A good diet is key to a long and healthy life. Both nutritional content and portion control have a big impact on doggy health, and it’s much better to get this right for your dog from the beginning of their life with you.
It’s essential to make sure your dog is well nourished as this can prevent a lot of health issues, but weight is also very important. As many of us know, losing excess weight is no fun! And it’s the same for dogs. Keeping an eye on condition and making tweaks here and there by balancing food intake with exercise is a much better way to maintain ideal weight.
Getting it right from the start
When you bring a new puppy home, you should continue feeding them the food they had been eating in their old home. If this food isn’t ideal and you want to change, you can start to switch it over but make sure this transition is gradual or you’ll risk upsetting their stomachs. Change over slowly by mixing the two foods together for 5-7 days.
There are a few diet choices around for puppies including wet, moist and dry foods. It’s up to you which you choose, but don’t offer variety as they might become picky eaters, and it can cause stomach upsets. We recommend Hills Vet Essential diet range food for all life stages, and you can buy this in the practice should you want to.
Puppies grow 20 times faster than adult dogs and so require a special diet to aid their physical development. A specially formulated growth food is recommended which needs to be fed at evenly spaced intervals to avoid over stretching their small stomach:
- Up to four months old Four meals a day. We suggest timed feeds with food that’s left uneaten being taken away. If food is left down all the time, they might start eating less at one time and grazing instead. This isn’t how they’re naturally programmed to eat, and can cause digestive problems.There is a guide on the packaging for food which will suggest how much to give each day (split across their meals), but if you have any questions then please book a consult with a nurse, email us or call us and we’ll be happy to advise.
- Four to five months old Reduce the number of meals to three a day, still feeding the recommended daily amount split equally throughout the day.
- Five months onwards Two meals a day.Growth has now slowed, and they will start putting on excess weight if allowed to eat too much so make sure that you keep a careful eye on how much they should be having, and how this impacts on their condition. You can do this by looking and by stoking their backs and sides– make sure you can always feel their ribs and their spine. If you can’t, they’re becoming overweight and you should feed them less.
- One year Either two smaller meals a day, or one bigger meal.
Which food is best? Dry, moist or wet?
Dry complete foods
This is the type of food we recommend. It is 100% balanced in every biscuit, and is better for their dental health and weight control.
Complete means that these biscuits theoretically contain all the nutrients a dog needs and can be the easiest choice to ensure your dog is getting all the nutrients they need to grow and thrive, but quality varies. Cheap brands are often the nutritional equivalent of a fast food diet and aren’t going to keep your dog in the best of health.
To ensure your dog gets what they need, choose a food designed for their life stage, size and condition and buy the best quality food you can afford. You often need less good-quality food than the cheaper varieties, so buying cheap is often a false economy anyway.
The Hills food we recommend has been developed by veterinary nutritionists and offers targeted nutrition that’s led by science to meet the unique needs of every age and size pet.
We offer a great range in the practice and WVIP Club members always get 10% discount on these.
As always, if you need any further diet advice, please get in touch and book an appointment by calling 0151 428 8600
Semi-moist and tinned foods
Again there are lots of choices when it comes to tinned food, and these also vary in quality.
If you do want to include wet food or this is the food your pet arrived with you eating and you want to transition to dry, choose a specialist food that’s nutritionally complete, and the best you can afford. We aren’t trying to bankrupt you when we say this! It will end up saving you money in the long term as your pet will be much stronger and healthier for it.
We don’t advise home cooked diets, as whilst the intentions are always good, it’s really difficult to make sure they have the right nutritional content.
Puppies need the best diet possible as they grow, and even a slight imbalance can harm their development and mean they don’t put down the strongest cornerstones for their adult lives.
Raw food diet
Despite the recent popularity, we don’t recommend a raw food diet. This is for several reasons:
- The benefits have not been scientifically proven, unlike 100% balance prepared food
- Raw meat contains bacteria, pathogens and parasites that are killed during the cooking process. These introduce unnecessary risk to your pet’s health, and to people in your household
- Nutritional needs of your pet are complex, and it can be difficult to meet these when you’re feeding a raw diet without help from a pet nutritionist
- Raw meat contains bones, and if any of these are left in, they can be extremely hazardous when eaten
- They can crack teeth, get lodged anywhere along the digestive tract, tear their insides, cause pain and sometimes infection.
There are a wide variety of prepared and natural treats on the market which vary hugely in quality. Some commercial treats have lots of sugar, colourings, milk products and fat in them. Even ‘doggy chocs’ or ‘low fat yoghurt drops’ can contain sugars or lactose (milk sugar) so always check the ingredients label.
Ideally, a treat would be dog biscuits from their daily allowance of food that’s held back to be used as a treat as this avoids overfeeding and is a healthy choice. You can also treat with toys as encouragement and reward rather than food.
Good quality prepared treats have been developed with dog’s dietary needs in mind. However, all treats in addition to their diet should be given sparingly, never more than 15% of the total calorie intake.
If used regularly reduce the amount of main meal food your dog is receiving in order to avoid obesity. Some chew treats have proven ability to help prevent dental diseases, but again check the label to ensure you are getting a genuine product.
Real chocolate is poisonous to dogs and can cause liver damage and even be fatal, so never give your dog any chocolate, or leave any lying around for them to find and eat, especially at Christmas time.
Avoid giving your dog any sweet biscuits or sugary treats which are bad for its teeth as well as its waistline, and can cause sugar ‘highs’ and ‘lows’. Stick to prepared treats and desiccated liver tablets.