The most frequently questions pet owners ask their veterinarian is “What should I feed my dog? How much should I feed my dog? When to feed my dog? Does the food I’m providing meet my dog’s nutritional needs?” To give the answer of these common questions understanding of nutrition and feeding of dogs is very important. Adequate nutrition may be the most important factor influencing the ability of dogs to their genetic potential for growth, reproduction, longevity, response to stimuli and integration to the modern society.
As a species, the dog is a member of the scientific order Carnivora but as a result of domestication dogs have adapted over millennia to consume diets provided by their human companions i.e. both their tooth structure and intestinal tract have become adapted to or a combination of meat and plants (omnivores) diet this means that under normal circumstances, dogs can meet their nutritional needs by eating a combination of plant and animal foods. Generally, in feeding of dogs the source of the nutrients is not that much important than the quality and digestibility of the nutrients. It has been observed that dogs can thrive if they are fed a properly balanced vegetarian diet then an all-meat diet-based diet. So, it is very important to provide a balanced diet to the dog for their optimum growth and general well-being.
Feeding objectives of dogs
The feeding objectives of dogs greatly vary from that of farm animals. Farm animals have well-defined and measurable nutritional objectives such as weight gain, carcass quality, and milk or egg production at the lowest possible cost; while there are few such measurable objectives in the feeding of dogs. There are nevertheless, other objectives that can be applied to the feeding of dogs but some of them are mentioned below
- To support normal growth
- To fulfill genetic potential in conformation
- To sustain physical and mental health and activity
- To provide optimum reproductive performance
- To achieve healthy old age
- To give enjoyment
- To perform vital tasks in the army and paramilitary operations
Nutrients required by dogs
Dogs basically need more than 36 nutrients which are mainly classified into water, carbohydrates, protein, fat, minerals and vitamins. Carbohydrates, fat and sometimes protein is utilized as a source of energy, Dogs need a certain amount of energy to sustain the normal activities of their daily lives. Growth, pregnancy, lactation, and exercise all increase these normal energy requirements.
Dogs cannot survive without protein in their diets. Dietary protein contains 10 specific amino acids that dogs cannot make on their own. Known as essential amino acids, they provide the building blocks for many important biologically active compounds and proteins. In addition, they donate the carbon chains needed to make glucose for energy. High-quality proteins have a good balance of all of the essential amino acids. Studies show that dogs can tell when their food lacks a single amino acid and will avoid such a meal. Dogs are known to selectively choose foods that are high in protein. Whether this is simply a matter of taste or a complex response to their biological needs for all 10 essential amino acids is not known. However, dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet as long as it contains sufficient protein and is supplemented with vitamin D.
Dietary fats, mainly derived from animal fats and the seed oils of various plants, provide the most concentrated source of energy in the diet. They supply essential fatty acids that cannot be synthesized in the body and serve as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins. Fatty acids play a role in cell structure and function. Food fats tend to enhance the taste and texture of the dog’s food as well. Essential fatty acids are necessary to keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy. Puppies fed ultra low-fat diets develop dry, coarse hair and skin lesions that become increasingly vulnerable to infections. Deficiencies in the so-called “omega-3” family of essential fatty acids may be associated with vision problems and impaired learning ability. Another family of essential fatty acids called “omega-6” has been shown to have important physiologic effects on the body.
Twelve minerals in the table are known to be essential nutrients for dogs. Calcium and phosphorus are crucial to strong bones and teeth. Dogs need magnesium, potassium, and sodium for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and cell signaling. Many minerals that are present only in minute amounts in the body, including selenium, copper, and molybdenum, act as helpers in a wide variety of enzymatic reactions. Dogs can get too much or too little of a specific mineral in their diets. A deficiency of dietary calcium, for instance, causes a condition known as secondary hyperparathyroidism. Recognized clinically for many years in dogs fed meals consisting mainly of meat, this disease results in major bone loss, skeletal abnormalities, and pathological fractures. An excess of calcium, on the other hand, may also cause skeletal abnormalities, especially in growing large-breed puppies.
Vitamins are organic compounds that take part in a wide range of metabolic activities. Dogs require vitamins in their food, albeit at low concentrations. First noticed in dogs some 75 years ago, vitamin deficiencies can cause a variety of health problems. Clinical signs of vitamin A deficiency, one of the first deficiencies studied in dogs, include motor and vision impairment, skin lesions, respiratory ailments, and increased susceptibility to infections. Dogs fed diets lacking vitamin E show signs of skeletal muscle breakdown, reproductive failure, and retinal degeneration. Thiamine deficiency can lead to brain lesions and other neurological abnormalities if the deprivation is sudden and to heart damage and death if it is chronic. Some vitamins, such as vitamin D, are not only essential in small doses, but also toxic in excess amounts.
Feeding standard for dogs
The National Research Council (NRC, 2006), Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO, 2014), European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF, 2011), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR, 2013) and the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition (WCPN) have contributed greatly to the present-day knowledge in the nutrient requirement of pets.
