You'll typically find categories of puppy food, adult food, and senior dog foods. And they are all a little bit different, which is why it's important to feed the appropriate life stage. Puppy food is geared toward growth, whereas a senior diet meets different needs. Speaking with your vet is undoubtedly the best way to figure out at what point that needs to be switched over, but I do think it's important to feed the appropriate life stage.
Anytime you decide to do a diet switch, it's best to gradually blend it over a five to seven-day period. If your dog has an especially sensitive stomach, it's better to do that even slower. We'll often start to wean dogs from puppy food to adult food around 10 to 12 months. There are certainly instances where we'll push that even a little bit further past that.
Yes. I'm a big fan of feeding dogs on a schedule. There are many times where you will want to give medication, for instance, with food and, if you are free-feeding, then that's hard to predict when they're going to eat and have food with their medication. I'm a big fan of feeding breakfast and dinner on a schedule—twice a day ideally. The other thing is when you're free-feeding, some dogs will overeat that way. You can manage caloric intake a little bit better when you meal feed.
Many things are on the back of a dog food bag—most notably, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. AAFCO is our regulatory agency. I believe for dog protein, minimum standards are 18% or higher and for cats is 26% or higher. Honestly, you should probably shoot for a little bit higher than that. For instance, keep protein for dogs in the 20 to 30% range. Talk to your vet for your dog's specific needs in this category, though.
We look at several different things. Of course, we're going to look at their weight, body condition score, and how healthy their coat is. Ms. Josie here has a beautiful coat. She's in great body condition. Those are some of the things that we look at. We'll want to know how they're generally feeling as well. If we see any abnormalities in lab work, we can sometimes tie that back to a dietary issue.
There are so many brands of dog food, and it is tough to know. A hot topic right now is grain-free diets. That's probably my one issue that you do need to pay close attention to is trying to avoid a grain-free diet right now, until we know a bit more about these diets, as there is a link to grain-free diets and heart disease. Beyond that, I think you must talk to your vet and see if any specific brands should be sought after or avoided. I am a big fan of the major brands like Royal Canin and Hills Science Diet, even Purina. I think they do an excellent job of putting a lot of research back into their food and they're well-balanced diets.
The two most common reasons we reach for prescription diets are allergies, whether it's skin allergies, food allergies, or intestinal GI sensitivities. A lot of those diets overlap a bit. Kidney diets are also very important. We want to reach for a lower protein phosphorus restricted diet, and you can't find that over the counter. There are several reasons, but those are probably the more common reasons we reach a prescription diet. For the most part, most dogs do great on over the counter diets. And if you have any questions, let us know. We'll be happy to help you out and pick a good diet for your dog.
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