First of all, I’d like to start of by clarifying one thing; I am in no way an expert. The expert is in fact you. Nobody will understand your dog better than you will – seriously, not even your vet. You know the difference in your dog having an off day and there being something wrong, you know the difference between needy and a problem. So why do we spend countless hours second guessing ourselves and researching alternatives? If you want to make a home cooked meal for your dog everyday, I applaud you – I wish I had the time and inclination to. Fact is I don’t.
I launched Rachael’s Dog Pantry in August 2018 following a stomach issue with one of my dogs. At 6 months old, Dudley my Clumber Spaniel had surgery on his small and large intestine to correct an intussusception (one part slid into another and caused a blockage). The surgery went really well but for 2 months following his surgery he was on special food from the vets. I was told it would give him the extra nutrients he needed for a speedy recovery while being gentle on his stomach. Of course we said yes and bought a caseload, it was eye wateringly expensive, as in twice the weekly cost of food for my fiancé and me!
A short while later, Dudley was back to his normal self, we were coming to the end of his treatment and we needed to phase him back onto normal food. Before his surgery he’d always been on dry food, we liked things how they were and wanted to continue. Only difference is now I was very concerned about what was actually in it. We all fall into the same trap, buy a ready meal branded ‘healthy choice’ thinking we’re smashing our diet, only to turn it over and realise you’ve just demolished 900 calories.
So top tips on feeding, as compiled by a 28 year old with 2 dogs who has access to Goggle. First and most importantly, what are you comfortable with? This is a big one a lot of people forget. If the smell of fish turns your stomach or the sight of raw meat makes you want to stick your head in the loo avoid them at all cost. While you aren’t eating it, you have to prepare it.
Secondly, ask around. You ask opinions from your nearest and dearest in all walks of life, add this one to the pile. Bare in mind a St. Bernard owner will have a different view and need than a pug owner.
Next up is money. What can you afford? Set a budget and stick to it. It would be great if we could afford to give our dogs steak every night, but alas that isn’t happening. Don’t get me wrong what you feed them is important, but in my opinion it comes second to love. To put it bluntly, I’d rather see a dog fed clearance bargain food and cherished like a member of the family than a dog given foie gras and the cold shoulder.
Next up, watch their waistline. Literally, their waistline – they should go in between their ribs and bum. Typically in summer dogs need less food, walks are cut short and there are a lot of lazy days basking in the sun. In winter we tend to walk more and in the working dog community its peak season! My advice, don’t do anything drastic, keep your eye out for any changes in their weight and tweak as is needed. Once again, you know your dog better than anyone so trust your instincts.
As a final note, know your dog. Don’t be that person who accuses a Vizsla owner that “their Labrador is being starved”. Different breeds carry weight and carry weight differently.
Long story short, trust your instincts and don’t impulse buy. Know what you’re getting for your money and sod the crowds – it’s your dog and not theirs.