Mealtime Basics for Dogs

Keep your canine hale and hearty with these dog-related mealtime basics.


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Offer a Balanced Diet
Have a dog to feed? Tempt his or her taste buds with healthy meals that are full of flavor. A balanced diet for a dog serves up a smorgasbord of nutrients: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. All of these nutrients can be found in commercial dog food.

Dog food falls into three categories: moist, dry, and semimoist. Each offers the same level of nutrition. Most dogs prefer moist food; it always wins bowwow taste tests. Moist food also digests easily and stays fresh longer, but it costs the most. Dry dog food delivers affordability and reduces tartar buildup, but it can get stale. Semimoist food stores well, has good flavor, and costs a bit more than dry.

Let your dog feast on one type of food, or create a house blend featuring any combination of types depending on your dog's tastes and nutritional needs. For finicky pups that won't devour dry food, feed them for less by mixing a small amount of moist food into a bowl of dry kibble to add texture and flavor. Adjust the amount of food you give your dog according to its metabolism and lifestyle. 

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Provide Plenty of Fresh Water
Your dog's water dish should never be empty; provide fresh, clean water at all times. That's because a healthy dog drinks as much as it needs.

Dogs require about 2-1/2 times as much water as dry food. So expect your dog to drink more when fed kibble instead of moist or semimoist food. Limit water intake just before and after meals to reduce the expansion of dry dog food in your pooch's stomach.

Monitor Snacks and Scraps
As much as you might love to treat your dogs, they don't need snacks, treats, bones, or table scraps. Dog snacks, such as human junk food, are often high in fat. Too many handouts can lead to obesity and its related health problems.

You can give your pet treats, just limit the amount to less than 10 percent of your dog's daily diet. If you use treats when teaching your dog a new command or trick, gradually replace the food reward with verbal praise.

You lose the nutritional balance of commercial dog food by adding human food to it. So don't scrape the leftover mashed potatoes or meat loaf into your dog's bowl. And don't feed your dog table scraps. Although you mean well, such a gesture encourages a host of behavior problems such as begging and stealing food.

Signs of a Healthy Diet
Look for these signs to determine if you're feeding your dog a healthy diet. If you're unsure, touch base with your vet to get good advice for the type and quantity of food to feed your pet.

  • Shiny coat
  • No dry, flaky skin
  • Good appetite
  • No weight gain or loss
  • Stools of the proper consistency
  • No unusual or strong odor from waste
  • Normal energy and activity levels
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