Commonly Asked Questions About Dog Nutrition

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10. What is in dog food anyway?

Dog food contains a variety of agricultural ingredients, such as meat, poultry, seafood and feed grain byproducts. (Byproducts are parts of an animal or plant not used for human consumption. They still must meet federal standards for safety and nutrition.) Vitamins and minerals are added to complete nutritional needs. Preservatives are added to keep dog food fresh during shipping and while on the shelf, and color is added to make the food look more attractive. The coloring and preservatives are the same used in food for people and have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition, the Association of American Feed Control Officials publishes regulations for nutritional adequacy of “complete and balanced” pet food. Your pet’s food should conform to minimal AAFCO standards. Read the label.

11. Why can’t I feed my dog table scraps?

Most table scraps are too fatty for your dog’s digestive system. They can cause vomiting, diarrhea or, over a period of time, obesity and other health conditions. Furthermore, chicken bones, or bones from rabbit or fish can splinter and become lodged in his esophagus or digestive system. For more information, see Why Table Scraps Are Bad for Pets.

12. Isn’t my pet bored eating the same food?

Probably not. Your dog has fewer taste buds than you do, so he doesn’t have the range of tastes that a person does. A dog’s greatest sense of taste is sugar, which is why many dogs have a “sweet tooth.” He is attracted to a combination of taste and odor.

13. What tests are done to make sure the food is safe for my pet?

Pet food companies use standardized animal feeding trials designed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Animals are fed and monitored for 6 months to ensure that the food provides the right balance of nutrients. A product using this test will have language similar to the following on the label –”Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Shep’s Food for Dogs provides complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages.”

14. Which pet food company or brand is the best?

That’s a hard question to answer. In general, there are a number of prominent manufacturers of high quality food. They include Iams (Eukanuba), Hill’s (Science Diets), Nature’s Recipe products, Nutra Max, Purina and Waltham. The key is to know the protein and fat levels, moisture content, fillers, added vitamins and types of ingredients your particular dog requires. Your dog’s age, medical condition and other factors (whether she is pregnant, for instance) also need to be taken into account. Work with your veterinarian to decide what pet food is best for your dog.

15. Should I buy expensive name-brand food over store-brand or generic?

In general, the pricier name brands are better, and they usually cannot be purchased in a supermarket. To buy them, you need to go to a pet store. Supermarkets stock what sells the most rather than the healthiest pet food. It’s up to the dog owner to know what brands are the best.

16. Canned or dry, does it matter?

Dry dog food has greater “caloric density” than canned food. Simply put, there is less water in a cup of dry food as compared to a canned diet. Bigger dogs (over 30 pounds) should be fed semi-moist or dry food. They can consume less while getting enough nutrients, and it is more cost effective for you. For very large dogs, feeding only canned food is not recommended since it will be difficult for him to eat enough canned food each day to meet his requirements. There are other differences between canned and dry, which you can learn in Feeding Your Adult Dog.

17. Does my dog need vitamins and supplements?

According to most feeding studies of healthy dogs, dogs that eat an appropriate balanced diet do not need supplements. If you feel your dog needs supplements, talk to your veterinarian first. Feeding too many supplements to your dog can be dangerous.

18. What are prescription diets, and why would my pet need them?

Prescription diets are specially formulated diets to help in the treatment and care of pets with certain ailments or diseases (such as allergies, heart disease or diabetes). Some of these diets are only intended as a temporary change in food and others are recommended for the duration of the pet’s life. These diets should only be given under the instructions of your veterinarian.

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