Nutritional information and best practices for feeding dogs can get outdated quickly. With ongoing innovation and research being conducted, it can be difficult to keep track of what exactly is good and bad for your pet.
Jordan Walker, the lead content curator of Coops and Cages, shares some basic nutritional facts on feeding your dog.
We, humans, thrive when we have sufficient energy during the day. We tend to become more active, productive and tire less easily when we are stocked full of nutrients. The same also holds true with dogs. Their overall health and growth are directly impacted by their diet which is why we should be feeding our dogs the correct food in the correct amounts at the right time.
For dogs and puppies eating too fast, you can use slow feeders to prevent your dog from chowing it all down in one minute.
A feeding schedule is important for various reasons:
- Develop a routine for the pet
- Promotes discipline
Why are these important? For starters, a routine is especially helpful as it can alert the owner to impending illnesses when the routine is suddenly broken. When there is a sudden lack of appetite, one can instantly diagnose the health issues of the pet.
Having a schedule also promotes discipline especially during meals. This is accomplished by timing a pet’s mealtime and strictly enforcing it by taking away the bowl as soon as the time is up. This teaches the dog that whilst the food is there, they cannot afford to just stare at the food or nibble on it all throughout the day.
Feeding frequency varies depending on dog breed, age, and size. However, for people who do not have time to get this information, it is typically thrice a day for puppies and twice a day for adult dogs. The smaller the breed, to less quantity they can digest at every meal so the more meals they should have per day.
Once the dog’s feeding schedule is down pat, one should then focus on feeding the dog the right types of food.
Clean, fresh water is essential for pets at all times. Despite most dog foods having some varying levels of moisture content, those are still not sufficient enough to keep them hydrated.
Having a dog water fountain is recommended for dogs because running water instinctively appeals to them. In the wild, still, water is commonly dirty and full of bacterias while running water is usually safer to consume.
Protein, from foods or protein powders, acts as fuel and provides the body with amino acids. They are especially helpful in terms of body growth and maintenance. Eggs, dog food, fish and meat are all excellent sources of protein.
Proteins should be the number one macronutrient in your dog’s meals but it’s also the most expensive. Therefore, when feeding manufactured dog food, make sure the quality of the proteins is high. Avoid meat byproducts and other fillers to favor muscle meats and offals. The latter offering more minerals and vitamins and is much cheaper than muscle meats.
Fats can provide dogs as much as twice the energy that protein can. Also known as triglycerides, fats assist in the metabolic functions of dogs as well as in their structural growth.
However, too many fats and your dog will gain weight, get lazy, gain more weight, and enter that vicious circle. Fats, however, get a bad reputation because that’s how animals store excess calories, but they are as good as proteins and as useful as carbohydrates. In nature, wolves rarely eat carbs but they do eat plenty of proteins and fats (especially in red meat.)
Carbohydrates, along with fats and protein, make up the main macronutrients. These provide the dog with energy and also keeps their heart healthy. Some studies also suggest that carbs help improve memory and can aid in burning fat from the body.
Carbs are the source of energy immediately available for fueling any type of physical effort from sprinting to swimming. However, not all carbs are good for dogs and this is where issues tend to appear.
Vitamins and Minerals
As with humans, these two are vital in the diet of dogs. Vitamins are crucial for metabolic functioning and improved immunity. Minerals, on the other hand, are needed for the formation of bones, delivery of oxygen in the body and also for fluid balance regulation.
Vitamins tend to become void with heat and when cooked while minerals retain their original nutritional value even after being cooked.
Things to Avoid
Not everything depicted in the media and being marketed is healthy for dogs. One should be sure the things we feed them are properly researched, especially for the people prepping their dog’s meals at home.
Here are some things to be wary about or should be kept in moderation or completely avoided.
We’ve all seen cartoons depicting how all dogs seem to love and treasure bones. While that may be true in those scenarios, it is a bit different in real life. Bones aren’t as perfectly shaped and aren’t in perfect condition as in those cartoons. Chicken bones, for example, are little and are easily splintered.
These, alongside other types of cooked bones, are rather easy for the dogs to chew but can end up ruining their teeth. Worse, the fragments could injure your dog’s teeth, throat, stomach, and even intestine. Never feed a dog cooked bones, ever.
For best results, fresh raw bones and meaty bones ought to work such as chicken or turkey necks. These are very meaty so they require a lot of chewing which then breaks down the bone.
The number one problem with eating raw fish are the parasites. Cooking fish quickly eliminates all these parasites which can plague a dog with all sorts of problems. If not cooking, freezing also works. Freeze the fish at least a week before you plan on giving it to them. That way, you are assured that it is parasite-free.
With small dogs, fishbones can also be problematic. Make sure you clean the fish for most of its obvious bones before serving it.
Nuts are dangerous to dogs and shouldn’t be fed to them in any way. Dogs are easily poisoned and can also suffer from an upset stomach due to nuts. Sometimes, it can worsen to the point that it obstructs their gastrointestinal tract. Some types of nuts, like black walnuts and Japanese walnuts, are also known to cause seizures among dogs.
There’s a great infographic on this site about the most dangerous nuts for dogs.
Nutritional Food Highlights
There are some types of food that are highly recommended by both veterinarians and dieticians alike.
Kelp is widely consumed in Japan. They are found to abound in vitamins, minerals and amino acids which makes them perfect for both human and animal consumption.
Kelp supplements for dogs are currently packaged in numerous forms. These include gels, tablets, capsules, liquids, powders and, of course, raw. Nutritionists advise procuring it in liquid form as it seems to be the most potent form. For those on a tight budget, kelp powder is sufficient enough in nutrients though.
The age-old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” applies even to dogs. Apples are great sources of water, vitamin A and vitamin C. These are also helpful for when dogs get bits of food stuck in their teeth. It’ll help keep their teeth in tip-top shape and well-maintained. It is important to keep in mind that the seeds and the apple core should not be fed alongside the apple slices.
Eggs are excellent sources of protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals for dogs. As long as fed in moderation, dogs will benefit from a more luxurious coat and robust physique.
Some people also opt to serve the egg raw. If you are concerned about salmonella and biotin deficiency, by all means, cook the eggs before serving to your dog. Lastly, if you’ve refrained from giving your dog bones, serving them the shells can also act as a healthy replacement.
There are many things to consider when determining a dog’s ideal dietary intake. Factoring in breed, environment, age, and activity helps but that’s not all there is to it. In reality, there’s nothing like good old education on the basics to ensure that man’s best friend remains happy and healthy.