by: Kayla Kowalski, Certified Dog Nutritionist
As dog owners, we always want to ensure we're helping our dogs live their best lives. From toys to treats and everything in between, improving our pup's quality of life is a priority for all pet owners. However, improving our dog's diets can be challenging. Even if we can decipher the world of often conflicting dog food recommendations, the options that turn out to be the "best dog food" can be ridiculously expensive. So, we're here to share some practical steps you can add at home to boost your dog's nutrition and give them a longer, healthier life.
1. Add Moisture
Commercial kibble is cooked at very high temperatures to remove moisture and be small, lightweight, and shelf-stable. This makes it convenient to store, transport, and feed. But it's not ideal for your pup's digestion.
Feeding dry dog food straight from the bag can dehydrate your dog as it must work harder to rehydrate it before it can be digested and absorbed. Because of this, rehydrating your dog's kibble before feeding can do wonders to help take the weight off their digestive system. Adding hydration boosters is especially useful for puppies, as they require much more water than adult dogs.
Kibble can be soaked in water for 5–15 minutes before feeding to create a sort of “DIY wet food” for your dog. Or, to really give your pup something to bark about, here are some other extra tasty options to boost the nutritional value of your dog’s meals.
- Bone broth for dogs
- Decaffeinated green tea
- Coconut water
Ensure all these options are free of dog-toxic flavors, seasonings, and sweeteners. Also, remember that warm liquids rehydrate kibble quickly and soak up faster.
2. Add a Daily Supplement
Incorporating a daily supplement can do wonders to boost your dog's overall health, no matter their life stage or activity level. A good quality supplement should be easy to incorporate into your pup's day and work to enhance their overall well-being and vitality.
Native Pet's The Daily is an excellent supplement made from high-quality, well-researched active ingredients. This super-supplement is designed to support a robust immune system, maintain healthy joints, and promote healthy digestion, skin, and coat.
3. Add Whole Foods
Incorporating fresh raw foods, such as organ meats, fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds, can do wonders to boost your pup's nutrient and fiber intake.
Sharing human food with your pup isn’t recommended, but feeding your dog a rainbow of fruits and vegetables has a variety of benefits. It's essential to remember that some foods are toxic to dogs. The most common dog-toxic fruits and vegetables are grapes, raisins, and onions. For the best results, we recommend working with a canine nutritionist to ensure you are giving your dog the correct balance of vitamins and minerals for them to stay healthy.
4. Add Raw Bones
Let your dog embrace their inner wolf! Dogs' stomachs are much more acidic than human stomachs, meaning your dog's gastrointestinal system has been biologically designed to dissolve raw bones. They're a great natural source of calcium, and crunching through them can help clean your pup's teeth and gums.
Raw, meaty bones should always be selected depending on your dog’s body weight, breed, or size. Here's a quick guide for choosing bones for your dog:
- Small dogs: chicken necks, chicken or duck feet
- Medium dogs: chicken or duck necks, chicken or duck feet
- Large breed dogs: turkey, chicken, or duck necks; chicken or duck feet
A best practice is for you to hold one end of the bone to ensure your dog is correctly and safely chewing the bone. Cooked bones should never be fed as these become brittle and can splinter and hurt your dog. Yes, even the ones sold at pet stores!
5. Rotate Foods
Rotating between different foods helps keep meals exciting for your dog and balance their nutrients over time. By mimicking ancestral feeding patterns, giving your pup varying foods helps provide a range of flavors and nutrient sources.
You can switch the formula (within the same brand or between brands) of food daily, weekly, or just between bags. Some dogs may become more fussy if you change their diet too often, so the frequency should be adjusted to suit your pup. I recommend changing foods gradually by mixing the food groups while rotating through because sudden changes can cause your dog to have an upset stomach.
The Bottom Line
There are many ways to boost your dog's nutrition and keep them as healthy as possible. However, it's best to stick to small changes and keep adjustments simple and sustainable. Always make sure to consult with your DVM or a veterinary nutritionist before making any major changes to your dog’s diet. They’ll be able to advise you on what dietary and nutritional requirements your dog needs based on their health issues, body condition, or weight loss goals.
Rehydrating your dog's kibble is a good base for additional whole food and raw bone toppers. Including a high-quality daily supplement can also promote overall wellness at any age. Lastly, rotating between different food formulas keeps things interesting for your pup and ensures they're getting everything they need. In addition to feeding your dog a diet approved by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), you can mix and match the tips above to support your dog’s health, from their puppy food days to their gray-muzzle years.
These five steps can be adjusted throughout your dog’s life to meet their changing nutritional needs and support a balanced diet, whether they’re a puppy or a senior dog.