Dog Doc Question 16: What is the best food to give your dogs?
Honestly, I have no idea. Arguments rage about this subject on social media and I know nothing. It is definitely something I have grappled with, as a ‘responsible’ dog owner and breeder.
I care about what I eat; it needs to be healthy and tasty (not necessarily in that order!) I cared about what I fed my sons, but sometimes life is too short to get really hung up about it. My son was really fussy, but he turned out fine. Most of my dogs are fussy too, but they are also pretty healthy.
What type of food?
The most suitable diet should be easily digested and produce dark brown, firm, formed stools, (which are easy to pick up!) If your puppy produces soft or light stools or has wind or diarrhoea, then the diet may not suit your puppy or it might have some kind of digestive problem or infection. If the condition persists for more than 2 days, consult your vet for advice. Please remember that stability in the diet will help maintain good digestion.
I also think it is important that the dog likes the food you give them and that it is suitable for the level of activity they are doing. If your dog is always on the lookout for something more, then the food you are giving them is not satisfying their hunger. A different type of food might deal with this more effectively.
- Dry complete foods
- Semi-moist, pouch, tinned and frozen foods
- Home-made food (raw fresh or frozen meat)
I feed my dogs Royal Canin complete food. For better or worse, it suits me and my dogs. My vet agrees that it is a good quality food. I now feed veterinary Royal Canin to my diabetic Luna. I feed my adult bitches Royal Canin Sensible and Sensitive on a 50:50 mix, as this suits their level of activity. The younger, more active dogs have more Sensitive and less Sensible.
I have tried feeding them the frozen raw food. It feels more ‘natural’, less processed. It is supposed to produce less stools, which are harder. It is supposed to be ‘better’ for the dogs. I think wild dogs also eat plants though, to aid digestion and provide additional minerals and vitamins. I also think feeding farmed animals to dogs is probably not that healthy, compared to them eating wild animals. Anyway, my dogs didn’t like it at all. It was expensive. I would also have concerns about hygiene around having raw meat around the house all the time.
I have tried feeding mine a more ‘natural’, less processed complete food. There is an argument for not feeding dogs wheat, as it is not a food they would eat naturally and causes allergic reactions in some dogs. They didn’t like it.
- Make sure that water is ALWAYS available to your puppy, so never take its water bowl away. Provide fresh water every day, do not just leave it down until it is empty.
- Do not leave food down – throw away any uneaten food after 20 minutes. If your puppy does not eat all of its meal in one go, you may be offering it too much. Not all puppies eat the amount recommended by the pet food manufacturers. Puppies’ appetites can vary enormously, with some eating much less than the recommended amounts, whilst others scoff their meal down as if it was their last!
- Do not refill half empty bowls, but ensure that fresh food is always provided at each meal time. This is particularly true in the hot weather when food left in bowls can attract flies and other insects. Half full cans of dog food should be kept covered in the fridge, but allowed to stand until the food is up to room temperature before feeding.
- There are two different types of dog food manufactured ‘complete’ and ‘complementary’, clearly marked on the label. A complete food can be fed as a sole source of nutrition and is available as both canned and dry food. A complementary food is designed to accompany the complete food and should not be used as the only source of daily nutrition.
- It is better to stick to one variety of food, so you don’t need to add anything to the diet. Always remember that over-supplementing can be harmful to your puppy.
- As long as your puppy is not showing any growth or digestive problems, resist the temptation to change its diet or offer it a range of foods, as you may turn your puppy into a fussy eater.
- Never change your puppy’s diet abruptly (unless under the direction of your vet). If you want to change its diet, do it gradually over a period of a few days to a week or longer if necessary.
- Avoid feeding your puppy before travelling in the car, as this can encourage car sickness.
- Do not feed your puppy an hour before or after exercise or play, as this could lead to stomach dilation and torsion (also known as bloat), which is a life threatening condition requiring immediate veterinary intervention. For owners of breeds which are thought to be susceptible to this condition, you should seek advice from your breeder, vet and/or breed club on further precautionary measures.
- Leave your puppy in peace while it is eating from its bowl (preferably in his crate). Taking the bowl away while it is eating causes anxiety and this can lead to food aggression. If you want to be sure that your puppy is comfortable with you approaching it during mealtimes, add a little food to the bowl while it is eating, so it sees you as an asset, rather than a threat.
- Never feed your dog from the table or your plate, as this encourages drooling and attention-seeking behaviours, such as begging and barking.
NB: All treats should be given sparingly, and never comprise more than 15% of your puppy’s total calorie intake. If you use treats regularly, reduce the amount of main meal food your dog is receiving in order to avoid obesity. Some chew treats have proven ability to help prevent dental diseases, but again check the label to ensure you are getting a genuine product.
Always remember that table scraps contain calories so they should be taken into account as part of the daily diet. Better still; don’t be tempted to feed table scraps at all.
Food sensitivities and intolerances
Like humans, some dogs are sensitive or intolerant to certain foods, and this can cause a variety of problems. In extreme cases, they may develop colitis (slime and blood in their stools). Always consult your vet if you notice your dog displaying any of the following symptoms:
- Aggressive or hyperactive behaviour
- Chronic skin and ear problems
- Light to mid-brown loose bulky stools or diarrhoea
- Slime and jelly being passed with stools and flatulence
- Bloating and weight gain or loss
NB: This list is by no means complete and always consult your vet if you puppy ingests anything it shouldn’t
- Raw Egg
- Green parts of tomato plants
- Artificial sweeteners
- Human vitamins and supplements
- Mouldy food
- Onions, chives and garlic
- Raw or undercooked meat
- Slug pellets
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