Dog Feeding and Nutrition
Good nutrition is one of the most important aspects of raising a healthy dog. Here we take a look at the different dog foods available and the needs of your dog.
Most commercial dog foods are market to foods dogs can eat to owner whilst meeting the nutritional needs of the dog. Some foods are marketed on the basis of their protein content, some are based on special ingredients and some are sold because they don’t contain certain ingredients such as preservatives or gluten. You will want to choose a food that meets your dog’s needs and fits your budget. The most common types of commercial dog foods are dry, semi-moist and canned or pouched. The dry foods have traditionally been the most economical and contain the least fat. The canned or pouched dog foods have tended to be the most expensive and usually contain the most fat. There are off course Premium brand dry dog foods and budget priced wet dog foods. Semi moist is now less popular as they tend to be expensive and contain high levels of sugar.
There has been a trend in recent years to produce food for a specific life stage, life style and even breed. This has increased the choice of foods available to dog owners and should in theory make it easier (providing your budget allows) to choose the right food for your dog. Most commercial dog foods these days have been through feeding rigorous feeding trials to show that diets meet minimum standards.
Feeding a Puppy
Pups should be allowed to nurse from their mother for a minimum of six weeks before being completely weaned from the mother. Supplemental feeding may begin as early as three weeks of age.
By two months old, puppies should be fed puppy food. This is an important growth phase. Nutritional deficiencies or imbalances during this time of life can be more devastating than at any other time. This is not the time to overfeed or provide performance rations. Overweight young dogs can develop skeletal defects such as osteochondrosis and hip dysplasia.
Pups should be fed growth diets until they are 12 months of age. Pups will need to be fed their rations in 2-3 meals a day until they are 12 months old. Once they become adults 1-2 meals a day (preferably twice) when they convert to adult food.
The goal of feeding most adult dogs is that of maintenance. They have already done the growing and with luck don’t have the digestive problems of elderly dogs. In general, dogs can do well on maintenance rations containing predominantly plant or animal based ingredients, as long as the ration has specifically been formulated to meet maintenance requirements. Most dogs cope well with a cereal based diet although Soya or Gluten are of two of the ingredients to consider avoiding if your dog shows signs of food intolerance. When considering maintenance dog foods, remember that many dog foods are especially budget brands are prepared to meet the minimum requirements of a confined dog, not necessarily the needs of an active dog. Most dogs will benefit when fed diets that contain easily digested ingredients that provide nutrients above the minimum requirements. Typically these foods will be intermediate in price, between the most expensive brands and the cheapest generic dog foods. Don’t select a dog food based on price alone, or advertising or on total protein content.
Diets for Elderly Dogs
Dogs are considered elderly when they are about seven years of age, their nutritional requirements change as they get older. Like humans a do’s metabolism slows as they grow older and this needs to be accounted for in the diet. As dogs age most of their organs do not function as well as when they were younger. A responsible approach to geriatric nutrition is to realise that degenerative changes are a normal part of aging. Your goal is to minimize the potential damage done by taking this into account while your dog is still healthy.
Elderly dogs need to be treated individually. While some benefit from nutrition can be found in senior diets, others could do better on the highly digestible puppy or super premium diets. These foods provide an excellent blend of digestibility and amino acid content, but unfortunately, many are higher in salt or phosphorus. Older dogs are also prone to developing arthritis; it is important not to overfeed them because obesity puts added stress on the joints.