Eating habits can be tough to break. Dogs have shorter life spans than humans, so they deserve the best while they’re with you. You want to ensure their health stays in tip-top shape at all times, so making some dietary changes means you could reduce their risk for a disease or other detrimental side effects of a poor diet. While it might take some time for your dog to adjust to his new eating plan, you can slowly introduce changes that will have his tail wagging all the time.
1. Know How Much to Feed Your Dog
When changing your dog’s diet, the first thing to focus on is to make sure he’ll still be eating the recommended amount. Offering your dog too little food can lead to nutritional deficiencies, but feeding your dog too much can be harmful, too.
Feeding your dog more than what he’s supposed to receive can shorten his lifespan and lead to some cancers. Obesity isn’t the only risk for a dog who overeats regularly. For the sake of your furry friend, make sure he’s eating well.
Finding your dog’s ideal calorie intake might take some work. The “right” amount to feed your canine can change depending on his weight and how many meals he eats. If you’re still unsure how much he should be eating each day, consult with your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s unique needs.
2. Don’t Focus Solely on Protein
Protein is necessary, especially for active dogs who are muscular. Your dog doesn’t need all protein on her diet, though: They shouldn’t consume more than 25% protein per day. Puppies need a bit more than that since they’re still growing, but your adult dog should be happy with only one-fourth of her meal being crude protein.
Dogs can digest plant matter, and though they descended from wolves, they need different foods. Focus on the other parts of a well-balanced diet to ensure your dog gets all the nutrients she needs out of her meals. Many dogs can get their recommended amount of protein from dry kibbles that include meat and bone meal, adding beneficial amino acids to their daily consumption.
3. Work up a Sweat
You might wonder why your dog isn’t eating much. It could be possible that he has a slower metabolism and doesn’t get hungry as quickly. If you want to make sure your dog is satisfied at every mealtime, take him for a walk — or a hike if the two of you are feeling adventurous.
Similar to how humans may become hungry after a satisfying workout, your dog will be more likely to want to eat after he’s had a decent amount of exercise. Exercising regularly may boost his metabolism and encourage him to be more active. It could also simulate “going for a hunt” so he has a more satisfying dinner when he returns home.
4. Analyze Your Dog’s Allergies
While dogs may not get an allergy test as humans can, they can still have reactions to certain foods. Not all dogs have allergies, and some are more common than others. You should pay attention to the ingredients in the kibble you feed your dog and watch her for any problems. Surprisingly, most allergic reactions result from animal proteins, not grain.
Some of the most well-known dog allergies include the following:
- Chicken, beef, and dairy products
- Specific grains and even gluten
- Vegetables like carrots or potatoes
Many allergies can cause gastrointestinal upset or excessive itching. Watch for the signs in your dog and switch his food out if you notice it becoming a problem.
5. Introduce Fresh Food to Your Dog’s Diet
If you want to step away from the kibble a bit and try to add wholesome foods to your dog’s diet, consider opting for “people food” you know he isn’t allergic to and will add nutrients to his diet rather than become detrimental. Finding the right ingredients to add to your pup’s food also involves analyzing which items are forbidden or toxic to dogs.
You can add supplementary foods to your dog’s kibble whenever you see fit, or you can research and create a new meal made out of only ingredients you would feed yourself. If you opt for the latter, remember that bland is best for a dog’s food.
Some of the most common foods that give dogs a nutritional boost are:
- Eggs: full of vitamins and minerals that can improve your dog’s coat
- Pumpkin: a fiber that can aid in your pup’s digestion
- Broth: provides much-needed hydration for active dogs
- Veggies: can add nutritional value when pureed
Remember to do your research to see which foods fit your dog’s lifestyle best. She’ll certainly love a human snack now and then.
6. Look for Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients
If you plan to add “people food” to your dog’s diet, make sure they can fight for his health. Inflammatory foods can cause a world of detriments, just as they can in humans. In addition to premature aging, feeding your dog certain items can increase his risk of pancreatitis or arthritis.
Some dog foods may not include anti-inflammatory ingredients. If you don’t want to add human food to your pup’s meal, you can still support him by using spices and seasonings that can provide him with several benefits.
Not all spices are safe for dogs, but here are a few with anti-inflammatory properties you can easily sprinkle onto your pup’s dinner:
- Cinnamon: which can also help with bad breath
- Ginger: which can help with bouts of nausea
- Turmeric: which can reduce the effects of existing arthritis
Don’t use too much seasoning on your dog’s food, but adding some now and then to get them used to the taste should provide them with many benefits. You can choose to add foods like coconut and blueberries in moderation. Always consult with your vet before making any significant changes to your pup’s diet.
7. Limit the Amount of Treats You Give
Just like humans, dogs shouldn’t be eating sweet treats all the time. Training rewards or items low in calories can be fed more often, but watch how many larger or calorie-rich treats you give your dog in addition to her usual food.
If you’re someone who loves to give your dog treats for just about anything — and who could blame you? — consider swapping calorie-dense options with healthy items, as long as your pup likes them. Many dogs love carrots as a tasty snack, but green peas or watermelon are great choices, too.
Prepare for a Healthier, Longer Life With Your Dog
If you eat healthily, your dog deserves to, too. While you don’t have to immediately replace all your pup’s kibble with wholesome items found in your kitchen, you can make small changes to supplement the nutrition she receives from a bowl of dry food. The longer she stays healthy, the more adventures you can have together, which will make for lasting memories.