Imagine this: You are a writer and editor for Parenting Magazine, and you write about infant toys, vaccination schedules, and nutrition for infants and toddlers. A friend texts you from the grocery store and asks, “What should I be feeding my 8-month-old baby?” And she genuinely expects that you can give her the name of a product that will supply all her baby’s nutrition for years to come.
This scenario is ridiculous – of course! – and for several reasons, most notably:
- No parent in their right mind would consider feeding their infant or toddler the same food every day for months or years.
- No parent in their right mind would save important infant-nutrition decisions for the moment she or he was standing in the store, about to buy food, with no clue as to where to start.
- No knowledgeable writer/editor would think they could advise someone by text about something as important as nutrition!
There’s No One-Size-Fits-All When It Comes to Nutrition
While parents may read informative articles about infant and toddler nutrition in Parenting Magazine and others, one would hope they make notes about any questions and discuss them with their pediatrician. Because, while the writer/editor is knowledgeable about infant nutrition, she doesn’t know anything about the specific baby’s health. She doesn’t know if her friend, the baby’s mom, is knowledgeable enough to know how much food she should be feeding her baby, or to recognize signs of a food allergy or intolerance. And sure, she might be familiar with some great brands of infant formula and baby cereal, but does she want an offhand text to be the basis of her friend’s child’s health?
She does not!
Obviously, I’m asking you to consider this scenario because I get asked for dog food recommendations all the time, and I really don’t see a difference between this request for advice and the one described above. If anything, a food fed to a dog for a year will impact a greater percentage of the dog’s life than an infant formula given to a baby for the same length of time will impact hers; dogs’ lives are short!
Consider Your Dog’s Needs
A suggestion for a dog’s toy or treat can be responsibly conveyed in a short text or phone message. But a recommendation for a dog’s sole diet should not be conveyed via text – perhaps not even via a long email! There are many factors to consider, not least of which is the dog owner’s ability to observe the dog’s response to a diet and take appropriate steps if the dog has adverse reactions to the diet.
When I’m asked in a casual way for dog food recommendations, I usually push back a little by asking the dog owner some questions. How old is your dog? How active? How is his weight? How is his health? What are you feeding now? Why did you arrive at this food? How long have you been feeding him this food? Are there ingredients that you know you need to avoid feeding to that specific dog?
And here are the clinchers: How much fat is in the food and how much protein? What are the six top ingredients in the food?
Choose What’s Best for YOUR Dog
If they can’t answer those questions – all of them – then I can’t give them a recommendation for another food or two to add to what I hope is their rotation of three or four products from at least three or four different companies. Actually, the fact is, I’m not going to give them a recommendation of a specific food anyway. What I will do is try to educate them about the factors they need to understand about the foods they have already chosen for their dog, and what they can do to improve matters. As just one example, if the dog is overweight, they should know what the fat content is in the food they give their dog, and look for foods with less fat. That single factor is far more important than what brand they buy, so don’t ask me about brands unless you know all the other, more important factors behind your food-purchasing dilemma!