Since owning my first dog I have had a keen interest in nutrition and what is best to feed them. The recent trend in “clean eating” for ourselves has quickly spread to the dog world.

Many dog food manufacturers now market their foods as natural, holistic, wheat free, gluten free, grain free, no dairy, hypo-allergenic, the list goes on. There is a huge array of pet foods for us to choose from, employing clever marketing techniques, beautifully designed packaging and vet and celebrity endorsements to persuade us to buy from them. There has never been so much choice or availability and the sheer number of new foods coming onto the market increases every week. Having so much choice can be empowering but it can also be overwhelming.

We all desire to feed our dogs a diet they will thrive on, stay optimally healthy and of course actually enjoy eating. There are so many brands and types of food to consider, wet food, raw food, homemade, dry kibble, or a mix of wet and dry? Convenience, preparation time and price can all be hugely persuasive factors when making a decision as can the feeding anecdotes, words of wisdom and recommendations from friends, family, breeders, pet shops and advertisement.

If we look at the basic principles of clean eating on our own diets and remove the hype and fads that surround it there is one simple element that stands out, the rejection of highly processed food and a return to eating real food where you can actually recognise the ingredients on your plate. Something I’m sure we can all at least aspire to from a nutritional point of view. The horse meat scandal in 2013 showed us we couldn’t always trust what was in some of our own processed foods. Scientific studies routinely provide strong evidence that highly processed foods often contain too much sugar, salt, fat, unnecessary additives and calories as well as a lack of nutrition to be healthy for us. We are also aware of the effect certain colourants in food have on our children’s concentration levels and behaviour.  Why would any of this be different for our dogs?

We have absolute control of what to feed our dogs. What we choose to feed them can be an extremely emotive topic, I have often heard the superior tone from advocates of certain feeding methods or of particular brands strongly proclaiming that their feeding method is the right and only way. This is often unhelpful and unfair.

It is however up to us to question the ingredients on the labels of the food and treats we intend to give to our dogs. Are they really healthy? Why is the kibble multi coloured? Do we know what terms such as animal derivatives and meat meal actually mean? Is the food ethically sourced? Some manufacturers will disguise poor quality food by adding gravy, salt, spraying it with oil or adding flavour enhancers to improve the palatability. Our dogs are not always the best judge of what is good for them, even if they do find the food delicious.

Whether to feed raw, wet or a dried food diet is whole other topic in its own right but there are many manufactures who are improving the quality of our dog’s food no matter which form it comes in. Brands such as Lily’s Kitchen, Billy + Margot, Green & Wilds, Natural Instinct, Nutriment, Honey’s, Forthglade, Akela, Orijen and Eden to name but a few. If you are looking to change your dog’s food, are taking on a new dog or want to review your dog’s current diet, the independent website “all about dog food” is an excellent place to start.