The Best Diet for Dogs: The Goldilocks Principle
I'm often asked: "What is the best food for my dog?"
You might think that would be an easy question to answer, but it is not!
First, let me tell you about my family dinners. When my extended family gathers for dinner, some of us need vegetarian or vegan meals; others have health conditions and need a low carbohydrate and low sugar meal; others eat a paleo diet; another person develops migraines from certain foods; someone else can't have her food mixed together. You can see why our family dinners are buffet, pot-luck style!
Of these diets which one is "The Best"?
I'm using my family's eclectic eating styles to show you that the best diet is the one that is best suited to the person and their particular health goals... and you guessed it, the same is true for our dogs.
Goldilocks had to try a few bowls of porridge, nap in a few beds and sit in a few chairs before finding 'Just Right.' When we think about food for your dog, we need to think about your dog and find 'Just Right' for him.
Age, breed, gut health, activity level, appetite, health status, tolerance to amounts and types of protein, fat and fibre, and taste preferences are just a few of the factors that need to be considered when choosing food for your dog.
Like Goldilocks, it can take some trial and error before finding food that fits well with your dog. And then, (I'm sorry to break it to you) be prepared to make changes as your dog changes. Following a proactive approach to your dog's health means that diet is not a 'set it and forget it' process. The diet your 2 year old dog eats simply should not be the same diet he eats as an 8 year old senior dog.
Every dog is different!
No matter how amazing the nutrient profile of a food, if the food doesn't agree with your dog, it is not a fit for your dog and your shouldn't feed it.
This is also true for commercial brands of dog food, both kibble and raw: what looks good on paper may not be a good fit for your dog. There are a few commercial products that meet my recommendation requirements, and yet these foods may disagree with certain dogs... perhaps the fibre or fat levels cause stomach upset or constipation. Maybe there's an ingredient in the food that agrees with every other dog, except not your dog, or possibly the food is calorie dense which means that a smaller amount is fed and the dog feels cheated and wonders "hey! where's the rest of my dinner?"
This leads me to my next point about feeding dogs using the Goldilocks Principle: Respect...
In the words of the late, great Aretha Franklin: "R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me". Please respect your dog's taste preferences. With so many healthy, fresh food options available there is no need to force a dog to eat something he hates. Your dog doesn't like kale? No problem, try something else!
Mealtime is often the highlight of a dog's day and it breaks my heart when I hear about a healthy dog who sniffs at his kibble throughout the day, doesn't eat, and then finally late at night eats because he's too hungry not to. There is a fine line, however, between respecting your healthy dog's taste preferences and catering to picky eaters - use your best judgement so you don't end up as a cast member in another well known fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea.
Choosing food for your dog requires channeling of your inner Goldilocks: you need a diet plan that is nutritionally complete, meets his lifestyle and health goals and requirements, is made from fresh, whole food ingredients where possible, is something your dog enjoys and is within budget.
What is right for your neighbour's dog may not be right for your dog. Good nutrition is the foundation of good health. Recognizing, appreciating, and respecting the individuality of your dog is a proactive step every pet parent can take.
Note: Lack of appetite, or a change in appetite should be mentioned to your vet.