Feeding Your Dog
The nutritional requirements of adult dogs are generally the same as those of puppies. But because they are no longer growing, they need less protein and fewer calories. There are exceptions to this. A pregnant or nursing mother will benefit from a higher protein and calorie diet. An active working dog needs more calories.
As for puppies, a great variety of commercial brands of food are sold for the adult dog. Wet foods come in cans and contain processed meats. Some need mixing with biscuit to provide carbohydrates and bulk; others have the cereal component already added, so be clear which type you are buying. Complete dried formulated foods contain only about 9 percent water and are designed to be given on their own or moistened with water or gravy. In the complete semi-moist foods, the water content is higher than in the dried foods.
Some of the prepared foods available for your dog:
- Complete dried food
- Complete semi-moist food
- Complete canned food: cereal component (pasta) and carrot already added.
- Canned meat meal: carbohydrates to be added by owner.
- A variety of biscuits to be mixed with meat or fed as treats.
Which kind you choose will depend on a number of factors: cost (the dried foods are cheapest), convenience (ease of packaging, bulk, and weight), and the dog's own preference. Water should always be available to your dog, but if you choose a dried food, make sure its water bowl is full at mealtimes. To feed your dog on home-cooked food involves a great deal of work and is often not as beneficial as a good-quality commercial food. If you do, it's best to obtain advice from your veterinarian to make sure your dog is getting its full balance of nutrients.
Feeding the Right Amount
Since fewer dogs today lead working lives and have less opportunity for exercise, it is not surprising that the most common nutritional disorder in dogs is obesity. Have your dog weighed regularly and adjust the amount of food you give it to make sure it is neither too fat nor too thin. Use your own eye and judgment—a healthy dog does not carry unnecessary weight on its body, nor does it tire easily or get out of breath—but ask your vet's advice if you are uncertain what your dog's correct adult weight should be.
Use the manufacturer's label instructions, but remember that breed, temperament, and lifestyle are all important in assessing how much to feed your dog. Lazy types tend to need fewer calories than nervous or excitable ones, and put on weight more easily. A Labrador, for example, will burn up fewer calories than an Irish Setter of the same size. As a rule, neutered dogs need to eat less. It is harder to get your dog to lose weight by dieting than it is to prevent it from becoming overweight.
I feed my 7-year-old terrier-type dog, Flint, dried food twice a day. He rarely cleans his bowl in one sitting, but comes back several times during the day to finish it. Does this matter? He is otherwise fit and healthy.
Like humans, dogs have individual eating habits. Some are greedy, others less so. As long as Flint is eating the right amount of a balanced food for his size and age, and is not putting on or losing weight, you have no reason for concern, but ask your veterinarian to check Flint over to make sure there is no health problem.