What is the best food for my dog

What is the best food for my dog?

This is a particularly contentious issue as there are many very strong opinions amongst dog owners. What does make a good dog food? And, how should dogs be fed? This article looks at the different food types available and how to best choose the type of food for your individual dog.

Many food brands claim that we should be feeding dogs like their ancestors, wolves. However, dogs were domesticated between 14,000 and 29,000 years ago and are a sub-species in their own right. There is a huge amount of variability in digestive function between dogs and wolves, as well as lifestyle, shape, size and health conditions that need to be considered. Although we can take inspiration from what wolves eat in the wild, we need to be mindful to consider all the factors that are different in domestic dogs.

What should I be looking for in my dog’s food?

  • You should feed your dog a ‘complete’ diet. This is a diet that contains all of the nutritional requirements needed by your dog for growth and maintenance, such as protein, vitamins and minerals. A complete diet is important in preventing nutritional deficiencies.

  • Science-based food brands – the pet food industry and pet food brands are highly regulated. Brands, such as Royal Canin and Purina, must undergo rigorous testing and quality control in order to meet industry requirements on nutrition and hygiene on their products

  • Palatability – it is important your dog likes the food and eats well. Their diet must provide all the nutrients required for growth and maintenance. Therefore, your dog needs to be eating sufficient quantities or the right diet for their life-stage

  • Safety – it is important that the food is safe for your dog to eat. It must be properly stored, without containing mould, sharp bones or pathogens that could make them or you unwell

  • Suitable for your dog’s life stage – dogs go through different stages of life. At each stage your dog’s nutritional needs will differ. For example, a growing and energetic puppy is going to require different nutrients, to a less energetic, senior dog. Therefore, the diet must be appropriate for your dog’s age

  • Lifestyle – working dogs and athletes, such as agility dogs, will need different formulations and different caloric requirements to sedentary dogs

Types of dog food

 

Kibble/Dry

Kibble diets come in many flavours, sizes and brands. This type of diet is also referred to as dry dog food or dog biscuits. These are generally complete diets

 

Wet/Canned

This type of diet can come in trays, pouches, tins or cans that usually have a long shelf life. Some food brands will provide these diets as complete diets, others will only be supplementary tasty toppers to improve eating behaviours.

 

Fresh/Homemade

You can buy ingredients to make your own dog food at home. However, this is only advisable if formulated by a qualified veterinary nutritionist to ensure it is a complete and balanced diet. These homemade recipes can be labour intensive and expensive, but can be a lifeline for dogs with health issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). There are also a few brands, such as Butternut Box, now providing fresh homemade food. These recipes are formulated by vets, and are therefore complete, balanced and pre-cooked

 

Raw (fresh or frozen thawed)

Raw diets are made from uncooked animal and vegetable products. As with the homemade diets, it is important to use a complete formulation. For further information, see our article on raw feeding. If opting for a raw diet, the frozen-thawed option is slightly safer

Freeze-dried raw food

  • Freeze-drying is a process where the raw food is frozen initially and then the moisture is removed at very low temperatures. It is technically a raw diet as the food has not been cooked

  • This process preserves more of the nutrients in the raw ingredients when compared to dry dog food, homemade diets or dehydrated dog food

  • However, this process doesn’t necessarily kill all of the bacteria or pathogens that can be found in raw meat. Some food brands will also use pasteurisation methods, such as high-pressure pasteurisation, prior to the freeze-drying process, which will kill any pathogens

  • These are fairly new diets and there isn’t much scientific evidence behind them at the moment. However, anecdotally they are believed to be more palatable for fussy eaters as they preserve the taste of the meat ingredients, and better for dogs with a sensitive digestive system that require minimally processed food

Air-dried or dehydrated raw food

  • As with freeze-dried raw food, both these types of dog food also involve processes to remove the moisture content. The main difference is the temperature at which this process is carried out. Some food brands will opt for air-drying, others will dehydrate the formulation at a low heat

  • These processes are supposed to remove pathogens from the raw food making it safer. It also makes the packaging lighter and is more convenient to feed than the fresh raw or frozen thawed raw diets

  • This is another fairly new diet that hasn’t been around for long and there isn’t a huge body of evidence to show the pros and cons

Semi-moist

  • Semi-moist dog foods are usually kibble-based but they contain a higher water content, generally providing a softer texture.

