Ultimate Guide to Canine Diet
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what we consume has much to do with our overall well-being. After all, we’re what we eat.
What’s baffling, however, is how often we seem to lose sight of the fact that the same goes for our furry friends. Just as is the case for us hoomans, dietary habits form the basic building blocks that determine the quality and length of our canine companions’ lives.
The question is, what then is the very best canine diet?
Every dog is different
The short answer is it depends.
Here’s why. Say you have a one-year-old with a dairy allergy. Would you let her be if she lunged for a bowl of sundae on the countertop? Most definitely not. Instead, for her sake, you’d pull it right out of her reach.
By the same token, you wouldn’t want your newborn puppy weaned straight onto a slab of uncooked mince. The poor little thing would be sick for days, if not weeks otherwise.
That’s not to say raw meat should be removed from your puppy’s diet altogether. In fact, once its digestive tracts have matured enough to withstand a high bacterial load, a gobbet of fresh mince can be an excellent source of protein and fat.
This is precisely why a one-size-fits-all regimen isn’t a thing. A host of factors from age and size to activity levels and health conditions play a part, and for a dietary approach to be considered optimal, it has to reflect the unique individual needs of each dog.
Getting started on a meal plan
Now that you know there’s no set blueprint, it’s time to draw up a customized meal plan specifically designed to address your pup’s dietary needs and goals.
To help you get the ball rolling, we’ve compiled the following list of expert tips and insights from certified veterinarians:
▪︎ Think in phases
Nutrition is a dynamic process. Meaning, how often and what your pup consumes will constantly change with age.
A good rule of thumb is to start with small, frequent meals comprised of ingredients like kibble that are gentle on the stomach and gradually mix in fresh vegetables and cooked meat. After four months or so, when the teeth and immune system have fully matured, introduce raw meaty bones and other solids that are more demanding on the gut. Don’t forget to cut down daily intake to one or two square meals as well.
▪︎ Put yourself in the shoes
Dogs are, in large part, just like humans. Chief among those similarities is diet.
For one, carb-loading is seldom a good idea. Unless your dog happens to spend hours every day engaging in strenuous activities such as hiking, running, swimming, and the like, a carb-heavy diet can seriously strain the digestive system and give rise to grave health issues ranging from obesity and diabetes to cancer.
Further, the detrimental effects of processed foods are just as prominent in pups as it is for us. Namely, the byproducts and low-quality derivatives that make up processed foods have been found to trigger a significant uptick in chronic inflammation, immune system dysfunction, and pancreatitis, among others.
The bottom line is to treat your furry friend’s body like a temple. Pack the meals with whole food ingredients rich in protein, fat, and minerals while avoiding anything you wouldn’t want to put in your own body.
▪︎ Make AAFCO label your best friend
Though dogs do have the ability to break down bits and matters that would simply wreck the human intestine, they’re still vulnerable to the possibility of catching foodborne illnesses.
Thanks to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), minimizing such risks has never been easier.
AAFCO, in brief, is the canine equivalent of USDA. When in doubt, going for the items that carry the AAFCO stamp of approval is a foolproof way to make sure you’re picking out clean, high-quality ingredients for your pup.
Ask the experts
Keep in mind that everything discussed in this post is to be taken as nothing more than general principles. They are meant to help you make out the rough outline before consulting a veterinary nutritionist for an assessment-based diet plan that hits all your dog’s specific needs.
If you’re struggling to find a trustworthy vet or don’t know where to start, Dr.Tail has you covered. Follow the link below and get all your questions answered today from a certified vet for free.