Choosing the right food for your dog depends on his breed, age, gender, body build, and activity level. As more food is introduced in the market, deciding on what to feed your dog becomes a little more complicated. Learn the five different types of dog food so you can make the right choice.
1. Grain-Free Dog food
What is grain-free dog food?
Food under this category doesn’t have grains such as corn, barley, oats, rice, rye, wheat, or soy. Instead, other carbohydrate sources such as lentils, peas, potatoes, quinoa, and sweet potatoes are the main ingredients.
Origins of Grain-Free Food
This type of food is rooted in the belief that dogs still have a primitive digestive system, which means their bodies thrive in raw animal protein diets. Since their stomachs are so used to having protein-rich meals, they may have difficulty in breaking down and metabolising complex carbohydrates and grains.
To digest these grains and fibres, their bodies need to rely on fermentation. Over time it can lead to several health issues such as obesity, food allergies, bowel inflammation disorders, and leaky gut.
Is grain-free food good for dogs?
Why grain-free dog food? They are believed to provide the following benefits to your dog:
- Glossier coat
- Healthier skin
- Lessens food allergies
- Provides more energy
- Reduces flatulence
- Longer periods of feeling full
- Reduces bad breath
- Firmer stools
Is there a difference between gluten-free and grain-free food?
Yes, gluten-free dog food and grain-free are not the same. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. On the other hand, the term grain free refers to food that doesn’t contain grains at all.
Grains like maise, rice, oats, millet, and sorghum, among others, are eliminated from the diet.
Is grain-free dog food better for weight loss?
Dogs that need to lose weight are given more protein and fewer carbohydrates. Grain-free doesn’t mean low in carbs. With grain-free wet food and grain-free dry dog food, grains are replaced by ingredients such as tapioca, green peas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes which are high in carbohydrates.
If you are planning to buy a low carb grain-free food for your dog, there are complete dry dog food and wet food varieties that you can choose from. Just check the labels to make sure that the ingredients are suitable for your dog’s diet.
2. Raw Dog food
What is raw dog food?
This refers to a diet of raw meat, bones, and vegetables. It is based on what ancient dogs used to eat before they became domesticated.
Veterinarian and nutritionist Dr Ian Billinghurst created the BARF diet, which stands for Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. The following raw foods are typically given to dogs on a BARF diet.
- Raw eggs
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Dairy (e.g. yoghurt)
- Meat bone (e.g. turkey neck, chicken wings, lamb ribs)
- Organs (e.g. brain, liver, spleen, kidney, pancreas)
- Muscle meat (e.g. pork, chicken, turkey, bison)
- Low-fat meat (e.g. rabbit, pork loin, lean ground beef)
Is raw food good for dogs?
Raw food does not have preservatives or fillers that may be harmful to dogs. In that respect, raw food is good for dogs. However, raw feeding must be tailored to the needs of puppies and adult dogs. Dog owners are advised to consult the vet before starting their dogs on a raw food diet.
The benefits of the raw food diet include the following:
- Healthier and cleaner teeth
- Shinier coats
- Alleviates chronic conditions (e.g. osteoarthritis)
- Less doggy odour
- Smaller stools
- Develops leaner and more muscular physique
Where to source raw dog food?
Premium quality raw food must be sourced from DEFRA-registered manufacturers and raw dog food suppliers. This ensures that the food is produced with care, following strict standards. Meals are packed in clean packaging and with proper labels.
Can I prepare raw food on my own?
Dog owners can make their own homemade raw food, but it must be done with utmost care. Imbalanced BARF meals, such as feeding your dog only muscle meat, can lead to nutrient deficiencies. This can weaken his immune system and make him more susceptible to diseases.
Fortunately, there are companies that created ‘convenience raw food’ and made raw dog food delivery possible. These meals are often frozen until collected and then you can thaw and feed them to your dog. Find the best raw dog food company that will cater to the needs of your pooch.
What is freeze-dried raw dog food?
Freeze-dried food is made up of meat with fruits and vegetables sometimes mixed in. Using a freeze-drying machine, the ingredients are quickly frozen to preserve the proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Moisture is then removed through sublimation. Once completed, the food is then packed in an airtight container to prevent spoilage.
Freeze-dried food yields several health benefits. It is full of nutrients as the freeze-drying process prevents the nutrients from dissolving. Being moisture free, it has a long shelf life. It can be very convenient to use when you are travelling with your dog.
How much raw food to feed a dog?
In general, feed your dog around 2 or 3 per cent of his adult weight. You may need to adjust it depending on his age and energy levels.
An active pooch will need more servings than a sedentary dog. Puppies should also go by the 2 to 3 per cent rule. Once they reach six months of age, they will require more food intake.
How to Switch to Raw?
Transitioning your pooch to a new diet should be done gradually. Dogs have sensitive stomachs and sudden changes in your dog’s diet can upset his digestive system. Here is a feeding guide that you can follow to switch his diet to raw food safely:
Day 1 – Feed your dog a mix of 75 per cent of his old food and 25 per cent of the raw food.
Day 2 – Feed him 60 per cent of his old food and 40 per cent of the raw food.
