Nutrition & Feeding

Nutrition and Feeding

A good diet will keep your dog looking and feeling his best. It provides your dog with the right amounts of essential nutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Your dog must have all these in correct proportions to stay healthy. Dog food companies make a variety of foods for all life stages, from puppyhood to senior citizenship.

With so many dog foods on the market, it's tough to know what's right for your dog. You can ask a breeder or veterinarian for advice, but it's up to you to see how the food affects your dog. If your dog's energy level is right for his breed and age, if his skin and coat are healthy, if his stools are firm and brown, and if he seems to be in overall good health, then the food is doing its job.

Many owners prefer to feed kibble (dry), rather than soft dog food for several reasons. Crunching the hard kibbles keeps your dog's teeth clean and exercises his jaw muscles. It also keeps the dog's stools compact and firm, resulting in easier cleanup. If your dog prefers soft food, you can mix some in with the kibble (try three-quarters dry with one-quarter canned). Semi-moist foods, while convenient, don't offer the nutritional benefits of premium kibble or canned foods.

Puppies need more calories and essential nutrients than do adult dogs. Choose a food specially formulated for puppies. Puppies under six months should get three or four meals a day. They are growing rapidly, but their stomachs have limited capacity. After six months they can handle two to three meals a day.

Adult dogs should be fed according to their size and energy needs. Most adults should get two meals a day.

All dogs need separate food and water dishes. The bowls should be cleaned daily, and cool, fresh water should be available at all times.

Dogs can be great beggars, but don't let yours charm you into the habit of sharing your food. Dogs' nutritional needs are different from humans', and you're doing your dog a disservice by giving him a diet meant for you. There are plenty of nutritious dog treats on the market, which you can feed as a part of a dog's overall food intake. Dogs also love vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, peas, and beans, and fruits such as bananas, apples, and melon. These make great low-calorie treats.

What Not To Feed

Never give your dog chocolate. It contains theobromine, a chemical that is toxic to dogs. Also, don't feed your dogs bones that can splinter or that have sharp edges. Large, hard bones such as knuckle and marrow bones are fine, but parboil them to destroy harmful parasites, and take them away from your dog if he starts to actually eat the bone rather than just chew on it.