What to feed
The easiest way to provide a balanced diet for your dog is by feeding a good brand of ready made dog food. Most good brands of dog food have teams of vets and dieticians who do extensive research to make sure that the food is properly balanced; you are unlikely to be able to do a better job yourself with a home made diet.
Different types of dogs have different nutritional requirements and these will change throughout the dog’s life depending on age and lifestyle. Ask your vet or veterinary nurse for advice on the best type food for your dog.
- Puppies should always be fed puppy food. They need this high energy food with the correct calcium and phosphate balance for optimal growth.
- Large breed puppies may benefit from a large breed puppy food, the energy balance and calcium and phosphate levels are adjusted to reduce the risk of joint problems.
- Dogs sometimes put on weight more easily when they have been neutered. This is easily avoided by feeding less calories, either by feeding a smaller volume of food or switching to a lower energy food.
- Working or very active dogs may require a food that has more energy per gram than typical dog food.
- Nursing bitches should be fed puppy food to supply them with extra energy.
If you are keen to try making your own food for your pet, ask your vet for advice. Without expert advice a home-made diet is likely to be unbalanced and may cause serious health problems, obesity or failure to thrive.
How Much Food Does My Dog Need?
This will vary enormously from dog to dog. Your veterinary team will be happy to advise you.
- The guide on the pack will give you a very rough guide and can be used as a starting point.
- Weigh and condition score your dog regularly. Your vet practice will have weighing scales available to use and will help you to condition score your dog.
- If your dog is becoming over or under weight adjust the feed appropriately and continue to monitor
- Ask your vet or veterinary nurse for guidance, they will be happy to help you monitor your dog’s weight and to suggest alterations to the diet.
How Often Should I Feed my Dog?
After weaning puppies need to be fed frequently at 8 wks old, when fully weaned, the frequency is usually about four times a day, Continue to reduce frequency of feeds until you are feeding your dog twice a day by the time they are about 6months old.
Adult dogs can be fed once or twice daily, your dog will let you know which they prefer. Make sure you feed the same total amount each day however frequently you decide to feed.
How to Feed your Dog
- Introduce any new food very gradually, this allows the enzymes in the intestines to adjust preventing tummy upsets.
- Start by feeding 1/10 new food 9/10 old food and gradually alter the balance over about 10 days to 10/10 new food.
- Whilst there is nothing wrong with finding a food that your dog enjoys, beware of offering lots of alternatives if your dog does not eat his dinner. He will quickly learn that not eating his dinner is a good way to get rewarded with lots of attention and an array of different foods to choose from.
- It is quite normal for some dogs, particularly small breed dogs to miss occasional meals, it is usually their body telling them that they do not require any more food, if you override this natural feeling by offering tasty treats your dog will be at risk of becoming obese.
- If your dog is has not eaten his dinner and is otherwise healthy take the food up after half an hour and offer a fresh bowl a few hours later. Try not to make a big fuss about it and act unconcerned as to whether your dog eats or not.
- If your dog misses more than one meal, has suddenly gone of his food , is loosing weight or has any other symptoms or contact your vet for advice.
Obesity is unfortunately a very common problem in dogs. Obese dogs are at increased risk of joint problems, breathing difficulty, heart problems and some types of cancer. All these factors mean that obese dogs are unlikely to live for as long as a healthy weight dog.
Taking your dog for regular weight checks at your vets will help you to detect any problems very early making it much easier to correct any problems. It is also a lovely opportunity for your dog to get used to the staff and surroundings at the veterinary practices without a needle in sight.
If are concerned that your dog is overweight it is far better to tackle the problem immediately, certain health problems can cause obesity so it is a good idea to get your dog checked over by your vet before beginning a weight loss program. If your dog is otherwise healthy the veterinary practice team will be there to give you the advice and support that you and your dog need to help you to rectify the problem. They will design a diet especially for your dog, it may be just reducing the amount of food that you are currently giving or increasing exercise or it could be prescribing a lower calorie food so that your dog can eat a larger volume of food and can cut back on the calories without missing out on other vital nutrients
Tips for Preventing Obesity
- Measure out your dog’s food every day using a cup with a line drawn to the correct level.
- Avoid titbits.
- If you need to give your dog treats hold back a portion of their daily food portion and use it for treats.
- Use a good quality commercial dog food.
- Make sure your dog a suitable amount of exercise, ask your vet for advice.
- Weigh your dog regularly.
Your vet may prescribe a prescription diet for your dog if they have a health problem that is affected by diet. These diets can provide huge benefits if you can persuade your dog to eat them.
- Introduce the new food gradually
- If your dog refuses the food just pick it up after half an hour and put a fresh bowl down about 2 hours later.
- Ask your vet for guidance as to how long it is safe to keep attempting this for.
- Unless your vet advises you to do so, do not add anything to the prescription diets and do not feed any other titbits, they will alter the balance of the prescription food.
A few Don’ts
- Never feed raw meat to your dog. Raw meat can contain dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. Just as in humans these can cause serious and even life threatening disease.
- Never feed bones to your dog. Some bones split into sharp shards that can pierce or damage the stomach or intestines. Cooked bones are usually crunched into a sharp gravel like consistency, this can bind with faeces to create a concrete like substance. This causes severe constipation, and damage to the lining of the large intestine and rectum. Dogs often require multiple enemas under general anaesthetic to correct this condition, which in the worst cases can be fatal.