Nutrition for Dogs

Chocolate Warning:

A substance in chocolate called theobromine is toxic to dogs. It can cause very serious reactions in dogs, although some dogs are much more sensitive to it than others. Owners should also be careful about using cocoa-tree chips as a garden mulch; a dog that ingests these can become very sick indeed.

Economy Brand Food

Dog foods that are listed in the economy classification are usually the generic-brand foods. You can buy them at grocery stores, feed stores or discount department stores. Economy foods are very inexpensive and consist of poorer - grade ingredients. Their energy values are usually lower, as are their protein sources and digestibility. Even though the food may meet AAFCO's minimum nutritional requirements, that may not be enough for your dog.
There has been identified what is being called "generic dog food-associated disease". This is, essentially, nutritional deficiencies that appear in dogs that have been fed economy-type dog foods. The disease or syndrome may show up as slow or retarded growth, skeletal abnormalities, poor hair coat, skin disorders - even behavior problems.
In a study in 1983 and 1984, 83 percent of 73 different generic foods failed to meet the minimum established nutritional requirements for dogs. Not only that, but over half of those foods could not live up to the claims on their labels.

Regular Brands

Regular or mid-range dog foods are in the middle between economy and premium dog foods. These foods cost less than premium foods but more than economy. They have better-quality ingredients from better sources and are more digestible. These foods are often found at grocery stores, feed stores and some pet shops.

Premium Brands

Premium foods, which include those foods also classified as super-premium and performance, use better-quality ingredients from sources with higher biological values. Consequently, their digestibility is higher. whereas an economy or regular brand of dog food might use corn, wheat or soybeans as the primary ingredient, a premium quality food will be more likely to use a good-quality meat source as the main ingredient. Because premium foods are made of better-quality ingredients and have better digestibility, dogs need to eat much less of them than they would of a lesser-quality food. Premium foods have another important advantage to many dog owners, and that is the fact that they produce less waste.

Forms of foods and their pros and cons

Dry foods

It's the most popular form. Dry dog food usually has a moisture content of 10 percent or less and contains meats and meat products, grains, vegetables and other ingredients. Most dry foods are made using an extruder, a machine that can cook the food at a high temperature for a very short period of time. Dry dog foods are usually sold in bagged form. The shelf life is normally three to six months, depending on the method of preservation used.

Dry dog foods have a good shelf life, are easy to serve and store, and most are reasonable in price. There is no annoying odor, and scraping action that takes place as the dog eats can assist in the dog's dental care.

The only drawback to dry food is that some dogs, especially those that have eaten canned or frozen foods, may resist eating it plain. For this reason, some owners add water or a spoonful or two of something else, like yogurt, to "spice up" the dry food.

Higher quality canned foods are primarily meat products with a high moisture content, usually about 70 to 80 percent. Canned foods can and do contain other ingredients besides meat, some of which can be seen in the food (like peas), and others which are combined with other ingredients and are not as noticeable (like corn meal).

Canned foods are very palatable to the dog, especially the foods made primarily of meat. Canned foods also have a very long shelf life.

It doesn't help scrape tarter off your dog's teeth like dry foods can. Canned foods may also smell less than pleasant and, in the long run, can be more expensive than dry foods.

Semi-moist Foods
They're somewhere in between canned and dry foods in moisture content. Many of these foods list meat as one of the first five ingredients, but they also contain a variety of other ingredients, including sugar or sugar products.

These foods are usually packaged in individual servings, making them easy to store and easy to feed - they are very convenient.

As was previously mentioned, semi-moist foods often contain great amounts of sugar, not a good source of nutrition for dogs. Semi-moist foods are also more expensive than dry food, do not help with dental health and usually contain a number of artificial colors and preservatives.

Frozen foods
Usually packaged in loaf form, frozen foods are very high in meat ingredients and in moisture content - about 60 to 70 percent. These can also contain other ingredients than meat, depending upon the food. The shelf life of these foods varies, depending upon the processing and the ingredients. The date is usually on the package. Cost also varies, depending upon the brand and the ingredients.

When thawed, frozen foods are very palatable and most dogs eagerly eat the food. Unused portions remain in the freezer, making them less likely to spoil.

Because the food is served thawed and soft, it does nothing to assist in your dog's dental care.

Mixing Food
Many dog owners mix dry and canned foods on a regular basis. Some owners feel that dry food is unappetizing or boring. Some dogs have convinced their owners that they will not eat plain dry food. Whatever the reason owners choose to mix dry and canned, some experts agree it's the better solution anyway.
Canned food is a very important part of canine nutrition. A study showed that the enzymes produced when dogs ate both dry and canned foods resulted in better digestion and utilization of both foods.
It's emphasized, though, that the foods should both be of high quality. If you want to give your dog a premium dry food because of its superior nutrition, why would you want to dilute that with an inferior canned food? A ratio of 76 to 80 percent dry food and 20 to 25 percent canned food seems to be an acceptable balance with most experts.

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