How to Feed your Dog
It is better not to leave food down (so throw away any uneaten food after 20 minutes) and not give your dog any variety, which could cause havoc with its digestion. 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 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 orlight 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.
Dry complete foods
There is a wide range of dry complete foods on the market and the quality varies widely. To get the best out of your dogs health choose a food specially designed for them and buy the best you can afford. The premium dry foods tend to have the best 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 t o 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 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 it is very difficult to get this balance right, you are probably better off choosing from one of the tried and tested commercial diets. 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.
Food sensitivities and intolerances
Some dogs appear to be sensitive or intolerant to certain ingredients and additives and this can cause a variety of problems.
Common symptoms include
- Aggressive or hyperactive behaviour
- Chronic skin and ear problems
- Light to mid-brown loose bulky stools or diarrhoea
- Slime and jelly being passed with the stools and flatulence
- Bloating and weight gain or loss
- In extreme cases they can get colitis (slime and blood in their stools) so consult your vet if this happens
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.
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 dogs 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. Medium to large breeds of dogs should be fed from a raised bowl to prevent them from swallowing air while they eat, which can also contribute to bloat.
You can buy bowl stands for this purpose. For owners of breeds who are thought to be susceptible to this condition, you should seek advice from your breeder, vet and/or breed club on further precautionary measures. 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.