What should I feed my dog?

Dog licking lips

When it comes to our own diets, most of us have a rough understanding of what we should be consuming daily; from calories and portions of fruit and veg, to how much water we should drink. But how many of us dog owners know the equivalent for our pets?

To better understand why dogs need certain foods, it’s firstly important to know where they came from and what it is their bodies need for optimum health.

What is the ancestral diet of dogs?

Deers grazing

The modern-day dog comes in all forms and sizes, but it’s believed that they are all descended from grey wolves, having been domesticated thousands of years ago. Despite their outward appearance changing quite drastically (believe it or not, Pugs and St Bernards come from the same ancestor), our dogs’ inner physicality has remained remarkably similar and, as such, their diets should too.

Dogs’ ancestral diet consists primarily of protein, water and fat. Most modern-day dry dog food has a high proportion of carbs (such as grains) which, depending on the carbohydrate, can cause issues with digestion.

Every dog is different, and if you’re in a multi-dog environment, choose your food based on quality and the ingredients it contains, as this can pay dividends. Always choose a food that is high in meat and free from artificial flavours, colours and preservativesas this will be most like their ancestral diet–

Here’s how you can tackle the most common health issues with food:

  • Teeth issues

    Dry kibble is better for teeth as the crunching effect helps to scrape the teeth of any build up of plaque or tartar. . If your concerned about plaque, there are specific foods that can ward this off and prevent it

  • Urinary issues

    Grains and food containing refined carbohydrates can exacerbate inflammation, so if this is a recurring issue look for food that doesn’t contain these. Cod liver oil and cranberries are known to be very good for kidney health, so look for these ingredients

  • Upset stomach / diarrhoea

    Just like humans, an upset stomach is one of the first indicators that the food you’re currently feeding your dog isn’t the right fit. This problem can often be easily fixed with a change in food – try switching between single sources of protein as this will make it easier to identify the problem ingredient

Do age and breed matter?

Dogs

There are several things to consider when looking at the best options for your dog but, surprisingly, breed is not one of them. A better way to decide on your dog’s food is to assess their health and see if there’s anything that needs to be addressed that can be improved through diet; whether that’s dental, urinary or you’re simply looking for the best food with the most nutrients in.

The age at which your dog officially becomes a senior depends on breed. Larger dogs such as Great Danes have a short life expectancy, and therefore could be considered a senior by age six. Contrastingly, smaller dogs are expected to live longer, so are considered seniors at a later age, between 10-12 years old. Just like humans, older dogs can be less active than when they were puppies, and their bodies less able to repair themselves as effectively. Senior dog food takes all of this into account and often contains fewer calories to counteract decreased activity levels.

How can you tell if your dog has a food intolerance?

Firstly, it’s important to understand the difference between an intolerance and an allergy. Whilst allergies often cause an instant reaction, intolerances can often build over time; meaning that even if your dog is fine with a certain type of food or treat, it’s worth keeping an eye on any new symptoms that may appear.

Ten percent of all allergic reactions in dogs are as a result of a food allergy, and it generally accounts for 20% of the causes of itching and scratching.

Typical symptoms of a food allergy or intolerance are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constant scratching or hair loss in specific areas
  • Inflamed, irritated skin
  • Head shaking (ear inflammation)

The most common allergens are beef, dairy and wheat; however, these are also the very commonly used ingredients within dog food, so it can be tricky to know exactly what’s causing the issue. If you’re worried that your dog may have an intolerance or allergy, giving them food with a single protein source at a time (e.g. chicken) and monitoring their reaction, is one way to hone down exactly what may be causing any symptoms.

How to switch your dog’s food safely

If you’ve welcomed a new puppy or dog, often the breeder or shelter will provide you with a small amount of their current food. If you are looking from switch this, it’s important to do it gradually. Have bowls containing both their new and old food and gradually increase / decrease accordingly until your dog has completely made the switch. We recommend making the change over 7 days.

Dog food bowl

How much should you feed your dog?

Breed and size have a role to play in this decision, so it’s worth checking in with your vet initially to make sure that your dog is within a healthy weight range and find out what the expected adult weight is. You should be feeding your dog according to the breed’s target weight; see here for Canagan’s full feeding guide.

Astonishingly, 35% of dogs in the UK are estimated to be overweight. Obesity is something that can be easily reversed with a change of diet; however, it’s better to consider a proactive approach to prevent your dog from getting overweight in the first place - obesity can impact other areas of your dog's health, not just its paunch.

What are the benefits of a grain-free dog food?

Not all carbs are created equal, and this is an important thing to consider when choosing dog food, as grains are often used to bulk out food, whilst providing minimal nutritional value.

Dogs lack salivary amylase (an enzyme used to break down starchy carbohydrates), which means that carbohydrates such as grains are a lot harder to digest. Without grains, dog food is easier to digest, meaning lower feeding amounts and a smaller stool volume. With less room taken up by hard-to-break-down grains, there is more room for quality meat. Also, with grains taken out of the equation, there are fewer ingredients for your dog to potentially have an allergic reaction or be intolerant to.

The key health benefits of grain-free food include:

  • It keeps them fuller for longer, meaning that they will eat less frequently
  • There’s a lower risk of a food-related allergic reaction
  • They will have more energy
  • They will have healthier skin and a shinier coat with less shedding
  • They will have better breath and reduced flatulence

To find out more about Canagan and why our food is grain free, click here.

*The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified pet health provider with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s health*