Beginners Guide toDog Nutrition

Our domesticated canine friends have evolved as a pack animal from the grey wolf. The grey wolf would hunt down prey in an organised pack as a main food source. They would also scavenge for short periods on plant matter, eggs from nests and potentially fruits. As such, they are classed as omnivorous carnivores.

So, keep in mind that your domesticated mongrels have evolved from meat eating ancestors. This means that animal-based proteins are the most important dietary component for each species. Ultimately, meat is what is most natural to them and their bodies.

Carbohydrates

These are added into diets as an energy source.

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These are added into diets as an energy source. However, they are used differently and have differing levels of importance in dog’s diets.

Carbohydrates are used by dogs as a quick source of energy. They also require slow release complex carbohydrates for sustained energy across the day.

Quick Tip: Remember you want to avoid vague terminologies. Ingredients such as ‘cereals’ are difficult to define and could be made up of less digestible grains such as Wheat and Sorghum. Plus, vague terms mean that the ingredient can shift from one batch to another. This means dogs could suddenly suffer from negative digestive effects or become intolerant due to unnoticeable change in recipe.

Fibre

Fibres will come from plant, vegetable, fruit and grain sources in the diet.

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Fibres will come from plant, vegetable, fruit and grain sources in the diet. There are two different fibre types, and these are Soluble and Insoluble. An ideal diet will contain a blend of each to help support the digestive system. There’s not a single ‘bad’ fibre source, however if a diet only contains low quantities of one type of fibre, it won’t be as much benefit as a higher fibre diet. Some foods will contain Prebiotic Fibres (often listed as FOS and MOS) these will help strengthen and nourish good bacteria in the gut, in turn boosting the immune system of the animal.

Dogs will need different fibre sources to aid gut mobility. These will help to maintain adequate moisture levels to ensure healthy stools!

Quick Tip: Sometimes fibres will not be added into pet diets, instead they receive fibre as a side product from the main carbohydrate within the food. For example: Wheat will contain an element of insoluble fibre. The key in looking for a wonderful fibrous food is looking for a mixture of named fruits, vegetables and plants e.g. Beet pulp, Carrots, Apples and Alfalfa. These will contain great levels of both types of fibre and help better support their digestive system. 

Dog

These are added into diets as an energy source. However, they are used differently and have differing levels of importance in dog’s diets.

Carbohydrates are used by dogs as a quick source of energy. They also require slow release complex carbohydrates for sustained energy across the day.

Quick Tip: Remember you want to avoid vague terminologies. Ingredients such as ‘cereals’ are difficult to define and could be made up of less digestible grains such as Wheat and Sorghum. Plus, vague terms mean that the ingredient can shift from one batch to another. This means dogs could suddenly suffer from negative digestive effects or become intolerant due to unnoticeable change in recipe.

Fibres will come from plant, vegetable, fruit and grain sources in the diet. There are two different fibre types, and these are Soluble and Insoluble. An ideal diet will contain a blend of each to help support the digestive system. There’s not a single ‘bad’ fibre source, however if a diet only contains low quantities of one type of fibre, it won’t be as much benefit as a higher fibre diet. Some foods will contain Prebiotic Fibres (often listed as FOS and MOS) these will help strengthen and nourish good bacteria in the gut, in turn boosting the immune system of the animal.

Dogs will need different fibre sources to aid gut mobility. These will help to maintain adequate moisture levels to ensure healthy stools!

Quick Tip: Sometimes fibres will not be added into pet diets, instead they receive fibre as a side product from the main carbohydrate within the food. For example: Wheat will contain an element of insoluble fibre. The key in looking for a wonderful fibrous food is looking for a mixture of named fruits, vegetables and plants e.g. Beet pulp, Carrots, Apples and Alfalfa. These will contain great levels of both types of fibre and help better support their digestive system. 

There can be a bit of confusion when it comes to the level of meat/protein to look for in a dog diet. Protein is of course essential for both species, as it is used for growth and repair of the body. So, what should you be considering when debating protein/ meat levels? As protein can be obtained from sources other than meat, it’s not recommended to base your diet choice on the protein levels listed. Instead focus on the ingredients. Look for NAMED (that specify the animal) meat or fish sources that are listed first or feature high up in the listing. High quality meat contains more usable proteins and these natural ingredients take less effort to digest but provide maximum benefits.

Much like us our cats and dogs also need a perfect balance of different food groups, in their day to day diet. They will need carbohydrates, fats, oils, fibres, vitamins and minerals included in their food to keep them healthy.

These are a primary energy source for dogs, however fats can come in varying forms with differing levels of digestibility. Poorer quality fat sources such as Beef or Animal Tallow can increase the amount of cholesterol (fatty particles) in the body. Having too much cholesterol can increase the risk of health conditions and affect the heart and circulatory system. So, digestibility and quality of the fat is always important to consider. Look for ingredients that state the specific animal used e.g. Chicken Fat, as these will be more palatable and easier to digest.

