Healthy diet for dogs

Good nutrition is essential to your dog's overall health.

A complete and balanced diet will not only help your dog lead a long and happy life, but it can also help reduce the risk of your pet developing diet-related diseases or health problems.

What should I feed my dog?

Your dog’s diet needs to be nutritionally balanced in order for them to stay healthy. Good quality manufactured dog food, whether it be moist food or dry kibble, should contain the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and vitamins and minerals to provide your dog with a complete and balanced meal.

To ensure the food you have chosen for your dog is of a high quality, read the packaging to check the product has a statement of nutritional accuracy. It should state that the food meets nutrient profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) or that it has passed feeding trials designed to AAFCO standards.

You should also choose a dog food which is suitable for your pet’s life stage. Many are labelled as suitable for all life stages or for adult maintenance and will contain everything your dog needs to stay healthy. However, if your dog is pregnant, overweight, or is a puppy or senior dog, your veterinarian may recommend a diet which is more suitable for their life stage.

What is the best dog food for weight loss?

If your dog is overweight or obese, then it’s important to seek advice from your veterinarian on how to help your dog reach a healthier weight and maintain it. Many veterinarians will recommend cutting back on treats and feeding your dog a complete, high-quality dog food. They will also prescribe plenty of exercise to help your dog shift those excess pounds.

Your veterinarian may also test your dog for certain conditions which are linked to obesity, including diabetes, Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism, and will offer treatment advice and recommend any dietary changes if necessary. If your dog suffers from diabetes, your veterinarian will normally recommend a low-fat, high-fiber diet to help keep your dog’s sugar levels as close to normal as possible and ensure they maintain a healthy weight.

Find out more about obesity in dogs, including the necessary steps you can take to help your dog lose weight and prevent future complications.

What should I feed my puppy?

As puppies grow at a rate which is 20 times faster than an adult dog, they need a specially-formulated diet to aid their development. Your breeder or veterinarian should be able to recommend a food which is right for your puppy. However, there are plenty of high quality puppy foods available on the market.

Puppies should start eating solid food at around four weeks old; however, the food may need to be moistened so it’s easier for the puppy to eat. A feeding chart should be provided on the puppy food label and this will let you know how much to feed your puppy based on their size and weight. You should feed your puppy four times a day until they reach four months old, and should reduce this down to three meals a day until they reach the age of six months. Once your puppy is six months old, they will only require two meals a day, and can continue eating twice a day throughout their adult life.  

How much should I feed my dog?

When deciding how much to feed your dog, it’s important to get the balance right. Feeding your dog too much can lead to obesity and other health problems, but feeding your dog too little may mean they don’t get all the nutrients they need to stay fit and well.

The label on your chosen dog food should provide advice around how much to feed your dog based on its weight. Always measure the food using a scoop or measuring cup to ensure you are feeding your dog the same amount each meal time.

If your dog is more active, it may require more food than the amount recommended by the supplier. Likewise, if your dog is more of a lap dog, then it may need feeding less. You may also need to adjust the amount you feed your dog based on the seasons, as some dogs are much more active during the summer months. Always speak to your veterinarian for advice around how much food your dog needs if you have any concerns.

Is homemade dog food better for my dog?

Some dog owners are concerned about the ingredients which go into commercial pet food and believe a natural approach is best when it comes to their dog’s diet. While feeding your dog freshly prepared meals which include natural, wholesome ingredients does have its benefits, there is also a risk that you may be depriving your pet of the essential vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy.

Your dog’s nutritional requirements are very complex, and will vary depending on their life stage.  This is why it’s important to consult your veterinarian or a canine nutrition specialist if you want to start preparing home-cooked meals for your dog, even if you have a good understanding of human nutrition.

While some dog owners swear by raw diets, they do come with the risk of food poisoning. It’s important to seek advice from your veterinarian around whether a raw diet is safe for your dog, as older dogs, puppies, or dogs with a compromised immune system may be more at risk.

10 Tips for feeding your dog

  1. Ensure there is always fresh water available for your dog to drink.
  2. Store opened cans or pouches of dog food in the fridge and store dry food in an air-tight container. Don’t serve dog food which is past its best before date.
  3. Keep food and water bowls clean and wash them separately to your family’s dishes.
  4. Feed your dog two smaller meals a day, rather than one large meal, to help minimize the risk of your dog developing bloat.
  5. Avoid feeding your dog scraps from the table, as this can encourage begging behavior and lead to weight gain.
  6. Keep any toxic foods well out of reach and know the symptoms to look out for if your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t.
  7. Gradually introduce any new foods to your dog’s diet over a period of 3-5 days to avoid any stomach upsets.
  8. Keep track of how many treats you’re feeding your dog, or switch to some healthier, low calorie alternatives to help decrease the chances of your dog becoming overweight.
  9. Always wait a couple of hours before exercising your dog after mealtimes.
  10. Weigh your dog regularly. If your dog is 10-15% heavier or lighter than the average healthy weight for their breed, then they may be overweight or underweight and you may need to adjust your feeding routine or get your pet checked over by your veterinarian to ensure they’re not suffering from any health problems.