Canine Nutrition Many people do not put in the time or effort to research their pet’s nutritional needs while others have a strong opinion as to what is the most beneficial for their pet. This has resulted in a multitude of dog food brands or methods of feeding from typical Brand name kibble, organic kibble, to the BARF diet (what is essentially Bones and Raw Food). Offering your pet the best diet possible for his or her needs can be essential to the longevity of their lives, while feeding the inappropriate type of food can be detrimental to their overall health. Of course, to determine what is right or wrong for your pet is based solely on the individual animal in question. What is healthy for one animal may not be right for another. The age, weight, breed, activity, temperament, environment, metabolism, allergies and other health issues are all vital questions to be considered when selecting the appropriate brand or method of feeding. Growing puppies require a diet that regularly includes greater amounts of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water for proper nutrition and growth; almost double the amount of an adult dog. Young puppies should be fed an appropriate puppy life stage food at least three times a day until their food requirements, per pound of body weight, begin to level off as they mature. Feeding schedules can be reduced to twice a day when pups are four to five months old. Fresh water in a clean bowl should be available at all times. Of equal importance is the balance of these nutrients in the diet. A commercial puppy food is the most convenient method of ensuring a dog receives these nutrients in correct proportions. Canine Nutrition Water, being a very simple nutrient, but also very important accounts for between 60 to 70% of the body weight of an adult dog. It helps regulate the body temperature, facilitates the movement of food through the digestive system, transports other nutrients and oxygen through the blood system to the cells, is needed in most chemical reactions of the metabolism, to remove toxins, to provide lubrication for the joints and lung tissues and the electrical polarity in the cells without which no living being can exist. Insufficient intake of water can impair physical activity, reproduction, lactation, and growth. The loss of 15% of the body's water content can result in death. Dogs should always have free access to plenty or clean fresh water. If you restrict access to water, the only thing you are going to teach your dog is that it is not available at all times and he has to get his fill whenever it is available. This is not healthy and may lead to stomach upsets and bladder infections. The only times you should supervise water intake is after heavy exercise or when a dog is already overheated or dehydrated. If this is the case giving small amounts of water frequently until things are back to normal, is best. Proteins are chemicals made up of other chemicals known as amino acids. Dogs can make some amino acids in their bodies and must be supplied others in their food. As the “building blocks” of tissue, proteins are necessary for all aspects of growth and development. Puppies fed inadequate protein will not grow as well and are more susceptible to health problems than puppies fed nutritionally complete diets. These are particularly important for large and giant breed puppies, though it is important to remember that protein markedly above the upper limit will be converted into energy, rather than incorporated into protein tissue. This will add to the energy burden, and potentate the problems associated with excess energy consumption. Canine Nutrition Fats, most importantly, help maintain a healthy skin and coat. They provide a media for fat-soluble vitamins. The quality and quantity of fats in the diet are extremely important because they can influence appetite and food intake as it increases the palatability of their food which may result in the puppy eating excessively adding an abundance of energy that may predispose to rapid growth spurts, developmental orthopedic diseases, weight gain, and obesity. Carbohydrates provide energy and are made up of starches and fiber provided from plant sources such as grains and vegetables. Dogs are primarily carnivores and while some grains are needed, meat should rightfully be the main source of protein and energy. Dog foods made up of ingredients such as wheat, corn, or rice are not as high of quality as they could be. If you notice dry dog food containing a lot of carbohydrates, they are getting enough energy to survive. It is like a human eating fast food everyday. An excess of carbohydrates, fats, or proteins can all lead to obesity, but carbohydrates are usually the cause since they are typically the most common energy source and are easily converted to glucose. It is also noted that many dogs often have allergies to ingredients such as corn or soy and may require a diet without it. Vitamins and minerals are needed for the body’s structural building and chemical reactions. Vitamins A, D, E and K need fat in the diet to be absorbed in the body. Once ingested, vitamin A is stored within fat cells, mainly in the liver. Deficiencies lead to poor low –light vision, retarded growth, poor quality skin and hair development and reproductive failure. Females will not ovulate properly and males can become sterile if they are deficient in Vitamin A. Vitamin D plays a major role in skeletal growth, muscle control, and nerve functions. Dogs can make their own vitamin D so it is not necessary, Canine Nutrition though many provide it to boost their pets immune system however redundant it may be. Vitamin B is water-soluble and are readily absorbed by the body. Vitamin E is found in plain oils and wheat germ and highly concentrated in meats such as liver and fat. Vitamin E functions in the role in the formations of cell membranes, cell respiration, and in the metabolism of fats. It is an antioxidant and protects various hormones