Day 3 – Feed him 50 per cent of his old food and 50 per cent of the raw food.
Day 4 – Feed him 40 per cent of his old food and 60 per cent of the raw food.
Day 5 – Feed him 25 per cent of his old food and 75 per cent of the raw food.
Day 6 – Feed him 90% to 100% raw food.
3. Natural Dog food
What is natural dog food?
This refers to natural food from plants, animals, and naturally occurring minerals. Moreover, it should not contain any chemically synthesised ingredients such as artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives. Some are even free of by-products such as connective tissue, skeletal meats, blood, and organs.
What are the typical ingredients found in natural food for dogs?
Ingredients vary significantly across suppliers; however, here are some of the most common ingredients that you should look for:
- Whole foods
Often composed of natural grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Flaxseed oil and chicken fat are packed with high-quality fats.
- Natural preservatives and antioxidants
Vitamin C, Vitamin E, oils of cloves, rosemary, and other spices are healthy substitutes for chemical preservatives. These are also used as supplements to boost your dog’s immune system.
Potatoes, rice, and oats are excellent sources of high-quality carbohydrates.
These are often added to boost the dog’s immune system
What is the difference between natural and organic dog food?
To be labelled as organic, the food should be made up of around 95% organic ingredients. For it to be classified as one, it must follow the organic standards set for every pet food ingredient:
- Flavourings should be made naturally or organically.
- No use of artificial fertilisers and drugs including antibiotics.
- Pesticides and cleaning methods are extremely restricted. Farmers are permitted to use just 15 pesticides derived from natural ingredients, but only under very restricted circumstances.
- Animals used in the preparation of organic food live free-range.
What is the difference between natural and holistic dog food?
Holistic geared towards providing supplemental nutrition with a less processed diet. It can be made up of either organic or natural ingredients.
Probiotics, real meat, whole grain rice, digestive enzymes, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants are some of the most common ingredients found in holistic foods. Senior dogs can benefit from eating low calorie natural or holistic food as well as vegan dog food.
4. Hypoallergenic Dog food
What is hypoallergenic dog food?
This refers to foods that don’t trigger an allergic reaction in dogs. Ingredients that can cause allergies are removed from the diet. These include chicken, beef, dairy, eggs, wheat, corn, artificial preservatives, colourings, and soya.
Hypoallergenic food contains nutrients that aid in relieving the symptoms of an allergic reaction. It includes fibre, Vitamin A, and E, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and novel carbohydrates.
Because of these qualities, it is also used in veterinary diets, which are specially formulated to manage specific health issues.
Difference between Food Intolerance and Food Allergies
If a dog has food intolerances, he lacks digestive enzymes needed to break down certain foods. As a result, he may experience vomiting and diarrhoea. On the other hand, a dog with allergies will suffer from skin and coat problems if he comes into contact with foods that he is allergic to.
This is caused by his immune system relentlessly attacking the allergen. The vet best checks dogs with food intolerances. However, for pooches with food allergies, hypoallergenic food is a great option.
How is hypoallergenic food used in treating allergies?
Food allergy treatment requires a food trial or elimination diet. It involves using hypoallergenic food which contains proteins such as duck, salmon, and venison or plant-based such as sweet potatoes and peas.
These novel ingredients are food that an allergic dog has never eaten before. Thus, it has little chance of triggering an allergic reaction.
Once the symptoms of food allergy stop, ingredients will be added to his food one at a time. If his allergies start to act up after that particular food is added, you’ll know to avoid it in the future. Doing this process will determine what food is causing an allergic reaction.
5. Homemade Dog food
Is homemade dog food better for your dog?
Feeding your dog with homemade food has several advantages:
- Variety in day-to-day meals.
The cooked diet allows your pooch to enjoy different meals. You are also able to get creative and use various kinds of healthy ingredients. This adds more vitamins and minerals in his food, making it not only a delicious but also a nutritious meal.
- Lessens leftover waste
Dog-safe leftovers from human meals can be given to your dog. Doing so will help in reducing food waste.
- Fresh and healthy ingredients
The best homemade dog meals are those with fresh ingredients without artificial preservatives. They help strengthen your dog’s body and immune system and keep health issues at bay. Since you are in charge of creating your dog’s meals, you will be able to pick the freshest food for your furry companion.
What to keep in mind about homemade dog food?
The most important part of preparing homemade food is to create nutritionally, balanced meals. Your dog’s diet should have the right balance of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals that his body needs.
Lack of nutritional content can result in health issues such as obesity and malnutrition.
To ensure that he has sufficient nourishment, choose homemade dog food recipes that are nutritionally balanced. You can find many of them online and in magazines.
There are also companies that can make homemade food for your dog. All you have to do is choose your pooch’s food plan, and they’ll have it delivered fresh or frozen. You can stock it in the fridge and heat it when it’s your dog’s mealtime.
What is the best dog food?
The best dog food for your pooch depends on his nutritional needs. It is always a good idea to ask for advice from the vet and animal nutritionists. They will work with you to identify the best dietary food for your dog. They may also find better alternatives for you to try based on your furry friend’s health, age, and breed.