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The health and thus the life expectancy of the dog is based not least on a healthy and balanced diet. Is the best diet dry, wet, BARF, home-cooked, or a combination of all of these? The optimal nutrition for the dog is tailored to the individual needs and the state of health of the animal. That is why nutritional advice for dogs is becoming increasingly important.

What is actually meant by nutritional advice for dogs?

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Similar to nutritional advice for humans, nutritional advice for dogs means expert advice on balanced and healthy animal nutrition. This includes advising the owner on feed and its composition, general and individual advice on the best dog food, calculating the feed rations and the individual creation of nutrition plans, as well as long-term support for diets and dietary changes.

What should you know about dog nutrition?

If you look at the evolutionary background of the dog, the dog descended from the wolf and is therefore an omnivore. When dogs and humans lived together, leftovers from the table or mixed rubbish were also part of the dog’s menu. Unlike cats, dogs are therefore not pure carnivores. The optimal diet for a dog is therefore varied and consists of a balanced ratio of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, trace elements and vitamins. The ideal composition of the required nutrients depends on the breed, age, exercise and state of health of the dog.

However, as a dog owner, when putting together the food for your four-legged friend, you should neither be guided by the ideal diet for humans nor by what the dog chooses voluntarily. Unfortunately, the saying “What the dog likes, he likes” is completely wrong. Many dogs are not very picky about food and will happily eat options offered by humans, even when they are not actually good for them (such as spicy foods) or can even be fatal (such as grapes or dark chocolate).

Most dog owners therefore rely on conventional ready-made dog food in the form of wet and dry food. This covers the basic needs of most dogs and has the practical advantage that feeding is extremely uncomplicated for the owner. The ideal amount of food is specified by the respective manufacturer based on the dog’s age and weight.

Meals that you put together yourself are an alternative to ready-made food. This can be absolutely necessary in the case of food allergies or certain illnesses in the dog. Sometimes ideological beliefs also mean that owners deliberately do not want to use ready-made food. If you want or have to put together the diet yourself, an exchange with the veterinarian and nutritional advice for dogs is always useful. More on this in the following chapter.

In which cases is nutritional advice recommended for dogs?

Nutritional advice for dogs: for orientation on the food market

The nutritional science for dogs is constantly evolving, and with it the range of ready-to-eat food is constantly growing. In addition to the selection in the specialist stores for animal feed, the online mail order business offers keepers additional options. There is ready-made food in different price ranges, for different age groups, breed-specific food and much more. m. In addition, there is a large number of dietary supplements and special foods such as hypoallergenic food, food made from insects or food for certain diseases. So the question of which food is actually the best for your own four-legged friend is justified. For owners without specialist knowledge, it is often difficult to recognize which ingredients and nutrients are hidden behind the manufacturer’s advertising promises and whether these optimally cover the dog’s actual nutritional needs. Unfortunately, this often cannot be seen at a glance, even for the expert, since the declaration of production and ingredients in dog food is not medically regulated.

Nutritional advice for dogs is becoming more and more important here as a market and trend-independent orientation aid for the owner. In the best case, owners deal with nutritional issues before acquiring a dog. In most cases, puppies are given away by the breeder with special puppy food. At the latest when the change to the new food is due, you should consult the veterinarian about the optimal diet for the dog and/or seek nutrition advice for dogs. Optimal nutrition is particularly important for growing dogs (especially large and very large breeds) in order not to endanger the dog’s health. It is also important not to change the food too haphazardly and often. This makes it much more difficult to identify a suitable feed in the case of intolerances and allergies.

In general, owners should always consider a change of food when the dog enters a different phase of life and the metabolism changes as a result. If, for example, the movement behavior changes (here in particular competitive sports) or the hormones (as in pregnant and lactating bitches, or after castration), this always has an effect on the need for nutrients.

Nutritional advice for dogs: with individual feeding

Professional nutritional advice for dogs should also be consulted if dog owners want to put together the food themselves. Just as nutritional philosophies are a current trend topic for humans, more and more owners are also dealing with conscious nutrition for dogs. Many do not want to use conventional ready-made food out of conviction. On the one hand, this is due to feed scandals that have become public, in which dog food was found to contain too much pollution and a too high proportion of carbohydrates (especially sugar). On the other hand, nutritional philosophies that apply to humans are often transferred to dogs, for example that good nutrition must be freshly prepared. More and more pet owners cook for their dogs themselves, and feed their four-legged friend a mixed diet, vegetarian or even vegan, depending on their own beliefs.

Another current trend is BARFing, raw feeding. The method is based on the eating habits of wolves. Therefore, the feed rations consist mainly of raw meat or fish, offal and bones. The rations are supplemented in various ways with fruit, vegetables, grain products and, if necessary, feed additives.