  • They can be beneficial for fussy eaters or dogs struggling to chew on harder food, but they are known to quite often contain more sugar, salt and chemical preservatives

Cold-pressed

  • These diets involve a process where the ingredients are ground and pressed whilst being cooked at lower temperatures than those used in making conventional kibble or dry dog food diets

  • This process preserves more of the vital nutrients and flavours of the original ingredients. It can therefore also be beneficial for fussy eaters

Other things to consider

  • Convenience – Is this dog food easy to get hold of on a regular basis? Is it easy to store, prepare and feed?

  • Sustainability – more dog food brands are considering where in the modern world they get their ingredients from. It is important to consider the provenance of the protein, for example if the diet is salmon-based, is this sustainably caught salmon?

  • Environment – it is worth taking into account the impact of your dog’s food packaging on the environment. For example, individual plastic trays of wet food are not ideal, and if you are using these it is important to recycle the plastic waste

  • Affordability – it is important to choose a dog food you can support on a long-term basis, while trying to provide your dog with the best you can afford, as this will likely save on certain health issues later down the line

As you can see, there really is a huge range of dog foods on the market in all sorts of flavours and formulations. Your best option is to buy the highest quality dog food you can afford for your puppy, for at least the first 12-18 months of their life, or adult dog. If this becomes financially unsustainable for you then consider a mid-range diet once they reach adulthood. Initially, you may need to try a few different diets, with different ingredients or different types of food, to find which suits your individual dog the best.

How to celebrate a safe Christmas with your dog

How to celebrate a safe Christmas with your dog

Christmas is a cozy time with decorations, candles and plants – but it can also involve a lot of risks for your dog. Here we share our best tips on how to avoid the dangers of Christmas and what to do if an accident does happen!

Prepare well in advance

During Christmas, many families have more things at home, such as Christmas decorations, candles and plants, but also more food and goodies than usual. Here we give some tips on what your canine friend should avoid, as well as what can be good to have at home to be prepared!

Update your pet’s medicine box

Feel free to check your dog’s home pharmacy before Christmas. If your dog gets a stomach upset, you may wish to have some pre-prepared highly digestible food, electrolyte supplements and probiotics, at home. These are available from your vet or at a pet pharmacy.

Do not leave dangerous temptations around

Remember not to leave food, sweets, candles or presents, ribbons or batteries lying around where inquisitive dogs can find them. You may wish to inform guests and teach children in advance that certain types of food and items can be dangerous to dogs, to help avoid accidents.

Register your pet with FirstVet

Register and add your animal to your FirstVet app so that you have quick and easy access to an experienced vet 24/7 and 365 days a year – even throughout Christmas and New Year.

Simple tricks to keep your dog entertained and relaxed

  • Exercise: ensure that your dog gets out for a walk twice each day. In adverse weather, try to play games with your dog indoors instead. This can reduce the likelihood of them investigating the Christmas tree, for example, and getting into trouble
  • Food toys and treats: try serving your dog’s food in an interactive toy, such as a KONG, puzzle ball or snuffle mat, to provide mental stimulation and keep them occupied for longer
  • Personal space: when having guests at home, if your dog gets stressed, ensure that they have a quiet place to go that is easily accessible

Tip! If you know that your dog gets stressed by new people, try using an Adaptil pheromone diffuser. Spray and plug-in diffuser options are available, as well as other aids, such as nutraceuticals (Zylkene). Start using them a few days before you plan to have visitors.

