You could choose:
- Complete dry foods
- Tinned complete wet foods
- A mix of tinned wet and dry
- Complete raw diets
- Home produced diets
You should choose the one that best suits your dog and your lifestyle. More important than this is choosing the right life stage diet for your dog, and the right amount of food for them at that life stage.
What to feed puppies
Puppies and young dogs need more calories while they’re growing. There are many puppy or growth diets available, specifically designed to meet a growing puppy’s needs. Find a diet that meets the needs of your puppy at this important stage of their development.
Also try to find a food which best matches your puppy’s growth rate. For example, very large breeds have more growing to do and mature much slower than very small breeds. The amount of calories they need can be very different even if they’re the same age. Large breeds need to stay on a specialised growth diet for longer than small breeds.
For dried diets the size of the pieces of food or kibble is different too. Large dogs need bigger chunks to crunch and smaller dogs are better with pieces that suit their smaller mouths and teeth.
How often should I feed my puppy?
The recommended meals per day for a puppy are:
- Aged 6 to 12 weeks: four meals daily
- Aged 12 to 24 weeks: three meals daily
- Aged 24 weeks and onwards: two meals daily
Never feed puppies milk or other dairy products. They can’t digest them properly and are likely to get diarrhoea. Puppies have no need for milk once they have left their mother.
The right diet for adult dogs
When your dog reaches adulthood they can have their meals reduced to two per day. You can feed them more smaller meals, but most owners find two regular meal times easier to maintain. One meal a day is not enough and can cause your dog’s blood sugar to drop.
If you have a breed that’s been bred to work like a springer spaniel or a border collie, this doesn’t mean you should feed it a food designed for a working dog. No matter what their breeding, a pet dog is not a working dog. Foods designed for working dogs are equivalent to a diet designed for a human athlete. Your active adult pet dog will be happier, fitter, healthier and more settled on a normal adult life stage diet.
If you have to change your dog’s diet, do so over a few days. Gradually introduce the new food and reduce the old – this will minimise their risk of a stomach upset.
How to feed elderly dogs
Mature dogs need less calories than younger dogs. Many of the diets specially designed for them contain ingredients that help the function of vital organs and reduce and prevent symptoms associated with old age like stiffness.
If your elderly dog is showing any signs of discomfort it’s important to get them checked over by your vet. Just like us, as dogs age it’s common for them to experience pain that could be relieved with medication.
How to choose good quality dog food
The quality of dog food is often reflected in the price, but there are good quality mid-price foods available. The most important thing you can do is look at the list of ingredients and bear in mind the following:
- The meat source should always be first on the list of ingredients
- Meat is better quality than meat meal
- Stay away from foods that list cereals before any meat content
- Ingredients are always listed in order of quantity within the food
- Foods with high levels of colourings and preservatives should be avoided
Good quality commercially produced diets give you confidence that you’re providing a balanced diet. If you decide you would like to prepare a home-cooked diet for your dog, it’s important to do lots of learning and nutritional research first.
How much should I feed my dog?
Most foods have instructions based on the weight of your dog – if you don’t know your dog’s weight your vet can weigh them. Many vet surgeries provide this service free to help owners keep their dogs fit and healthy.
It’s sadly common for dogs to be overweight and obese, this seriously reduces their life expectancy and their quality of life. Managing your dog’s weight is one of the best thing you can do for them.