Do you need expert advice about your pet? Each week KATE HORNBY (BSc BVMS MRCVS), a vet at Grove Veterinary Centre, answers your questions
There are several factors that determine what type of food is best for your dog.
Firstly the food needs to suit the age and activity levels of your pet. For example, young growing animals require a food that is designed for growth with higher protein levels and different mineral balances compared to those required by mature animals.
The breed of your puppy can also be important too. Recent advances in nutritional research have shown that puppies of medium and large breeds, eg Rottweiler or German shepherd dogs require different mineral and protein balances compared to smaller breeds of the same age. By meeting these specialist needs, some development conditions affecting the skeleton and joints of these breeds can be avoided. If your pet is older, less active or prone to being overweight, you should select a diet with lower energy levels and other nutrients.
Secondly, you need to be aware of the significant differences in quality between different brands. In general, as with most things in life, you only get what you pay for! The cheaper the food the cheaper and less consistent the ingredients are. The cheaper brands will tend to use different ingredients in different batches of food depending on what is most readily and cheaply available. This can lead to an increase in digestive upsets. The more expensive brands will use the same protein ingredients in all batches therefore reducing the risks of digestive upsets. These foods are more expensive to buy but the ingredients are not only more consistent but better quality. Although they are more expensive per bag they are more easily digested so produce a superior level of health in many animals. Because they are highly digestible you often need to feed less making the cost per day much more reasonable.
Dry foods have the advantage of assisting in dental cleaning but if your dog won’t eat it, it is better to feed a mixer with some complete wet dog food than trying to add in human food to make it more palatable. Human food alone is not completely balanced for optimal health, offers no dental benefit and encourages undesirable behaviour. Often people are tempted to changing or mixing foods to add variety, this is not a good idea as not only can it cause dietary upsets but it can lead to your dog becoming very picky.