Attention: The number of dogs with nutrition-related deficiency symptoms and secondary diseases increases due to incorrectly compiled nutrition plans by the owners! These include in particular a lack of taurine or parasite infestation due to BARF and problems due to an undersupply of animal proteins with vegetarian/vegan feeding. Since nutritional plans for humans cannot be transferred to dogs, nutritional advice should always be consulted when preparing meals for the dog. In contrast to ready-made food, each ration must be carefully put together when switching to an individual nutrition plan. And here, too, it is important to always adapt the diet to the changing needs of the dog and to take factors such as age, weight, exercise, pregnancy and lactation into account.

Owners should also inform the veterinarian about the dog’s new feed composition. This is the only way the veterinarian can establish possible connections between the special diet and symptoms of the disease and ensure the correct medication during the diagnosis.

Nutritional advice for dogs: for health restrictions

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In addition to orientation, nutritional advice is also becoming more and more important for dogs than therapy. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that many dogs are getting older and receive better medical care, and therefore suffer more from diseases in old age or receive medication that necessitate a change in diet or special dietary supplements (e.g. obesity, diabetes, joint damage). On the other hand, dogs often develop intolerances or allergies to components of the food, e.g. B. certain types of protein, certain grains or feed additives.

Signs of allergies or problems with the food include symptoms such as:

Conspicuous eating habits (e.g. loss of appetite, refusal to eat)
Digestive problems (e.g. frequent flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting)
Changes in the coat (e.g. coat or hair loss)
Unpleasant fur smell, bad breath
Lack of vitality.
With all these symptoms, you should always first clarify with the veterinarian whether other diseases are involved!

In addition, there are various diseases in dogs that require a change in diet, a special diet or additional preparations. Obesity is probably the most common “civilization disease” in dogs, and nutritional advice can help with this. But problems with teeth and gums, diseases in the gastrointestinal tract, diabetes mellitus (“diabetes”), as well as skin and joint diseases or poor liver and kidney values ​​are often positively influenced by a change in diet. There are also diseases from which a dog can only be cured with selected cooking rations (inoperable portosystemic shunt, severe food hypersensitivity/allergy).

In the case of health problems with nutrition, the veterinarian will often recommend a change in diet himself or refer the owner to nutritional advice for dogs.

How does the nutritional advice for dogs work?

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Nutritional advice for dogs is provided on the one hand by trained veterinarians, but also by freelance nutritionists for dogs and cats. The vet should always be the first address, especially when it comes to health problems of the dog. The veterinarian will also advise on this if nutritional problems are diagnosed.

Not all vets offer nutritional advice, especially when it comes to providing ongoing advice on meal plans for home-cooked meals. Here the offers of the independent animal nutritionists are often more extensive. With such nutritional advice for the dog, the owner is comprehensively asked about the likes and dislikes of the dog and their own feeding requirements. Then it is clarified what needs to be considered in relation to the health status of the dog with regard to the composition of the food. With good nutritional advice for dogs, you get well-founded information and are advised independently of the feed manufacturer when choosing a product. An individual feeding plan is created that is tailored to the needs of the dog and the wishes of the pet owner. In addition, owners receive tips on how to optimize their own behavior, for example if it is difficult to resist the dog when it is begging at the table. Furthermore, the nutritionist is a personal contact with whom any questions or problems with the change in diet can be discussed immediately.

If there is no nutritional advice for dogs near your home, online advice is now a common option. How often meetings or consultations are necessary for nutritional advice depends on the individual case.

However, from a legal point of view, animal nutritionists or nutritional advice for dogs is not a protected term. There are also courses in this regard in Germany, but theoretically everyone can give themselves this title and market themselves accordingly on the Internet. Therefore, when choosing a freelance nutritionist, one should first obtain references from the veterinarian. It should be ensured that it is a professionally trained animal nutritionist who can demonstrate specialist knowledge of feed science and animal nutrition. It also makes sense to visit a dog nutritionist nearby so that the nutritionist can check the dog’s health at regular intervals. A reputable animal nutritionist should always be able to provide information about what training he has completed. In addition, the advice should be provided independently of sponsors from the animal feed industry.

The costs of nutritional advice for dogs vary from case to case and depend on the fees of the respective veterinarian or nutritionist. Reputable animal nutritionists will provide information about the costs incurred before the treatment begins.

Conclusion: Why is nutritional advice becoming increasingly important for dogs?

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The topic of dog nutrition is getting more and more attention, for both ideological and health reasons. It is well known that a high quality and balanced diet is important for a dog’s health and quality of life. The optimal composition of the diet varies from dog to dog.

This is where the nutritional advice for dogs and owners can help, because with professional nutritional advice, the food can be tailored to the breed, gender, age, weight, state of health and other individual factors.

Depending on the motives for the change in diet, however, caution is also required. In particular, one-sided diet models (BARF/vegetarian/vegan) should be viewed critically from a veterinary point of view. And not every nutritional advice for dogs is reputable!

The first point of contact for questions about the dog’s diet should therefore always be the treating veterinarian. Regardless of whether the dog shows digestive problems or the owner wants a change, it is always advisable to address the topic openly. If the vet does not even offer nutritional advice himself, he can certainly give recommendations for competent nutritional advice for dogs.

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