Feeding your dog

With so many brands and types of dog food available it can be difficult to know what is best. The nutritional needs of your dog have evolved in the natural or wild environment, so when feeding you must provide everything that would be found in the natural diet.

Dogs in the wild eat the entire body of their prey including skin, bones, muscle and intestinal contents, so it is not surprising that meat alone (muscle) doesn’t provide everything for your dog.

Additionally, a dog's dietary requirements change depending on its stage of life, activity level and physiological state. For instance, a growing puppy requires high levels of many nutrients, like protein, to develop strong bones and muscles. Older dogs do not require nearly as much protein, in fact high-protein diets can over-tax body organs such as the kidneys and actually shorten the dog's life span.

Home-Prepared Diets

Can be very palatable depending on the ingredients used, but often lack some nutritional elements. Dietary imbalances can result in many health problems, including bone disease, poor skin and coat condition and intestinal disorders.

However, veterinarians may recommend a home cooked diet in situations where a food allergen is suspected in allergic skin disease. The diet is intentionally minimal in content (eg. turkey and rice) in order to eliminate and work out the food allergen(s) and is therefore only recommended for a short period of time (4-6 weeks).

Supermarket Dog Foods

Usually provide your dog’s basic nutritional needs but make use of cheaper ingredients such as cereals, offal and soybean products, resulting in reduced palatability and digestibility, flatulence and a large volume of stools with more odour. The balance of fatty acids, vital for a healthy skin and coat, is often not optimal.

Veterinarian Recommended Products

Quality pet foods are available from veterinary clinics and some pet food stores. They are available in formulations to suit dogs of all sizes, ages and activity levels in both tinned and dried varieties.

Why choose high quality products?

Veterinarian recommended products have a variety of nutritional benefits for your dog such as:-

  • High grade quality protein which is primarily derived from meat (rather than cereal). Meat based protein is highly palatable and easy for dogs to digest. 
  • Optimal fibre levels. Too much dietary fibre results in reduced digestibility and interferes with the absorption of other good nutrients.
  • Optimal essential fatty acid levels - Important to maintain healthy skin and coat, control inflammation and reduce itching due to allergies.
  • Highly digestible diets resulting in a small volume of stools with less smell.
  • Highly palatable which means less waste through uneaten food.
  • Available in special formulations that provide therapeutic nutrition for pets with specific diseases and disorders (eg. Kidney disease).

Do they cost more?

Your first impression may be that these premium diets are expensive compared with supermarket brands. However, because of their high digestibility and high caloric density, your dog needs less of these foods to meet its nutritional needs.

When this is taken into consideration and a cost per day is calculated, they compare favourably, especially when the quality of the ingredients and the consequent benefits listed previously are considered.

How much should I feed my dog?

Different brands of pet food recommend different amounts of food depending on the size, age and energy requirements of your dog. The instructions provided on the packaging of food should give you an indication of the amount you should serve.

We also recommend that you speak with one of our veterinary health care team who can advise the right type and amount of food for your friend. We encourage you to discuss your concerns with us, particularly if you are worried about weight loss/gain or feeding a new puppy.

What about milk?

Some dogs can find it hard to digest cow’s milk as they may lack the enzyme lactase to digest the milk-sugar lactose and this may cause diarrhoea. Puppies and adults do not require milk if they are being fed a balanced diet, but it is okay if they enjoy it and it is not causing any gastrointestinal upsets. 

And Water?

Don’t forget to provide free access to fresh water at all times. A dog can become very ill with fatal consequences from dehydration if access is denied.