Choosing the Right Food for Your Dog
Dogs have specific nutritional requirements and require a complete and balanced diet based on age, level of activity, pregnancy, lactation or certain medical conditions. A puppy will have different needs than, say, senior dogs.
Feeding your puppy
Premium puppy foods are made from higher quality ingredients and meet the increased energy and nutrient requirements in the correct amounts and proportions needed by puppies. Bone growth problems can occur if calcium is not present in the right amount or proportion to phosphorus, especially in larger and giant breeds.
Follow the feeding guidelines on the product label but as individual pups can vary in their requirements you may need to adjust feeding levels according to your puppy’s condition and weight. You don’t want to over feed your puppy, as too rapid weight gain can cause skeletal problems in larger and giant breeds and obese puppies turn into obese dogs.
Feeding the adult dog
From about 12 months of age, depending on breed, your dog can be fed a high quality adult food.
Premium adult foods are formulated to maintain the weight of moderately active adult dogs and some are made in different biscuit sizes for smaller and larger dogs. A mixture of dried and canned foods can be fed according to the manufacturer’s label. Dry foods are generally more convenient and help to maintain healthy teeth.
Follow the feeding instructions but you may need to make adjustments according to the condition of your dog. Healthy dogs are bright and the ribs can be felt easily under a moderate layer of fat. Overweight or more sedentary dogs may need to go on a light formula that is reduced in calories. Obese dogs will need a specific weight reduction diet available only from your vet.
Feeding the working dog
Active or high-energy formulas are designed specifically to provide the extra energy required by highly active working and sporting dogs in a concentrated form. Choose a premium brand of high quality that is nutritionally complete and balanced for your dog’s optimum performance and health.
Feeding levels depend on a number of factors such as the nature, level and duration of activity and environmental temperature. Working dogs will generally need two meals a day. Use the label instructions as a guide and adjust feeding levels according to your dog’s condition or ask your vet for advice.
Feeding the breeding bitch
Pregnant and lactating dogs require a complete and balanced diet to ensure their health and for the best possible start in life of their puppies.
A normal adult diet is suitable during pregnancy, which lasts on average 63 days in the bitch. Be careful not to overfeed in early pregnancy as excess fat can lead to problems giving birth. Her energy requirements will start to increase from around the fifth week of pregnancy and you will need to increase the amount of food accordingly by around 10% to 15% each week from this time. Provide the daily allowance in several smaller meals to allow for her smaller stomach as the litter grows.
The nursing bitch will require a diet higher in energy and nutrients to provide enough milk for her puppies and to maintain her own body weight. A good quality or premium puppy food that is highly palatable and digestible is suitable at this time. You can provide as much as your dog will eat in many smaller meals, as it is unlikely she will overeat.
Feeding the senior dog
As your dog gets older it will become less active and the metabolism slows.
Senior dog foods are designed to meet the nutritional requirements of older dogs. Premium foods will have fewer calories to help maintain weight while avoiding obesity, are highly palatable to encourage appetite, have high quality proteins to meet increased needs while protecting the kidneys and are lower in certain minerals.
There is no one age to begin your dog on a senior diet as different breeds vary in life expectancy. Giant breeds are considered senior earlier at around 5 years, while small and toy breeds can be started later at 8 or 9 years. Several smaller meals during the day are more easily digested.
Contributor: Dr Julia Adams BVSc