How to choose what your dog eats

Having a healthy dog takes more than dumping food and water into a bowl every day. Dogs are faithful companions that deserve thoughtful care, including playtime together with you, regular exercise and daily nutrition. Even a seemingly happy pet is not necessarily experiencing its best health. Your responsibility as its owner is not only to feed it, but to ensure the nutritional value of what it eats. With proper attention to your canine friend's diet, you can prevent health problems and promote a longer life span.

What should you look for in store-bought dog food?

Pet food labels have nutritional value labels much like food items that people buy for themselves in grocery stores. While there are many trusted brands of dog food on the shelves today, it is wise to look at these labels to review and evaluate what your dog is eating. All approved dog foods must meet certain requirements that ensure an adequate combination of fats, proteins and vitamins; still many veterinarians recommend certain premium brands because they are believed to exceed mere adequacy and provide pet foods with ideal nutritional content.

While these brands may cost more, some argue that less is required as a pet's nutritional needs are met more quickly. Nutritional values will vary from pet to pet, and are also affected by things such as your dog's breed, age and exercise habits. It is important to evaluate these things with your veterinarian. As a general rule, your store-bought dog food should consist primarily of a specified meat, such as duck, chicken or beef, and not meat by-products like hooves, eyes and skin. You should also avoid feeding your pet store bought foods that are primarily wheat or corn.

How often should you feed your dog? 

Veterinarians recommend regular feeding times for your pet, typically once in the morning and once in the evening. They advise against the filling the bowl anytime it is empty, because, depending on the dog's exercise habits, this can lead to obesity and even behavioral problems. Puppies, on the other hand, have smaller stomachs and higher metabolisms, so they must be fed more frequently up to four or five times a day.

Should you make your own dog food?

It is true that fresh foods generally have higher nutritional values, and doggy friends are usually happy to accept anything they see as coming from the table. Homemade dog food is a caring gesture, but the appropriate and healthy mix of vitamins, proteins and fats required by your pet will be a challenge to devise, and should not be undertaken without your veterinarian's supervision.

For professional advice about your dog's nutritional needs, talk to your veterinarian or consult a pet specialist at a feed store, such as Geelong Farm Supplies.