Nutritional Advice for Dog Owners

What’s most important when choosing a food type for our dogs is that it contains the right balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. It can be a bit of a mind field with the number of options available to dog owners and sometimes the labelling is misleading. I have listed three options below with key features and benefits of each. 

Dry kibble 

A good dry food should provide a balanced diet including all the essential nutrients. It’s argued that dry food doesn’t contain the same amount of protein as canned food but the important thing is the quality of the protein in the food. The recommended daily allowance of protein is 22% but most dogs will survive well enough on 10%. So although some canned foods may claim a higher protein content if it’s vegetable protein or from soya it won’t be as beneficial as white meat protein content in dry food. It’s important to check the source of the protein on the packaging and avoid products that contain poultry meal or animal by-products. 
Dry food is more concentrated and contains less water (approximately 10%) so you don’t need to feed your dog as much. 
There is debate over the higher level of grains (i.e. corn, wheat or rice) in dry food compared to wet. Grains are used to form pellets and improve texture but can bulk out the content. The key is to pay closer attention to the labelling as stated above and look for whole grains. 
Whilst writing this I was curious to know what was in the food we feed our dogs – I have looked at the label before but never in this much detail (see below). 
Wainwright's Adult Complete Dog Food with Duck and Rice Composition and Nutrition Main Flavour: Duck 30% Ingredient(s): Brown Rice (38%), Duck (30%) (Duck Meal Meal, Duck Gravy), Barley (14%), Sugar Beet Pulp (8%), Rapeseed Oil (4%), Whole Linseed (3%), Alfalfa (1%), Minerals (includes Yucca Extract 200mg/kg, Marigold Meal 50mg/kg, Rosemary Extract 5mg/kg), Seaweed (0.5%). Additives; Nutritional Additives; Vitamin A 17,000 IU/kg, Vitmain D3 2,000 IU/kg, Vitamin E (a- Tocopherol) 550mg/kg, Zinc Chelate of Amino Acids Hydrate 200mg/kg, Manganese Oxide 156mg/kg, Iron Sulphate Monohydrate 133 mg/kg, Zinc Sulphate Monohydrate 97mg/kg, Copper Sulphate Pentahydrate 20mg/kg, Selenised Yeast, inactivated 8.7mg/kg, Sodium Selenite 6.5mg/kg, Calcium Iodate Anyhdrous 3.3mg/kg, Calcium 0.90mg/kg, Phosphorus 0.21mg/kg, Omega 6 2.85mg/kg, Omega 3 1.1mg/kg. Typical Analysis: Protein 24%, Crude Fibre 4%, Oils and Fats 7%, Crude Ash 7%, Moisture 10%. Feeding Guide (approximate per day) Toy (up to 5kg) - 60 to 125g Small (5-12kg) - 125 to 215g Medium (12-2 

Compared to some other kibble on the market the contents above look quite good, with good levels of protein, although it is from duck meal which means the meat has been rendered – (leftover body parts boiled down to a broth). This process kills bacteria and parasites but the natural enzymes and proteins found in raw ingredients are also destroyed 

Value for money 

This is dependent on which manufacturer you choose and the type of food i.e. gluten free, free from preservatives etc. There are some cheap alternatives available but my preference are products with more natural ingredients like James Wellbeloved or Pet’s At Home – Wainwrights (see above) which are hypoallergenic and kinder to the digestive system. However, these are more expensive than some other more high street brands which, for some dogs, may be adequate. 


Dry food has to be the most convenient food for dogs from a human point of view. You can buy it in bulk (if you have several dogs like us) and store it in sealed bins. It has a fairly long shelf life (less if you go for the products with no added preservatives) and doesn’t spoil if left in the bowl during the day. It’s also a lot less messy. 

Palatability & digestibility 

As it is dry in can be less appealing to dogs, particularly puppies that may need a bit of encouragement to eat it. With puppies I would recommend a mixture of dry and wet food to begin with and then gradually wean them off the wet food. The kibble should also be mixed with water for very young puppies with milk teeth. For adult dogs you can also add a bit of wet food or I just add a little water to the food to soften it a little and make it easier to digest. Other health benefits It is believed that dry food is better for dog’s teeth and gums but recent studies contradict this stating that dry foods leave a residue on the teeth the same as wet food and this can increase risk of plaque forming. Dry food is thought to help in maintaining firmer stools. 

Wet food 

As stated above it is a general belief that wet food has a higher level of protein (which may not always be beneficial for some dogs). However, the quality of the protein will be dependent on the overall quality of the canned food. Wet food has a higher proportion of water (75-80%) which means a higher quantity of food is required to ensure the dogs receives the right amount of nutrients. 

Value for money 
Canned food is generally a more expensive option depending on the brand. It’s recommended to go for premium products to ensure the right levels of nutrients are present. Convenience 
Canned food is generally considered less convenient as product is bulkier if you have a large dog or more than one dog. Opened cans need to be refrigerated and food shouldn’t be left out in bowls for longer than 1-2 hours as bacteria can start to form. It does, however, have a longer shelf life when un-opened and requires fewer preservatives. 

Palatability & digestibility 
Undoubtedly wet food is more palatable for dogs as it looks and smells more like fresh meat. With higher water content it is also easier to digest and better for hydration and the urinary tract. 

Other health benefits/issues 
There is a fair bit of debate about whether wet food is better for dogs that are overweight. Some suggest that dogs on wet food can be prone to weight gain; others state that an overweight dog on a diet needs protein and therefore wet food is better, it also makes a dog feel fuller due to the water content so you can feed it less. Again I think it depends on the brand of food, the exact content and also the quantity that is fed. 
Wet food is recommended for puppies or elderly dogs because of the added hydration and it’s easier on the teeth. Dogs on high protein diets, particularly red meat can be prone to hyperactivity. 

Raw diet 

The distinct advantage of feeding a dog a raw diet, freshly prepared is that you know exactly what’s in it. The tricky part though is making sure it’s balanced. There needs to be a good source of protein but also fats, minerals and vitamins. Once a dog has got used to one source of raw protein i.e. chicken, you can then introduce other forms of protein gradually to add variety to the diet. Raw food contains natural enzymes that haven’t been destroyed by the cooking process. There are many companies that now provide processed raw food that you can buy in bulk and freeze. 

Value for money 
A raw diet is generally more expensive but with more companies now offering bulk purchase the cost can be reduced. Convenience 
This option is generally not very convenient as although batches of food could be made up in one go it will only last 2 -3 days in a fridge. It could also be frozen. It’s also not very convenient if staying away with your dog or if the dog goes into kennels. Raw food is messy to prepare and all bowls, food preparation areas and floor around where the dog eats will have to be cleaned each time to avoid bacteria build up. The dog is likely to drool more as well. 

Palatability & digestibility 
This is a very palatable option and providing food has been prepared properly should be highly digestible. Years ago dogs ate raw food so it is more natural for them, however, some dogs may not adjust to eating raw protein (older dogs, dogs with kidney problems) – therefore it is always advisable to consult your vet before changing diets. 

Other health benefits 
A raw diet can help prevent obesity, allergies, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and so much more Owners who feed their dogs a raw diet claim their dogs have shinier coats, healthier skin, more lean muscle and less fat. They have cleaner teeth and gums, their breath is less smelly and they produce fewer faeces. 

References: Dog Food Advisor (online) - accessed August 2014 Pet MD (online) - accessed August 2014 Dogster (online) - accessed August 2014 Dog Health (online) - accessed August 2014 That Mutt, (online) - accessed August 2014 Fisher J., Think Dog Evans J.M. & White K,(2012), Doglopaedia, Interpet Publishing, Chapter 2