Feeding Your Dog
The first article in a five part series by Steve Hutchins. Steve discusses the various options you have for feeding your dog.
We all know about feeding our dogs donít we - or do we?
Itís easy to say that the dog needs the correct food for growth and development whether itís a puppy or an "old timer" but it is also important to realise that the dogs requirements change, depending on its work or activity or indeed that lack of it which is especially important when the dog is temporarily from its owners and living in a boarding kennel environment.
We all hear claims about BALANCED DIETS, but do we know what that really means for us or our dogs?
The basic principles are the same for feeding, except for a few nutritional differences, in the needs, between dogs and humans and these are due to specific nutriment requirements for your dog which must be in the right proportion.
Whether the food you give the dog is contained in a tin or you feed one of the many brands of dry or semi-moist foods or indeed if you make your own home cooked diet it is vitally important to provide the correct quality and amount of food, supplements and water to meet the requirements of the particular dog to meet its own specific energy requirements.
In a boarding situation, it is more often the case that the dog has been fed on one particular type and brand of food and the owner is keen to ensure that the feeding regime is continued in the same manner. Many owners bring specific foods or supplements with them and supply the boarding kennels with not only the food, but also the feeding traits and quirks of their particular dog.
The main aim however, is to simply provide sufficient food for the body maintenance, plus extra for work and growth, through to even more food and energy reserves, when for example, a bitch is pregnant or lactating.
The pet food market is very large and very lucrative and many companies are working very hard to relieve you of the money from your pockets, both as a kennels and as the general public. I am personally against feeding tinned dog food as if you look carefully on the labels you will see that it contains a lot of water and in many cases this goes up to 80%. I simply cannot see the point of carrying expensive heavy tins containing a great deal of water !
However what many people also donít realise is that there are two types of tinned food and these must be fed in a different manner.
- Complete Canned Food: These have a cereal component which makes them a complete diet.
- All-Meat Diet: These need added biscuits to make them a nutritionally balanced food.
In your boarding kennels, it may be that the dog will not eat the contained biscuit element of the food when mixed within an all-meat diet. However, in this case, many dogs will eat separate dog biscuits throughout the day, which can be given as tit-bits. However in a commercial situation, this can be both time consuming and expensive.
Generally the dry and semi-moist foods on the market nowadays are very good and contain about 10% & 25% water respectively, but as with all products in life, the brand quality is variable, with some products being very overpriced, not only for supposed quality, but also to pay for excessive and expensive marketing and promotion.
Once again, the general public are very susceptible to advertising and follow the brand leaders, which you as an owner may not necessarily use and which can cause yet more problems in feeding the dogs, when he/she is sometimes confused as to why they are not at home in their natural surroundings, with the people that they know and sometimes they can "go off their food".
Maintaining the Balance
All dogs need protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fibre combined in the CORRECT BALANCE to develop and maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle.
The dog needs a continual supply of good quality and easily digestible protein to live and grow. Sufficient fatty acids are also crucial to maintain good metabolism, resulting in good coat and skin and to provide energy for the dog. It is interesting to note that these fats are virtually 100% digestible and increase the palatability of the food, which in turn helps the new boarder in a kennel environment for example, to continue with his/her natural eating habits.
Dogs also derive energy from carbohydrates which is abundant in dried dog mixer biscuits and in complete dry and semi-moist dog food recipes. Very high levels are also found in boiled potatoes and rice, which is why many specialist diets contain rice, which are far less irritating to the digestive system and allow the body to heal more quickly, instead of being aggravated at each feed time, and these foods have been specifically formulated for dogs with digestive/gastric problems.
It is therefore crucial to ascertain the health and well being of a new boarder in kennels, prior to departure of the owner, regarding the eating habits, possible or existing gastric disorders, and the types of food that the dog either currently eats or those which have an adverse effect.
The value of vitamins and minerals is enormous in food, but must be carefully controlled and BALANCED once again to provide the correct levels which can be large or trace amounts. In virtually all prepared dog goods nowadays the correct levels are established and no supplementation is required. For example Calcium and phosphorus are essential minerals for good bone formation and development, but it is extremely important not to Ďover-supplementí as this for example, can cause deformities in larger breeds.
We all hear about the value of fibre within our diets and this is equally true as to feeding dogs. A balanced fibre intake of approximately 5% of total diet increases the food passage through the system, aids digestion and absorbs toxic-by-products of digestion. It is also used for example, to Ďbulk-upí foods in slimming controlled diets for obese dogs.
So you see the need to BALANCE the ingredients is carefully calculated and only by using quality products which have been correctly formulated can individual owners as well as boarding kennels, give their pets the best possible chance of a long and healthy life and to ensure that they maintain the correct levels of input to match the dogs own particular needs, which vary not only on the size of the dog and its activity, but also the specific requirements which alter with the changing lifestyle, age and weather conditions.
In this way we can give all dogs the best possible chance of a long and healthy life.
So how much food should you give your dog?
In general many people overfeed their dogs both in terms of normal food and tit-bits, which simply encourages scrounging, promotes excessive weight gain and which will ultimately affect the health of the dog and may even shorten its life !!!
It is certainly a delicate area, but it is important for the every owner to understand the benefits of correct feeding, both in terms of quality and amounts.
All dogs have different metabolic rates i.e. the rate at which they turn food into energy by digesting proteins, carbohydrates and fats and just like humans, dogs become fat if they eat more food than they can burn up with exercise.
So as an individual owner or boarding kennel, if your latest charge has a feeding problem, is obese or even in some cases, under-nourished, make sure that the problem is dealt with in a proper well thought out manner. After all, every animal is special and owners do not take kindly to criticism.
Think about the feeding, health and well being of your dog, talk to your Vet or a responsible, educated, well informed breeder that you trust and often more importantly, BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF as to the shape, size and weight of your dog, refer to what weight is considered correct for the breed and if he/she is getting fat and is getting too little exercise, then get them to do something about it !!!
Next Week - The Feeding Minefield