These supply Essential Fatty Acids (Omegas 3 & 6) that are needed for normal function of the body. They aid bodily systems, such as skin and digestive tract. Plus, oils play a large role in the palatability of the food.

There are differences in quality when it comes to the lipids used to formulate a pet diet. As a guideline stick to meat and fish-based fats/oils as they are more natural and digestible for dogs. Lower quality plant or vague oils such as Rapeseed or Canola, have less readily available Omegas and can cause irritation to the digestive tract.

Quick Tip: Always avoid vague terminologies! Ingredients such as Animal & Vegetable Fats/Oils are not specifying exactly what source they come from. So, it’s difficult to determine the overall impact of that ingredient on the animal. NAMED lipids such as Chicken Fat/ Salmon Oil indicates it’s healthy and readily digestible.

Protein

Protein is of course essential for dogs, as it is used for growth and repair of the body.

Read more…

There can be a bit of confusion when it comes to the level of meat/protein to look for in a dog diet. Protein is of course essential for dogs, as it is used for growth and repair of the body. So, what should you be considering when debating protein/ meat levels? As protein can be obtained from sources other than meat, it’s not recommended to base your diet choice on the protein levels listed. Instead focus on the ingredients. Look for NAMED (that specify the animal) meat or fish sources that are listed first or feature high up in the listing. High quality meat contains more usable proteins and these natural ingredients take less effort to digest but provide maximum benefits.

Much like us our cats and dogs also need a perfect balance of different food groups, in their day to day diet. They will need carbohydrates, fats, oils, fibres, vitamins and minerals included in their food to keep them healthy.

Fats

These are a primary energy source for dogs, however fats can come in varying forms with differing levels of digestibility.

Read more…

These are a primary energy source for dogs, however fats can come in varying forms with differing levels of digestibility. Poorer quality fat sources such as Beef or Animal Tallow can increase the amount of cholesterol (fatty particles) in the body. Having too much cholesterol can increase the risk of health conditions and affect the heart and circulatory system. So, digestibility and quality of the fat is always important to consider. Look for ingredients that state the specific animal used e.g. Chicken Fat, as these will be more palatable and easier to digest.

Oils

These supply Essential Fatty Acids that are needed for normal function of the body.

Read more…

These supply Essential Fatty Acids (Omegas 3 & 6) that are needed for normal function of the body. They aid bodily systems, such as skin and digestive tract. Plus, oils play a large role in the palatability of the food.

There are differences in quality when it comes to the lipids used to formulate a pet diet. As a guideline stick to meat and fish-based fats/oils as they are more natural and digestible for dogs. Lower quality plant or vague oils such as Rapeseed or Canola, have less readily available Omegas and can cause irritation to the digestive tract.

Quick Tip: Always avoid vague terminologies! Ingredients such as Animal & Vegetable Fats/Oils are not specifying exactly what source they come from. So, it’s difficult to determine the overall impact of that ingredient on the animal. NAMED lipids such as Chicken Fat/ Salmon Oil indicates it’s healthy and readily digestible.

Animal-based proteins are the most important dietary component for each species. Ultimately meat is what is most natural to them and their bodies.

Choosing the Right Variety

Picking the perfect diet for your dog can be a daunting task. There are many different varieties and types of food to choose from. There are foods designed for certain ages and sizes of pooch, so trying to narrow your nutrition choices down can seem difficult. Sometimes the wording on dog food can also make it all feel a bit bewildering, as the terminologies used are not found on human products. To give you a helping hand in really understanding dog food, we have explained all the commonly used terms below.

Which Size?

Many dog foods will have small, medium or large breed specifically listed. These labels have a purpose in helping to direct you towards a more suitable diet for your pet. There are hundreds of different breeds, from the smallest Chihuahuas to the greatest of Great Danes. The specific sized diet will benefit that breed in optimal ways.

Small Breed

Often made with little kibbles to suit tiny mouths. Small dogs also have a higher metabolic rate (use more energy) than their larger cousins. This means a small breed diet should have more meat and be extra palatable to stop any fussiness.

Large Breed

Large breed diets are made with much bigger kibbles to enable dogs to chomp down properly on the biscuits. Plus, the highest quality large breed diets will contain added joint cares to help support and protect their hardworking limbs.

Some foods will label themselves as designed for ‘medium breed’ dogs. These are generally made with standard size kibbles to benefit average weight dogs.

Small breed, large breed dogs

While there are specific sizes, this isn’t to say that you must stick with a size if it isn’t working. Many owners with medium size dogs opt for bigger kibble to help benefit dental health.

Adult dog and puppy

What are Life Stages?

Much in the same way as humans, our pets need specific diets and nutrition as they grow through to adulthood and beyond. Therefore, there are specific diets that tailor to each individual life stage of our dogs and cats.

