only the moisture removed
• Normally preservative free, yet it is shelf-stable for a long time
• Generally, guarantee nutritional completeness
Cons
• Your putting your trust in the company and manufacturer (if different) as to the ingredients quality and safe processing practices
• Often extremely expensive
• Not good for sick or old dogs as the meat can still contain pathogens once re-hydrated, therefore making it a risk for immuno-compromised dogs
• Usually withered and harder than Freeze Dried and normally takes substantially longer to re-hydrate than Freeze Dried                                             • Key difference between freeze dried and dehydrated is that dehydration can sometimes break down the vital vitamins and minerals due to the processes being a little more invasive than freeze dried

FREEZE-DRIED DOG FOOD-K9 Natural, Frontier Pets etc
Pros
• Portable, lightweight and extremely shelf stable
• Normally minimally process or raw
• It is claimed that freeze-dried has the highest quality ingredients as a rule
• Good for dogs with poor appetite as is claimed irresistible to dogs
• The look and feel of a freeze-dried product to a dehydrated is noticeable to the naked eye with freeze dried preferred
Cons
• The most expensive dog food
• Some freeze-dried food is only meant for supplemental or intermittent feeding so always check label for “complete and balanced” diet
• Some may not be good for sick or old dogs as the meat can still contain pathogens once re-hydrated therefore making it a risk for immuno-compromised dogs
• May not be available in all pet stores
• Some can be very high in protein and fat

So, you’re probably asking where “grain free” fits into all this. As above there, is no right answer here. As with all foods grain free diets also have their pros and cons, like the above. The question we should be asking ourselves when considering “grain free” is why we would want to feed our dogs a grain free diet? If your answer is “because I heard it was better!” than I would say this to you “grain-free diets are better for dogs who are allergic too or are intolerant to grain”. Which brings us to this little gem, on doing research for this blog I kept coming back to the following statement “approximately 10% of all skin allergy cases in dogs, are food related”. Food related being the operative word here, not grain related. So, if you have exhausted all other environmental and physiological factors when dealing with an itchy, allergic dog, then by all means, look at food. However, research suggests that its more common to see more food allergies related to meat/ protein dense foods, than it is to grains.

As a breeder we asked all the time “what would be our diet recommendations for their dog/s?” This is probably the hardest question for us to answer as in our house hold we have multiple dogs on multiple foods for multiple reasons, so I would give the following answer:

  1. Feed a variety of products, rotate your food options within your dog’s life stages e.g puppy, adult, senior etc. This includes but not limited to bones.
  2. Feed the best food you can afford, and that your dog does well on. For example one that maintains healthy weight, shiny coat, no digestive issues such as loose stools etc
  3. Read the ingredient labels if the front of the packet reads chicken and rice then you want to see Chicken and Rice in the top couple of ingredients on the labels not buried fifth deep and stated as chicken by-product meal
  4. Only use the specific dietary food if needed and preferably on your vet’s recommendation e.g limited ingredients, grain free, weight loss exotic foods, glucosamine added, etc

Now to wrap it up. Please be aware of the following safety precautions when feeding your dogs:

  1. If you frequently switch between food’s, then your dog is already accustomed to the changes in their digestive enzymes that support the varied microbes that are needed to help break down their foods easily. If you aren’t feeding a varied diet then changing foods can trigger unwanted side effects such as weight gain, digestive problems, pancreatitis or worse. Therefore, if you are feeding a varied diet make sure you adjust per the packet instructions. Don’t just continue with feeding the same quantities as you were on the last food packet as not all foods are created equal in daily portions
  2. Always use your food by the “best before/by or expiry” date. All foods breakdown over time meaning this can affect the nutrient quality and palatability over time.
  3. Store dry foods in their bags, in plastic containers. I know it’s easier to just scoop from a big plastic container but some fats in dry foods can interact with different plastics which in turn can causes chemicals to leach out of the plastic and into the food. Also store these containers in a cool, dry place and check your canned food for BPA free labelling.
  4. If your dog normally eats that food without a problem but suddenly declines to eat it, examine the food more closely as the dog could be trying to tell you that either something is wrong with the him/her or wrong with the food. Try offering something else at this time if he/she eats something else but still rejects the first food after your second try the following day, something may be wrong with the food.
  5. Your dog’s bowl should either be a glass or stainless-steel bowl as these don’t leach harmful chemicals (like some plastics might) or hide bacteria and should be washed on a regular basis. Raw feeders should wash and dry bowls after every meal.
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