Common poisonings during Christmas

Christmas food

Christmas food often has a high fat and/or salt content, and is rarely suitable to share with our dogs. If a dog gets leftover food that is very fatty or salty, there is a risk of a stomach upset, with vomiting and diarrhoea, or pancreatitis, which is a painful and dangerous condition. Blue cheese may smell delicious for dogs but it contains roquefortine C, which is made by a fungus that is used during production. If ingested, it can lead to tremors and seizures for up to 48 hours. Many Christmas foods also contain onions and garlic, such as traditional stuffing or chutney, which can lead to anaemia in dogs and cats.

In a nutshell, many nuts are hazardous to dogs. They can cause a blockage in the intestine if swallowed. Walnuts are susceptible to mycotoxin contamination, which can cause seizures, tremors or other neurological symptoms. The mechanism of macadamia nut toxicity is not known, but ingestion can also cause tremors, vomiting diarrhoea and weakness.

Chocolate

Chocolate can cause major problems for dogs, including the risk of a stomach upset, salivation, an irregular heart rhythm and, in the worst case, life-threatening heart problems, coma or seizures. If you are unsure whether your dog has eaten chocolate, or how much they have eaten, you should always contact a vet for emergency advice.

Plants

Dogs may want to investigate indoor plants. Several of the plants that you may have at home at Christmas are toxic to dogs. If you notice that your dog is interested in a certain plant, it may be wise to move the plant to a dog-proof place, or remove the plant altogether. Make sure that suspected poisonous plants, as well as cut flowers, are placed where dogs cannot reach them. Plants that can cause poisoning include: lilies, amaryllis, Christmas rose and poinsettia.

7 ways to give your dog a very happy Christmas

7 ways to give your dog a very happy Christmas – and most of them won’t cost you a penny!

Christmas is an exciting time for humans and is also a time when we can do something special for the dogs in our lives. Christmas is a time that we can show our dogs how loved and appreciated they are.

1. ROUTINE

Just because you’re planning a Champagne brunch, doesn’t mean your dog will be happy to skip breakfast. Maybe one member of the family should be given responsibility for checking the dog’s not been forgotten, and that they’re not getting into trouble stealing food that might be dangerous or chewing presents left lying around.

2. CHOICE

Some dogs love being part of any excitement going. Others not so much. Make sure your dog has access to a quiet comfortable corner if they need a break.

3. FOOD TREATS

Food is a large part of our Christmas Day, don’t leave your dog out. Perhaps start their day off with a frozen stuffed Kong. It will keep your dog happily occupied while you get on with your own food prep.

4. PRESENTS

Let them unwrap their own presents – much like toddlers, the paper and boxes they come in can be as rewarding as the contents. Don’t forget crackers. The inner tube from a kitchen roll, filled with a few treats or a toy, wrapped up with paper twists at the end makes a Christmas cracker fit for any dog to tug, chew and eventually eviscerate.

5. YOUR ATTENTION

Whether it’s playing games or spending time stroking and talking to them – take the cue from your dog – your attention is what your dog really wants (although, that piece of turkey you mentioned would be good too …).

6. GO ON A SNIFFARI

Yes, it is a thing! Your dog’s main sense of the world comes through their nose. Today in particular, let your dog be a dog. Don’t hustle them along on a walk – let them choose the route and give them time to sniff the environment, the trees, the lampposts.

7. ENTERTAINING THEMSELVES

Give your dogs something to keep their brains and noses enjoyably occupied. There are any number of puzzle toys, snuffle mats, treat dispenser balls and electronic devices available. Or make your own. This is where the recycling – the acres of wrapping paper and empty boxes – come into their own: hide treats in scrumpled up paper on the floor or in a dog-sized box.

You’ll find lots of ideas for things to make, cook and do with dogs and kids throughout the holidays in Dog Home School for Kids from The Dog Coach Online. Wishing all of you and your dogs a very Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year.

First aid for your dog or cat: how to treat minor ailments

First aid for your dog or cat: how to treat minor ailments

Whenever your dog or cat needs first aid treatment it’s good to be prepared. This article will give you some suggestions for what to stock in your pet’s first aid kit at home and some first aid tips for common ailments.

