Nutrition Part II ~ Series of IV, What is the best dog food?
Do you get overwhelmed with the variety of dog food available at the grocery store or pet store? Adult food, senior food, puppy food, food for different breeds. Then there’s the protein, grain-free, food with vegetables, food with fruit, kibble, dry, wet, semi-moist, canned and the list goes on. Different breeds may need different nutrients to keep them healthy and each dog is unique, so how do you know what is the best dog food for YOUR dog and if she is getting the right nutrition?
That’s a good question and I’m glad you asked because good nutrition is so important to keep your Chihuahua happy, healthy and able to ward off diseases. Be sure to read: Are You Feeding Your Chi The Best Food? How Do You Know? It is the first in this series of posts that I hope will make the daunting decision of what’s best to feed your Chihuahua easier and give you confidence that you’ve made an informed decision that is best for YOUR Chihuahua.
Good nutrition is necessary even essential to prevent dietary deficiency diseases. The right balance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals helps your Chihuahua fight off infections and reduces her∗ susceptibility to other ailments. The best way to make sure your dog is getting the properly balanced diet is to read the ingredients on the bag and make sure it has the proper balance of carbohydrates, protein, fats and vitamins and minerals. (Discussed in the previous post in this series) Then choose an excellent commercial brand and stick with it. Always be sure she has access to plenty of water too.
Be very careful of bargain brands
Bargain dog food is seldom a bargain. It may say on the bag that it has the same percentages of protein and/or other nutrients as the better-known brands, but it’s the amount of usable or digestible nutrients that counts. After all, an old leather shoe is protein, but has no nutritional value at all!
The truth is that generic or bargain brands use the cheapest ingredients available. Tests have been done and found that many don’t contain what their labels say they do. In fact, many are actually dangerous for toy breeds. Why? Because smaller dogs have higher energy requirements per pound than big dogs, but because of their small size, they eat only a little at a time. So, they need high quality, easily digestible food…. not cheap, empty calories.
There have been so many health problems associated with cheap or generic brand dog foods, that the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California has labeled the syndrome “generic dog food-associated disease.” From the book: Chihuahuas for Dummies.
Regular Brands Vs Premium Brands
These are the brands that are well known and you have seen on supermarket shelves for years. Their ingredients are more digestible and made from higher quality than the economy foods. They are neither the cheapest nor the most expensive.
Premium brands are seldom (almost never) found in supermarkets and grocery stores. While the regular brands use wheat, corn or soybeans as their primary source of ingredients, premium brands use a meat source as their main ingredient. Because they use highly digestible ingredients they are considered concentrated. That means that dogs eat less and still get optimum nutrition. So, even if they are more expensive than the regular brands, they go further, last longer AND they produce smaller, more compact stools. That makes it a little easier for you to clean up. But, that may be more important to a St Barnard or Great Dane owner than the owner of a Chihuahua.
So, does all this mean that you should absolutely buy only a premium dog food for your dog? Not necessarily in the case of toy dogs. Of course, you want the very best for our Chihuahuas, but some premium dog foods may not agree with your dog. Some toy dogs do best on a less concentrated food and stay more regular on foods that contain some corn.
Here’s how you’ll know if yours is one of them. You may want to start out with a small bag of a premium brand at first. But, if you notice him straining to go, he may be getting constipated. If that happens, slowly start adding a regular brand corn-based food. If that seems to agree with him more, then, by all means, switch to a good brand with corn.
Here’s a tip:
Dog foods list their ingredients in descending order by weight. The first ingredient. Chicken or another meat source may be listed first, however, after that, they may list wheat flour, cornmeal, barley flour, soybeans or wheat germ. When you add up the weight of those ingredients they may far outweigh the meat source listed. It’s sad to say, but in the world, we live in today, you always have to keep on your toes and on the look-out for some company’s deceptive practices.
So, in conclusion, when looking for the right food for your dog, follow the tips above, read the ingredients, then go for the best food that you can afford and that agrees with your dog. Then stick to it. I’ve said before, although we humans love and crave a variety of different foods in our meals, that is not true for your dog. They don’t mind eating the same thing every day, in fact, it is truly better for them to do so.
This is the second in a series of posts on dog food and nutrition. Be sure to read the first one: Are You Feeding Your Chi The Best Food? How Do You Know? In my following post, I’ll go over with you the other confusing decisions when it comes to feeding your dog. Dry food or canned food? Semi-moist or soft-moist foods. We’ll also go over adult, senior and weight management foods and when your dog may need one of these. What about treats and table food? So keep on the watch for that one.
You may also want to read a past post on dog obesity and how to prevent it. READ HERE.
∗For the sake of simplicity I will use the term “she” or “her throughout.
Continue: READ PART III