from oxidation. Deficiencies are well documented and can result in damage and death in skeletal muscle, heart, testes, liver and nerves. It is essential in keeping the cells of these organs alive and functioning. Vitamin K is essential for normal blood functions. Without Vitamin K, blood cannot clot. It is important to not add supplements to a balanced diet as excess vitamins can rise to a level of toxicity, calcium can predispose to significant skeletal abnormalities, such as Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy, Osteochondrosis and Hip Dysplasia. Keep in mind, also, that adding vitamins, particularly vitamin D, will also increase absorption of dietary calcium to excessive levels . Pregnant females nutrient and caloric requirements will increase during the last two to three weeks which can be met by gradually increasing the female’s food intake. No additional calories or nutrients are necessary until the second half of pregnancy, excess food intake will add unnecessary fat which will make delivery more difficult and increase the possibility of complications. Do not add calcium to the diet, excessive calcium has been linked to difficult deliveries, soft tissue calcium deposits in the puppies and certain joint abnormalities in the pups. For this reason, do not supplement your pregnant dog with calcium unless specifically instructed by your veterinarian. The demand for milk by Canine Nutrition nursing puppies will continue to increase for about 20 to 30 days (or up to 4 weeks). Consequently, the female's food and water requirements increase during this time. At peak lactation, the female's food intake may be two to four times above her usual or maintenance food intake. In order to maintain good body condition and to provide ample amounts of milk for the puppies, nursing females should be offered all the food they want. After weaning, the amount of food should be reduced based on the condition of the dog. If for any reason a pet’s diet is to change it is important to avoid digestion upsets to gradually mix the current pet food with the new pet food over a period of seven to ten days. It is recommended that you switch your dog’s diet to an adult food formula when close to his adult height; this is usually around two years of age. Smaller dogs achieve this sooner, around one year of age. While some dogs may require special diets due to medical issues, the average small or medium breed dog should eat food containing: High-quality, animal-based protein for muscle maintenance, fiber for a healthy digestive tract, essential vitamins and minerals for the immune system, vitamin-rich fish oils for a healthy coat and skin and for overall health and finally healthy grains for energy. Large breed dogs grow much more rapidly than other breeds. Genetics, environment, and nutrition play key roles. They need a diet that will support growth without allowing them to grow too quickly. They are the most susceptible to skeletal disease, so they may need food containing glucosamine and less fat than a medium breed dog to help maintain joint health. Excessive caloric intake will lead to weight gain putting extra stress on their undeveloped bones and joints. Canine Nutrition Because small dogs have a higher life expectancy than large breed dogs this puts them at a higher risk of developing health problems over the years especially dental-diseases and obesity. Special formulated kibble will help reduce tartar build up. It is a common misconception that a smaller dog must eat less but because they are so energetic and metabolize their food at a much quicker rate they often need to eat double the amount of calories per pound. It is fair to say they can not digest a whole lot at one time so it is important to feed them many small meals a day. Working dogs may be classified as hunting dogs, search and rescue dogs, assistance dogs, police K9’s, livestock guardians, or be involved in sports such as Schutzhund, French Ring, Sledding, Racing and many others. Working dogs expend a lot of energy and require more protein and fat for retaining stamina during the work day. Carbohydrates and fibers tend to take a lot of time to digest in the dogs’ relatively short digestive tract, while animal proteins are quickly digested. Digestion takes up much of the energy and the less time spent digesting the more of that energy can be spent elsewhere, meaning each task they are given to perform. The main components of a raw diet for performance dogs are raw meaty bones, muscle meat, and organ meat. Additional protein sources come from eggs, cottage cheese, and whole milk yogurt. Carbohydrates are either omitted or given in the form of vegetables. Any vegetables that are offered should be broken down enough that the dog may digest and absorb the nutrients. Dogs are capable of digesting raw foods without getting ill because their digestive tracts are so much shorter than humans but when switching to raw it is important to remember it is easier to switch immediately than to mix as you would when Canine Nutrition switching to a different brand of kibble. This is because dry kibble digests slower than raw meat. If mixed, raw may get stuck with the kibble and allow the bacteria to colonize and increasing the possibility of the body absorbing bacteria like salmonella. It is imperative that if one is to feed the raw diet that they have a full understanding of dogs’ nutritional needs and that they make sure their pet is getting all the nutrients necessary for a complete diet. As your pet reaches their golden years their dietary needs will change. The metabolism will slow down significantly. Obesity may become a problem and because they are less active, weight loss can be difficult. They are more prone to dental disease; in addition, they might start to develop conditions associated with old age such as arthritis, kidney failure or heart disease. For all of these reasons, special care must be given to their diet. Special formulated senior-diets are