Happy new year DOG for DOG fans! With each passing new year, it’s commonplace for us humans to make resolutions for the coming year, whether it’s to spend more quality time with family and friends, to quit bad habits or – perhaps most popularly of all – to start new, healthier eating habits. But us dog parents don’t just have ourselves to think about in the coming year, we also have our dogs to consider! Since we’re the ones choosing what activities they enjoy and foods they consume, it’s up to us to help them make great choices. So whether your pup could stand to shed a few lbs or needs to focus on a diet made especially for seniors or puppies this year, we thought it would be helpful to put together a new year, new pup feeding guide! Our tips below aim to help your dog make the best of their diet and eating habits this year.
Overweight: Just like it’s bad in so many ways for us to be overweight (both mentally and physically), it’s also tough on our dogs bodies to have extra lbs. And just like us, the fix is usually simple (to discern, not always to do!) – dogs that consume fewer calories than they burn will lose. While we know all of this is true, nearly 45% of all dogs in the US are overweight! Besides the obvious benefits, keeping your dog at a healthy weight can add about two years to their life… and who doesn’t want their pup to live longer. A healthier diet and weight goals can also prevent your pup from getting diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, lung disorders, high blood pressure, the list goes on and on. Wondering exactly how much you should be feeding your pup? Check out this dog food calculator and consider consulting your vet if you have additional questions. Many vets advise against free feeding, a popular method that allows dogs to eat out of boredom and can also lead to unnatural hormonal changes. Most dogs should be fed two to four small portions a day and timed automatic feeders can help for those of us who have trouble adhering to a more frequent schedule.
While it’s easy to just grab a bag of low cal or diet food for our pups, that solution is unfortunately not the best fix in the long run. Many of these foods contain high levels of carbohydrate fillers that create a low calorie, bulky food that helps your dog feel full but only for a short time. This can leave your pup feeling constantly hungry and begging for more food. You’ll need to find a quality food that isn’t necessarily one with good branding about being for weight loss. Our DOGSFOOD Grain-free formula is a great choice. Many times this can include adding a bit of wet food into a dry food diet, or some home cooked food along with their kibble. Speaking of home cooked food, you can consider switching from regular treats 24/7 to healthier options like carrot sticks! No matter what food you decide to go with, be sure to measure out each serving with a with a proper measuring cup. Even in your busiest moments, you have an easy way to be sure you’re feeding the proper amount.
Puppy: As you read above, a balanced diet is critically important to your pup’s growth and overall health and this is never more true that when they’re a puppy! Think about raising a child – while it’s hugely important to think about what they’re eating throughout their adolescence, we’re super concerned with what they’re taking in when they’re very young. Barring any special needs or illness-related deficiencies, your puppy is safe to consume a normal high-quality commercial pet food and can get all of the nutrients they need from it. Or you can get a formula specifically created with puppies in mind such as our DOGSFOOD puppy formula. In general, puppies require up to twice the energy intake of adult dogs and, depending on the breed, will need to be fed food that contains between 25-30% protein. While you may eventually choose to feed your dog twice a day (six months in is a good time to do the change if you’re considering it), it’s often advised to feed puppies smaller portions more often. Smaller meals are easier to digest and energy levels don’t peak and fall as often. Another important thing to note is that unless specifically instructed by your vet, supplements and vitamins are not usually recommended for puppies, as they’ll get everything they need from a balanced diet. In fact, many of the supplements you can find sold online and in local stores could actually do more harm than good!
Senior: Dogs begin to show visible age-related changes between seven to twelve years of age, including both metabolic, immunologic and body composition changes. Health issues like deterioration of skin and coat, loss of muscle mass, more frequent intestinal problems, etc. are common. While some of these are unavoidable, others can be managed with a proper diet. The main objective should remain to maintain health and optimum body weight. Studies have shown that the protein requirement for older dogs does not decrease with age and it’s important to feed older dogs diets that contain optimum levels of highly digestible protein such as our DOGSFOOD Duck formula to maintain good muscle mass.
While older dogs may start to eat a bit less, they’ve also been shown to progressively put on body fat. In this case, it’s okay to feed a diet with a lower caloric density while making sure the normal protein level is in balance. Talk to your vet about Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), and omega-6 fatty acid that plays a role in the maintenance of a healthy coat which can diminish in older dogs. Senior diets should also include FOS to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene help eliminate free radical particles that can damage body tissues and cause signs of aging. Senior diets should therefore also include higher levels of these compounds. A more fun tip? Add a booster of flaxseed oil to help with arthritis!
Active: Assuming your dog just likes a weekly run at the dog park or playing around your house, your current diet is probably fine for them. But if this new year includes plans to turn your dog into your daily running partner, you may want to make a few small adjustments to their diet such as our DOGSFOOD Chicken Formula. In a story for the New York Times, Dr. Joseph Wakshlag (professor of clinical nutrition and sports medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine) said that “for dogs jogging along with you for 20 minutes a few times a week, a normal commercial dog food containing about 15 or 16 percent fat should be fine. But if you and your dog run five or 10 miles a day, that dog likely needs a slightly higher-fat diet.There are special high-performance dog foods now that contain as much as 20 percent fat. Or you can just add a teaspoon of olive oil to your dog’s kibble. That increases fat intake by 1 or 2 percent, which can be plenty. On the other hand, fat is somewhat indigestible and can lead to greater fecal mass. So if you increase your dog’s fat intake, be prepared to carry an extra plastic bag or two when you go running. Athletic dogs need protein to build and maintain muscle. In general, their diet should consist of at least 25 percent protein, preferably from meat. In one study, dogs fed plant-based soy protein experienced far more musculoskeletal injuries than dogs consuming meat protein.” Check out the full article here.
Average (age and size): Once your pup is into adulthood, refrain from feeding them either senior or puppy food. Puppy food in particular is very high in calories and nutritional supplements so you want to make the switch appropriately depending on their breed and age (consult your vet if your unsure on best timing). When making the switch, do it slowly over the course of one to two weeks by gradually mixing in increasing amounts of the adult food with decreasing amounts of puppy food to minimize gastric upset. Making the switch will prevent obesity and orthopedic problems. An average, healthy adult dog can continue on the diet you’ve been giving them because, as the saying goes, if ain’t broke, don’t fix it! As long as they maintain a healthy weight and their stool looks good (dark brown and sturdy), you’re in the clear! If you ever decide to change their food anyways, use the same transitional advice from above for moving away from puppy food to get them used to their new food.
Popular add-ins for all dogs:
- Salmon oil: showing benefits in both older dogs and puppies alike, salmon oil (normally squirted into food or available in pill format) can lead to better brains and bones and works as an anti-inflammatory supplement for older dogs suffering from arthritis. It may also help keep brain functioning sharp in aging dogs. Lastly, it can work as a cancer fighter!
- Fish oil: Usually in pill form, this is a great treatment for dogs with allergies and/or skin conditions.
- Coconut oil: Can aid in pets’ digestion, improve their coats and help prevent infection. It is important to dose correctly though, so check out this awesome story on the benefits and ways to administer.
Like any new resolution, these eating tips will require an ongoing commitment to making the best choices which we know change is never easy. Start small and create goals that are easily achievable and work up from there! Do research on your dog’s breed and age and consult with your vet on any questions you might have or further steps you’re interested in taking. We’d love to hear what changes you’ve already made to ensure a healthier lifestyle for your pups, so be sure to leave your own pieces of advice for fellow dog owners in the comments below! Have a safe and happy 2016.