Very often in practice we face a lot of dogs feeding issues. So I decided to bring some light on this topic.
The Carnivora Class (predators) belong to 7 families, one of which is the Canidae family (dogs). They are mostly carnivores, but all use plant food to varying degrees as well. A characteristic feature is that carnivorous animals ingest food without chewing it well. During chewing, the lower jaw makes only vertical movements, whereby the food is torn and swallowed quickly.
The dog has a simple single-chamber stomach and a short intestinal tract, and the ingested food stays in the stomach at different times: the carbohydrate food leaves the stomach faster, and the protein rich stays longer. In the dog, emptying of the stomach begins one and a half hours after eating the food; it is most intense between the 3rd and 4th hour after the meal and ends in about 6 hours.
The nutritional requirements and overall care of dogs vary depending on the physiological state (growth, pregnancy, lactation, weaning, lack of activity, old age, work, etc.). There are two main types of dog food: home-made and industrially produced.
Generally, owners prefer industrially produced foods to their pets because the benefits are great:
- they provide all the nutrients and energy they need according to the dog’s category
- they are easily stored
- they have a long shelf life.
All these advantages make them preferred over home-made ones. It has been found that 92% of dog owners in the United States use mostly industrial products.
A curious fact: the first dog food (crackers) were produced in England in 1860. Soon after, the United States began producing dog food from grain and meat waste. In the 1920s, the first canned products appeared on the market, mainly from horse meat.
According to their composition, foods are divided into balanced, complementary and dietary. In the 1950s, dry dog food became more and more popular. Balanced foods contain all the necessary nutrients, and because of this they are could be given independently as the only food in the daily dog diet. However, it should be taken into account that food can not be suitable for all dog breeds, ages and individuals, and this is why manufacturers offer a wide range of foods – each for the specific needs of the dog.
There are several things that you should pay attention to when selecting food or making up your pet’s home diet. Dogs have extremely different growth rates. Feeding plays a key role in the development of bones and their maintenance throughout life, so it is important to monitor optimal calcium levels to ensure proper bone development and maintenance for all breed sizes.
The optimal ratio of Ca to P is in the range 1.1 to 2 to 1. Calcium deficiency is most often observed in animals that feed mainly on meat: products of this type contain high levels of phosphorus, but are poor in calcium (for example, in meat, the ratio of calcium: phosphorus is about 1: 20). Supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in a pet’s diet are good for the joints.
In addition to physical activity, good food also plays a key role in maintaining one of the most important organs – the skin. The skin plays a huge role in overall health – it protects against injury and infection, controls temperature and is the first line of defense against many harmful agents.
The skin consists of 95% protein, so eating high-quality protein keeps it in best shape. It is important that the diet contains omega-6 and 3 fatty acids, but most importantly, that they are in the correct ratio – 5-10:1 – clinically proven to optimize the condition of the skin and fur. It is important for a diet to contain Omega-6 and 3 fatty acids, but most importantly, they should also be in the correct ratio – 5-10: 1 – has been clinically proven to optimize the condition of the skin and fur.
Dogs are exceptional athletes and rely on their strong muscles to stay in good shape and maintain their activity. Approximately 40-57% of their body weight is muscle, so the protein must be of animal origin. Animal proteins have been clinically proven to build lean and healthy muscles.
Good absorption and digestion are vital to health and well-being but the dog’s digestive capability is fundamentally different from human. Therefore, the diet should consist of easily digestible ingredients that improve absorption.
Recently, the topic of prebiotics and their inclusion in the dog’s menu has become more and more relevant. Prebiotics originate from carbohydrates called oligosaccharides – indigestible fibers that pass the entire length of the gastrointestinal tract without changing (i.e., well. not digested and not digested by gastric juice). During this passage through the body, they stimulate the growth and development of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Prebiotics have been clinically proven to enhance the power of natural defense! 65% of the dog’s immune system is concentrated in the digestive tract, which explains why this topic is gaining popularity.
Another issue that is becoming more and more common for owners is dental care for their pet, and whether there is a connection between the way of dog feeding and dental prophylaxis.
In summary: yes, there is definitely a connection!
Recent studies show that after 3 years, almost 85% of dogs have dental and oral problems, which usually leads to more serious health problems. However, only 10 percent of owners regularly brushed their dog’s teeth. That is why a large number of granular food manufacturers are increasingly emphasizing the development and incorporation of supplements to help oral hygiene and tartar reduction in dogs. Most high grade granules are covered with polyphosphates (sHMP) – crystals that prevent tartar deposition after eating.
But let’s get away from the granules topic for a while. In many cases, owners choose home-made food. The most common reason for this is no trust industrial foods, specific dog health status (most often food allergy), the ability to choose products, a capricious appetite and taste preferences of the dog.
There is nothing wrong with home diets, but it is important to know that several things are necessary to make a complete diet:
- knowing your pet’s requirements for nutrients and energy
- proper processing of products
- balancing the daily ration of food
- safety from microbial and other contaminants
- the need to include vitamins and minerals
- taking into account breed and age characteristics
- the physiological state and activity of the dog
All this is achievable, but requires consultation with a specialist, so if you have made that choice, consult with a veterinarian who can help you to prepare a balanced diet covering all the needs of your pet.
Since there is a lot to write and even more to say, I will now tell you more specifically about feeding your puppy.
From weaning a puppy to turning it into an adult, it goes through one of the most important periods of its life – growth and development. The factors for a long and healthy dog life are laid at a young age. The physical shape of the puppy in the early stages of life mostly determines its duration. So this shape depends first on the diet and secondly on the physical activity.
Perfect physical shape prolongs life and reduces the risk of serious diseases, so it is very important before you take your pet to be familiar with needs of a small puppy. The goal in feeding weaned puppies should be to achieve the average weight of the breed. Over-feeding should be avoided. Very slight malnutrition is better than over-feeding.
You will help yourself and the new family member if, before buying any food, read what is actually needed comparison with the expected weight of a senior dog, specific breed characteristics, and more.
After weaning, the puppy needs more energy compared to senior dogs of the same breed. These needs change with age – at 40% of the senior dog’s weight, the energy requirement is 1.5 times more; at 80% of the weight, it requires 1.2 times more energy than the corresponding weight of adult animals.
Excess energy during growth leads to obesity in puppies of many breeds and determines overweight throughout life. Properly selected food and ration for growing puppies provide an optimal balance of substances, ensure normal growth and development and allow high digestibility.
Following the same logic, if malnutrition is serious, the full growth of a senior dog cannot be achieved. Some dog breeds are prone to weight gain and owners of such puppies (Labrador, Cocker Spaniel, Shelty, Basset, Beagle, Cavalier King Charles, and others) should be extra careful not to over-feed the puppy and avoid free feeding. In this case the veterinarian should advise the owners and monitor the development of the puppy.
This fact is confirmed by a study in which Beagle and Labrador puppies were fed freely and controlled. At the age of 1 year, free-feeding puppies of both breeds were 22-25% heavier. The greater weight was solely due to subcutaneous fat, and no difference in length, height, or muscle mass was found. Excessive rapid growth and the associated over-weight impair life expectancy and increase the risk of subsequent diseases.
In particular, in large breed dogs, it is important to achieve an optimal growth rate that ensures the construction of the skeleton and reduces the risk of osteochondrosis, hip dysplasia and arthrosis.
All of this is maybe just a few of the important things associated with dog feeding. Expect soon articles focusing on other age groups, feeding on some type of diseases, and best tips for cats feeding!