Dog Nutrition 101

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Just like us, dogs need a decent diet to keep them as healthy and happy as possible. The nutritional and dietary requirements of a dog vary according to their breed, size, and age. If you are about to bring a dog home for the first time, you may think that feeding it is pretty straightforward. However, there are a few guidelines that you need to follow to make sure your four-legged friend gets everything that they need. Here is some information that you may find helpful.

How much food and how often?

When it comes to a dog’s diet, portion sizes and the frequency of which they are fed is very important and can vary over time. From birth to six months old, most puppies need feeding three or four times a day. When they hit six months old, you can usually think about reducing this down to two meals a day. Smaller dogs can make the transition from a puppy diet to an adult dit reasonable early in their life, but larger breeds may need to stick to the puppy diet for just a little bit longer.

Remember though that these are only guidelines, and the best way to get to grips with the best diet for your individual dog is by talking to your vet while having a check-up and speaking with fellow breed owners about their pet food and supplies. Obviously, dogs leading a more active lifestyle will need more calories and therefore bigger meals and more regular meals than an older lap dog.

The most common issue when it comes to feeding problems is overfeeding, so when in doubt, go for smaller and less frequent meals, and increase them if necessary.

Can a dog eat a vegetarian diet?

Many dog owners follow a meat-free diet and have lots of questions about whether their beloved pooch can be healthy on a vegetarian diet. The simple answer is: yes, they can. However, it can be difficult to manage. If you do decide to put your dog on a plant-based diet, you need to do your research. Not all vegetables are safe for dogs, for starters, and they need alternative sources of protein, just like a human, to be healthy. If you are worried about the number of additives and processing that goes into many commercial dog treats, look out for some of the organic and natural treats on the market or make your own! Peanut butter cookies, for example, are a favourite for many dogs. Just check that the peanut butter that you use does not contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.

Treat them well

We mentioned treats above, and that’s because treats are a wonderful way of rewarding good behaviour in a dog. However, they should be carefully controlled, making up no more than 10% of their daily calorie intake. They are best used to reward a dog for being calm, and shouldn’t be used to calm them down if they are overexcited, as they will begin to associate treats with being overexcited, which is something you don’t want.

Be careful with table scraps

Many owners give their dogs scraps from their own plates at mealtimes. While dogs can safely eat many traditionally human foods, some can be toxic to a dog. These include:

raisins
grapes
chocolate
onions
avocado
rhubarb
spinach
mushrooms
macadamia nuts

What about raw feeding?

Raw food diets for dogs have gained in popularity over the past few years. Essentially, it is as the title says: it emphasizes uncooked meat (often muscle and organ meat), whole or crushed bones, fruits, vegetables, raw eggs, and some dairy. It has long been used to feed greyhounds and sled dogs, but now more owners choose it for their dogs. However, it can be controversial. Some vets advise against it because of the bacteria in uncooked meat, which can pose a threat for both canines and humans. If you do choose to feed your dog a raw food diet, it should be done slowly and never before a dog is twelve weeks old. If your dog shows signs that they are bloated or uncomfortable, go back to a regular diet and seek advice before continuing.

Don’t forget the water!

As with all living things, water is essential for life. Food will, of course, help with keeping your dog hydrated, but they must also have fresh, clean water available to them at all times. A dehydrated dog is a very unwell dog! In hot weather or after periods of physical activity, they will need more.

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