The food which you feed your dog is the single most important thing you can do for its health, happiness and wellbeing, so understanding dog nutrition is essential for a responsible dog owner.
We've put together this helpful guide on dog nutrition and compiled all of our best resources to help educate you in keeping your favourite furry friend happy and healthy.
Dog Nutritional Requirements
There are 37 essential nutrients that dogs must eat in their food.
Prepared complete dog foods are formulated to provide all of these in the right amounts and proportions. Manufacturers of prepared complete dog food take great care to ensure that the end result is appealing to dogs, so you can be confident your canine friend is enjoying their well-balanced diet!
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and there are foods available that suit whether they are small or large breeds, as well as if they are puppies or adults.
For example, small breed dogs need more calories per kilo than larger dogs, meaning they need food that is ‘energy dense’ to allow them to eat enough food for their energy requirements.
It's also important to note that the nutritional needs of dogs can vary throughout their lives depending on their activity levels and age.
Even though dogs' teeth are adapted to tear and shear, they also have flatter teeth that can crush plant material. Your dog’s intestines are relatively long (about six times the length of their bodies!) to allow fermentation of more fibrous plants. Meats, cereals and vegetables can all be utilised relatively quickly by your dog’s digestive system.
How much should I feed my dog?
The feeding guidelines on your chosen dog food and your local vet can provide guidance on how much you need to feed your dog and at what intervals.
It is always important to read the feeding guidelines as these can vary from product to product.
As well as speaking to your vet, many pet food manufacturers provide customer care lines with feeding advice for owners, and a number also have dedicated puppy/kitten clubs.
In terms of what is the best pet food, we would recommend a specially formulated life stage diet as these have been specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of your pet at this time in her life.
When should I feed my dog?
There is no fixed answer as to when to feed a dog. It is entirely individual. Some owners may feed their dog once a day only, and some owners may feed their dog twice a day, whilst other owners may feed their dog three or four times throughout the day.
The key to a happy, healthy pet is feeding them the right type and right amount of food specific to their age and lifestyle. Historically, dogs are scavengers, so they will eat whenever the opportunity arises, however, this can easily lead to overfeeding.
Manufacturers’ guidelines found on all commercially prepared pet food packaging (including dry food and wet food) recommend total daily amounts, which can then be divided into a chosen number of meals. Your pet food manufacturer should also be able to provide further individual advice if you contact them directly.
It is important to remember that your dog's nutritional requirements and appetite will vary as they go through life and depend on a number of factors, including:
- Life Stage/Age
- Activity Level
It is essential that your pet maintains an ideal body condition throughout life for optimum health and to try to minimise the risk and impact of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
When can I start feeding my puppy adult dog food?
A puppy can be transitioned from puppy to adult food from skeletal maturity, so it depends on your puppy's anticipated adult size.
Small breed dogs (such as Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers) have a shorter growing period and may be considered adults as early as 8 months. Larger breed dogs, like Great Danes or St Bernards, may still be growing at two years of age.
We strongly recommend that a vet assess your dog before making this decision. They will then be able to advise you on when to transition your puppy to adult dog food.
When you transfer your puppy from a growth or puppy food to an adult dog food, introduce the adult food gradually to their puppy food at first to allow the puppy's tummy to adjust, ideally over a period of 7 days.
What food will make my dog's coat shiny?
A glossy coat is a telltale sign that your dog is in tip-top condition, so what factors play a role in your dog’s skin and coat health?
- Internal or external parasites
Although heredity factors determine the thickness, length, colour and texture of your dog’s coat, your care will also have a significant impact on skin and coat health. So, what is the best thing you can do? Feed a good quality nutritionally balanced diet.
Dogs need a good supply of protein in their diet for healthy body function, and hair is actually 95% protein! Studies have found that certain fatty acids play a vital role in canine skin and coat health too.
Vets and scientists have known for some time that linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, is good for achieving and maintaining a full, glossy coat. However, consuming large quantities is not the best. Recent research has shown that it’s not the precise amount but the balance of omega- 6 and omega-3 fatty acids that are important.
Remember, if you’re feeding a ‘complete’ diet, you don’t need to supplement it as it’ll already contain all the nutrients your dog needs.
Whilst diet significantly contributes to a good coat, regular grooming is a must too. Grooming removes loose hair and dirt and distributes skin oils, plus it’s a great bonding activity.
Can dogs have milk?
As with cats, most dogs tend to be lactose intolerant. A puppy has the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the sugar in milk called lactose.
Once the dog is weaned, he generally stops producing lactase and loses the ability to digest it. Milk products can then cause an upset stomach and diarrhoea. On the other hand, some dogs can tolerate milk and do enjoy small amounts.
Milk is a food, and although skimmed milk has fewer protein and calories, this can add up, particularly for a small dog. An alternative is to soften it with warm water or speak to the manufacturer’s customer care team, who will give you some tips.