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Do I Need a Breed Specific Dog Food? | BetterVet

When you go into the pet store, you might spot a whole shelf of dog food for specific breeds. What’s so special about Chihuahua dog food? Is it okay if your Boxer eats your Husky’s dinner? We’ll explain the differences in breed-specific dog food and when you might want to try them.

What is Breed-Specific Dog Food?

Some manufacturers have created breed-specific dog and cat food. As well as small-breed food and large-breed food, you’ll now find food for everything from Maltese to Malinois. They’ll usually state the breed on the front of the bag (along with a cute picture, of course!) and may go on to explain why the breed and food is so unique on the back. 

Do Different Breeds of Dogs Need Different Foods?

There are definitely some differences in nutritional needs between dogs. For instance, large breeds and small breeds benefit from different nutrition, just as young and old dogs benefit from having slightly different recipes. Chihuahuas need different nutrition than Great Danes do. The question is really whether we can narrow this down to specific breeds – are French Bulldogs really so different from Boston Terriers?

Well, you’ll see if you look at the guaranteed analysis on these bags that there are only minor differences between most breeds of a similar size. Manufacturers may add ingredients for joint health to larger breeds, and ingredients for dental health to smaller breeds, but a bag of dog food for spaniels is probably very similar, if not identical, to that for other similar-sized breeds.

In fact, most veterinarians, myself included, find that dog foods for specific breeds is more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. Yes, there are advantages to targeted nutrition, but science hasn’t narrowed this down to breed just yet. Having said that, there are a few notable exceptions where breed-specific dog food might be helpful.

What are the Differences between Breed Specific Dog Foods?

The back of a pack of breed-specific dog food will proudly state the thoughtful changes that have been made in order to make the diet ‘more appropriate’ for your dog breed than the average food. You might spot changes like different amounts of protein, different amounts of fat, or a change in calcium-phosphorus ratios. Some diets might avoid certain ingredients in the food, while others might add special ingredients designed to aid the joints or dental health. A final difference is in the shape of the kibble, which may be adjusted to be smaller, larger, or a different shape to change how dogs eat it.

Should I Buy Dog Food Designed for My Dog Breed?

If your dog is fit and healthy with no medical problems, you can feed them any AAFCO-formulated diet you like. It’s a good idea to find a brand that meets the WSAVA’s recommendations, as this helps to ensure you’ve got a good, reliable brand who will constantly endeavor to get you the best food possible. 

You should aim to get food designed for your dog’s life stage (i.e. puppy or adult). And, if you have a giant breed, you should look to get giant breed food, especially when they are a puppy. These dogs are prone to a number of joint and bone problems that can be reduced with proper nutrition from birth. 

That still leaves a lot of diets to choose from. What about breed-specific dog foods? Well, there’s nothing wrong with buying them, but they may not be that different to a size-specific dog food in most cases. If you have an otherwise healthy dog and you like the idea that their food might contain minor differences designed to help – even if those aren’t proven – then there’s no problem at all in buying a dog food designed for your breed. However, on the whole, these diets will not prevent or treat diseases and conditions, so you shouldn’t rely on them. If a different diet becomes more appropriate for your dog, don’t hesitate to switch. 

There are some breeds that do benefit from specific nutrition, and this is found in the breed-specific diets. These include:

  • Dalmatians, which suffer from bladder stones linked to ingredients in the diet

  • Short-snouted breeds, who might struggle to pick up normal-shaped kibble

  • Labradors prone to obesity, who may benefit from a kibble designed for slow eating

 

The Pros of Breed-Specific Dog Food

  • Feeding guidelines may be more accurate as sizes will vary less

  • May have minor ingredient changes to reduce risk of problems common to some dog breeds

The Cons of Breed-Specific Dog Food

  • Many of the subtle changes designed to make a difference have not been proven 

  • Often more expensive than the similar size-specific offerings

  • May give a false sense of security that diseases and conditions will not happen

  • May cause pet parents to be reluctant to change food away from these diets

So, is Dog Food for Specific Breeds Worth It?

It’s important to remember that a lot of the differences between these diets are very minor. In fact, there may be no difference at all, nutritionally, between the foods for some similar breeds. And, in most cases, the differences that are there have not been scientifically proven and are ‘best guesses’ on the part of the manufacturers. 

Given that these diets are often more expensive than their counterparts, and with the differences so minimal, many pet owners may find that a size-specific food is a better bet for their pets. As always, discussing your dog’s nutritional needs with your veterinarian is one of the best ways to ensure they’re getting the best nutrition possible. Don’t forget to feed the right amount of food for your dog’s size, body condition score, and activity level. Weighing your pet regularly ensures that you spot any weight gain quickly so you can adjust their food accordingly.

FAQ

How Do I Decide What to Feed My Dog?

If you’re struggling to decide what to feed your dog, you can talk to your veterinarian for personalized advice. Always look for a diet formulated to AAFCO guidelines for your dog’s age – the packet will say ‘complete and balanced for growth’ if it’s suitable for puppies or ‘complete and balanced for maintenance’ if it’s fine for adults.

What is the Number One Healthiest Dog Food?

There is no such thing as the healthiest dog food! The best food for your pet will be a complete and balanced diet, appropriate for their life-stage, that they enjoy eating, and that doesn’t cause them any side effects. Feeding the appropriate amount of food is extremely important as obesity causes far more health issues than diets do!

Should I use Breed-Specific Dog Food?

It’s fine to use breed-specific dog food if your pet enjoys it and they don’t have any unique nutritional needs caused by illness. However, it’s important not to rely on it – while it’s a nice idea, breed-specific diets haven’t been proven to be better than any other diet for most pets, and they will still get ill from common conditions even when using them.