First aid kit

Ready-made pet first aid kits are available to purchase from your vet clinic or pet pharmacy. However, if you prefer to assemble your own first aid kit, here is a list of some important items to include:

  1. Up to date vaccination card

  2. Microchip number

  3. Recent photo of your pet

  4. Important telephone numbers, including your nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic

  5. Thermometer: normal temperature for both dogs and cats is approximately 38-39oC

  6. Saline for cleaning wounds. Make your own by adding 1 teaspoon of salt to 500ml (1 pint) of cooled boiled water

  7. Chlorhexidine or antiseptic wash: use diluted (1:10 dilution – 1 part antiseptic to 9 parts water) for contaminated wounds

  8. Melolin non-adhesive dressing to apply directly to wounds

  9. Gauze swabs to clean wounds or eyes

  10. Cotton wool roll

  11. Conforming bandage (eg Knitfirm) and cohesive bandage (eg Vetrap) for bandaging wounds

  12. Adhesive tape to secure bandages

  13. Scissors with rounded ends

  14. Syringe to administer medication or clean a wound

  15. Spare collar and lead

  16. Probiotics for dogs and cats

  17. Electrolyte powder for dogs and cats. This is usually added to their drinking water


It is recommended that you check the kit each year, and replace things that have been used or gone out of date.

What happens if my pet eats something it shouldn’t?

If your pet eats something it shouldn’t, that might cause irritation, damage or perforation of the stomach and/or intestine you should contact your vet immediately. It may be necessary for your vet to induce vomiting. This is done with the help of a special vomiting medication given by injection. Please do not try to make your pet vomit at home using salt, as this can cause salt poisoning.

If more than two hours have passed since your pet ate something inappropriate, expulsion by vomiting is rarely possible. After this time the stomach contents pass through into the small intestine. In some cases it is not appropriate to induce vomiting as the item/chemical may cause further damage on the way back up, or may become lodged in the oesophagus (food pipe).

There are many human food types, as well as other household items, that are toxic to pets. If your animal is showing any signs of having eaten something it shouldn’t, then do not watch and wait; contact your nearest vet clinic immediately. If possible, take a sample of the item consumed, or the packaging with you, as this will help the vet assess the danger and provide the appropriate treatment.

If your pet seems well, or you are unsure about what they have eaten, you can start by calling your vet for some advice. More information is available from the Veterinary Poisons Information Service Animal Poisons website. Here you will find details, for example, about how much chocolate a pet can consume before signs of toxicity are seen.

How do I treat fight wounds at home?

If your dog is involved in a fight, do not try to intervene with your hands as you risk getting bitten, or scratched. Instead, try to distract them or separate them, for example by soaking them in water using a bucket, or a hose pipe. For cats involved in a fight, gently introduce a sheet of cardboard or another large barrier between them, to split them up and then allow them to cool down.

After the fight your pet may be agitated, scared or in pain. Take great care when checking for injuries. If you can see an obvious wound, if your pet has difficulty walking or standing, is bleeding heavily, or is in shock, then seek advice from a vet immediately. In the meantime, keep your pet as quiet as possible. If you find a wound(s) that is more than 1 cm long or more than a few millimetres deep, if the wound is over a joint, or if the wound is contaminated with debris, a visit to your vet is needed. If the wound is bleeding heavily, it may be possible to wrap a bandage (see first aid kit above) around the affected area to stem the blood flow. Let the vet know that you are on your way, so that they can be ready when you arrive.

If your pet seems ok, check closely for small wounds or tiny puncture marks. These may be hidden under the fur and may only become apparent after a few days. Puncture wounds often become infected because bacteria become trapped under the skin, resulting in the formation of an abscess. This often leads to swelling, which can be very painful.

It may be possible to treat small wounds at home. Carefully trim the hair around a wound and wash it with copious saline solution; if necessary, use clean gauze to remove mild debris. If you notice that the area around the wound is swelling, or the wound is not healing, then seek advice from a vet.

