Q: Given the staggering number of choices available in dog foods these days, how do I go about selecting the food that is best for my dog?
A: It’s true one might feel they need a PhD in animal nutrition to select the right pet food, but if you keep four basic factors in mind — your dog’s breed, your dog’s age, it’s activity level, and overall general health — you should not encounter too much difficulty choosing the best food for your dog.
Most commercial diets these days are tailored to meet the demands of a specific breed of dog. The primary differences tend to be the volume of carbohydrates and proteins as a percentage of the total nutrient volume. Miniature Schnauzers, for example, are generally not able to metabolize fats as effectively as other breeds. On the other hand, Labrador Retrievers would likely benefit from a diet with higher amounts of joint protective supplements. Hence, a diet tailored to meet the scientifically established needs of your particular dog’s breed should be considered.
Like a dog’s breed, age is another important factor in dietary choices for your canine companion. Similar to breed, the primary differences are the total percentage volumes of carbohydrates and proteins as a percentage of the total nutrient volume. Younger dogs require more of each, older dogs, less.
Is your dog usually at the park chasing a ball or at home on the couch? Depending on your pooch’s activity level, your dog may require more or less proteins and carbohydrates. As with humans, the best rule of thumb for dogs is calories consumed must equal calories burned.
And finally, your dog’s overall health should always be a factor when making a dietary choice. Specific diseases have specific dietary needs. If your dog currently has a health issue or a history of issues, I recommend consulting with your veterinarian about the best food options for your dog.
Generally speaking, I tend to recommend to all clients that a pet be fed a novel protein diet (no chicken, beef, lamb or fish) with any treats matched to the protein of that diet. As of yet, grains have not been scientifically shown to be an allergen in pets, but as this is a possibility, I’m fine with a patient being fed a novel protein, no grain diet. I make this recommendation on the basis of eliminating diet as a possible cause of allergies, which tend to be very common.