What is a complete diet?
Complete diets contain every nutrient required by a dog to be healthy and do not need to be fed with other foods. There are wet, dry and raw complete diets available. If you feed both wet and dry complete foods be careful not to overfeed your dog.
Complementary foods and mixers
Complementary foods don’t contain the full mix of nutrients needed by a dog to be healthy and need to be mixed with other foods to form a complete diet. The complementary dry foods usually need to be mixed with a wet food in order to provide a complete diet.
Wet food or dry food?
Wet foods are very popular and are generally very appetising to dogs. However, they are more expensive to feed as the feeding amounts are generally higher. Owners who feed a wet food should also monitor their dogs teeth as wet foods tend to predispose dogs to dental disease.
Dry foods are usually the most economical and easiest for you to feed and store. There are many cooking methods for dry food including:
- Extrusion: Raw ingredients are ground and then steam cooked at high pressure before being dried and cooled. It is then given a coating of fats and oils to increase flavour
- Baking: Ingredients are cooked at lower pressures than extruded foods which may preserve more nutrients than extruded foods
Many companies have created complete raw diets and they are growing in popularity across the UK. Food needs to be stored frozen and defrosted before feeding. Whilst many people argue raw feeding is the most natural way to feed a dog, there are concerns over the possibility of salmonella. Read our vets' advice on raw diets.
How often to feed your dog
Most owners feed once or twice a day. Smaller dogs and dogs with active lifestyles may need to be fed twice a day in order to keep energy levels up and regulate glucose levels.
Dogs who have difficulty absorbing nutrients or difficulty maintaining weight may benefit from being fed several small meals per day.
Free feeding is when owners leave food available throughout the day and dogs can eat whenever they like and as much as they like. This may be suitable for dogs who have very active lifestyles or dogs who struggle to maintain a healthy weight. It is not recommended for puppies or other dogs who will likely consume more calories than they need and develop obesity.
Changing diets quickly can upset some dog’s stomachs. It is best to gradually change diets by slowly introducing the new food. Increase the amount of the new food while decreasing the amount of the old food. If done over a period of 2 weeks, most dogs will settle well onto a new diet.