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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 do not need to tell you about it importance of diet by keeping 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 is in a premium food and what your particular pet needs? I’m no vet but I know a thing or two about health and nutrition. (As a practicing family dentist for twenty years, I have seen firsthand the effects of poor dietary habits on human health – and particularly 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-poor soil. unlike you, he has to get practically all of his nutrition from one meal. Sure, you can give him some treats or the occasional scrap of the table (not too much I hope!), but otherwise he will eat from the same bag or maybe day in and day out. You want him to get complete nutrition in one meal.
Even the experts seem to disagree on exactly what complete nutrition is. Perhaps this explains why there are so many premium dog food formulas out there. But there is one thing they agree on: Premium dog food is best for your pet than economy brands and supermarkets. Although you will pay more, it is usually true that you get what you pay for.
Experts also agree that, because of premium food more nutritionally dense and easier to digest, your dog will not need to eat much. One study even concluded that if you fed your dog the recommended amount on each package, you would end up saving money on premium formula. That’s because your dog needs to eat much less of it. (You’ll save on pooper scoopers too!)
Another way to know if your dog is getting a proper diet is simply to observe it. Are his eyes bright, his clothes silky and shiny, and his skin not dry and itchy? Is it a healthy weight? How about his energy level? This can vary from one animal to another, but as you get to know you, you will know when your dog is not feeling up to par.
Of course, any persistent health problems should be looked into by your veterinarian, and the same goes for any special dietary needs. But in general you will know if your friend is doing well on the diet you are giving him. If you see signs that it is not, try a different formula or another brand of premium dog food.
Introduce new foods gradually, especially if you are a picky eater. And while we’re on this topic, it’s always nice if your dog enjoys eating his food. This has much less to do with taste than it does with smell. Dogs have fewer taste buds than us, but about 40 times more smell receptors. So, make sure that he eats with pleasure, and does not just choose his 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 must have all of these in the correct proportions to stay healthy. Their needs vary by life stage, breed and activity level. Dog food companies make premium dog food for all life stages, from puppies to seniors. An average adult dog needs a daily intake of about five ounces for every ten pounds of weight, with essential nutrients in the following proportions:
Protein –23% of total consumption
Grease –5% of total consumption
carbohydrates –65% of total consumption
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 a protein source that is mostly meat rather than soy and grains. Check the label. All US food labels must list ingredients in order of quantity. If meat by-products are listed, they should come after the actual meat, not before it. Meat by products are an inferior source of protein, and are basically what remains after the quality meat has been removed. “Crude protein” can be a similarly poor source, because it can include parts of the animal that cannot even be digested or absorbed by the average dog (hair, beak, etc.).
Omega fatty acids They are a hot topic in human nutrition these days, and have been found to be just as important in the canine diet. Both should be present, and in good proportion. Most premium dog food companies have done the research on this and adjusted their ratios, but as always, ask your vet if you’re not sure.
============Wet vs dry=============
You can buy premium dog food in almost any form, but which one 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 too long, and results in firmer, more compact stools. Semi-moist foods are convenient, but for some reason (I’m not sure what) don’t offer the same nutritional benefits as premium kibble or canned food.
That said, I have also heard arguments suggesting that a diet of only dry food can be a strain on a dog’s kidneys. So to be on the safe side, check with your vet.
============Stages of life=============
Puppy 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 formula, but it doesn’t hurt to check the label. By six to eight weeks of age a puppy should be completely weaned and eat its dry food constantly. After that, different breeds reach their mature weight at different rates, by anywhere from 9 months to 24 months old. So it is difficult to give an age or a weight where you should take your pet in puppy food. Again, your vet can help here.
Also, remember not to try to “rush” the growing process by overfeeding. If it grows too fast, a dog can develop bone growth disorders. A puppy should take three to four meals a day because it grows quickly but still has a small stomach, but do not overdo it with the portion sizes.
Adults Dogs need to eat according to their size and energy requirements and should eat two meals a day. This is often referred to by the premium dog food companies as a “maintenance diet”.
Unlike cats, dogs do not strictly eat meat. In fact, a dog is more like an omnivore and will eat just about anything, whether it’s good for him or not! A certain amount of vegetable matter is part of a dog’s natural diet. Dogs love vegetables like broccoli, carrots, zucchini, beans and peas, and fruits like bananas, apples and watermelon. These make great low calorie treats, too!
One thing you should never feed your dog is chocolate – it contains a chemical called theobromine which is toxic to dogs.
Senior dogs need a premium dog food that will help cut heads and manage the effects of aging. Since different breeds vary greatly, it is difficult to give an age at which you should switch to a senior diet. The ASPCA recommends using weight as a guide, and offers the following:
Small breed or dog weighing less than 20 pounds: 7 years of age
Medium breed or dog weighing 21 to 50 pounds: 7 years
Large breed or dog weighing 51 to 90 pounds: 6 years
Giant breed or dog weighing 91 pounds or more: 5 years of age
The ASPCA recommends you start dealing with the symptoms of aging before they are obvious. Just like us, dogs will begin to accumulate more body fat as they age even as they consume fewer calories. (At least we are not alone!). Muscle mass will tend to decrease, but that doesn’t mean you should decrease your older dog’s protein intake. If anything, protein is more important than ever to help maintain muscle mass, so avoid senior dog food formulas with reduced protein.
One thing you will want to feed him less of is calories. Obesity is a real problem with adult dogs, and many owners don’t even realize their dog is too big. Aside from portion size and calorie content, one way to avoid an overweight dog is to resist giving it to the table. Most human foods are not good for your dog.
============How much to feed=============
How weight is your dog? You should be able to feel your dog’s spine and ribs with light finger pressure, but not actually see them. If you have to “dig” to find them, your dog is too big and if you can see his ribs, he is underweight.
If you’re not sure how much to feed, you’ll love the interactive Dog Food Calculator on the PetsMart home page! It is the result of considerable research published in scientific journals and accepted by industry experts. You can determine the right amount of food to feed your dog and find out how long that 40 pound bag will last!
If you are ready to eat a complete nutritional premium dog food, do you still need supplements? This is another hotly debated topic. As a rule, it seems that most dogs do just fine without supplements. For certain dogs and certain conditions supplements can make a difference. For example, a dog that is not thriving and has no other medical explanation for it might improve with supplements. Or, dogs with certain skin conditions have been known to improve on supplements. Since there is a danger of doing more harm than good, you should definitely 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 specially formulated for dogs. In this way he will find everything in the right amount and ratio. Add it to the diet twice a week so you won’t overwhelm or suppress your dog’s own internal regulating mechanism.
There are many reasons why a dog might be put on a special diet. Some dogs are very sensitive to certain ingredients in commercial dog food. Even if you are feeding him the best of premium dog food, if your dog is not thriving, it is possible that his diet is a problem for him. Owners have embraced alternative diets — holistic, raw food, even kosher — to optimize their pets’ health. Some choose these diets simply because they believe they are better, not because their dog has any problems.
We will discuss special diets in a future 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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