Feeding Your Dog - What You Need To Know
How much should I feed my dog?
Most dog foods will have a feeding guide on the pack which will give you a guide to the quantity needed per day. You should remember though that this is a guide only and if your dog is less active you will need to feed less and if your dog is a working or highly active dog you will need to feed more. It is a good idea to use the guide amount but also ‘feed by condition’, which means if your dog is underweight you probably need to feed more and if it is overweight then you need to reduce the amount you are feeding.
How often should I feed my dog?
There is no set rule on how often to feed your dog, as long the amount is correct for the day. Some people feed 50% in the morning and 50% at night, some just a small meal in the morning and then the main meal at night. Some may choose to feed 3 meals per day. Think about when the dog is most active, if you take it for a long walk every morning then you might like to feed a good meal first thing in the morning so that the dog has plenty on energy to use.
Changing your Dogs Diet
If you are changing the diet of your dog you should try to gradually introduce the new diet over the course of a week. Start with 75% of the old diet and 25% of the new diet for 2 days, then 50% of each for 2 days, then for days 5 and 6 you should feed 25% old diet and 75% new diet. On day 7 your dog should be ready to enjoy its new diet without the risk of stomach upset. Dogs with a sensitive digestion should be allowed longer to adjust to a new diet, say over two weeks instead of one. If a new diet does cause a stomach upset revert to the original diet and then try again in a week or so.
Wet food or Dry food
There are many different opinions on this question. When comparing a wet food and and dry food we need to understand the nutritional makeup. Energy figures on the label will be for the food as it is fed. Therefore if a canned food is 75% water and the protein content is labelled as 15% then the actual protein content of the product excluding water would be 60%. However if you are paying for 75% water in a wet food then you will need to feed a larger amount to achieve the same nutritional input which will end up costing you more.
Feeding for Development stages of your Dog
When feeding your dog you will need to consider what life stage your dog is in – Puppy, Adult or Senior. Which life stage will depend on the size and age of your dog. There are some new Weaning or Starter foods available in the market which are designed to use to wean your dog. You can also use puppy food. You should feed this from weaning until the dog is fully grown. The length of time this takes will depend on the breed of your dog. Small Breeds like Yorkshire Terriers can be fully grown in 10 months whereas giant breeds like Great Danes can take 18 months, or even two years to reach their adult size. Puppies have specific nutritional needs like higher protein content to aid growth and more ingredients for bone development etc. Puppy food is generally more expensive, this is due to all the extra nutrients they need and the higher meat contents they usually contain.
Adult food can be fed from when the dog is fully grown until they have the need for a specific senior diet. There is a huge range of adult diets available and they also include specialist diets for small and large breeds. When dogs get to a certain age they need a specific senior diet. Small breeds may not need this until they are up to 10 years old, whereas giant breeds like Great Danes will need a senior food from the age of five. Senior foods will be lower in protein and calories as the dogs are generally less active. They will also contain higher amounts of supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin to keep joints healthy. Search online to find out which life stage your dog will be in so you can find the appropriate diet.
Feeding pregnant and lactating dogs
For the first six weeks of a bitch’s pregnancy their diet will not change. After this time they will need to be fed a food that is higher in energy and nutrients so you should feed them a good quality puppy food. There are also new products to the market which are called ‘Starter diets’ which you can use to wean puppies onto and these are also energy and nutrient dense and would be a suitable food to feed a pregnant bitch. Water should be readily available throughout the pregnancy as intake will be higher as the animals needs increase. If you are feeding a good quality puppy food then you should not need to give the animal any supplements and these can actually harm development of the puppies as the nutrient intake may not be balanced. Lactating bitches have a very high nutritional need. At the peak 3rd week period their nutritional needs may be three to four times higher than normal. The best method is to leave food out for the mother to feed as and when she wishes and feels the need.
Weaning takes place between three and five weeks of age. The puppies will become more interested in solid food and less interested in feeding from the mother. Ideally the young should be fed the same puppy diet as the mother, this will make feeding easier from the owners point of view and also will ensure nutritional needs are met. It will be a gradual process introducing solid food, to start the food should be moistened to make it easier to feed. There are also special wet diets which are designed to be fed at the start of weaning which are soft and easy to eat but with a very high nutritional content. Food should be put down for longer periods to give the young ample opportunity to feed but should be removed after a few hours so that they start to learn a feeding routine.
Dietary intolerances in dogs
Some dogs can develop an intolerance to a particular ingredient in their food. The most common would be an intolerance to a particular type of meat. This may cause them to have loose stools or excess flatulence. This is the easiest intolerance to deal with due to the wide range of meats that dog foods are based on. The main meat used in dog food is chicken, so if this causes your dog a problem why not try a lamb, duck, turkey, or fish based food. There are also a few pork based diets around like Burns Pork & Potato. The next most common intolerance is to a type of cereal, like rice or wheat. Again you will need to look at the ingredient lists on the dogs foods to find ones without the cereal you think is causing a problem. There are many wheat free diets around, and ones without corn or rice. If you want to avoid cereals altogether then you could try James Wellbeloved Cereal Free Foods, or potato based diets like Wafcol Salmon & Potato. Intolerances to other ingredients will sometime need to be diagnosed by a vet, but you can always try a hypo-allergenic food like James Wellbeloved which does not use things like egg, beef etc.