Food & Essential Supplies
While dog food is available in many forms, dry kibble is the most popular. Other options include soft food, canned wet food and fresh food intended to be cooked prior to serving.
Dry food helps keep a dog's teeth clean and its mouth healthy. It requires no preparation and is easy to feed and store. While most dogs enjoy soft or wet food, feeding such foods exclusively can contribute to gum disease. Fresh foods cooked just prior to serving are often the healthiest option, but require regular effort and planning.
Commercially prepared dog food, whether dry or wet is formulated to meet all of a dog's daily nutritional requirements, but not all foods are the same. Some contain more fillers and lower quality nutrients, while others are meant to suit canines at different stages of life or address various health conditions.
High quality dog foods will list a whole meat source as the first ingredient and will use minimal amounts of byproducts and fillers. These products cost more per bag or container, but recommended feeding portions are typically smaller than those of lower quality foods making a direct price comparison per serving difficult. Mid-quality foods will often rely on animal byproducts as as a source of protein, but still make minimal use of cheap fillers. Low quality dog foods typically list a filler, such as wheat, corn, or rice as the main ingredient. Dogs fed low quality dog food often have dry, dull coats and flaky skin.
The type of dog food should be matched to the age and health of the dog. A puppy needs the extra nutrition provided by foods made specifically for puppies, while an older dog can benefit from a senior food formulation. Specialty foods are also available to address allergies, reduce flatulence, soothe sensitive stomachs and relieve joint pain. Veterinarians may prescribe specific commercial foods designed to alleviate or assist with certain medical conditions such as kidney disease.
Fresh dog food is available in commercially prepared packages or can be made using ingredients from the grocery store. In either case, this type of dog food is made from unprocessed ingredients and includes fresh cuts of meat and vegetables. Commercially prepared packages make the process simpler, but the food must still be properly stored and cooked prior to serving. Homemade fresh dog food requires an owner dedicated to researching proper canine nutrition to ensure the recipe contains all of the ingredients necessary to keep a dog healthy.
Treats should only comprise a small portion of a dog's regular diet. Some types of treats, especially rawhide chews, can present choking hazards and may contain harmful chemicals. Look for treats made by trustworthy manufacturers and that crumble or crunch into pieces that won't choke a dog. Limit the number of treats offered per day to ensure a balanced diet.
Other essential supplies for keeping a dog include water and food bowls, a leash, a collar, and a brush.
The water and food bowls should be sized appropriately to the dog, and the water bowl should be large enough to ensure that fresh water is always available.
A dog's collar should fit tight enough that it does not easily slip over the dog's head but loose enough that two fingers can easily slip between the collar and the dog's neck.
A brush appropriate to the dog's coat, whether long or short, will help keep the dog clean and groomed. Brushing is also the perfect time to check a dog's coat for fleas or ticks and to observe any injuries, allergies or skin conditions.