There are many ways to create the best diet for your dog. In general it is better not to give your dog any variety, which could cause havoc with its digestion, and not to leave food down (so throw away any uneaten food after 20 minutes). However, make sure that water is always available to your dog, so never take its water bowl away.
There are many different feeding regimes to choose from: dry complete diets, semi-moist or tinned dog food with or without biscuit mixer, and home-made food. Within this, there are many different qualities.
The most suitable diet should be easily digested and produce dark brown, firm, formed stools. If your dog produces soft or light stools or has wind or diarrhoea, then the diet may not suit your dog or it might have some kind of digestive problem, so consult your vet for advice.
Please remember that stability in the diet will help maintain good digestion. Any change in diet should be made very gradually over at least a week to avoid upset and you should try a new diet for at least 10 days before making any further changes.
Puppies grow 20 times faster than adult dogs and so require a special diet to aid their physical development. A specially formulated growth food is recommended which needs to be fed at evenly spaced intervals to avoid over stretching their small stomachs. A responsible breeder will have given you advice about your puppy’s diet.
Feed your puppy four meals a day up until the age of four months, and then reduce its feed to three meals a day until it is six months old, when you can change to two meals a day, and keep it on this regime for the rest of its life.
Dry complete foods
There is a wide range of dry complete dog foods on the market and the quality varies widely. To make sure your dog gets what he needs, choose a food specially designed for them and buy the best dog food you can afford. The ‘premium’ dry foods tend to have the highest quality ingredients. Many are based on chicken and rice or corn.
Although these foods may appear more expensive to buy, you do not need to feed the large amounts you would with a lower grade food, so many of them actually work out to cost the same, if not less!
Some dogs are not accustomed to complete dry foods but will normally grow to like them with time. If your dog does not seem to like eating dry complete and this is what you wish to feed you can try soaking the food in a little warm water to soften or mix in a little tinned food, gradually reducing the quantity until he is fully weaned and accepts dry complete.
Semi-moist and tinned foods
As with complete dry foods, tinned foods and semi-moist foods can vary in quality. Again choose a good quality dog food with an easily digestible recipe i.e. chicken and rice and choose a specialist food which is nutritionally complete (i.e. does not require additional foods to be added to it). As before it is best to avoid changes in your puppy’s diet so if you find a product that works for your puppy, stick to it.
What is the difference between dry and fresh meat ingredients?
The answer is simple – the difference is water content. Fresh meat can contain up to 80% water.
As it is very difficult to get this balance right, you are probably better off choosing from one of the tried and tested commercial diets. Puppies need the best possible diet whilst they are growing up, as even a slight imbalance may harm their development and growth.
Any change in diet should be made very gradually over at least a week to avoid upset and you should try a new diet for at least 10 days before making any further changes.
There are a wide variety of prepared and natural treats on the market which vary hugely in quality. Some commercial treats have lots of sugar, colourings, milk products and fat in them. Even ‘doggy chocs’ or ‘low fat yoghurt drops’ can contain sugars or lactose (milk sugar) so always check the ingredients label.
Good quality prepared treats have been developed with dogs dietary needs in mind. However, all treats should be given sparingly, never more than 15% of the total calorie intake.
If used 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.
Real chocolate is poisonous to dogs and can cause liver damage and even be fatal, so never give your dog any chocolate, or leave any lying around for it to find and eat, especially at Christmas time.
Avoid giving your dog any sweet biscuits or sugary treats which are bad for its teeth as well as its waistline, and can cause sugar ‘highs’ and ‘lows’. Stick to prepared treats and desiccated liver tablets.
Dog feeding tips
- It is better to stick to one variety of good quality dog food and do not add any supplements (unless instructed by your vet), as oversupplementing can be harmful to your dog.
- If your dog does not eat all of its meal in one go, you may be offering it too much. Not all dogs eat the amount recommended by the food manufacturers. The right amount should produce firm, dark brown, crinkly stools. If the stools are firm, but get softer towards the end, this is a classic sign of overfeeding.
- Never change your dog’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.
- Do not feed your dog before travelling in the car as this can encourage car-sickness, or an hour before or after exercise as this could contribute to a stomach dilation and torsion (also known as bloat) which is a life threatening condition requiring immediate veterinary intervention.
- For owners of breeds who are thought to be susceptible to bloat (some medium to large breeds), you should seek advice from your breeder, vet and/or breed club on precautionary measures when feeding your dog. Puzzle bowls may help to slow down the rate of feeding, and therefore the amount of air swallowed when eating (a contributing factor to the condition).
- Leave your dog in peace while it is eating from its bowl. Taking the bowl away while it is eating causes anxiety, which can lead to food aggression. If you want to be sure that your dog 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.