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Commonly Asked Questions About Dog Nutrition Disclaimer

What does my dog need to have a nutritionally balanced diet?   Top
Dogs need a complete and balanced diet that has the right amounts of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in the correct proportions for their healthy growth and development. These nutrients need to be provided in a palatable, concentrated and highly digestible form so your dog can consume and absorb enough to meet its requirements. The diet must also be free of harmful bacteria, toxins and parasites. Don’t forget that water is one of the most vital nutrients and should be available at all times.

How much should I feed my dog?   Top
Animals will usually eat enough to satisfy their energy needs. Use the recommendations on the product label as guidelines to ensure you are not under or over-feeding your dog, and give as one or two meals a day for the average adult dog. Puppies less than 3 months old require three or four daily feedings and senior dogs need their daily requirements divided into several smaller meals. Pregnant and lactating dogs may require multiple feedings throughout the day.

Some dogs are prone to obesity and you may need to reduce their intake or change the type of food you are using to a light formula. Special weight reduction diets are available from your vet. A good test is to feel your dog’s ribs – a healthy dog should have a small amount of fat and muscle covering the ribs regardless of breed. Don’t forget your dog needs plenty of exercise and fresh water, too.

How do I choose the right food for my dog? What is meant by life stages?   Top
Life stages are simply the different developmental stages of your dog’s life. For each stage they have different nutritional requirements. Growth diets for puppies contain higher levels of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals to support their rapid growth needs. They are also suitable for lactating dogs. Adult or maintenance diets are formulated to maintain the weight of an average adult dog and are suitable for pregnant dogs until they start nursing their puppies. For less active or overweight adult dogs there are light formulas and obese dogs may need specifically designed weight reduction diets available from your vet. Senior foods for the older dog contain less fat and fewer calories for their slower metabolism but have extra vitamins and minerals to maintain their health.

Should I feed my dog bones?   Top
The addition of a raw meaty bone to your dog’s diet is not a nutritional requirement if a complete and balanced diet is fed but can help maintain healthy teeth, provide chewing exercise and entertainment for your dog. Raw chicken wings and necks are good for cats and small dogs, but are not large enough to clean the teeth of bigger breeds. Sheep femurs are currently being advised by some specialist veterinary dentists, although brisket and other softer bones are also used. Your dog needs to chew on bones at least twice weekly for dental health, and daily is even better. Avoid sharp bones that can damage or puncture the intestines, and cooked bones that can also splinter causing punctures, damage the teeth and cause constipation. Alternatively, specially designed dental chews are available to help keep teeth clean and avoid these problems.

Can I feed my dog treats?   Top
Avoid feeding your pet table scraps, as they may be high in fat, upsetting the nutritional balance of the diet, and cause weight gain or even pancreatitis. Feeding table scraps also encourages begging and your dog may become fussy, refusing his normal diet. Chocolate should never be given to your dog, as it is toxic to them. Treats or rewards, however, are an important part of the special relationship between you and your dog and are a useful training tool. The main thing is to keep treats to a limit to be most effective, no more than 10% of the dog’s diet. Your company is an even better treat for your dog! Some specially designed dental chews are also good for maintaining healthy teeth and keep your dog occupied, preventing chewing, boredom and destructive behaviour.

What are Premium pet foods and why are they better?   Top
When it comes to commercial foods, you get what you pay for. Premium pet foods made by reputable companies are of high quality and have a fixed ingredient profile or recipe. This means that the ingredients and their proportions are exactly the same in each batch, regardless of cost. They are made according to higher manufacturing standards. Cheaper brands often have an open recipe, utilising the least expensive ingredients available at the time. The result is an inconsistent and poorer quality product that can be detrimental to your dog’s health - poor skin and coat condition, less energy or even diarrhoea.

The higher quality proteins and fats used in premium foods make them highly palatable and digestible. They may appear more expensive than supermarket brands but they are significantly higher in nutritional density, meaning that you feed much smaller amounts and the bag lasts longer. Your dog also leaves less mess!

Is it better to feed my dog dry or tinned food?   Top
As long as the diet is nutritionally balanced and complete it doesn’t matter which type of food you feed your dog. You can feed a mixture of dry and canned food if your dog prefers. Dry food is generally more convenient and economical than canned food. Dry biscuits also help to keep teeth clean. Always have a supply of fresh, clean water available. If your dog only eats canned food then you will need to provide special dental chews to help maintain healthy teeth.

Why does my dog eat grass?   Top
Some dogs will eat a small amount of grass, which is quite harmless unless the grass is treated with toxic chemicals. Small amounts of grass that are regurgitated quite quickly and covered in froth can be an indication of excessive digestive juices, for example if your dog has an empty stomach. It is also a natural instinct to eat grass - dog’s ancestors would routinely eat vegetable matter when they consume the entire carcass of their prey, including the stomach contents. If your dog is eating large amounts of grass accompanied by prolonged or persistent vomiting then you should consult your vet.

Can I give my dog milk?   Top
Milk is not an essential part of your puppy’s diet once it is weaned from its mother. Dog’s milk has a very different nutrient profile from that of cows or goats milk. Lactose in cow’s milk can cause digestive upsets so it is best to dilute with water if offering for the first time.

Are there things I shouldn't feed my dog?   Top
Yes. Never feed chocolate to your pet - chocolate contains a substance which is toxic to your dog (and cat as well). Onions are also dangerous to your pet’s health and in large amounts can cause anaemia by destroying the red blood cells. Macadamia nuts are another dangerous foodstuff for dogs.

Home-cooked and raw meat diets are alternatives to a commercially prepared diet. If you are interested in feeding these types of diets it is best to talk to your vet first to ensure it is balanced for your dog's nutritional requirements. All-meat diets can be dangerous, especially for growing animals, as meat alone is deficient in vitamins and has an imbalance of calcium and phosphorous, which can lead to severe bone growth problems. Calcium supllemtation at the correct levels is required. Only feed human-grade meat as some 'pet mince' products available contain sulphite preservatives which can cause a potentially fatal thiamine deficiency in animals fed treated met regularly.

Never feed any cooked bones as they can splinter and cause gut perforation, as well as blockages in the intestine. Stick to raw, soft bones as hard bones like the long marrow bones can cause tooth fractures, particularly when sawn lengthwise. Safer choices include lamb necks, flaps, cutlets and shanks, osso bucco, and beef spare ribs.

Petalia Resident Vet: Dr Julia Adams BVSc

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