Your Go-To Guide For Dog Food Nutrition
There’s no beating around the bush: trying to find the right dog food for your pooch is a nightmare.
It's time to chat about Dog Food Nutrition
As pawrents, we only want the very best for our fur babies. We want a healthy, nutritious dog food that won’t set off their allergies or intolerances, while also being so delicious it gets 10 tail wags out of 10. Mealtimes should be exciting for our pups, without them becoming lethargic and zombified, incessantly scratching and licking themselves, or gifting you with deadly korma-like poos for the next four days.
Is that too much to ask?
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But what do you need to look out for when it comes to their food? Everything you need to know is on the tin. Only, the question is, how do you decipher what it all means?
Always read the label
Often, ingredient lists are looong, in a tiny font we can barely read, and full of ingredients we don’t understand or are not naturally occurring. It’s no wonder we’re more likely to just grab the food that tells us what we want to hear. It’s the best food for my dog? Cool, I’ll take that one then.
If it’s made for a specific diet, it could be even worse. ‘Hypoallergenic’ food doesn’t always mean a product is free of the allergens your pup needs to avoid. Nor does ‘natural’ food mean it's in any way natural or nutritious.
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Many popular brands of dog food and treats are purposely designed to meet the minimum requirements of an average dog. They’re made cheaply with dodgy ingredients, cutting corners if they can. So when it comes to choosing food for your pooches, always read the labels.
So what exactly are you looking for?
Check the first ingredient
The first ingredient you see on an ingredient list will make up the bulk of the food, meaning you want it to be as nutritious as possible. It’s like movie credits - that first entry is the Leo DiCaprio of the food. So you really want a pure protein source. Protein is a critical component of your pup’s diet, responsible for building and repairing their muscles, creating new skin cells, strengthening hair, and assisting in hormone and enzyme production.
A lot of dog foods use soy-based protein sources because it’s far cheaper. But while soy is safe for dogs in moderation, it’s also a common allergy for many and is less bioavailable (harder to digest and gain nutrients from) than animal proteins. You want that first ingredient to be actual meat - not meat derivatives (which we’ll get to later).
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At Swagwags, all of our kibbles contain prime, freshly prepared animal protein sources. From duck and salmon to lamb or chicken, the main ingredient of your pup’s food will always be packed full of flavour and nutritional content.
On dog food packaging, you might see the phrase ‘EC-approved additives’. And you might think, great, no nasties here. But there are around 4,000 approved additives on this list. So… just a few, then.
You have no idea what they are and you never know which might be popping up in your dog’s food. More importantly, you don’t know what effects they might have on your pup. They could be the sneaky ingredients causing their allergies or intolerances to flare up.
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Swagwags is passionate about being transparent and providing exceptional dog nutrition. So you won’t find additives in any of our products. To preserve our kibble, we use natural rosemary oil instead. Much better!
Some of the most common allergies for dogs are beef, pork, wheat, gluten, dairy, and soya. If your current food doesn’t agree with your pup, it could be down to one of these culprits. Make sure to check the ingredients list for any of these allergens. If it has some, it might be time to switch.
And when it comes to common allergens, don’t forget about your doggo’s treats, too. These are just as important to check, especially if you’re giving them out on a daily basis.
We’ve eliminated all common allergens in Swagwags kibble. We want to make dog nutrition easy and keep it simple for pet parents to find food that keeps their pup happy and healthy.
Adult dogs versus pups
Dogs are just like us. At different stages of their life, they’ll need different food. You wouldn’t start your child on spaghetti carbonara, right? So your doggo’s diet should reflect where they are in their life.
When it comes to puppies, their tiny mouths lend themselves to a smaller kibble. As well as this, their rapid growth rate means they’ll need a lot more protein to grow big and strong, and additional vitamins and minerals to support their development. And if your pup isn’t eating, it could be a sign that the current solution isn’t working for them.
As they get older and they stop growing, you’ll want to rethink their quantity of food to ensure they aren’t putting on any extra pounds. Pregnant dogs also have different needs and will need to go back to a puppy diet to support their pregnancy and maintain their energy.
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So much critical development takes place in the first 18 months of your pup’s life. It’s why Swagwags’ puppy kibbles contain joint care packs and the extra supplements needed to help them get the healthiest start in life.
The six essential components of your pooch’s diet are protein (which we’ve talked about), water, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. Whether you’re feeding them raw, wet or dry food, it’s important you’re covering all these bases, as they all play a role in keeping your dog at their best and brightest.
It’s about striking a balance. A raw-fed diet that’s protein-heavy isn’t great. And kibble or wet foods that are full of nasties aren’t exactly balanced either. So you need to take a real good look at that ingredient list - get all Sherlock Holmes on it.
And I’ll say it again - you have to look at their treats too. Your pup could be on the most balanced diet possible, but if you’re just going for whatever treats they like, you’re compromising your hard work. Even without considering the ingredients, all those extra calories from treats will soon add up. Be mindful because it’s far too easy to overfeed them. So resist those puppy-dog eyes for more!
Every Swagwags recipe provides a well-rounded, nutritious meal for your four-legged friend. From high-quality, pure protein sources to sweet potatoes and Omega-3 supplements, we keep dog nutrition simple and tasty.
Last, but not least, derivatives. The term ‘animal derivatives’ means the ingredient may or may not have touched an animal at some point. It doesn’t say what animal or which part. Meaning it could be the carcass, eyeballs, veins - or anything else that makes your stomach churn.
Meats can often be mixed together without needing to say what they are on the label, so you can never really be safe with derivatives. Say you pick out a nice salmon meal as your dog is allergic to chicken. If it says animal derivatives on the packaging, there’s no guarantee there won’t be traces of chicken in the food.
Similarly, ‘vegetable derivatives’ are anything that’s not meat, animal, or grain. The best-case scenario? They’re off-cuts, like the top and bottom of carrots. Worst-case scenario, it’s all the waste not wanted in human food factories.
It leaves you with more problems than solutions, especially if you’ve got a pup with a super sensitive tummy. They could be indigestible and therefore pointless to feed them. But above all, you can’t play fast or lose with any allergies. You can’t risk putting your pet in that much danger. By avoiding derivatives, you make your life easier as you can be more sure that what you’re feeding your pooch is perfect for them.
Swagwags’ Super Premium range is specifically tailored to the most sensitive pups. It’s formulated with single protein sources, as well as all the vitamins and minerals needed to help maintain a robust immune system.
Dog nutrition can be complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. By taking the time to get to grips with the basic ingredients you should be avoiding like the plague, you can make sure your pup’s on the right diet for them, leaving them happy, healthy, and wagging for days.
For tasty, nutritious dog food that makes mealtimes a breeze, look no further than Swagwags. Available in a range of delicious flavours, and with varying options for different sensitivity levels, our kibble contains high-quality, responsibly sourced protein in every single bag.
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Alia Coster, founder of hypoallergenic dog food brand Swagwags, is passionate about all things doggo nutrition and health. Thanks to her Shapei-Rottweiller cross, George, being allergic to life, she understands the daily nuances of a pawrent of a dog with allergies. You'll find more of her articles on her website www.swagwags.co.uk