Column: Feeding your pet to best thrive

How do you chose your commercial dog food and treats? It may be for its name, appearance, packaging, recommendation, marketing, price or convenience.

It’s certainly worth taking a bit of time to understand the labels. It’s probably more about what to avoid rather than look for and feed your dog the best nutrition you can afford. Manufacturers are clever with terms used to draw you in to buying a food YOU might think is good for your dog.

Many owners like the appearance of some well advertised brands but Fido doesn’t care too much what it looks like. Unfortunately all those artificial colouring agents could simply make your dog hyperactive. It does the same for dogs as it does children. The manufacturers know you want to see meat in the food so will often put it as the first ingredient.

In its natural state, meat is 70 per cent water so as it is dehydrated, the actual level of meat is reduced. If followed by grain such as rice, corn or maize then these make up the biggest volume of the biscuit. They are added as they make the products shelf life longer, are cheaper than protein or fat and are abundant. Not one of these reasons has anything to do with nutrition.

Grains provide carbohydrates, which aren’t bad for dogs in modest amounts they can provide a practical source of energy. But carbohydrates are not essential for a dog to survive. And just putting “meat” or “animal fat” on the label means it is from an unidentifiable source.

Dogs require protein and fat from a good quality, identifiable source. Use simple dehydrated meat as training treats, with nothing else added or better still chop up some fresh stuff. Finally, try to avoid foods with added salt, sugar plus a long list of chemical preservatives. Providing your dog with a balanced diet is the difference between simply surviving and thriving.