Feeding our furry family members can sometimes be a complicated affair. Our furry ones, like us, can at times be difficult to feed. I look at all the foods on offer at the feed suppliers and find myself thinking: “oh yes, she will love that.” I then see another flavour, and think: “err ... Maybe she would prefer this one.” In the end I get confused (not hard these days) and end up buying a few different flavours of the same make of dry food, just to give her the option.
I opt for a dry complete food, as it is easy to feed, and the good ones, of which there are many good manufacturers, are full of all the nutritional requirements any dog could wish for.
I buy a mixture of flavours and, when I get home, I mix them all together in a feed bin, one with a sealable lid, to prevent those uninvited guests helping themselves to a few nibbles during the night.
I know that, given the choice, Secret would live on her treats – along with the occasional slice of toast pinched off the worktop while I get the butter out of the fridge – and not bother with mainstream food at all, so I do have to be vigilant and make sure she does not get fed a treat for good things she has done more than once. She has been known to ask dad for a treat after I have already given her one.
As Secret is a grazer, the dry food is the best option. She tends to graze during the day and has never eaten her food in one go. She has done this since she was a few months old and this pattern has stayed with her to this day, and she is now four-and-a-half years old.
One of the better things about her being a grazer is that she never bolts food, much reducing the risk of torsion (twisted gut/bloat) – so this habit is one that I am happy for her to carry on with.
We do have to remember: if we were faced with boiled rice and grilled chicken every day for months and months on end, we too would get a little fed up and I can see we would become a little fussy with our food. We do also have to remember that we are responsible for providing our furry ones a balanced diet, which contains all the nutritional requirements that they could need.
Right from the start, there will be three main feeding situations to cope with. Firstly, there is the puppy feeding, then the adult feeding and later we will have the elderly dog to feed. The main aim is to formulate a diet that will satisfy each need the dog has during each of the three phases of life.
Then there are the times when there will be special nutritional requirements during illnesses or surgery; even during times of unusual situations. Travel can mean we have to re-think the food we feed, as travel can upset tummies or even put our furry ones off their food, sometimes for days at a time.
Dogs, like humans, fulfil their nutritional requirements by ingesting proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals out of their daily feed. In general, dry complete foods are more balanced nutritionally than tinned foods. Having said this, we do find the specialist pet food manufacturers now produce tinned foods that are so much more superior than tinned food used to be some years ago.
Proteins are essential for growth and repair. Proteins with a high biological value are the best type and can be found in eggs, meat, milk and fish.
Carbohydrates are used by the dog for energy and under normal metabolic conditions they will maintain blood glucose levels.
Fats provide the most concentrated source of energy, at around nine calories per gram. They also carry fat soluble vitamins (D, E, A, K) and supply the essential fatty linoleic acid, which is important for healthy skin and coat.
Water, as we know, is an essential part of survival. Dogs also need to have constant free access to fresh clean water. I find it is best to have a bowl in all the rooms the dogs go into, as if a door is closed for some reason they can still access water without any problems, also making sure all the bowls are washed out every morning and filled with fresh clean water.
Vitamins and minerals are as essential to our furry ones as they are to us humans. You will find that nowadays the commercial foods do contain all the essential vitamins and minerals needed every day.
If you are in any doubt as to the type of food your furry one needs, then it is always a good idea to call into your local pet food shop or vet, and ask their advice. There are some conditions that require a special diet and some breeds need a different type of food. It is always a good idea to ask what is in the foods and if it is suitable for your type of dog. You need to tell the shop if your dog has less than normal exercise or if your dog is very active every day (hunting, swimming, etc).
Nutrition is undoubtedly a complex subject and to go into it in depth would take weeks, but I hope that I have covered some of the basic points. And I hope you can understand some of the requirements needed for our furry ones and that the saying “you only get out what you put in” is in fact very true through most things in life.
Until next month,
By Sue Ogden
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Sue Ogden is a professional dog groomer living in the Algarve. In her regular column, she provides readers with information on how best to care for their pets. Trained in the UK, she studied nursing, breeding, grooming, nutrition and kennel management. [email protected]