Ultimately, you are the one who needs to decide what food best suits your dog. Do plenty of research so you can make an informed decision. Here are some things to do before you choose.
Get Educated About Nutrition ChoicesThere is a lot of information about nutrition available on the Web. Always use caution - not all the information you find will be reliable. Your vet is one of your best resources. If you still have questions, you may want to ask for a referral to a nutritionist.
In general, dog food choices boil down to the following categories:
- Holistic / Natural Commercial Diets
- Veterinary Prescription Diets
- Premium Dog Food
- Economy / Generic Dog Food
- Homemade / Raw Diets
Commercial diets are usually available in wet or dry. Decide which category best suits your dog, then start researching food companies. For information about homemade diets, try sites like petdiets.com and balanceit.com.
Read Dog Food LabelsThe Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has developed profiles for dog and puppy nutrition. These standards are reflected on the dog food label. This information will give you an idea of the food's content, but beware - the labels can be misleading. Just because a food meets AAFCO requirements, it does not mean that is the best food for your dog. Look for food companies that exceed AAFCO guidelines and use high-quality ingredients that are human-grade if possible. Avoid foods that contain chemical preservatives and fillers like wheat, corn and soy.
Ask Others About Dog FoodOnce you have done your research and decided on a general food category, ask others for their opinions about specific brands or recipes. Your veterinarian is a great place to start. You can also talk to dog breeders, trainers and groomers for more opinions. Your local pet supply store may also be of assistance, especially if it is a smaller, independent shop that carries top-quality diets. Educated pet professionals can give you their recommendations, but remember that not all experts agree when it comes to canine nutrition, so be prepared to get conflicting advice. The same goes for talking to other pet owners. Keep in mind that different dogs can react differently to the same food. Use the information you gain to further narrow your options, but remember that opinions are not facts.
Feed Your Dog
Many dog food companies offer samples or money back guarantees, so let your dog try the food before you finalize your decision. Bring home a few varieties to see which is the most palatable.Once you have made your decision, gradually change your dog's diet, adding a little more new food to the old food each day over several days. Once your dog is exclusively eating the new diet, it may be 3-4 weeks before you see changes in your dog's overall appearance and attitude. However, if your dog develops signs of illness, see your vet - you may need to change the diet again if it does not agree with your dog in some way.
Your Dog's Diet Over TimeMany experts now recommend rotating diets every 2-6 months if you are feeding commercial dog food. This typically means changing to a new food company. Offering a variety of formulas within that company can benefit many dogs. When feeding homemade diets, a variety of foods should be offered. However, it is always important to use recipes for complete and balanced dog food. Feeding the same food all the time can not only be boring for your dog, it is also believed that this can lead to allergies and other diseases. Remember that the needs of individual dogs can vary. As always, consult your veterinarian about the best food choices for your dog.
Susan G. Wynn, DVM, CVA, CVCH, AHG
Veterinary Nutrition and Integrative Medicine Service
Georgia Veterinary Specialists