Puppy

Puppies need more energy to grow and develop properly. A suitable puppy diet will essentially contain more calories and fat, to give them the fuel needed for the growth process. Growing and flourishing into an adult dog takes a lot of work! So, depending on the breed (bigger breeds take longer to grow) puppy food should be used until around 10-24 months.

Quick Tip: Some brands are nutritionally advanced enough to be fed across all life stages. This means you don’t need to switch the food once the puppy is fully grown. Keep in mind you may need to change the amount you feed as your pet progresses further into adulthood. Simply keep an eye on their weight and condition and adjust their daily feeding amount as is needed.

Senior Dog

As dogs get older their nutritional needs will start to change. With age dog’s metabolism will start to slow down and they will become a little less active. So, to avoid weight gain senior foods will be formulated with lower fat and calories. Plus, of course age takes a toll on a dogs hardworking body. The best Senior foods will come with a healthy dose of joint care to soothe, protect and support your pet as they age gracefully. Most senior brands are designed to be implemented over the age of 7, however it very much depends on the individual pet. Some dogs might start slowing down and needing support from slightly older or younger than that.

Light Dog

It’s important to note that some light foods are designed to suit both overweight and senior pets. Light diets are formulated with lower calories and fat to help reduce excess weight and keep dogs fighting fit. Lighter diets will contain more fibres to help keep an animal fuller without adding too many calories into the diet. A fantastic ingredient to look out for in light foods is L- Carnitine! This ingredient helps dogs to metabolise body fat easier and maintain lean body mass.

A fantastic Light Diet will contain joint care supplements, ingredients such as Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM will help support the skeleton and promote healthy joints. This will be particularly beneficial after weight gain, when there is more strain on the pet’s body.

Ingredients

It’s important to note that ingredients in your pet’s food are listed in order of weight, with the biggest quantity first. Check to see the ingredients are in proportion- remember dogs are carnivores so it’s better to see named meat high up or first in the listing. Also, remember to look at the different percentages next to the ingredients, this will give you a better idea of the dietary proportions. So, here are some quick explanations of those more confusing terminologies.

What is Meat Meal?

This is a commonly used ingredient in commercial pet food, but as it’s not found in human products can be a strange term to see. This ingredient will consist of residual meat, offal, connective tissue and sometimes bones. It’s made simply by grinding down the raw animal ingredients, and then cooking them through several times to form a fine digestible protein powder.

Meat meal by its nature will need to be preserved to prevent it from spoiling and going rancid. We are the Home of Natural Pet Food, so our trusted brands will use natural preservatives such as Rosemary and Vitamin E. Some companies on the other hand will use chemical and artificial preservatives in their meal.

Quick tip: The better-quality meats will always be named, so look for foods that specify the animal used. For example, with ingredients such as Meat Meal, choose the food that specifies where that meat comes from. E.g. Chicken Meat meal NOT Poultry Meat Meal. 

Meat meal pet food
Chicken, sweet potato and green lipped mussel

What is Grain Free?

Grain Free is a terminology often seen on the front of pet food packets. This means it is a food produced with no grains (wheat, rice, rye or barley) present in the formula. Grain free foods can be a wonderful option for those pets that are more sensitive, and struggle to digest certain food products. However, it is worth noting that most dogs can digest high quality grains such as brown/white rice, maize and oats. The key is making sure everything is in proportion and works for your pet.

Quick tip: Watch out for Wheat! A lot of cats and dogs are intolerant to wheat and really struggle to digest it properly. Look for healthier carbohydrate alternatives such as Brown Rice or Sweet Potato.

What is Hypoallergenic?

Hypoallergenic is a term frequently used on pet food packaging. This word generally refers to a lack of allergens known to cause a negative immune response. However, there is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic food, as anything a pet is exposed to could potentially cause an allergy. There are however foods that are formulated to contain the least number of common allergens possible. The best option is always going to be the most natural food, with the most identifiable ingredients.

Labradour itching

Higher quality foods will contain named ingredients. Watch out for vague terms such as ‘meat and animal derivatives’ and ‘cereals’! These ingredients have no concrete definition so it’s impossible to determine the quality or digestive effect on the animal.

Pet foods come in lots of varying forms, but whether you choose to feed a wet, dry, raw or a combination diet it’s always important to pay attention to the ingredients and fine print.

Although there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to the perfect diet, by sticking to the principle of what is natural to their digestive system, you will have a happy healthy pet.

Pet Food

Ask The Experts

Remember Pets Corner lives and breathes nutrition. We understand the power of a proper healthy diet, and our mission is to improve the health of our customers pets. There will be no bad breath, squishy stools or itchy flaky skin on our watch! All our staff are classroom trained on cat and dog nutrition so for further information and advice pop into your local store or contact us.