Lameness: What do you do if you suspect a broken leg?

If your pet has an obvious fracture, if bone is visible, if it is non-weight bearing on one or more limbs, or seems to be very sore, then we recommend that you seek emergency assistance from your nearest vet clinic. If your pet has a broken leg, you can try to stabilise it by gently wrapping the leg with cotton wool roll, followed by conforming bandage and then cohesive wrap. You can add a light-weight stiff splint for extra support between the layers of cotton wool, for example a wooden ice-cream stick for small animals, and a similar larger splint for bigger animals. If it is an open fracture (the broken bone is visible through the wound), use a clean piece of gauze or melolin dressing, moistened with saline. This should be placed over the entire wound before applying the bandage on top.

How do you dress a paw wound?

Sometimes it may be appropriate to put on a bandage to protect a paw wound and to speed up wound healing. It is important to follow these steps and use the diagram below:

  1. Cut small strips of gauze or cotton wool and lay a piece in between each toe, including the dew claw. This is to prevent the nails from rubbing and scratching the adjacent toe/s

  2. Wrap the paw with a cotton wool roll, starting with the toes and continuing up the leg; you may or may not need to extend the bandage over the wrist joint in the forelimb, or the ankle joint in the hindlimb

  3. Wrap conforming bandage over the cotton wool, for the full length of the bandage, followed by a cohesive wrap

  4. If you put bandages on a back paw, make sure that there is sufficient cotton wool over the ankle joint so that it is properly padded, and do not wrap too tightly as this can cause pressure sores in this area

How do you treat a broken nail?

The first sign of a broken nail may be that your pet is limping. If the broken nail has been lost completely, the nail bed may be very sore. You can clean it very gently each day with saline (see first aid kit above). Using regular paw bandages and/or an Elizabethan (Buster) collar for the first two weeks may be sufficient to allow it to heal fully. The nail should start to grow back after a few weeks. If your pet won’t let you look at the paw, if the nail is only partially detached, or if there are fragments of nail still attached, then you should seek additional veterinary advice and treatment.

Eyes: How do you treat conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is typically caused by environmental irritants, such as dust or pollen. If the eyes are both fully open, clear and bright, you can usually start by applying a drop of saline to each eye 2-3 times per day to provide cleansing and lubrication. If it does not resolve within 24-48 hours, or gets worse, then your pet should be seen by your vet.

Eye injuries are more serious. They can progress quickly and are extremely painful, so it is important that they receive prompt treatment by a vet. What to look for:

  • The eye is partially or fully closed and your pet does not want to open it

  • The pupils (black hole in the centre of the eye) are different sizes

  • The eye looks cloudy or milky

  • There is blood inside the eye, or there is blood coming from the eye or surrounding area

  • Your pet appears to be blind, or is having difficulty seeing with one or both eyes

To prevent your pet from doing further damage to the eye on the way to the vet, use a restraining harness, an Elizabethan Collar or an Inflatable Buster Collar. A traditional collar and lead is not advisable because pressure on the neck may also increase pressure in the eye.

What should I do if my dog has vomiting and diarrhoea?

If your pet develops vomiting and/or diarrhoea, ensure that they have access to fresh water. Electrolyte powder for dogs and cats can be added to their water to help them maintain hydration. If an adult animal vomits then it should be starved for 2-3 hours before being offered a small bland meal. For example, boiled rice or pasta with a little cooked chicken, turkey or white fish. Please note puppies and kittens cannot be starved as their blood sugar levels will fall dangerously low.

If there is no further vomiting, this diet can be continued for 5-7 days, together with a probiotic supplement, to help the gut microflora to recover faster. It is important to make any changes to the diet slowly.

If the animal becomes lethargic or dehydrated, vomits blood, has frank blood in their stools, or vomiting episodes continue after 24 hours, then you should contact your vet to arrange an examination.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet