Animal Nutrition for Dogs
What type of food?
Choosing the right food for your dog can be difficult given the vast range of canine diets available.
Supermarkets bombard us with choice but what is the difference, apart from appearance and price?
To help you choose which food is right for your dog we have compiled a basic guide.
Choose a dog food brand that is age and size/breed specific.
- Every dog, big or small, young or old, has different needs. For instance, a Great Dane grows and matures at a very different rate to that of a Jack Russell Terrier.
- Large/Giant breeds require food with fewer calories and calcium (when they are puppies/juniors) to prevent damaging growth spurts. Larger breeds also benefit from additional nutritional joint support throughout their life as they are more prone to orthopaedic problems.
- Kibble size and concentration should also vary to aid good dental hygiene and easy digestion, and smaller breeds have smaller stomachs and a higher metabolic rate therefore need smaller meals of an energy dense food.
- Different dog breeds meet maturity at different ages.The age at which your dog reaches adulthood/ maturity is covered in the Life stage section below.
Check if the food is complete or complementary.
A complete food will contain all the necessary daily dietary requirements. A complementary food will only provide part of your dogs’ daily requirements therefore it will have to be combined with another complementary product. ‘Mixers’ are a form of complementary food.
What is the quality?
Check the ingredients list on the food packaging. Is there a good quality meat/protein source in the first few ingredients listed? Try to avoid; unspecified ‘meat derivatives’, ‘by-products’ and main proteins derived from cereals such as ‘gluten meals’. High quality meat also produces less faecal waste! Likewise, carbohydrate rich diets can cause bloating, constipation and/or too many stools. Be cautious of foods high in E numbers, colouring and preservatives. Generally cheap economy brands will contain only the basic nutritional requirements for your dog and the ingredients will be of a poorer quality. Canine diets at the top end of the price scale usually contain a high quality protein source and other ingredients (usually human grade!) along with added extras such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and often joint support such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin.
Don’t change your dogs’ food too often!
Frequently changing your dogs’ food can upset their digestive system and could lead to him/her becoming a fussy eater. If you believe your dog is fit and well but has ‘gone off’ the type of food you are feeding then persist for 2-3 days (with encouragement) before changing their diet. Dogs can catch on very quickly that if they refuse their meal then they might get something tastier! If you have persisted with a food but wish to change then introduce the new food gradually, mixing new with old food over a seven day period.
The Different Forms Of Dog Food Available:
- Wet: Wet foods are available in cans, pouches and foil tins and usually have moisture content of around 78%. They are normally complete diets that contain no/few preservatives (so need to be refrigerated after opening and used within 24-48 hours). Wet foods are normally more expensive than a dry food equivalent and have no dental benefits.
- Semi-moist: These have a moisture content of around 30%. The biscuits in semi-moist foods provide some dental benefits and the moist chunks are thought to be tastier than dry equivalents. Most commercial dog treats come in a semi-moist form. If solely feeding a semi-moist diet, ensure it is a complete diet!
- Flaked: Available as a complete or complementary diet. Flaked food is usually a mix of cooked, flaked cereals (complete versions also contain cooked flaked meat).
- Dry: Dry foods have a low moisture content of around 10 per cent therefore dogs need to drink more to stay hydrated. They contain preservatives and so don't need to be refrigerated and have a long shelf life however, if incorrectly stored can go stale, loosing nutritional value. Dry biscuits are more beneficial for the teeth and gums and tend to be a lot cheaper than wet equivalents. If feeding your dog a dry diet the quantity of food given is usually less than if feeding a wet diet. Dry diets are concentrated therefore a little goes a long way so don’t be tempted in feeding more because it doesn't look enough.
- Frozen or Freeze-Dried: The content of these foods can vary enormously, they can contain: raw meat, cooked meat (however usually not processed meat), vegetables, grains. These diets usually contain simple natural foods with no/few artificial preservatives. They are frozen/ freeze dried to enable a longer shelf life whilst causing little damage to their nutritional content. The down side to these diets is that they are usually a ‘one for all’ diet meaning that the manufacturer does not take into account the age, size/breed of the dog.
- Pro’s of a homemade diet include: knowing exactly what ingredients and quality of ingredients your dog is consuming, fresh ingredients means no/few preservatives and ingredients retain better nutritional content. Diets are usually more in keeping with the natural diet of canines. Switching meats or vegetables can give plenty of variety.
- Con’s of the homemade diet include: time consuming, expensive, very difficult to calculate exact nutritional content meaning your dog could be missing out on vital vitamins/minerals or having too much which can also be damaging!
*Fresh water should be available at all times. Check and change your dogs’ water bowl daily and throughout the day in summer*
One food doesn't suit all dogs! So for optimum health choose a food that is age and size/breed specific!
Puppies need to be fed small meals frequently and require more fats and nutrients than adult dogs to help them grow and give them a steady rate of energy throughout the day. During this early stage of life your puppies’ body is developing quickly so a depletion/ excess of nutrients at this stage could seriously affect its growth/ development.
Whichever puppy food you decide on it is important to check the feeding guidelines on the packaging. These are however just a guide and if you think your puppy is looking overweight/ underweight then the quantities probably need adjusting. If you are unsure about what your new pets ideal weight/appearance should be, then feel free to contact us and we can arrange a time for one of our nurses/vets to have a look (free of charge) and help you keep on track.
Number of feeds per day (rough guide)
- 8 -12 weeks old = 4 meals daily
- 12 weeks – 6 months = 3 meals daily
- 6 months – Adult (10 months/ 20 months depending on size) x 2 meals daily
- Adult – Mature/ Senior = 1 or 2 meals daily.
Small breed dogs are usually classed as adults from around 10months, medium from 12months and large/giant breeds from 15/20 months. Generally an adult dog should be fed once/twice daily at regular intervals.
To know how much to feed your dog, the first place to start is to read the feeding guidelines on the packaging. Remember that these are guidelines only and that your pets age, activity level, size and whether or not it is neutered, all have an effect on how much your pet will need. Post-Neutering, hormonal changes in your dog means he/she will be more prone to obesity. The owner should slightly reduce their dogs daily food intake post neutering and monitor weight carefully. Changing his/her food to a ‘Neutered adult dog’ food with a restricted calorie intake is advised.
Generally small breed dogs are classed as senior from 8yrs, medium breeds from 7yrs and large/giant breeds from 6/5yrs.
Mature/ Senior dog foods are lower in fat to help prevent weight gain (as older dogs tend to be less active) and are often designed to reduce strain on the kidneys, joints and digestive system. Quality Mature/ Senior diets also usually contain antioxidants to support the immune system.
Pregnant & Mothering Bitches
When pregnant or lactating (producing milk) your dog needs plenty of extra energy and nutrients as she provides for both herself and her unborn/newborn puppies.
If your dog is at her ideal weight she will not require additional food until week 4/5 of the pregnancy.Your bitches appetite will increase during pregnancy then reduce again just before her due date as room for food is limited.To ensure she gets all she needs for herself and her puppies she should be fed a puppy weaning food suitable for pregnant/lactating bitches as of half way through the pregnancy. Like with any change of food,new food should be introduced gradually over 7days.