The nutrition of a dog starts with the nutritional status of his dam, with particular emphasis on her mineral status. It has truly been stated that half the breeding is in the feeding. So what do we do to ensure that the nutrition is right.
Dogs need nutrition to grow, to play, to work, to digest their food, to keep warm, to repair damage to their bodies, to resist and to fight infections. It is important to provide them with the right foods to carry out these important functions.
It is not enough to buy a packet of food that says it is scientifically balanced. It must be as it has not exploded or leaked out of the bottom of the bag upon disintegration.
Dogs need food for energy, growth and banding all else together maintenance.
ENERGY FOOD is based on quickly burnt up carbohydrates, including sugars, and fats including oils. Dogs that work hard need a lot of fat in their diets as these keep up their energy requirements better than do carbohydrates. Heavily worked dogs can tolerate up to 30% fat in their diets. But the average dog which has an exercise regime of two to five kilometres daily only needs 5 – 10% fat in his diet. If he is plump even less. What readily available substances provide these requirements? Carbohydrates are provided with a small amount of protein for easier digestion, by the common cereals: wheat, oats, barley, maize (corn), rye and rice. Raw cereals are not readily digested by the dog so that cereals need some preparation before feeding. The raw cereal may be boiled until it is soft, or it may be used after preparation for human use, such as breakfast flakes. Rolled oats can used after soaking in hot water for about 12 hours without further preparation. These cereals are the basis of most proprietary dry dog foods.
The cereal grain will keep well if kept dry without deterioration without the use of antioxidants or preservatives. Once the grain is crushed or ground, and exposed to air there will be deterioration of the natural germ oils they contain and a diminution of the available Vitamin E. Cooked cereals deteriorate very rapidly and must be used within a limited period of about 24 hours. Prepared cereals for human use do not often contain preservatives or antioxidants other than vitamin C. Prepared dog foods that have a proportion of fat in them need to contain preservatives.
Preservatives while keeping the food in a pleasant state for longer than nature intended may have undesirable effects on the dog. It has been demonstrated in this country that sulphur dioxide in the food will not only prevent the uptake of any of the B group of vitamins in the food, but will also prevent the uptake of any supplement given of the B vitamin group. Some other preservatives have been shown to have undesirable effects too.
Fats and oils are of great variety. At Least 1% of the diet needs to be linoleic acid. This is found is high concentration in vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil and olive oil. The rest of the fats in the diet may be of animal origin. Dogs are not so subject to problems of cholesterol intake through their diet. You are often able to get fat very cheaply from your butcher, but it can also be given from the fat drippings from household cooking, chop tails, etc.
Fats and oils deteriorate very quickly when exposed to air and become rancid. This condition not only makes them unpalatable, but prevents the uptake of the fat soluble vitamins even if they are present. Fats and oils should be fed fresh and not kept too long. Oils should be used well inside their printed use by date. Never feed you dog any out of date fats or oils.
BODY BUILDING GROWTH foods are mainly protein in origin. These help to repair damaged body parts as well as maintain the muscular status of the dog. The foods that contain these proteins are basically meat products and milk and cheese. Vegetable proteins are not suitable for dogs as a regular diet but may be included with meat, chicken and even fish products. Neither chicken nor fish bones should be included. All offal meats, that is any meat product other than muscle meat, should be cooked. This is to ensure that your dog does not become the intermediate host of the dread hydatid worm that can cause fatal disease in the human being. All muscle meats can be fed raw. They can be horse, beef, mutton, goat or even kangaroo in origin. If goat or kangaroo ensure that there is a good supplement of fat.
Prepared dog foods contain many inferior meat cuts This is no way reduces their nutritional value) as well as much offal which increases the palatability of the food. Canned foods are usually less good than fresh meat, and they contain, even if in miniscule amounts, heavy metals from the canning process and cans, that may accumulate in the dog. Dried dog food contains dehydrated meats and bloodmeal. These are very palatable to the dog. The problem with them is that when they are dehydrated they concentrate all sorts of heavy metals that in the fresh product would cause no problem. They may cause problems such as itchy skin or even eczema, mild kidney problems and even subclinical heart problems. Often the lack of health may not noticed until the dog is placed on a different diet when it may be noticed that the dog itches less, his eczema clears up, his urine becomes less strong and he pants less and he no longer drools from the mouth.
SKELETON BUILDING Without a strong skeleton none of the foregoing would be possible. The skeleton is made up largely of calcium. Calcium is one of the main things lacking in all the foods we feed our dogs. To exacerbate the problem we feed food rich in phosphorus increasing the need for even more calcium. The uptake of calcium is dependent upon the presence of phosphorus, iodine, magnesium and other minerals, as well as the presence of Vitamins A and D. Calcium is obtained in nature through the ingestion of the stomach and intestinal contents of pasture eating species as well as eating the bones of these animals. This is naturally avoided in domestication, and so must be provided by other means.
Chalk, which is calcium carbonate, is well tolerated and more than 20% is readily absorbed provided the other before mentioned substances are also present. The finer the chalk powder the better it is absorbed, so make sure that the product you obtain is very fine and completely free from grittiness. This form of calcium will balance the dog’s diet out with its excess of phosphorus. But the growing animal needs more in a balanced ratio to direct specifically to bone growth. This is best provided as Dicalcium Phosphate which is well absorbed by dogs. Again the finer the better it is utilised by the dog. Other forms of calcium such as calcium lactate or calcium gluconate are not so well utilised as the two forms just mentioned. Calcium proteinate is offered as a proprietary line is a chelate. It may be well utilised, but it may also be over utilised leading to problems all dog owners could do without.
