We all love our dogs and want them to stay healthy. While all dogs should visit the vet regularly for checkups, did you know that deciding what to feed man’s best friend plays a large part in their health? While humans eat a wide variety of foods in order to meet all of our nutritional needs, dogs usually eat only the dry or wet food that you provide them, and it has to supply all of the vital nutrients they need.
In honor of National Food Safety Education Month, it’s a good idea to look at how to keep our dogs happy, healthy and fit. Here are some tips on what you should look for in picking your dog’s food (and what you should stay away from.)
Understanding What Your Dog Needs
The first step to picking healthy dog food is understanding what your dog actually needs in his diet. The best ratio for most dogs is food that is about 50% meat and 50% vegetables. The ratios of these ingredients aren’t always advertised on pet food packaging, however, so you may have to do additional research in order to discover what the percentages are.
One way that you can get a rough idea is by looking at the ingredients list on the back of the packaging. Ingredients should be listed in order of the highest percentage making up the food to the lowest percentage. If meats and vegetable ingredients are towards the top, you may be able to get an idea of how much of each are being used.
Pet food companies are businesses that are trying to make a profit. In order to do so, many companies will try to cut costs as low as they can. This can lead to these companies using ingredients that really aren’t good for your dog. These “fillers” may be legal to include in your dog’s food, but they really aren’t going to be good for him.
The best way to understand what ingredients are fillers and which ones are good for your pet is to do some homework. The next time you’re at the store, take some pictures of the ingredients lists for several brands of dog food that you’re considering. Once you’re home, look up each ingredient you’ve never heard of and find out what it is. This is the best way to translate the names pet food companies use to throw you off and to make their fillers sound less like garbage.
Don’t Go Vegetarian
One recent trend in pet food has been to try to make dogs (and even cats) eat vegetarian diets. While vegetables do play a part in a healthy dog’s diet (as mentioned above), they should never be the entire source of nutrition for your pet.
Think about it this way: dogs are descended from wolves, and wolves are carnivores. They are not meant to subsist on only plant matter. It’s not how their bodies are designed. While it might sound trendy to feed your dog a vegetarian (or even a vegan) diet if you live in Beverly Hills, it will not be good for his continued health and happiness.
Talk to Your Vet About Nutritional Needs
If you are ever unsure about what your dog needs in his diet, talk to your vet. Your pet’s specific nutritional needs may be different from other dogs depending on his breed, age and other factors. By conducting a complete medical exam, your vet will be able to advise you on any specific nutritional changes you should be considering.
The old adage “You are what you eat” applies to dogs, too, so make sure you’re feeding them right!