By Mitu Paul
Gone are the days when a family picture just had 3 generations perched on high chairs staring at a tripod camera. The world today puts up collages of happy parents holding onto their giggling kids and face licking pets. Yes, a pet today is a must. As this new world is waking up to the benefits of pet parenting on their mental and physical health, pets are also an increasing demand from the kids who seek solace and company when their parents are away.
But with all this love, also comes the responsibility of raising your pets well and giving them the nutrition that they deserve. Walking down the dog food aisle at your local grocery store or pet store may feel overwhelming with so many choices. Pet owners, breeders, veterinarians, store employees, and the general public all have different opinions on what type of food is best for dogs. Despite the wide variety of recommendations, there are ways to objectively evaluate the best dog food diet for your pet at home. But food is no “one size fits all”, Your dog’s best food will depend on its unique needs, most importantly their life stage, weight, and known medical conditions. Dogs have different nutritional requirements depending on their age or life stage, and pet foods are generally formulated to meet the distinct needs of three groups: puppies, adult or maintenance and senior care.
Some foods are formulated for “all life stages,” which means they can be fed to any pet. In order to make this claim, the food must meet the minimum requirements for growth and reproduction. This means that an “all life stage” food will have more calories and nutrients than what is needed for a healthy adult pet. While this is not necessarily harmful, it may lead to excess weight gain. Many veterinarians recommend choosing a food labelled for your pet’s specific life stage.
Puppies need more calories, fat and protein than adult dogs; Puppy diets also contain higher levels of certain vitamins and minerals, like calcium and phosphorous, to support tissue growth and development until they reach maturity around 12 months old. It’s also best recommended for pregnant or lactating mother dogs to meet the enhanced needs of a mother dog. Your veterinarian may recommend switching a pregnant dog onto a puppy diet halfway through gestation until the puppies are weaned.
Adult canines (four to eight years of age) should be fed a maintenance diet that helps them sustain a healthy weight and adequate energy levels. Compared to puppy food, the formulas have fewer calories, moderate amounts of most nutrients, and some additives that make dogs feel full upon eating. You may see some types of high-performance food geared toward active dogs between the ages of one and three. These diets are formulated to fuel the increased energy levels in young adults and athletic breeds with a unique blend of protein and fat.
Caring for your senior dog should include a carefully chosen diet based on their specific health needs, such as the prevention or treatment of chronic disease. These formulas are designed to improve the immune system and may include specialty ingredients like glucosamine for dogs with arthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight is of utmost importance to your dog’s health. With this in mind, you should pay attention to the calories and feeding directions on the label. Your veterinarian can help you determine what an ideal weight and calorie target are for your pet.
And let’s not forget the medical conditions while discussing this. If your dog has any medical conditions, including urinary stones, allergies, intestinal disease, or kidney issues you should consult with your veterinarian about the best dog food choice, as they may recommend a prescription diet. These diets are specially formulated by veterinary nutritionists to meet the unique nutritional needs of pets with specific disease conditions and studied in these patients. Your vet will advise you on which diet is best for your pet and whether or not the food is safe for all the canines in your home. Even if your pet doesn’t have a diagnosed medical condition, you can always discuss vet-recommended dog food at your pet’s annual preventive care examination.
Note that not all formulas are created equal, and it’s essential that the product you choose is nutritionally complete and balanced to satisfy your pet’s needs. It’s important to be cautious and take sanitary steps when serving raw food because the risk of bacterial contamination is very high. Simple steps can create an immunity shield around your pet, enhancing its life!