‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.’ You might have heard the phrase before. It was coined by an ad campaign in the 1970s to raise awareness around the real costs of having a canine friend. According to Statista, owners in the UK spend between £840 to £1,260 per year caring for their dog, depending on size.
The same source estimates that the basic lifetime cost for smaller dogs is approximately £10,000, while larger dogs are around £25,000. There are several ways to bring that number down. You can use homemade toys, avoid overpriced accessories, and groom your pooch at home, for example.
But there’s one thing that you should never skimp on, and that is food. The savings that come with buying the cheapest bag on the shelf pale in comparison to the vet bills that inevitably follow. Of course, you also want your dog to be their happiest and healthiest self at all times. So, what should you be feeding them? The following guide will help you decide where your money’s best spent.
Understanding Pet Nutrition
Just like us, dogs are healthiest when they eat what they’ve always eaten. Humans thrive on fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, beans, and whatever the land – not factories – provide. Being carnivores, dogs mainly ate other animals.
Kibbles and similar types of processed food have only been part of their diets for the past few decades. Their bodies aren’t made to handle the copious amounts of carbohydrates, additives, chemicals, and other harmful ingredients that characterise most commercial foods.
The prevalence of diabetes, obesity, pancreatitis, cancer, and other health problems that are all too common among today’s dogs paint a vivid picture of the consequences.
That’s all fair and well, but we can’t exactly buy our pups a fresh piece of steak for dinner every night. Even kibbles can be expensive. To find a solution, we must first consider the nutrients a dog needs.
- Proteins form the foundation of your dog’s entire body. They facilitate the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells. The complex molecules of amino acids also support their fur, which accounts for up to 30% of their protein intake. Protein also aids in the development of strong, lean muscle.
- Carbohydrates provide a source of energy once they’re converted into glucose by the digestive system. This is where many commercial foods go wrong, as certain types of carbohydrates (namely grains) are difficult to digest. They can also cause inflammation and numerous other problems.
- Fats are also a source of energy, albeit more concentrated and responsible for supplying essential fatty acids.
- Vitamins and Minerals must be part of a dog’s diet. This includes basic A, B, and D, as well as antioxidant-rich vitamins E and C. Sodium, phosphorus, and zinc are some of the key minerals. Calcium is another, especially for puppies who require it for bone and tooth development.
What’s important to note here is that the mere presence of these nutrients on the label isn’t enough. Processed kibbles are often doused with synthetic vitamins and minerals that aren’t absorbed the same way as their natural counterparts. Moreover, the proteins and fats in commercial foods sometimes come from bacteria-ridden meat by-products or soy.
The same is true for carbohydrates. As we touched on above, some manufacturers source their carbs from grains that are associated with several health issues.
That’s why it’s a good idea to opt for grain free dog food. If you want to learn more, this guide explains grain free dog food options available on Bella and Duke, a local company that supplies raw dog food products made of natural ingredients. Be sure to check out their blog to get a deeper look into dog health, diet, and nutrition.
The ideal balance of nutrients for your dog depends on several factors. This includes breed, activity levels, and reproductive status. But what matters most here is age. Here’s what you need to know:
- Puppies require around twice as many calories as their parents (per pound of body weight). Their daily food intake should be provided in multiple, well-spaced intervals. Three times per day will suffice until they get used to one less meal. Overeating isn’t uncommon, so you need to watch your puppy’s weight.
- Adults vary by breed, so it’s a good idea to consult an expert or choose a diet that’s specifically formulated for your dog. Portion control is just as important here, and you can feed them twice per day.
- Senior dogs don’t need change if they’re doing well on their current food. This is when health concerns tend to arise, though, which may call for a special diet. Lower activity levels and a poor ability to process protein mean that something more nutritional might be necessary.
Investing in quality food will always prove more affordable than buying cheap products that cause health problems. Your vet might not love you, but your dog certainly will.