Mixed feeding your dog
As a pet owner you always try to do the best by your pet. This includes finding what and how to feed your pet, and is a common question posed to veterinarians. At ROYAL CANIN® we keep cats and dogs first in everything we do and hope to provide you with some tips around feeding your pets below.
Types of dog food
The most important nutrient that differentiates wet and dry dog food is the moisture, or water content. In dry foods, the moisture content is around 8%, while in wet foods, this is usually around 75%. This means about 92% of the dry food, and 25% of the wet food contains all of the other essential nutrients and energy for your pet. Because of this difference, the nutrients are more concentrated in a dry pet food when compared directly to a wet pet food. Therefore, your pet can access a complete and balanced diet in smaller and more precise meal sizes to prevent overfeeding. Alternatively, a wet diet has a larger amount of moisture in it, requiring increased feeding volumes compared to dry food, but are also complete and balanced when formulated correctly for pets.
In addition to the nutrient properties of dry and wet pet food, there are some additional health benefits of each to your pet that you might not initially consider. Dry food requires more chewing than a wet food. As such, the kibbles help to encourage good oral hygiene and scrape small bits of tartar off the teeth while eating. Some diets within the ROYAL CANIN® range also have additional properties to help with dental care. For example, a harder kibble that intentionally scrapes the surface of the tooth while chewing like a toothbrush, and enzymes to help prevent tartar sticking to the surface of the tooth included right into the diet. Wet food, as we mentioned, has a higher amount of moisture in it. This means that feeding a wet food encourages your pet to consume more water each day. Higher levels of water intake can help to keep them hydrated and support key organ function like the kidneys and help with diluting urine to aid in bladder health and assist in preventing crystals or stones forming.
Mix feeding - combining wet and dry food
As we have discussed above, both types of diets, dry and wet, have their unique benefits. So what about using both together? Combining wet and dry food can be a good solution bringing many benefits to your pet. So how can you start doing this with your dog?
A lot of how to feed your dog will come down to your dog’s personal preference. Some dogs will prefer their wet food separate from the kibbles as they each have their own unique aromatic profiles to encourage your pet to eat them. Others might enjoy them mixed together, but in this case it is best to be served fresh at the same time each day. There is no requirement to mix the dry food and the wet food in the one bowl when you feed your dog; In fact, you don't even need to serve them at the same time. One of the benefits of dry food is it doesn't spoil easily, which makes it perfect to leave out during the day if your dog likes to snack rather than gobble their food down. Then you can serve them their wet food in one to two set mealtimes during the day to best fit into your schedules.
Some additional tips for mixed feeding include:
1. Gently heating the wet food. This helps to release some of the great aromas in the wet food to encourage them to eat it. Important that this is only done in 5 second bursts, and to make sure you check the centre of the food with your finger to make sure it isn’t too warm to touch and give it a good stir before serving it to your dog.
2. Make sure you clean the bowl used for the wet food after every meal. Even though your dog will ‘lick the bowl clean,’ some of the oils and fats in the wet food will stick behind. These can convert to a rancid smell quickly. Remember your dog has a very sensitive nose, so this might discourage them from eating the fresh food you have put in the bowl.
3. For fussy eaters, a small amount of warm water mixed with the wet food can turn into a gravy to mix into the dry food
4. Remember that any change in diet, including the introduction of wet food if they have not been mixed fed previously, should be done slowly and with care. Just like us, our dogs have a unique set of bacteria in their intestines that responds to the food your dog is fed. Therefore, a change in diet will result in a shift of this bacteria population that needs to be done slowly to prevent things like diarrhoea from a quick transition.
The right amount of food
I am sure that we are all super keen now to try and use mixed feeding for our pets! Not only are there additional health benefits of combining wet and dry food, it helps us connect with our dogs on a daily basis by provide them with the best nutrition to support their health. It is important however to keep in mind that feeding the right amount of food continues to be important and might require a small adjustment.
As mentioned previously, there are different concentrations of energy between the wet and dry pet food products. This means that we want to make sure that we are not over or underfeeding our pets. Whenever available, use the mixed feeding tables on the products you are using to get the right level of energy, but also the right amount of vitamins and minerals required for your dog. It is best this is done in a precise fashion where the total daily amount required is known for your dog (based on their weight and body condition score) and split between the wet and dry food. Remember too that the feeding guides on the back of the pet food is generally written as the total amount required for the day, not per meal.
If your dog has only been fed a dry diet previously, remember that the meal portions are smaller due to the concentrated nutrients compared to a wet food. A slow introduction of the wet food into the daily routine will help to prevent over ‘stretching’ of the stomach due to the larger volumes being fed with the wet food. Additionally, if you use alternate mealtimes of dry and wet feeding, your dog might not feel as ‘full’ straight after the dry food meal due to this smaller volume. If they seem to be ‘begging’ for more food at this time, try to redirect the behaviour by taking for a gentle walk, or given them some great belly rubs. What you want to avoid is giving them just a bit extra to make them feel fuller as this results in overfeeding that can have ongoing medical complications for your pet.
As a final reminder, any big changes in what your pet is being fed, or how can potentially result in a gastrointestinal disturbance like diarrhoea. So when starting a mixed feeding method, it’s important to gradually introduce the dietary changes. To find out more on how best to introduce new feeding patterns, read more here.
We hope that you will find just as much enjoyment in mixed feeding as your dog will. If you have any questions around what to feed your dog or would like specific recommendations on how to mixed feed your pet, please feel free to get in touch with our Consumer Care team to help.