Just like humans, dogs need a balanced diet to help them live a long and healthy life. We’ve had a chat with one of our vets, Luke, so we can give you the best advice on your dog’s diet and how it can affect their health.
You’ll also find tips for helping your dog enjoy the festive season safely, including special recipes you can use to treat your canine friend.
Why is a healthy diet important for my dog?
An unhealthy diet can cause a number of problems for dogs, increasing their risk of becoming overweight and also of developing illnesses such as pancreatitis and heart disease.
As well as causing distress to you and your dog, conditions like these can be expensive to treat and can have an impact on your pet insurance costs.
What should I feed my dog?
There are so many food options out there for dogs, from simpler choices of wet or dry food to the more complex considerations like dietary needs. The choice you make for your dog will depend on their age, breed and general health.
If your dog is still a puppy, the right diet is particularly important for their health and development, so you should check out our puppy feeding guide for more specific advice.
Nutritional dog food
Our vets say that a balanced diet for a dog includes:
- Protein – this is commonly a form of meat or fish
- Fat – this should be about 10% of their diet
- Carbohydrates – these provide a source of energy for dogs
- Fibre – this helps regulate their digestion
Whether you choose dry or wet food for your dog, you should make sure that it includes all of the above in each portion. This information should be easy to find on the packet, tin or box and is usually summed up with the words “complete and balanced”.
Raw diet for dogs
Though the raw diet option for dogs is increasing in popularity, it’s important to know that there isn’t any evidence that this option is better for dogs than traditional dog food. There are also more risks involved, including cross-contamination of bacteria such as E.coli, and your dog’s diet not including all the nutrients they need.
Remember that a well-balanced diet is essential for the good health of your dog.
Another tip from our vet is to avoid giving bones to your dog (no matter how much they beg!). Doing so risks damaging your dog’s teeth and causing digestive problems.
Homemade food for dogs
Though it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to prepare homemade food for your dog, the most important thing to remember is that their diet needs to be complete and balanced. This means making sure that all their nutritional needs are met.
Vegan diet for dogs
Though vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming increasingly popular among humans, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the right choice for your dog. Dogs are omnivores, which means that they get all the essential nutrients they need for their diet from both meat and plants. The British Veterinary Association does not recommend a vegan or vegetarian diet for dogs.
How much food should I feed my dog?
As with the type of food to feed your dog, the right amount depends on their breed, age, general health and lifestyle.
When you’ve found the right food for your dog, look at the guidelines that will be printed on the packet or tin. These will be a good starting point and will help avoid overfeeding or underfeeding.
If you’re at all unsure, the best thing to do is have a chat with your vet.
How often should I feed my dog?
The first thing to do is figure out how much food your dog needs each day – this will depend on factors like their weight and age. You can find guidance for this on the food packet itself.
Once you have the daily amount, you can split that up into two or more meals over the course of the day. This will depend on your lifestyle and your dog’s preference.
Leaving food out for your dog
Whether or not you can leave food out for your dog will largely depend on your dog’s appetite and temperament – you may well find that whatever you leave out won’t last long! If this is possible in your household, though, the important thing to keep in mind is that wet food may well spoil if it is left out for too long. Dry food will last for longer.
Healthy dog diet and treats
Treats can make up an important part of a healthy diet and a happy life, so there is no reason to think that you can’t give your dog the occasional treat. Just make sure that these treats are part of a healthy diet, are low in sugar and fat and are planned as part of their overall diet.
What healthy treats can I give my dog?
As tempting as it may be, don’t feed your dog scraps from your table as a treat. As well as behavioural problems that this can cause, there are a number of human foods that are toxic and dangerous for dogs, such as chocolate and grapes.
Healthy treats for dogs include
- treats that have been specially formulated for dogs
- vegetables such as carrots or peas
- fruit such as apples or watermelon
If you’re not sure, always take the time to check if a food item that you are thinking of giving your dog is safe for them.
What food is toxic for dogs?
It is important to be aware of foods that are toxic for dogs, as they may not always be the foods you expect. These are some examples of toxic foods for dogs:
Chocolate – this contains theobromine, which is a stimulant that is toxic for dogs and can lead to kidney failure
Grapes/raisins – these can cause kidney failure and liver damage in dogs
Onions – these can be dangerous both raw or cooked and can lead to red blood cell damage and gastrointestinal problems
Avocado – these can cause vomiting and diarrhoea
Macadamia nuts – these can lead to severe illness, including tremors and vomiting
Christmas food for dogs
Christmas is unfortunately a time where poisoning cases in dogs become more common. This is usually because there is more toxic food for dogs around that they can either steal or be fed as a treat by an unsuspecting owner. In a Christmas dinner alone, dangerous foods for dogs include:
- Stuffing – this contains onions
- Gravy – this has high levels of salt and fat that can cause gastro-intestinal issues
- Pigs in blankets – these also have high salt and fat levels
When it comes to Christmas treats, the most important thing to remember is to not feed them any Christmassy food that has not been created especially for them. This means not feeding them any of the following:
- Mince pies
- Christmas pudding
The good news is that there’s no reason for your dog to miss out on the fun. We’ve worked with our vet, Luke, to create some dog-friendly recipes especially for the festive season.
Is my dog overweight?
The most accurate way to know if your dog is overweight is to have them weighed by a vet at a check-up.
At home, there are some signs to watch out for:
Look at your dog from the side – you’re checking to see if their tummy is tucked up from their chest and not level with or hanging below the chest
Look at your dog from above – you’re checking to see if your dog has a tucked in waist without their hipbones protruding too much
Feel your dog’s sides for the ribs – if you can’t feel your dog’s rib cages, your dog may be overweight. This is a useful step for dogs with thicker or fluffier fur, as their fur can often conceal their true weight.
What should I do if my dog is overweight?
You should speak to your vet for specific advice about your dog’s weight if you are concerned. They will be able to advise you on how to monitor their diet and, if necessary, reduce their food intake safely and effectively. They’ll also be able to speak to you about the best exercise and routine for your dog.
Breeds at risk of being overweight
Some dog breeds are more prone to being overweight than others, so being watchful with their diet is important. At-risk dog breeds include pugs, bulldogs, beagles, golden retrievers, daschunds and Basset hounds.
If you’re worried about your dog’s weight, speak to your vet for advice.
Can I feed my dog human food?
Our vets recommend that you avoid feeding your dog human food where possible, as it can cause health and behavioural issues.
Not only are some foods poisonous, such as chocolate and grapes, but human food is often higher in calories. Eating it can cause stomach problems and obesity, both of which could be fatal for your dog.
Alongside health issues, your dog behaviour could change. They might refuse to eat their dog food or misbehave when you are eating.
How does this impact my insurance?
If your dog develops a health condition because of a poor diet, they may need more visits to the vet. This can impact your insurance if they develop an ongoing condition and you need to claim for the costs. Increased weight can also make conditions like arthritis worse.
MORE THAN pet insurance customers have a variety of cover to choose from for perfect pet protection. Our customers also have access to vetfone, a free advice line available day or night for expert veterinary advice.