By: The ASPCA
A balanced diet is critically important to your dog’s cell maintenance and growth and overall health. Barring any special needs, illness-related deficiencies, or instructions from your vet, your pet should be able to get all the nutrients he or she needs from high-quality commercial pet foods, which are specially formulated with these standards in mind.
But dogs of different ages have different nutritional requirements. So, how much—or how little—should you be feeding your four-legged friend? Read on to learn what your pet’s body needs at the various stages of life.
Nutrients Your Dog Needs
Nutrients are substances obtained from food and used by an animal as a source of energy and as part of the metabolic machinery necessary for maintenance and growth. There are the six essential classes of nutrients dogs need for optimum healthy living.
Essential to life, water accounts for between 60 to 70% of an adult pet’s body weight. While food may help meet some of your pet’s water needs (dry food has up to 10% moisture, while canned food has up to 78% moisture), pets must have fresh clean water available to them at all times. A deficiency of water may have serious repercussions for pets. A 10% decrease in body water can cause serious illness, while a 15% loss can result in death.
Proteins are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones and antibodies, and are essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction and repair. Proteins can be obtained from a number of sources including animal-based meats such as chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, fish and eggs (which have complete amino acid profiles) and in vegetables, cereals and soy (but these are considered incomplete proteins).
Fats are the most concentrated form of food energy, providing your pet with more than twice the energy of proteins or carbohydrates. Fats are essential in the structure of cells, needed for the production of some hormones, and are required for absorption and utilization of certain vitamins. Fats also provide insulation and protection for internal organs. A deficiency of essential fatty acids (such as linoleic acid) may result in reduced growth or increased skin problems.
Carbohydrates provide energy, play a vital role in the health of the intestine, and are important for reproduction. While there is no minimum carbohydrate requirement, there is a minimum glucose requirement necessary to supply energy to critical organs such as the brain.
Fibers are kinds of carbohydrates that alter the bacterial population in the small intestine, which can help manage chronic diarrhea in dogs. For dogs to obtain the most benefit from fiber, the fiber source must be moderately fermentable. Moderately fermentable fibers—including beet pulp, which is commonly used in dog foods—are best to promote a healthy gut while avoiding the undesirable side effects of highly fermentable fibers, like flatulence and excess mucus.
Other examples of moderately fermentable fibers include brans (corn, rice and wheat) and wheat middlings. Foods that are high in fiber are not good for dogs with high energy requirements, and who are young and growing.
Tiny amounts of vitamins are necessary in dogs for normal metabolic functioning. Most vitamins cannot be synthesized in the body, and therefore are essential to obtain in the diet.
Minerals are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by animals and must be provided in the diet. In general, minerals are most important as structural constituents of bones and teeth, for maintaining fluid balance and for their involvement in many metabolic reactions.
Feeding Your Adult Dog
Adult dogs require sufficient nutrients to meet energy needs and to maintain and repair body tissues. The amount you feed your adult dog should be based on his or her size and energy output. Activity levels may vary dramatically between pets, and will play an important role in determining caloric intake.
How Much to Feed Your Dog
The amount you feed your adult dog should be based on his or her size and energy output. For example, an animal with a normal activity level should receive what we call “maintenance” energy. A pampered lap dog may require just 10% of that, while an active pet who exercises regularly outdoors may require maintenance plus 20 to 40%.
You may need to adjust portions as you learn your dog’s ideal “maintenance” amount. Pet owners should always consult with their dog’s veterinarian to determine the best feeding schedule and types of foods for their pets.
Outside factors, like the temperature, can contribute to how much your dog should eat. Since keeping warm and cool require extra energy expenditure, extreme hot or cold weather can also increase a dog’s energy needs. Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about what to do when the mercury dips or soars.
Feeding Working Canines
A dog’s energy needs will increase with his or her work and stress level, and the dietary needs of working canines—such as police dogs, guide dogs and cattle dogs—will depend on their occupations. A dog with a moderate work load may require an energy increase of 40% compared to maintenance, whereas a dog with a high work load may require an extra 50 to 70%.
Feeding Your Dog as He Recovers from Surgery
An animal recovering from surgery or suffering from a disease may have an increased nutritional requirement for repair, healing and fighting infection. Be sure to check with your veterinarian on your pet’s post-opt nutritional needs.
