7 tips to make sure you give your dog the healthiest diet possible
- Make sure you know exactly what is in your dog´s food. The "4% problem"
- Pick a food with lots of meat. Ideally 50% or more
- Choose a grain free diet
- Go for quality ingredients
- Avoid the bad stuff like sweeteners, colorants, eggs and diary
- Pick a food your dog loves the taste of
- Choose dry, wet or raw
1. Make sure you know exactly what is in your dog's food – the "4% problem"
On the big Dog Food Bag it says it´s made with Chicken. This means the food is chicken, right? No, afraid not. Mostly chicken then? Sadly, no.
EU law says a food marketed as with Chicken must have a minimum of 4% chicken. That´s right, 4%! We did not drop a zero or miss a typo. FOUR percent.
If only 4% is chicken, then what is the remaining 96%? It varies, but let´s just say it’s unlikely the other 96% is missed out on the front of the pack because it´s delicious.
We call this the “4% problem” and we recommend you start your search for the perfect healthy dog food by reading the ingredients list (on the back of the pack, normally in tiny letters).
Read the ingredients and check that you understand what they are. If it says stuff like “animal derivatives” and “vegetable derivatives” – vague catch-all terms that could be pretty much anything at all – then take note. It might not be bad super bad, but we think if it was all fresh meat and real vegetables then it would probably say so.
Our advice: if it´s not clear what is in the food, then avoid it.
2. Pick a food with lots of meat. Ideally 50% or more
Dogs are carnivores and need lots of protein in the form of meat. Obvious really. However, meat is expensive and so lots of dog food contains much less meat than it should.
How much meat is enough? There is no exact number, and more is not always better as your dog needs a balanced diet too. Generally, we look for a food that is at least 50% meat.
The source of meat could be poultry, fish or red meat. The key thing is to know exactly what meat you are feeding. Pick “chicken” over “poultry” and “salmon” over “fish”. Otherwise it’s impossible to know what is what. And as explained above under the “4% problem” above, you really need to know.
3. Choose a grain free diet
You should give your dog a food that is grain free. Dogs are carnivores and not made to eat grains. For this reason feeding grains is a regular cause of lots of health problems in dogs. Sadly, for cost reasons, many dog foods are mostly grains.
Save some money at the vet, and give your dog the love it deserves, by feeding grain free. The food will cost a little more, but it will be worth it.
Learn more about allergies in dogs here.
4. Go for quality ingredients
Once you have found a food with lots of meat and which is grain free, pick the food with the best ingredients you can.
For the meat part look for fresh meat, and for the remainder look for real vegetables.
If you can, find “exclusion diets” where all the meat comes from one animal, as this makes sure you know exactly what you are getting. It also minimizes your dog’s exposure to meats it could be allergic to.
Finally, pick a protein source that is known to be good for dogs and unlikely to cause allergies. Duck, lamb, many types of fish and chicken are good protein sources.
5. Avoid the bad stuff like sweeteners, colorants, eggs and diary
Sadly much dog food contains a whole range of rubbish ingredients that you should avoid for your dog.
Read the ingredients and make sure your dog food has:
- No eggs or dairy. Although these are often in dog food, both commonly cause allergies
- No sweeteners or colorants. These are bad for your dog and can affect it's behaviour by making it hyper
- No artificial preservatives
6. Pick a food your dog loves the taste of
If your dog is a fussy eater, picking a tasty food is particularly important. However, we always recommend picking something your dog really loves.
Tasty food makes great rewards for training. For example, check out this video about hand feeding which shows how feeding a tasty food is an excellent way of building a close relationship with your dog
7. Choose dry, wet or raw
Dry, wet or raw? Which would we recommend? All three are excellent choices.
Dry food is easy and convenient to store and feed. It´s also good for your dog's teeth. If your dog is exceptionally fussy, maybe wet food is better.
Wet food is superbly tasty (at least if you choose a good quality one). It also contains lots of water, which is good for your dog's kidneys.
Feeding raw meat, bones and vegetables is an option. Your dog will most likely love the taste, and chewing on a juicy bone is a dog's delights. Whilst dogs naturally eat raw meat your domesticated pet might encounter a few tummy issues at first.
Getting the quantities right and ensuring your dog gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs can be tricky.
A concern with raw food is bacteria like salmonella. Dogs are generally resistant to salmonella and have been known to pass salmonella to humans. Whilst salmonella can exist in any raw food, it is more likely in high risk foods like chicken. We would not feed raw chicken to our dogs (though Lush does get the occasional raw steak).
If you can, we would feed dry kibble mixed with a wet food topper.
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