available. Because of slowed metabolism and activity they are typically lower in calories and fat and higher in fiber to support gastrointestinal health. It is actually very important that healthy older dogs have a moderately protein rich diet opposed to one made up of carbohydrates as they do not have much nutritional need from carbohydrates. It is far better to feed protein, which dogs efficiently convert into energy as well as muscle, than to feed carbohydrates, which are more likely to be converted to fat. There remains no evidence that protein at any level consistent with complete and balanced nutrition has adverse effects on the kidneys of normal, healthy dogs. However, if a veterinarian has confirmed renal failure in your pet dietary management may only lesson the working load of the kidneys, not cure it. Because many older dogs are probable candidates for weight gain and even obesity, Canine Nutrition feeding a commercial weight reduction diet may be beneficial rather than to just reduce the amount of food your pet intakes. Finally, by reducing the amount of the food currently being fed, you are also decreasing the level of protein, vitamins, minerals, etc., not just the fat. These reductions could be eliminated by using supplements, but it is much more difficult to achieve the right balance. Supplements of chondroitin and glucosamine are helpful in alleviating symptoms of arthritis. It may also be conducive to add an antioxidant supplement which can be provided by some vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C, E and A Dry dog food is the cheapest, best balanced, and easiest to store type of ready-made food you can buy. The scraping and chewing action reduce the build up of tartar and plaque. Another option of feeding is wet or semi-moist food. The benefits of wet food are that it is easily eaten and easy on the stomach for dogs with digestion problems as well as highly palatable for picky eaters. The main problem associated with a strictly wet food diet is the likelihood that food will get caught in their teeth, begin to decay and cause a build up of plaque and cause gum disease. Meaning dental care will become a high priority; especially in smaller breeds. Semi-moist foods include fake beef cubes, fake burgers and ect. They are usually loaded with sugars and chemical additives to preserve their moist content without going bad. Being the least nutritional option of feeding and having a shorter shelf-life it is more prone to bacterial growth in the preserved moisture. Offering table scraps should be avoided as it may encourage begging and create a Canine Nutrition finicky eater. Dogs fed large amounts of table scraps tend to be overweight. There are many foods that should be avoided because of their toxicity to the dog: Onions and garlic contain sulfoxides and disulfides, which can damage red blood cells and cause anemia, chocolate, coffee, tea and other caffeine which can be toxic and affect the heart and nervous systems, grapes and raisins have an unknown toxin to cause damage to the kidneys, avocados and fat trimmings which can cause pancreatitis, are just a few. Appropriate treats such as biscuits, bones and rawhide are a better alternative way to reward or give them something special. Cooked bones are absolutely off limits as they can splinter and harm the digestive tract. Raw bones are less likely to splinter. Though it is important to supervise them so that they do not break off and swallow pieces that they could choke on. Remove any broken parts or if the bone becomes too hard take it away as hard chewers may break their teeth while gnawing. Pet food labels are often times difficult to understand and decipher the meaning behind them. Here are a few of the statements that are used on dog food labels that can be misleading: With Chicken Flavor - Flavor is detectable but doesn't have to have any actual Chicken meant present in the product With Salmon - The product contains at least 3% salmon. So if you buy a product that says "now with real beef" it may only have 3% real beef in it! Beef Dinner - The product must contain at least 25% Beef. Liver For Dogs - At least 95% of the product must be liver or 70% including water Canine Nutrition Many pet foods are labeled as "premium," and some now are "super premium" and even "ultra premium." Other products are touted as "gourmet" items. Products labeled as premium or gourmet are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products. The term "natural" is often used on pet food labels, although that term does not have an official definition.. For the most part, "natural" can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product. "Natural" is not the same as "organic." The latter term refers to the conditions under which the plants were grown or animals were raised. There are no official rules governing the labeling of organic foods (for humans or pets) at this time, but the United States Department of Agriculture is developing regulations dictating what types of pesticides, fertilizers and other substances can be used in organic farming. All ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight. The weights of ingredients are determined as they are added in the formulation, including their inherent water content. Ingredients must be listed by their "common or usual" name. Most ingredients on pet food labels have a corresponding definition in the AAFCO Official Publication. At minimum, a pet food label must state guarantees for the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. The "crude" term refers to the specific method of testing the product, not to the quality of the nutrient itself. As you can see there are multiple options pertaining to feeding a dog and many contributing factors that make a difference as to what is the best and most nutritional diet Canine Nutrition for each dogs individual needs. It is important to consult a veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns before altering your pet’s diet.