Dog Food 101

Just as there are hundreds of breeds of dogs, there are a wide variety of dog foods on the market. Because dogs of different sizes have different nutritional needs, it’s important to find the ideal food for your best friend. Here’s a quick, handy guide to the different types of food available and the nutritional requirements of different sized breeds.

Different Kinds of Dog Food
There are four basic varieties of dog foods: kibble, canned (wet) food, semi-moist and raw.

Kibble, often called “dry food” is the cheapest and most popular type of dog food. Most kibbles are nutritionally well-rounded and contain all the vitamins your dog needs, but you should read ingredient lists before making a purchase. The healthiest brands are usually high in protein, low in fat and contain only natural ingredients. An added bonus of kibble is that chewing dry food slows tartar buildup in your dog’s teeth.

Canned food, usually called wet food, is the preferred choice of most dogs. Canned dog foods can be pricey, but they have a very long shelf life and will keep your dog happy. When choosing a variety of wet food, though, check nutrient and water content. Most canned foods are nearly 75 percent water, but brands with lower water content are richer in nutrients.

Semi-moist food, which is often molded in the shape of burgers or other meats, is the least nutritious type of dog food and usually contains artificial colors and flavorings. Semi-moist food should only be given to your dog as an occasional treat.

As the name suggests, a raw food diet means your dog is eating entirely raw animal products, such as bones and organs. This type of diet can be very healthy–it’s closest to what dogs would eat in the wild, and most breeds can easily digest raw food. Before starting your dog on a raw diet, however, be sure to consult your veterinarian.

Small Breeds Vs. Large
There are some nutrients that all dog need, such as protein and carbohydrates for energy and calcium to support strong bones. There are, however, differences between the dietary needs of small and large breed dogs.

Small dogs have faster metabolisms than large breeds, so small-breed dog food tends to be calorie-dense to support high levels of activity. It’s also important to note that small breeds are often prone to gastrointestinal distress, so their diets should be watched a bit more carefully. When it comes to dry food, small-breed kibble usually contains smaller pieces to reduce food waste and make it easier for dogs to chew.

Large dogs need strong bones to support their huge frames, so ideal large-breed foods will be very high in calcium. Because large breeds are often prone to hip problems, some large-breed formulas also contain glucosamine, which helps maintain healthy joints. In addition, quality large-breed puppy food is usually less calorie dense to allow bigger dogs to grow at a reasonable rate that won’t strain their bones or joints.