Healthy Eating For Your Dog
Are you filling your pet’s bowl with unappetising, dry stuff that you know is good for them, but probably not that tasty?
Balancing taste, texture and nutrition is tricky, especially with the confusing information and variants now available on the market.
"I want my pet's food to be healthy and nutritious, which is why I add fresh cooked pet food to their diet." - Dr Lisa Chimes
We love to include fresh food in our dog's meals because there are:
- Fresh ingredients
- Vital nutrients
- Variety of tastes
We all want our pet to eat something they love and that's good for them too, but getting it right needs a bit of attention. Like us, pet’s nutritional needs change as their age or lifestyle changes. When was the last time you reviewed your pet’s food and dietary needs?
Your pet’s meal regime depends on many things. Age, breed, lifestyle, and any health issues need to be considered. As these factors are constantly changing it's important to review your pet’s diet at least once a year, with the help of your vet or vet nurse.
In Australia, many of our pets follow the same trends as humans, with rising rates of obesity and diabetes. A study by the RSPCA and the University of Sydney in 2005 showed that over 40% of Australian dogs were either overweight or obese. Another study in 2008 found the figure for cats was around 33%. For both species, being overweight has caused well-being issues and a shorter lifespan.
Many people feed their pets dry food as it's generally nutritionally sound, convenient, and good for their teeth. However, when it comes to taste and variety, let’s face it, it doesn’t really excite your pet.
If you’ve been feeding dry food to your pet, you may want to try an approach that combines nutrition and convenience with taste and variety. However, you need to make sure the combinations form a balanced, nutritious diet. Think of it as a pyramid:
This is the ‘base’ or bulk of the meal when you’re feeding dry food. It also needs to provide balanced nutrition so a good amount of protein is vital. A protein level between 22% to 30% is required to maintain a healthy adult dog (unless advised otherwise from your vet). When looking at the pack you may have to take into consideration the amount of moisture in the product, especially for food in cans, trays, and pouches.
VET TIP: To ensure your pet is getting the correct quantity of food, always measure out the correct quantity as stated on the pack. Make sure you calculate this for their ideal weight, not their current weight. Your vet can advise on your pet’s ideal weight and if a weight reduction regime is recommended.
Adding a ‘topper’ to meals will give them the taste and variety your pet loves. Fresh pet foods are cooked, using methods to maintain the nutrition of the ingredients. It’s important to make sure the food is labelled ‘complete and balanced’ as it is specifically formulated for your pet’s needs.
Fresh is optimal, however, if you have limited fridge space you can switch amongst the types of wet food, making sure you have a sound understanding of the number of calories each type of food provides.
VET TIP: Thoroughly mixing the topper in with the dry food is a great way to make sure your pet doesn’t just eat the topper and ignores their main meal.
We all love to give our pet a treat. Sometimes it’s ‘just because’, and other times there are functional reasons, like training, dental cleaning or occupying your pet. The important thing to remember is that treats contain calories.
VET TIP: you will need to either reduce their meal size or increase their exercise for that day to account for the extra calories in the treat.
Fresh (cooked & chilled) food
Fresh or chilled pet food needs to be kept in the refrigerator and comes in varying degrees of quality. Feed them only fresh food that is labelled 'complete & balanced’ as this means it has been formulated with the correct mix of nutrients and minerals to ensure it can be served as a standalone meal. Fresh food is undoubtedly more interesting for your pet from a taste and texture perspective, and the better-quality ones are high in protein.
Wet food in trays and pouch packs
These foods are cooked at high temperatures to retain nutrients and to remove the need for preservatives. These foods also add taste, texture and variety for your pet's enjoyment.
Introducing a new type of food into your pet’s diet
When introducing any new foods into your pet’s diet, it’s wise to introduce the food gradually. If it’s a new main meal, you should consider mixing a small amount of the new food on day one, whilst reducing the amount of the old food - gradually changing the ratio over the week
If fresh is being introduced as a treat or topper, start with a small amount for one meal and build up the quantity until you reach the desired amount.It should also be noted that
VET TIP: as with all pet food, it is important to read the pack to determine the correct amount you should feed your pet. With any concerns, you should revert back to the original diet and any serious concerns should be attended to by your vet. Don’t forget pet food other than dry food has a much higher moisture content, so your pet may have slightly fewer firm poops than previously.
Dog vs Cat food
Even though our pets often like to nibble each other’s dinner, you should never feed a dog cat food and vice-a-versa, as they both have very different nutritional requirements and are thus formulated very differently.
Get the We are Pets Feeding Guide here