If you’ve found yourself asking the question, should I change my dog’s food? These are the most important things you need to know before you make any switch to your dog’s food, change their diet or adopt a new feeding regime for your dog on the basis of incorrect analysis of the existing nutritional value of the food your dog is eating now.
Switching your dog’s food takes some planning. It’s not a move to make lightly and we’ll cover the step by step process of what to do if you’re considering changing your dog’s food or altering their diet in a significant way.
Your dog’s current food
Dogs are creatures of habit, it is not uncommon for them to prefer their current food to a new food. They, like humans, can become accustomed to a food and may not welcome a disruption in their routine.
Before we get in to the nitty gritty of the process of changing your dog’s food, let’s first ask why we might want to change food in the first place.
Reasons to consider changing your dog’s food
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Bad behaviour
- Lack of energy
- Too much energy
- Shedding too much
- Coat not in good condition.
These are just some of the common complaints dog owners face on a very regular basis. At the heart of most of these problems, believe it or not, is diet. We are what we eat, yes? Well, never has that been a more apt statement than when it comes to our canine friends.
But before you make that move to change your dog’s current food on the basis of one of the above complaints, it’s vitally important you first rule out any other factor that could be the underlying cause of any of those problems that might not be dog food related.
Your vet is the first port of call. Always. In any situation where your dog is showing signs of negative change, consult your vet, get a full examination done and then move on to considering whether a change of dog food is the right course of action.
Feeding your dog the appropriate food
Dogs are solely reliant on us for the fuel that goes in to their bodies. We are responsible for finding the right nutritional balance for our individual dogs.
The right food for our dog is not necessarily going to be the one than just happens to be on sale at our nearest shop. Sometimes we have to experiment in order to get the diet that most suits our dog’s age, breed and lifestyle.
Is dog intolerant or allergic to certain dog food ingrediets?
Food intolerance in dogs is an often overlooked factor in a wide variety of health and even behaviour problems in our canine friends. We’re all used to hearing about the link between diet, nutrition and overall health and well-being.
Humans have the unique ability to speak up and, of their own volition, go see a medical professional if they feel unwell if something is just not right in their health. Dogs rely on us for everything.
Is your dog getting the right amount of protein in their dog food?
Dogs have evolved over thousands of years, but essentially at their core still carnivores and have the same dietary requirements as their ancestors.
Yet according to research released by pet food company, Butcher’s, they report 65% of dogs aren’t given meat as part of their daily diet and some have never eaten meat at all.
The right nutrients for your dog
To ensure they get the right nutrients a dog’s diet must be packed with protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, all of which is found in meat – and there is no set upper limit of how much protein a dog should be fed daily, so you needn’t worry about over feeding if you follow guidelines set by the food manufacturer (see the feeding guides on packaging for directions).
Proteins are packed full of essential amino acids and are all found in animal proteins, which has greater bio-availability than cereal proteins because they have balanced amino acids, which means they are all present and are at the right quantities, so are more readily absorbed by the body.
Protein is also vital for cell maintenance and growth and for dogs can also provide most of their energy requirements.
‘Wet’ meaty foods are made with fresh and freshly frozen meats which naturally are very tasty for dogs. Butcher’s tinned and foiltray complete foods are made with natural ingredients hence a more natural dog food and has been developed to meet all nutritional requirements a dog needs in highly palatable meaty recipes.
The value of protein for your dog’s health:
1. Proteins are the building blocks of your dog’s body.
2. Proteins are necessary for all aspects of growth and development and are very important in structural makeup and the immune system. In addition, they are burned as calories and can be converted to and stored as fat if needed.
3. They are required for healthy nails (claws), skin, and coat.
4. They are necessary for the production of hormones in the bloodstream.
5. They provide a healthy immune system.
Is your dog too old for their current dog food?
Less is more when it comes to older dogs as the activity level decreases. Smaller portions in general to prevent weight gain, and the potential joint and ligament damage that carry excess weight can cause, particularly for large breeds are essential. Fats should give way to protein to preserve skeletal muscle mass. It is also important to take into account age related health problems when feeding older dogs too.
Sources of essential nutrients for older dogs:
Vitamin E: A dog’s vitamin E levels need to be generally increased to help boost the immune system.
Glucosamine, Chondroitin and Hyaluronic Acid: Naturally occur within the synovial fluid that helps lubricate the joints. Studies (source McCarthy et.al 2007) have found that when fed orally, these three supplements can be detected in the synovial fluid and can help lubricate joints. One of the main reasons they’re a key part of the Butcher’s Fit & Active range!
Is your dog a picky eater?
Is your dog really a finicky eater, or could it be something else?
There are many factors to consider when you notice that your dog does not appear to be eating as usual. If you think this is the case, take a closer look at exactly what your dog is eating during the day time.
Does your dog eat table scraps and, or treats?
When you feed your dog a balanced, highly nutritious diet, nothing else is needed. In fact, extra treats can drastically alter your dog’s normal intake of dog food. It is similar to the feeling you get after eating too much candy or potato chips. Are you then interested in a full meal? Neither is your dog.
Changing dog food step by step process
These tips should help you successfully transition your dog to a new food:
- Introduce new dog food gradually
- Wean slowly from the old dog food
- Monitor, observe and study for reactions in coat, behaviour & weight
Typically, this is the most successful way to ease your dog into the change in diet. Start by mixing 25% new food with 75% old food. Slowly change the proportions over the next three days or so by gradually increasing the amount of new food and decreasing the amount of old food.
At the end of this weaning process, you should be feeding 100% of the new food.
You may encounter some difficulties, such as your dog choosing to eat only the old food, or not eating at all. Not to worry, a healthy dog can miss meals for a day or two with no ill effects – although it’s best avoided if at all possible.
A gradual introduction is also important for your dog’s digestive system to get used to the new food. Initially, you may notice a difference in your dog’s stools but this should settle down within a few days.
If you are introducing more wet foods you may notice that your dog drinks less, this is to be expected.