Choosing the Best Dog Food
The expected life span of a dog can vary tremendously from breed to breed, but there are some things you can do to help promote a long and healthy life. Proper care and nutrition all throughout his life will set the stage for prolonging his life and activity level as he ages. Like humans, a dog will have changing nutritional needs during his lifetime. While nutritional requirements can vary from dog to dog, even dogs of the same breed or sex, there are some basic principles you can follow. Here are some guidelines for choosing the right dog food at every stage of your dog's life.
Most dogs are considered puppies through 12 months of age. For larger breeds, the timeframe is expanded to 18 months. Puppies have higher energy levels and need proper nutrition to support a healthy muscular and skeletal system as well as continuing brain and organ development. Because they are growing so rapidly, they will require a food that is higher in protein and fat levels. It is also important that your puppy has an adequate intake of calcium to promote healthy bones and teeth.
For the first year of his life, you should be giving your dog food especially made for puppies. You should never feed your puppy adult dog food. Adult foods don't have the proper balance of nutrients that your puppy needs during his first 12-18 months of life.
Because some puppies have sensitive stomachs, you may need to consider a special food that is highly digestable and gentle on his stomach. To make the food easier for your pup to eat, you may want to moisten the food with water at first and slowly decrease the amount of water until he is content with eating the food dry.
As dogs move into adulthood, their nutritional needs will shift again. At this point, it's time to look at food for adult dogs. Adult dog food has less calories than puppy food and you'll want to stop giving him puppy food so that he doesn't gain unnecessary weight. A good adult food is going to provide optimum protein and fat levels to help maintain a healthy weight while providing plenty of protein for muscles, skin and coat.
Look for foods that contain real meat, fish, or poultry as the first ingredient. Healthy foods will also contain whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Avoid foods that list meat by-products as one of the main ingredients. Meat by-product is not actually muscle meat, but can be any other part of the animal including organs and intestines. Real meat is always healthier for your dog.
Many foods contain corn or beet pulp as a filler, and isn't any more healthy for your dog than it is for you. Instead of these ingredients, check the labels for foods that contain whole grains and other vegetables such as peas, carrots, and potatoes.
Overweight or Less Active Dogs
Dogs that aren't very active can end up putting on additional pounds, just like people. Obese dogs tend to have significantly shorter life expectancies than healthier dogs that maintain a normal weight for their breed and size. It is therefore very important to take control of a dog's weight problem before it becomes out of control.
If your dog is less active and/or overweight, you may want to speak with your veterinarian about beginning a special diet for him. There are diet dog foods and foods made for less active dogs available. These foods provide the nutritional elements that your adult dog needs, while limiting the caloric intake in each serving.
It's always best if you can avoid having an overweight dog to begin with. You should only feed your dog the recommended serving size for his weight and age as noted on the dog food label. While a scrap here or there probably isn't going to cause your dog to be obese, you should really limit the amount of table scraps you feed him. It's really best not to offer scraps to your dog at all.
Your dog needs exercise, just like a person, in order to maintain a healthy weight. Set aside some time daily to make sure your pet gets the exercise he needs whether it's just running around in the yard or going for a walk or jog with you.
Once your dog has reached 7, he is considered a senior dog. Senior dogs are similar to overweight/less active dogs in that they tend to be less active, sleep more and may begin suffering from signs of arthritis. Because an older dog is less active, they're prone to gaining additional weight if they are fed too much or if they're given a high-calorie diet. Older dogs need diets that are balanced and lower in protein, fat and calories but have a lot of fiber.
There are several foods available especially for your aging dog. They have fewer calories while still providing all of the balanced nutrients that a dog needs. Some foods contain glucosamine and/or chondroitin, which can ease arthritis pain by helping to maintain the healthy cartilage that cushions their bones.
Just as with humans, dogs need a healthy diet that will support their individual nutritional needs. Over your dog's life, you will need to change their food according to the special dietary requirements they have at that time. If in doubt, always consult with your veterinarian before trying a new dog food. He or she is the best resource for questions related to your pet's health.