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    Premium Pet Food Delivers Exactly What Your Dog Needs

    By Carol Davis

    With so many brands beckoning you from the pet food aisle, it can be a challenge to decide which one is best — both for your dog and for your billfold.

    Bargain brands generally are completely suitable for dogs, though they tend to offer a "one-size-fits-all" formulation. Premium dog food, however, allows you to tailor your dog's diet so he gets the specialized formulas and ingredients he needs for his specific situation.

    Dog Types

    High-energy sporting breeds — often referred to as hunting and bird dogs — are bred to find, flush out, and retrieve game. Many also participate in field trials, where they're judged in retrieving competitions. These canine athletes' nutritional requirements differ significantly from the average pet dog.

    A sporting dog's diet must support its athleticism with food formulas containing increased levels of protein and fat, because, unlike human athletes who might load up on carbohydrates before a competition, sporting dogs use fat as a major energy source. An ideal healthy dog foodwould include the nutrient L-carnitine to promote optimal fat metabolism. And because high-energy breeds are constantly running and jumping, cartilage-friendly glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are required to support joint health.

    Senior dogs are slowing down and less active, so keeping them to a healthy weight is probably the best thing a pet owner can do for overall health and longevity. Keeping their weight down will reduce the risk of heart, joint, and metabolic and hormonal diseases, along with some cancers. Plus, it will keep the pain of arthritis at bay.

    Studies have shown that the protein requirement for older dogs does not decrease with age, so it's crucial to make sure that older dogs' diets contain ideal levels of highly digestible protein to help maintain good muscle mass. Premium pet foods designed for senior dogs have less fat, increased fiber, and the all-important highly digestible protein, which will help an older dog feel good.

    Because smaller dogs live longer and don't experience age-related changes as early as bigger dogs, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggests these guidelines in determining when it's time to feed your dog a senior diet:

    • Small breeds/dogs weighing less than 20 pounds —7 years of age
    • Medium breeds/dogs weighing 21 to 50 pounds — 7 years of age
    • Large breeds/dogs weighing 51 to 90 pounds — 6 years of age
    • Giant breeds/dogs weighing 91 pounds or more — 5 years of age

    Large-breed dogs, such as St. Bernards, Great Pyrenees, or Irish Wolfhounds grow so quickly as puppies that if they don't have the correct amount of calcium phosphorus during the first four months to help their bones grow, they could experience painful orthopedic problems later on. Premium pet food large-breed puppy formulas deliver the perfect amount of nutrients so these little giants have strong, healthy bones.

    When they're grown, large-breed dogs may have slower metabolism than smaller breeds. Premium pet food designed for larger breeds contain fewer calories and less fat to help big dogs maintain a lean, healthy body condition. And because these large breeds have a large, strong skeletal frame, premium pet food also provides the correct amount of minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, to keep their bones sturdy.

    Food Types

    Premium pet food also offers alternatives for the way you prefer to feed your dog.

    Grain-free. Dogs are meat-eaters, and a grain-free diet is the most natural form of pet nutrition. Each cup of grain-free food has a higher nutritional content than a corresponding cup of food containing grains. The higher nutritional value of grain-free food found in premium pet food will also give your dog a shinier coat, more energy, and better overall health.

    Natural. These high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods are made with the finest natural ingredients, plus active nutrients and antioxidants to keep your dog healthy and energetic.

    Feeding your pet a quality food formulated for his specific needs results in a healthy animal, results in fewer trips to the veterinarian's office, and a longer lifespan for your best friend and beloved companion.