Nutrition for Dogs
The correct dog nutrition is essential for growth, cell maintenance and overall health. How you decide to feed your dog is of course entirely up to you but when deciding on the best diet for your dog, there are a few things you need to consider.
Being able to maintain a well balanced diet for a dog will help to look after many aspects of their health. Oral health, sensitive skin and stomach, weight management and coat health are just a few subjects that can benefit from a well-rounded doggie diet.
Throughout a dog’s lifespan, their nutritional needs differ. But they should at all times be receiving everything they need.
Protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and water are the six essentials when it comes to your dog’s nutrition. All of these combined allows them to grow and maintain their overall health, strengthen their bodies and immune systems and stay as healthy as possible.
Proteins supply amino acids to build hair, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. It also plays a role in hormone production. Proteins can be found in food such as meat and fish.
Fats are one of a dog’s energy sources. They are split into two main fatty-acid groups, (omega 3 and 6). Commercial food often has a higher amount of omega 6 which is one of the reasons why omega 3 supplementation is popular. The two need to be balanced into a perfect ratio for optimal functionality. Fats also provide insulation for a dog. They can be found in food such as cheese, oils, meats and oily fish.
Carbohydrates are another source of energy for a dog. They also help the nervous system to perform properly. This macronutrient can be found in foods such as rice, corn and potato.
Vitamins and minerals are a vital part of the everyday diet. They help to support growth, hormone regulation, nervous system function, antioxidants, brain and liver function, red blood cell generation and more. Combined, they also help to provide energy to dogs by ensuring everything is working as it should internally. If a dog has deficiencies in any vitamins and minerals, it is essential that they are addressed. Without these nutrients, dogs can face deterioration of the eyes and muscles and even have a stunted development. Your vet may ask you to include certain foods into your dog’s diet to boost their intake of vitamins or minerals. You can also use Australian multivitamin supplements to keep these micronutrients at a balanced level.
Water is the most important element in dog nutrition. Dogs should consume between 30 and 50ml per kg of body weight per day. Without water, dogs can become severely dehydrated, causing many issues.
In addition to all of the above, fibre should also be considered. Fibre is essential for a healthy digestive tract and general digestive health in dogs. It can be found in foods like pumpkins and grated carrot.
Foods that are toxic to dogs include but aren't limited to:
Different stages of a dog’s life have different nutritional requirements. Below is an outline of what happens at each stage of a dog’s life in relation to their nutritional demands.
8-16 WEEKS (PUPPY)
A puppy around this age will usually have just joined as a member of your family. They probably will have been feeding from their mother and slowly weaned off before moving with you. Keep them on the diet that they have been on with their breeder/rescue until they are more settled in their new home. Change can be stressful for them and their digestive system so it is important to gradually make a switch to your preferred diet for a new puppy when you are ready to do so.
Puppies have a high nutritional demand. This stage of their life is crucial to their development and growth and so highly nutritious food is essential.
It is not advised that you feed a puppy raw meat as their immune systems have not yet fully developed. Instead, high quality kibble is mostly recommended for a nutritional boost and dental care.
Some dog owners may prefer to mix with wet food to provide extra hydration and texture.
Note that this should not be on top of current dry food, but instead in replacement of a portion. We want to avoid overfeeding!What’s the difference between wet and dry dog food?
Dry food refers to kibble - often a convenient option for dog owners.
Wet food refers to pouched or tinned food that contains a higher water content, (this is great for extra hydration).
Meals should be small and regular (3-5 times a day) to begin with - their weight, size and breed will determine how much food they need. This is to gradually allow their tummies to become accustomed to new things and not overwhelm them.
Your vet will be able to help you with the appropriate food choice for your dog.
16+ WEEKS (PUPPY)
A puppy should be well and truly settled into their new home with you by this age. They also will have started to teethe and might need something to chew on! You could give them something firm but not too hard to chew - a meaty bone is a great example.
You can start to introduce new foods that they haven’t yet tried - like small portions of raw meat mixed in with their current diet. Keep portions of new foods small so you can keep an eye out for any allergies that may arise. You may need to invest in dog food for allergies (hypoallergenic food for dogs).
This is a good time to start reducing the number of times a day that you feed your dog too.
Your dog is considered an adult between 9 and 15 months, depending on whether you have a small breed dog or a large breed dog.
Whilst changes in the body continually happen throughout a dog’s life, the majority of their growing will have already happened. Their stomachs will have become established and you should have a good idea of any allergies they may have developed.
You can start to explore with food a little more once your dog has reached the adult stages of its life. Dog owners may like to opt for a raw, cooked, dry or wet food diet. There’s a little more freedom in the options. Whichever diet you choose, make sure that your dog is still getting all of the high-quality, balanced and nutritional value that they need and it's the best dog food for your dog.
Ensure that you are not overfeeding or underfeeding your dog. They should receive the appropriate amount of calories according to their activity levels.
Dogs of a senior age may be a little less active than the rest of their lives. This means that their energy balance may have changed - an older dog may need less food to ensure they aren’t overfed in conjunction with their energy levels.
You may find that your senior dog has acquired some health issues as they’ve aged. This can require a more specialised diet and should be discussed with your vet.
Senior dogs can also be a bit stubborn in their old age. They often know what they like and don’t like and prefer a routine. Changing a dog diet at their senior age probably won’t be too welcomed if it isn’t necessary.
If you are unsure what your dog specifically needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle, always consult with your vet. A dog’s nutrition plan is an extremely important thing to get right for optimal health!
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