CHVC Picking a Diet

Just like humans, there is no perfect diet. Every dog is different and their diet should be individualized. When choosing a diet we must consider a pet’s lifestyle, environment, sensitivities, and underlying health conditions. There are many components to a pet’s diet: diet formulation, type, protein source, brand, feeding amount, and supplements. The following blog post is aimed to help you choose the best diet for your dog.

Diet Formulation Kibble Canned Fresh-Cooked Home-Cooked Raw
Cost $ $$ $$$ $$ $$$
Shelf Life Long Long Short Medium Short Short Medium
Palatability Low High High High High
Quality Medium Medium High High High
Contamination Low Risk Low Risk Low Medium Risk Low Medium Risk High Risk
Additional Info Most practical Most practical Just Food for Dogs Recipe Builder Raw Food Article
Recommendation Recommendation Recommendation Recommendation Not Recommended Not Recommended

Diet Formulation
For most dogs adult maintenance formulations will be suitable. However, depending on your dog’s life stage, body condition, and chronic ailments a specific formulation may be considered.

Diet Type Diet Composure Notes
Growth & Puppy ↑ protein, fat, calcium Formulated by breed size (small – giant)
Adult Maintenance Complete & balanced nutrition Suitable for most dogs
Geriatric & Senior ↑ omega 3 fatty acids, protein, calories ↑ palatability
Stress & Anxiety ↑ vitamin A, B, C, Zn, Mg, omega 3’s, & L tryptophan Comes in supplement form as well
GI Sensitivities ↑ fiber, pre & probiotics Commonly novel or hydrolyzed protein
Skin Sensitivities Limited ingredient: fish, venison, duck, rabbit, lamb Commonly novel or hydrolyzed protein
Weight Loss Methodologies: calorie restriction, low fat, high protein & complex carbohydrates/fiber Recommend prescription diet if over the counter diet not working
Medical Conditions Inflammatory bowel, kidney, liver, and urinary disease, diabetes, food allergies, and obesity Extensive studies, prescription only, consult with your veterinarian
Diet Protein

Picking a protein source can be daunting as there are so many. While there are advantages and disadvantages with each protein source, they all can be healthy choices in the right pet. Many dogs have skin allergies or gastrointestinal sensitivities, and these should be considered when picking a protein source. If your dog does not have any of these sensitivities then likely any protein source will work.
Diet Protein Individual Proteins Cost Food Sensitivities Prescription
Poultry Chicken, Turkey $ Common No
Livestock Beef, Bison, Lamb, Pork $$ Common No
Seafood Salmon, Cod, Catfish $$$ Less common No
Novel Protein Venison, Rabbit, Kangaroo, Duck $$$ Rare Typically Yes
Hydrolyzed Protein Not Recommended: concern for nutritional imbalances
Grain Free Not Recommended: concern for heart disease

Contrary to popular belief food allergies & sensitivities are not related to grains or additives, but the protein source. Unfortunately, there is no reliable test for a food allergy or sensitivity. However, the fewer proteins’ mixed into your dog’s diet the easier it is to identify issues. Ask your veterinarian about a diagnostic elimination food trial.


Diet Brand
With so many diet brands out there it is extremely important that we have a systematic approach to analysing the various companies and brands.

Step 1: Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO): AAFCO Website
● AAFCO: an organization that sets guidelines establishing nutrient profiles of what is
needed for a complete and balanced diet.
● If a food does not meet AAFCO guidelines then I would not consider feeding it.
● If a food does meet the AAFCO guidelines then dig a little deeper.

Step 2: Company Analysis
Reputable companies and brands accomplish the following:
● Veterinary nutritionist & scientist on staff
● Ongoing research
● Direct control & oversight of manufacturing
● Intensive quality control of raw materials, production process, and final product audits
● Extensive feeding trials
● Minimal contaminant recalls
The brands that tend to meet the above standards are: Royal Canin, Hills, Purina, Iams, Eukanuba, and Just Food for Dogs.

The above brands are unanimously recommended by veterinarians because of these standards. These brands tend to be larger companies due to resource constraints of smaller companies. It is important to note that dog food companies do not pay veterinarians endorsement fees and these recommendations are not financially driven.

Diet Feeding Guidelines
It’s estimated that ~60% of America’s dogs are overweight. While it seems simple to control our pets’ diet, it in practice is very challenging. A study looking at 50,000 dogs suggests that dogs who have a healthy body condition will on average live two and half years longer than dogs who are overweight. Obesity is linked to many health concerns: heart disease, hypertension, immune dysfunction, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.

Feeding Amount
Feeding amounts should be based on daily calorie needs and not volume of food. This is calculated from ideal weight and body condition score (BCS): Calculate My Dogs BCS. Calories can vary depending on your dog’s activity, life stage, and breed: Calculate My Dogs Calories.

Feeding Method
● Free feeding not recommended.
● Three meals daily for young puppies, and two meals daily for adolescents to adults

Dietary Supplements
Most diets today are complete and do not need additional supplementation. With that being said there are some patients that benefit from supplementation:
1. Arthritis, Joint Injuries: Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Fish Oil
2. Allergies, Skin Issues: Fish Oil, Vitamin E, Turmeric
3. Anxiety & Fear Aggression: L-thiane
4. Soft & Loose Stool: Prebiotics, Probiotics, Fiber

Supplement Companies
The pet supplement industry is difficult to traverse. Utilize these principles:

1. Does the supplement have any concern for causing harm to the body or organs?
2. Does the supplement have any scientific research indicating that it works?
3. Is the supplement outrageously expensive?
4. Is the company rebubilie in the scientific community?

It is impossible to analyze all supplement companies so we recommend you do your own research. With that being said, two companies we trust as a hospital are:

1. Nutramax: Nutramax Website
2. Vetoquinol: Vetoquinol Website


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