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Dogs - Food

Dog food refers to food that is made specifically for dogs, taking into consideration their sharp teeth and short gastrointestinal tracts. The type of dog food that you feed your dog contributes significantly to its health and wellness, so making sure you have done your research is very important. The dog food market is huge, with sales totaling over $8 billion dollars in 2010. There is a wide variety of dog foods to choose from today, so it is important to do your research to find the best one for your dog’s breed, energy level, and age.

Dry / Wet Food

Commercial dog food either comes in a dry form or in a wet form. Many dog owners prefer to feed their dogs dry food because it is cheaper and more convenient. Wet food is typically more expensive and is usually higher in fat and protein than dry food. There has also been a recent introduction of alternative dog food that successfully targets niche markets, each marketing specific characteristics. Popular alternative dog foods include frozen raw or cooked meals, dehydrated, homemade, organic, vegetarian, and fresh.

Dog Food Ingredients

Many dog owners have become very conscious about their dog’s diet and health and are looking at the ingredients found in dog food. Some dog owners will not purchase commercial dog foods that include ingredients such as bones meals, byproducts, and offal (internal organs of other animals). Many less-expensive commercial dog foods include animal byproducts and grain fillers. Some animal enthusiasts believe these ingredients are bad for their pet’s health because they would not naturally find these ingredients within their diet in the wild. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, animal byproducts in pet food may include parts obtained from animals that have died from disease, brains, and spinal cords. Those in favor of a more healthy diet for their dog believe that a raw diet is the superior because it mimics what wild dogs eat. This type of diet has not been greatly researched yet so there is no significant proof that it is beneficial to the dog’s overall health. The raw dog food diet has to be prepared using basic hygiene guidelines, otherwise the health of both the handler and the dog is put at risk.

Understanding Dog Food Labeling

It is important to understand how to read the labels of dog foods so that you can know what to look for and what to avoid. Dog foods that are labeled as ‘complete and balanced’ must meet certain standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.  It has to meet a nutrient profile and feeding trial. There are currently no legal definitions for products labeled as premium, ultra-premium, natural and holistic. There are no legal definitions for dog foods that are labeled as ‘human-grade food’ which can be very misleading. The ingredients on dog food must be listed in descending order by weight before cooking, meaning that all of the moisture is removed from the meat, fruits, vegetables and other ingredients used.

It may seem like an overwhelming task to find the right dog food, but there are many different websites you can go to in order to get some advice. Great information can be found at  Iams, Diamondpet, Pedigree, Hillspet and Dogfoodproject. These websites give a comprehensive view of what to look for in your dog’s food and a variety of price points to choose from.

Feeding Schedule

Most experts recommend that you should feed your dog twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Puppies under the age of five months should be fed up to four times a day, or as directed as your veterinarian. It is also recommended that you leave the bowl of food out for your dog for ten to fifteen minutes and so it will have established feeding times. The amount of food that you feed your dog depends on the kind of food and the breed. Establishing routine with your dog’s feeding times will prevent your dog from begging during your meal times. Your dog should always have fresh drinking water available to them so that they do not become dehydrated; it is especially important in the warmer months to make sure your pet has adequate drinking water.

Making sure that you feed your dog the right kind of food is very important in sustaining its health. There is a wealth of information online, and you can always ask your veterinarian what would be the best food for your pet. Some of the most popular dog foods include Acana, Halo, HealthWise, Nature’s Logic, Purina Pro Plan and Pedigree. These dog foods are available at most retail pet stores and can be bought in small or large bags. Keep in mind that as your dog ages, its nutritional needs change. Speak with your vet if you are considering changing dog foods to make sure a new food will continue to meet your dog’s nutritional requirements.