Treats should be given in moderation and represent five percent or less of the dog’s daily food intake. The rest should come from a nutritionally compete dog food. When using treats as motivation, such as during training exercises, use the smallest pieces you can.
Setting a Feeding Schedule
We recommend all dogs be fed twice daily. Simply divide the amount of food your pet requires into two meals, spaced eight to twelve hours apart. Dogs may be fed in a number of ways that meet both the owner’s and the animal’s needs. These methods include portion-control, free-choice and timed feeding.
Portion-control feeding refers to controlling the amount of food that your pet consumes by measuring your pet’s food and providing it in one or meals daily. This method is often used for weight control programs and for animals that might overeat if fed free-choice.
Free-choice feeding allows food to be available to your pet at all times, as much as your pet wants, and whenever he or she wants it. This method is best when feeding dry food, which will not spoil when left out. Most nursing mothers are often free-choice fed, but some dogs will overeat when fed in this manner, resulting in obesity.
Timed feeding involves making a portion of food available for your pet to eat for a specific period of time. For example, food can be placed in the dog’s bowl for 30 minutes. After that time, if the pet has not consumed the food, it is removed.
One of the most common pitfalls dog parents should watch out for is overfeeding. Attempts to shower our dogs with love by means of big meals and lots of tasty treats are sweet, but misguided. In dogs, as with humans, extra weight can lead to health problems. Be sure to indulge your four-legged friend with affection, not food!
Causes of Obesity in Dogs
Obesity is an extremely common problem in pets and, as with humans, it can be detrimental to the health of a dog. The overweight pet has many added stresses upon his body and is at an increased risk of diabetes, liver problems and joint pain.
Obesity develops when energy intake exceeds energy requirements. This excess energy is then stored as fat. The majority of cases of obesity are related to simple overfeeding coupled with lack of exercise. Certain groups of dogs appear to be more prone to obesity than others. Specific breeds, such as Labrador retrievers and pugs, and older dogs are particularly susceptible.
How to Tell if Your Pet is Overweight
There are a few ways easy ways to identify whether your pet has put on the pounds. You should be able to feel the backbone and touch the rubs in an animal of healthy weight. If you cannot feel your pet’s ribs without pressing, there is too much fat.
Also, you should see a noticeable waist between the back of the rib cage and the hips when looking at your pet from above. When viewed from the side, there should be a “tuck” in the tummy, meaning the abdomen should go up from the bottom of the rib cage to inside the thighs. Dogs who fail these simple tests may be overweight.
How to Help Manage Your Dog’s Weight
We have a few tips that can help your pet shed the extra padding. Please note, if your pup has put on weight, we recommend that you consult your pet’s vet before starting on a weight loss program.
- Correct your pet’s diet. Overweight animals consume more calories than they require. Work with your veterinarian to select a more suitable food and determine your pet’s caloric requirements. The diet should contain a normal level of a moderately fermentable fiber and fat to prevent the skin and coat from suffering during weight loss.
- Increase regular exercise. Increasing physical activity can be valuable to both weight loss and weight maintenance. Regular exercise burns more calories, reduces appetite, changes body composition and will increase your pet’s resting metabolic rate.
- Modify your behavior. A successful weight management program means making changes in your behaviors that have contributed to your pet’s weight. For example, you may be giving your pet too many treats or not giving her enough opportunities to exercise.
- Here are some ways you can commit to your pet’s weight loss:
- Remove your pet from the room when the family eats
- Feed your pet several small meals throughout the day
- Reduce snacks and treats, and feed all meals and treats in your pet’s bowl only
- Provide non-food related attention with lots of affection
Misty Pines carries Chicken Soup for the Soul Light Dog Food for dogs that are currently over-weight and need to shed some pounds and we also carry a variety of healthy foods such as Nature’s Variety, Fromm and Primal pet foods to provide your dog a high quality, nutritious food. Giving your dog a well-balanced food and feeding proper amounts can help your dog maintain a healthy weight and enjoy a good quality of life. Stop in any time to learn more about the foods we carry and how Misty Pines can help you provide for the health and well-being of your dog.