Finding the Right Dog Food for Your Pet
It’s one of the most common questions among new pup parents: What kind of food do I feed my dog?
It’s a fair question, and not one with a definitive answer.
New pets don’t come with how-to-manuals, which is why we are here to help new and experienced pet parents learn exactly what goes into their pet’s meals and answer the question, “What’s the best dog food for my dog?”
Types of dog food
As a pet parent, you have more choices than ever when it comes to the type of diet you feed your dog. Most pet parents tend to feed their pets dry kibble, which is often the most convenient and least expensive type of pet food. Additionally, kibble comes in a variety of formulas to meet your pet's specific needs.
Although dry kibble is a great option for you and your pet, it is worth knowing what else is available in case you need to change your dog’s diet.
- Dry dog food comes in a variety of formulas, including grain-free, life stage, raw, weight management, breed-specific and more to meet your pet's specific needs. It is also easier to store, leaving less chance for a mess, and can be left out for hours with little risk of spoiling.
- Wet dog food is available in a variety of forms, including cans, trays, tubs and pouches. Wet foods contain higher levels of moisture because of the nature of its processing, making it a great choice for pups who need more hydration in their diets. Wet dog food is available in a large variety of flavors to satisfy the pickiest eaters.
- Fresh dog food is cooked at lower temperatures and quickly cooled to retain natural vitamins and nutrients. They contain high percentages of fresh meat, poultry or fish as well as vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. Frozen or ready to serve, these healthy dog foods have fewer preservatives and must be kept frozen or refrigerated for freshness prior to serving to your pet.
- Grain-free dog food is made without grains (such as rice, wheat and corn) and is generally recommended as a choice for pets with sensitive stomachs or dietary restrictions. Grain-free meals keep quality sources of protein and carbohydrates so that your pup’s nutritional needs are always met.
- Raw dog foods should be processed through the use of high-pressure processing or another FDA approved microbial kill step, which causes minimal changes in the “fresh” characteristics of foods by eliminating thermal degradation and harmful bacterial contaminants. While not all raw foods on the market go through this process, the foods that Petco carries are required to go through this step in order to best protect the pets we serve. These foods are often all-natural and made with high-quality meats, bones, fruits and vegetables. They are generally uncooked, minimally processed and contain natural enzymes for the digestive health of dogs of all breeds and life stages. Many raw dog foods can be served as a primary diet or used as a mixer or topper.
- Dehydrated dog food offers raw kibble options for dogs. This food is heat-processed to remove 98% of the moisture for preservation. Dehydrated raw kibble is available as meals and treats and can be added as a topper to other food for variety.
- Freeze-dried raw dog food also makes a raw food diet more approachable and available to pets since it does not need the refrigeration of a fully raw diet. Freeze-dried raw foods are processed through rapid freezing to remove 98% of the moisture for preservation and can be served as a full meal or meal topper.
- Homemade dog food can be tailored to a pet's likes and dislikes. Homemade pet food can be created with no unnecessary additives, chemicals or preservatives. The greatest challenge with homemade pet food is making sure that you provide your pet with the correct levels of overall nutrition including proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. There are DIY kit options available to make homemade dog food more approachable. Homemade diets should be used in consultation with your veterinarian to ensure you are meeting your pet’s nutritional needs.
How much should you feed your dog?
Filling your dog's stomach starts with the eyes. Always check the nutritional label on the package to find a suggested amount, as this will differ based on the type of dog food you chose. Also, keep in mind that if your dog lives a more sedentary lifestyle, it may be advisable to scale back the portion size because package recommendations are usually meant for very active dogs.
Keep an eye on your dog's bowl, too. If your pet leaves food behind on a regular basis, reduce the amount of food in their dish until you find the right amount. Once you've found the right amount, track your dog's weight to make sure they're maintaining a healthy range and body condition.
For questions about dog nutrition and dietary needs, consult your pet’s veterinarian to help determine the right amount of food to give to your pup and build a meal plan based on their growth.
How often should you feed your dog?
While feeding schedules for puppies and dogs differ based on age, weight and breed type, there are some general guidelines you can use to determine how often you should feed your dog:
|6-8 weeks||It's generally recommended you feed your puppy 3-4 times a day, especially smaller breeds that have a higher metabolism.|
|8+ weeks||At the 8-week mark, you can start feeding your puppy twice a day, unless otherwise advised by your veterinarian.|
|6+ months||By this age, you'll have a general idea of your dog’s eating habits and can continue to feed your dog what is recommended by your veterinarian.|
|6 years and older||As they start to get up in years, older dogs typically have reduced calorie needs as their metabolisms slow. Check with your veterinarian to determine the right foods and portions for your pet.|
The two most common methods of feeding your dog are the scheduled feeding and free-feeding methods.
- Scheduled feeding: With scheduled feedings, you have the ability to feed your pooch the appropriate amount of dog food multiple times a day. Precisely how often and how much you need to feed your pooch depends on their age, breed and diet. Scheduled feeding also works for pet parents with multiple dogs, as it helps to keep track of who has been fed and who hasn’t.
- Free feeding: If you choose free feeding, the good news is that it's convenient for you. Simply pick up a self-feeder and let your pooch eat at their leisure. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that many breeds tend to have tenacious appetites, and overeating can be more common with this method because it's harder to monitor how much, and when, your dog is eating.
As your dog leaves puppyhood, a diet less rich in calories, protein and fat is appropriate. Switching your pooch to adult formula food happens around 1 year old, depending upon the breed. Consult your veterinarian before making the switch to be safe. Even once your dog has reached adulthood, there may be times their tastes or nutritional needs change. When you have determined when to change your dog’s food, be sure to make the switch to the new food slowly, over a one- to two-week period.
Now that you’re an expert on canine cuisine, shop for the right dog food choice for your furry family member at Petco!