Diet for Dogs: Five Proven Strategies

Choosing a diet for your dog can be difficult. With all the dog foods on the market, it's not easy to make a decision. Here are some proven strategies that can help you make the right diet choices for your dog.

Consider Your Dog's Age

Dogs have different dietary needs at different times of life. Puppies need a food specially formulated for them, as puppies have nutritional needs that adult dogs do not share. Senior dogs also have different nutritional needs, so take this into account when choosing a diet for your dog.

Look at the Ingredients Before You Buy

Many dog foods, especially the less expensive brands, are mostly filler. Even if the label says that the food contains the appropriate amount of protein, you may not be aware that protein is more or less digestible depending on its source. Look for a food that contains meat, fish, or eggs as the first ingredient on the list. The first ingredient listed is the one that's used in the largest quantities.

Meat, fish, and eggs are good sources of protein. However, you may be wondering just what is meant by such terms as "meat by-products" or "corn gluten meal" on the ingredients list. Here are some guidelines:

  • Meat is the flesh of animals.
  • Meat by-products means organs such as the liver, kidneys or lungs.
  • Poultry by-products refers to such parts of the bird as the feet, head, and internal organs, but not the feathers.
  • Fish meal is the ground tissue of whole fish.
  • Beef tallow is the fat found in beef.
  • Ground corn refers to entire kernels of corn that have been ground or chopped.
  • Corn gluten meal is the by-product that results from the manufacture of corn syrups and starches. This is the corn kernal with the bran, germ and starch removed.
  • Brewer's rice refers to broken fragments of rice kernels.
  • Brown rice is unpolished rice with the kernels removed.
  • Soybean meal is a by-product of soybean oil.
  • BHA, ethoxyquin, and tocopherols are all preservatives.

Look for the AAFCO Label

The most important thing to look for on a dog food package is the AAFCO label. AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, performs laboratory and feeding trials to ensure the nutritional value of dog foods and other types of animal foods. A stamp of AAFCO endorsement ensures that your dog's diet has been tested for its nutritional value.

Feed an All-Natural Food

All-natural diets are best for your dog. While all-natural food may be more expensive, it has enormous benefits for your dog's health. All-natural foods are made with human-grade ingredients, rather than waste products judged unfit for human consumption. All-natural dog foods contain the nutrients your dog needs, while a dog fed on a conventional diet may require dog food vitamin supplements.

Your dog will likely eat less when fed an all-natural diet because many conventional dog foods are made up mostly of filler. This means your dog does not get the protein he needs to feel full, and will have to eat more to get the necessary protein. All-natural dog food diets can also eliminate digestive upsets such as gas, diarrhea, and constipation.

Switch Foods Slowly

If you are changing your dog's diet, don't do it all at once. Your dog needs time to adjust to a new food, because suddenly switching foods can give him an intestinal yeast infection. Feed your dog one part new food to three parts old food for three days, then half and half for three more days, then three parts new food to one part old food for an additional three days. After that, you may begin feeding your dog only the new food.