Some owners prefer to give their puppy a home-cooked diet; others prefer to give a commercially prepared food, such as dry kibble or moist tinned food. Dry kibble is pellets of food packed in sealed bags. The question that concerns most owners is: ‘how do I choose the best puppy food?’
The answer isn’t as simple as you expect, because no two organisms react identically to the same foods. For example, lamb is used in the diet of dogs with various sensitivities – stomach upsets, skin problems . . . yet some dogs are allergic to lamb and it can cause them to vomit.
Some dogs do poorly on a high-quality commercial food, and thrive on a low-quality one, the opposite can also be true. As a rule, however, a dog is more likely to be healthy if he eats quality foods.
Vets are usually well read with regard to the most nutritious foods available and seeking their advice is always a good move. There are many brands on the market, ranging from low to high quality. The price also varies according to quality – high-quality foods are relatively expensive; medium or low-quality ones are cheaper. Look around vets, pet stores, and supermarkets before making your choice.
The following is a guide to help you choose a high-quality brand of food, but seek your vet’s or nutritionist’s approval before making a choice on puppy food.
Some nutrients are more likely to cause allergies or intolerance and should be avoided. They are: beef, soy, egg, cow’s milk, wheat, corn, and gluten. Food allergies usually occur in puppies, but a dog that’s been eating the same food for twelve years can develop an allergy.
The first group of ingredients should be of an animal protein source. Meat meal is dehydrated meat and should be preferred over meat by-products. This is because meat by-products include skin, bone, nails . . . all protein, but of low nutritional value. Look for a food brand that says what species of meat-meal is in it: for example, chicken, lamb or venison meal. Some brands have two, three, and even four meat sources as their first ingredients. Some vets and nutritionists think this is better than having only one source of animal protein.
The second group of ingredients can be carbohydrates such as potato, rice, oat, sweet potato. Dogs do not necessarily need carbohydrates, but they are a good filler.
The third group of ingredients should be fats such as poultry fat, fish oil, salmon oil, olive oil. Sunflower oil has been removed from some food brands because studies indicate it may raise the risk of certain types of cancer. Corn oil is too high in Omega 6 and can promote inflammation internally. Avoid a brand that says ‘animal fat’ or ‘vegetable oil’, because not all animal fats and vegetable oils are healthy, and the label should mention the source of fat.
Fibres, such as beetroot pulp and chicory, are usually added to commercial foods because lower quality ingredients and their processing do not provide enough quality fibre. But if a food brand has whole vegetables (including the peel) or enough bone meal, there’s no need for added fibre. Look for a food that has whole vegetables as the fourth group of ingredients.
Brewer’s yeast is a nutrient supplement rich in Vitamin B (except vitamin B 12), other vitamins, amino acids, and it nourishes the intestinal flora – beneficial bacteria carried in the digestive tract that promote the absorption of nutrients and the elimination of bad bacteria. However, some dogs are allergic to brewer’s yeast, so it’s better to use probiotics.
Commercial vs Home made
High-quality commercial food also contains all the vitamins and minerals essential for good health. Low-quality commercial food may need to be supplemented, because it may be short on essential vitamins and minerals. An excess of supplements, especially while your dog is growing up, may cause irreversible harm. At the same time, it is important to prevent bone and joint problems during growth. Because supplementing your puppy’s diet is a controversial issue, you should seek your vet’s or nutritionist’s approval before deciding on a brand.
If you decide to feed your puppy a home-cooked diet, seek the help of your vet or a nutritionist because, while you can guarantee the quality of the nutrients going into your puppy’s body, if they are unbalanced, the diet may cause harm.
As the saying goes: ‘we are what we eat’. This applies to our dogs, too. Just as the caffeine in coffee gives you an energy boost – thus affecting your state of mind and demeanour – whatever goes into your puppy’s body will also affect his. And remember, many dogs will eat from dawn to dusk, given half a chance. The sooner your dog grows accustomed to meals at set times, of a reasonable quantity, the better. An obese or overweight and overfed puppy will become a distinctly unhealthy and sickly older dog, with progressively poorer health. If you have trouble deciding how much is ‘reasonable’, consult the vet or nutritionist.