We all want the same thing for our beloved dogs: health and happiness for as long as possible. Your pet’s diet contributes to its overall health and longevity, so ensuring it receives the best nutrition possible will reward both you and your dog for many years. With all the recent talk of pet food regulation, knowing how to choose the best food for your dog requires a bit of knowledge and forethought.
Find the right food
There are many high quality pet foods on the market, and these have been nutritionally balanced to provide your dog with the right combination of everything they need. Choosing the right combination may depend on your dog’s health status and stage of life. If your dog has any special dietary needs or has a bad reaction to a standard diet, have a chat to your vet.
You should check that your chosen food complies with the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food AS5812:2017, but note that the standard is not enforced by any regulatory body, and compliance with it is voluntary. It’s important to ensure any food you feed your dog is labelled as ‘complete and balanced’, and complies with either AAFCO (US) or FEDIAF (EU) standards if imported.
Make sure it’s safe
Dogs have evolved over thousands of years to eat an omnivorous diet, comprising of both meat and vegetables, so you can safely offer some natural foods such as human-grade raw meat, raw meaty bones and vegetables, if you wish. Ensure you choose human-grade meat and avoid manufactured products and sausages which may contain preservatives such as sulphites, and can cause deficiencies that can be detrimental to your dog’s health.
If your canine friend gets the occasional extras in their diet, take great care that it’s not any of the many foods that can be toxic to them. Common foods that are toxic to dogs are onions, garlic, chocolate, avocado, grapes, nuts, currants, mushrooms and sugar-free peanut butter. Avoid feeding fatty table scraps as well, such as bacon rind or steak fat, as these can cause pancreatitis in some dogs.
Teeth and gum health
Feeding raw meaty bones once or twice a week is a great idea to keep your pooch’s teeth and gums healthy, but there are just a few things to remember about this. Bones must always be given raw, as cooked bones can splinter and cause internal damage or obstruction. Make sure the bone is large enough to prevent your pooch from swallowing it whole and avoid large marrow bones, T-bones, 'chop' bones, large knuckle bones and bones sawn lengthwise (as done by some butchers) as your pooch may crack its teeth on these. Raw lamb ribs and raw lamb flaps are a good option. Always supervise your dog when they are eating bones and check with your vet first whether raw meaty bones are suitable for your pooch as some dogs with misshapen jaws or dental disease and older dogs may find chewing them difficult.
Quantity is important
Your pooch will probably also appreciate being offered fish such as tinned sardines, tinned tuna and tinned salmon as a treat occasionally – just make sure you choose fish canned in spring water rather than oil or brine. Small amounts of cooked vegetables such as pumpkin and carrots, or cooked meat such as boiled chicken or lamb or a small amount of plain cooked pasta or rice will no doubt also be a welcome treat for your canine friend. If you feed human-grade food in addition to their normal kibble, ensure you decrease the amount of kibble you feed that day to avoid overfeeding your dog.
The amount of food your furry friend should eat depends on their size, breed, age and level of exercise, so take care not to overfeed or underfeed. To avoid bloat (which can be fatal) adult dogs should be fed at least twice a day and not exercised immediately before or after eating. Fresh drinking water must be available at all times. You might have noticed that your pooch sometimes likes to chomp down on grass, too. This is perfectly normal and may provide them with a source of vegetable matter and micro-nutrients, so make sure your pooch has access to unsprayed and non-toxic grass.
Enjoy a long life together
Good nutrition is one of the fundamental aspects of a healthy and long life, and providing your beloved canine friend with a safe and nutritious diet is one of the best things you can do for them. The RSPCA feeds and recommends Hill’s Pet Nutrition which has been supporting the RSPCA for over 20 years. Hill’s is the exclusive national nutritional sponsor of the RSPCA, providing high quality and nutritious food to shelter dogs and cats awaiting adoption throughout Australia.
- The RSPCA relies on donations from the public to protect and care for animals.