The choice of diet you decide to feed your pet is very important to ensure good health throughout their lives. Our vets and nurses can provide detailed advice on how to feed your pet at all stages of life, in sickness and in health. If you have any concerns about the diet you are feeding or feel inclined to supplement it in any way it is best that you seek professional advice first.
As with our own diet, dogs diets should be well-balanced and include the correct proportions of carbohydrates, protein, fats and certain vitamins and minerals. Feeding your pet a complete, well-balanced diet should avoid the need to supplement them with additional vitamins or minerals. (In fact, at certain stages of growth or pregnancy, supplementation with additional vitamins and minerals may actually cause health problems or developmental conditions).
Dietary imbalances or deficiencies can cause malnutrition, poor coat, inadequate growth, poor healing, immunosuppression and disease. On the whole, there are two main categories of diets; home prepared and commercially prepared. It is very difficult to create a complete well-balanced home prepared meal. On the other hand reputable commercial companies undertake a great deal of research to make sure these diets meet all your pets needs and even adjust their diets for individual breed and age requirements at difference stages of the animal’s life.
A Weighty Problem
If your dog becomes overweight it can experience many problems, including arthritis, diabetes and heart failure.
A scary statistic is that an overweight Labrador has a life expectancy of two years less than one of a healthy weight. Overweight dogs not only have a poorer quality of life but also a shorter one. These pictures show the worst case of obesity that we have ever experienced. Rusty, a chocolate Labrador, was brought to us by the RSPCA. His owner had fed him inappropriately and when we first met him he weighed 72.3kg. He could barely walk. He was put on a carefully managed diet monitored by our vets and nurses and lost 32.9kg. After this he was much healthier and could enjoy his walks.
He is an excellent lesson on the need to feed your pet properly and also shows how easy it is to help your pet lose weight with the correct diet and support from our veterinary team.
Wet food or dry food?
Wet or canned foods are mainly meat based products with a high moisture content. They can have added vegetables and carbohydrates. Canned foods smell good to a dog and have a soft texture, which can be easily swallowed after minimal chewing. However they often are very sticky and this results in a lot of food debris left in teeth which can lead to dental plaque, tartar and teeth problems (see dental advice section of this web site).
Dry food is extremely popular – It has a higher nutritional value than wet food. It is also easily stored, is not smelly and does not attract flies. It also helps to maintain clean, healthy teeth as the hardness of the biscuits physically cleans the teeth as they chew. Dry diets create firmer faeces and often flatulence is reduced with dry diets. Thus we normally advise feeding dogs complete dry diets. Part of the daily protein can also be used easily for reward or in interactive puzzle games.
Feeding dogs a raw diet has become popular. The only raw diet we think is safe for your pet is Nature’s Menu. This is a pre-prepared complete diet with appropriate nutritional value. The meat has been tested so you can be confident that no harmful bacteria are present. There is a reasonable risk in home-prepared raw diets so we do not recommend these.
Feeding for different stages in life
Puppies are rapidly growing and have need for increased levels of protein, carbohydrates and fats in their diet. It is vital they have the correct balance of essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. To meet all these needs they must be fed a specific puppy food.
In puppies the rate of growth between small toy breeds, medium breeds , large breeds and giant breeds is clearly very different. The age at which they stop growing is also very different. Thus we particularly recommend diets specific for the size of dog your puppy will grow to. This is important because if the ratios of protein, energy and minerals are not carefully calculated during periods of rapid growth bones and joints may not form properly and problems like hip or elbow dysplasia (joint deformities) may develop, resulting in lameness and arthritis later in life.
Pregnant animals have increased energy requirements to enable adequate growth of their developing young particularly in the later parts of pregnancy. Lactation creates very high energy needs for the mother and bitches need 2 – 4 times more energy than normal adults to maintain their own condition and produce sufficient milk for their offspring. Seek advice from our vets and nurses if you are planning to breed from your pet.
Senior Pets (8 – 10 years plus)
As our pets get older, typically their needs change. They have reduced activity so it is important their calorie intake is reduced to avoid weight gain. Diets need to be highly digestible, tasty and must allow for changes in metabolism and in altered ability to break down and use protein. A specific senior diet is advisable at this time.
Many medical conditions can be improved and managed by altering a pet’s diet. These include kidney failure, arthritis, liver disease, urinary problems, obesity and diabetes. Prescription diets are often the best way to help your pet.
Our nurses and vets are happy to offer advice to owners on all aspects of pet nutrition.