Dog owners should be aware that while puppies are growing rapidly their blood levels of calcium may be fairly low. This is normal. If it needs to be treated the ideal choice is an injection of calcium borogluconate. This is only to be recommended when the puppy is in tetanic spasms. Blood levels of calcium should never be raised by the use of vitamin D which will strip the calcium from the bones and may even lay excess calcium in the soft tissues.
Magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc and other minor minerals may be provided in a seaweed supplement. These usually contain some iodine too, but some more is to recommended in cases where the watersupply has chlorine and fluorine added to it. The simplest way is to put drop of ordinary tincture of iodine 2.5% on the food once a week. Do not use it more frequently as too much is as bad as not enough. Yes I know it is crude, but it does work and it is simple.
VITAMINS are needed to permit nearly all body functions, growth and digestion and absorption of the nutrients to occur. There are the fat soluble vitamins, which include A, D, E, and K. The calcium phosphorus uptake cannot occur without A and D. This may lead to problems with the skeleton from minor joint dysplasias through to completely deformed long bones in the legs and the ribs. A and D are most easily provided through cod liver oil. As was specified under the fats and oils, this must be fresh and have the bottle stamped with a use by date. It should be BP, BPV or USP standard. It should not have much smell. The oil should be thin, clear and free flowing. The use of old smelly oils may do much harm apart from doing no good.
Vitamin E is necessary to maintain the muscles in good condition, including and very importantly the heart muscle. The use of fresh cereals, freshly prepared normally provides an adequate supply of this vitamin.
Vitamin K is necessary for many body functions its absence will interfere with the clotting time of blood, so that even minor knocks will haemorrhage extensively. This may even be fatal. In the healthy adult dog vitamin K is probably manufactured by intestinal bacteria, but in the growing puppy it is necessary for the dog have an outside source of this vitamin. Milk and a salad oil will provide the puppy with this.
The water soluble vitamins include the very large B group and vitamin C. Sources of the B group are cereals, offal meats and to a lesser extent muscle meats. Only whole grain cereals contain the vitamins, polished grains, pearled grains and flours are deficient in the vitamins. Yeast is a very good supplementary source and it is much enjoyed by dogs. It should be fed to growing puppies and to any dog that is under stress. Be aware also that the whole of the B group vitamins are destroyed by some antioxidants such as sulphur dioxide and possibly by some preservatives too.
Vitamin C is manufactured in the intestine by the dog provided his diet includes the building block, glucose. Many dog diets are deficient in sugars and digestible carbohydrates, so that vitamin C may need to be added as a supplement. Growing puppies usually cannot manufacture sufficient vitamin C to satisfy their requirements. The first sign of vitamin C deficiency in young dogs and puppies is reddened gums, if the deficiency is not noticed at this stage, the leg joints start to swell markedly in spite of adequate provision of calcium, phosphorus and the vitamins A and D. Vitamin C may be supplemented as Calcium Ascorbate powder or tablets until the dog has fulfilled its basic growth period around one year of age.
WATER Perhaps we should have started with this as it is absolutely essential to life. Cereals and dry dog food should all be well soaked with water before feeding. Meat and canned food contain enough of their own water. Failure to soak or cook cereals, or to soak dry dog food, may lead to a distended stomach in the dog which is nearly always a forerunner to bloat. This latter condition may be fatal. Any overdistension of the stomach may also lead to torsion of the stomach which also may lead to fatal consequences. IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO HAVE DRINKING WATER AVAILABLE, THE ACTUAL FOOD NEEDS TO BE SOAKED.
Water for drinking should also be available at all times, or at least four hourly for the dog who cannot resist the temptation to turn over the drinking bowl or bucket, however ingenious devices have been implemented to thwart it.
Basically it is not difficult to provide your dog with a fresh diet of meat and cereal with a few basic supplements. Optional additions are fruits and vegetables, but do remember your dog is basically a carnivore with a shorter intestine and therefore less time or ability to utilize such nutrition as the human being.
While this provides an adequate diet for the adult dog, the pregnant or lactating bitch and the growing puppies do need a little more particularly in relation to protein, fats, readily digestible carbohydrates, as well as extra vitamins and minerals. They also require large bones to chew on to cut their teeth. Older dogs also need a bone at regular intervals to help develop their jaw muscles and to mechanically clean their teeth. Gnawing at bones will also stop them from chewing up your favourite slippers or gnawing bits off your best furniture.
If you have been using carbamates or organophosphates for flea control (and who has not) you will need to be very careful with lactating bitches. These substances are stored in the body fat, but are released and excreted in the milk. This may cause serious problems in the puppies, symptoms of vitamin A deficiency to complete malnutrition occurring and ultimately death of the puppy/ies. Other problems that may occur during lactation are the release of heavy metals from the bones that may cause various forms of heavy metal poisoning in the bitch from fits to kidney failure. Heavy metals released in the blood stream during pregnancy may lead to deformity in the resultant pups.
Nutrition is truly important from the day of conception to the ultimate day of death. Small mistakes may have no visible effects, but constantly repeated they will leave their mark in some way. Larger mistakes may take their toll through the maternal side for generations to come. Yes, believe it, 50% of the breeding is in the feeding = .
this article is a winner of the Light Span Academic Award of Excellence