1. Dog Diet- Feeding the Adult Dog
In adulthood, as well as in the weaning phase, the right diet of the dog cannot be separated from the correct evaluation of his state of health and lifestyle.
In fact, subjects who live mainly in a temperate climate, confined within the home, have – for obvious reasons – lower nutritional needs than dogs who spend most of their time in the courtyards outside the houses.
The examination of the daily needs of energy and nutrients will be addressed in the second part of the article. Here we will limit ourselves to giving some simple suggestions on the correct habits to adopt in terms of canine nutrition.
2. Food industry- Industrial feeding
In recent years there has been a clear trend towards the progressive abandonment of the so-called home diet, in favor of industrial foods specially designed to cover the nutritional needs of the dog.
Those who choose industrial food consider important advantages such as practicality, ease of use and storage, low cost, convenience in case of travel or movement, speed of meal preparation, and the possibility of using foods formulated according to the nutritional needs of their dog (breed, state of health, lifestyle, etc.).
From a nutritional point of view, pet food (dog diet) can be divided into:
- Complete food, able to satisfy the entire daily nutritional requirement by itself;
- Complementary food, which provides a limited range of nutrients to satisfy only a part of the animal’s needs;
- Dietary food, important in the diet therapy of pathological diseases of different nature (diabetes, obesity, cholecystopathies, etc.), for which a correct diet represents an effective support in the treatment of the pathological situation itself.
3. Croquettes or Bocconcini?
From a practical point of view, however, dog food is traditionally divided into:
- Dry food, if its moisture content is less than 10-12%; croquettes, puffed rice and other cereal mixes to be added to meat belong to this category;
- Wet food, if the moisture content is between 68 and 78%; this category includes products based on morsels or meat pâté, classically presented in metal cans;
- Semi-moist food, if the moisture content is between 15 and 30%.
- The low humidity of dry dog food reduces costs and problems of transport, packaging and storage, with considerable savings for the consumer (up to 70% and more compared to tidbits).
The croquettes are also more hygienic and their quality, once opened, does not change; thanks to chewing – with continuous massage of the gums and teeth, and cleaning them by rubbing – they are even better for the health of the dog’s teeth. However, if these are already in poor condition, the animal obviously tends to prefer softer food.
The palatability of the croquettes is certainly not comparable to that of the morsels of meat, which more and more often are given as a simple “sop”, a sort of extra delicacy to be placed from time to time on top of the croquettes.
Especially when using more voluminous products, such as puffed rice and cereals, it must be remembered that the nutritional supply is always a function of weight and not of volume; therefore, to portion industrial foods it is good practice to use the scale.
The advantage of preparing dry dog food at home is to be able to carefully choose the ingredients and their proportions, to meet the nutritional needs of our four-legged friends.
4. Tips for Buying
Before moving on to the analysis of solid home-type nutrition, let’s list the most important factors to consider when buying pet food for dogs (dog diet).
This element is certainly affected by the qualitative characteristics of the raw materials used, but also by the costs incurred for transport and possible import, the search for an optimal nutritional formula, and coverage of the marketing area (advertising, colors, and shapes of packaging and feed).
As with products intended for human consumption, high prices are not always synonymous with quality, and vice versa.
Quantity per serving
It represents the actual yield, i.e. the quantity of food indicated by the manufacturer as necessary to cover the dog’s nutritional needs at each meal.
This is an important parameter when choosing a dog food, to be taken into absolute consideration whenever the prices of two products are compared.
For example, a hypothetical product A (net weight 1 kg, cost 5 euros), which indicates a portion per serving of 250 grams, is less convenient than a product B (net weight 1 kg, cost 7 euros), which indicates a portion per serving of only 150 grams.
Quality of raw materials and analytical levels
For what has been said, the only way to evaluate the quality of industrial dog food is to patiently and carefully read the label with the analytical contents and ingredients of the product.
How to Read the Label
If the facade of the product is pure marketing, the information on the back represents the identity card of the same. Unfortunately, the reading and compression of the label can be difficult, especially for the layman. So let’s try to draw up a shortlist of the most important identifying criteria for the quality of a product.
- Please note that in the list of ingredients the individual raw materials are listed in descending quantitative order. This means that the first ingredient on the list is predominant over the second, which in turn is predominant over the third and so on. Since grains cost much less than meats, a food that has this ingredient at the top of the list should cost a lot less than one that is richer in meat. However, it should be noted the widespread tendency to “break up” the cereal into its parts (bran, starch, flour, gluten, etc.), in order to spread the quantities on several ingredients and thus leave the first place to the meat.
- Which meat? Generally it is preferable that the wording “meat of …” is clearly indicated on the label rather than “meat and derivatives”.
- Animal proteins are also more digestible and nutritious than vegetable ones, such as wheat or soy. These latter protein sources, however, complete the nutritional profile of the food by providing the right portions of essential fatty acids. In recent years, fish protein products such as salmon, important sources of essential fatty acids of the omega-3 series, have become increasingly common.
- Another trick (in addition to the splitting – or division – of cereals) adopted to make meat appear in the first place of ingredients, is to indicate it under the words “fresh meat”. The latter, unlike the dehydrated one, is in fact very rich in water; for obvious reasons, this feature significantly affects the weight of the ingredient compared to that of vegetable flours.
- The following directives, which regulate the words printed on the label, can still protect the consumer in choosing the most suitable product for the needs of their dog:
✓ “Lamb-flavored food” or “lamb flavor” = meat less than 4%;
✓ “Lamb food” or “with lamb” or “contains lamb” = meat contained not less than 4%;
✓ “Food rich in lamb” or “extra lamb” = meat containing from 14 to 25% lamb;
✓ “Lamb” = meat containing more than 26% of lamb;
✓ “All lamb” = meat containing 100% lamb.
- If the caloric intake per 100 grams is not present on the label, this can be easily calculated using the following mathematical formula (grams of protein x 3.5) + (grams of carbohydrates x 3.5) + (grams of fat x 8.5).
- The carbohydrate content, not always present on the label, can be calculated by subtracting the quantities of fat, protein, fiber and ash (or the individual minerals listed by quantity) from 100.
- The digestibility and biological value of a protein source are greater the higher the amount of muscle contained, while they decrease as the concentration of tendons, cartilage, bones and collagen increases (all waste from the human food industry generally absorbed by that of dog products).