Foodstuffs commonly used for feeding Dogs
|Foods of animal origin||Foods of plant origin||Food supplements|
|Meat and meat by-products||Cereals||Common salt|
|Milk, milk products and by-products||Cereal by- products||Minerals|
|Fish, marine by- products and fish meal||Pulses and by-products||Vitamins|
|Poultry and poultry products||Fruits and vegetables||Probiotics|
|Edible fatty tissues and fats||Prebiotics|
Nutrient requirements of dogs as per (AAFCO, 2014)*
|Nutrients||Unit DM Basic||Growth and reproduction (Minimum)||Adult maintenance (Minimum)|
*Presumes a caloric density of 4000 kcal ME/kg DM
Feeding of new born puppies
Under normal conditions, newborn puppies are nursed by their mother through natural teat feeding and learn to eat mother’s food after opening eyes at about 7-10 days of age. In healthy puppies, the dam milk (900-1700 g in German Shepherds and to 100-180 gm in Dachshund) support normal growth until the young are 3 to 4 weeks old. The GIT of newborn puppies are uniquely suited to digest and absorb the milk produced by the mother. The ingestion of milk is a potent stimulator for enteric growth and development of the intestinal mucosa cells. During this time puppies double their birth weight and become increasingly more active. The lactation period may last for more than 8 weeks but most of the dog breeders practice weaning at about 4, 6, or 8 weeks of age.
Feeding of weaned puppies
Weaned puppies are gradually shifted to artificial feeding of milk-based semi-solid or liquid diet or shifted to commercially available food for puppies. Some of the milk-based diets are listed below
|Ingredients (g) (DM 30%)||Diet 1||Diet 2||Diet 3|
|Dried milk powder||200||—||—|
|Rice gruel\flour gruel||200||50||50|
This is to be fed @ 15% of body weight at different intervals during the day (3 times a day)
Commercially available dry puppy dog food as per the specification of AAFCO, 2014 NRC, 2006 or any other feeding standard specified can be offered to weaned puppies which is formulated utilizing the different ingredients listed above for the feeding of dogs upto the active growing stage then they are shifted to adult diet.
Daily feeding guide for puppies fed dry dog food
|Categories||2months||3 months||4 months||5 months||6 months|
|Small breed Pug, Pomerian, Dachshund||60-90 gm||115-160 gm||135-175 gm||160-190 gm|
|Medium breed Bull dog, Beagle, Cocker spaniel||70-100 gm||120-185 gm||185-265 gm||245-350 gm|
|Large breedLabrador,GermanSheperd, Rottweller||140-160 gm||300-325 gm||400-435 gm||525-570 gm|
|Giant breed Great dane, St. Bernard, Tibetan Mastiff||155-185 gm||340-410 gm||460-570 gm||620-770 gm||575-700 gm|
Frequency of feeding
|Frequency of feeding|
|1-3 Months||4-8 months||9-12 months|
|4 times daily||3 times daily||2 times daily|
Feeding of orphan puppies
An orphan is any young animal that does not have access to the milk or care of its mother either due to the death of the mother or sometimes the mother is unable to nurse the puppies due to agalactia or mastitis. Such pappies need artificial feeding from the very first day of life. So, milk replacer is provided to such orphan puppies by combining milk or eggs. Eggs are added to increase the protein and dilute the lactose concentration of the milk. The composition of bitch milk replacer for orphan puppies is mentioned below:
|Cow milk||800 ml|
|Vitamin A||500 IU|
|Vitamin D||2500 IU|
|Citric acid||4 gm|
|Steamed bone meal||6 gm|
Dose: for 8 puppies, 600ml/day for first 3 days, after which they should receive 1.2 liter/day
Feeding of adult or mature dog
Adult dogs or mature dogs are fed for the maintenance purpose so, they should be provided a complete and balanced diet which can support the maintenance stage so that adult dogs can be fed on a nutritional complete homemade diet or commercially available dry adult dog food as per the specification of AAFCO, 2014, NRC, 2006 or any other feeding standard specified
|Adult stage of dog|
|Small breeds||Medium breeds||Large breeds||Giant breeds|
|10 mon-7 yrs||1 -7 yrs||1.5-7 yrs||2-7 yrs|
Homemade diet for adult dogs
|Categories||Body weight (Kg)||Cooked cereals||Meat*||Green vegetables||Milk|
|Small breeds Pug, Pomerian, Dachshund||5||100||50||50-60||100|
|Medium breeds Bull dog, Beagle, Cocker spaniel||15||200||100||80-100||100|
|Large breeds Labrador,GermanSheperd, Rottweller||30||450||150||100-150||—|
|Giant breed Great dane, St. Bernard, Tibetan Mastiff||60||700||200||200-300||—|
*The meat portion may completely be avoided by including 1-2 eggs and pulses/ oilseed meals.
Feeding guide for Adult dogs fed dry dog food
|Small breed Pug, Pomerian, Dachshund||190-210 gm|
|Medium breed Bull dog, Beagle, Cocker spaniel||230-380 gm|
|Large breed Labrador,GermanSheperd, Rottweller||570-620gm|
|Giant breed Great dane, St. Bernard, Tibetan Mastiff||650-790 gm|
Feeding frequency once in a day
Feeding of pregnant bitches
The gestation length in bitches is of 63 days and can be divided into two distinct phases. More than 70% of the fetal growth will occur after the first 5 weeks of pregnancy, and weight gain is usually minimal before 40 days after its start during the last 3–4 weeks of gestation the fetuses will grow rapidly, leading to a bodyweight increase of 15–25% and energy requirements will increase to 1.25- to 1.5-fold maintenance so, feeding of a balanced diet containing 22% proteins, 8% fat, 1% calcium 0.8% phosphorus and 4000 kcal ME/kg DM should be fed to the pregnant bitches as several meals daily because of the abdominal distension caused by the gravid uterus. Also, it is recommended to supplementation the bitches with 5mg folic acid daily to reduce the incidence of cleft palates in newborn puppies. It is essential that folic acid supplementation is initiated as soon as the bitch comes in oestrus since the medullary tube closes during the first part of gestation.
Feeding of lactating bitches
Lactation lasts approximately 7–8 weeks in dogs with a peak milk production three to four weeks after parturition. The amount of milk produced depends upon many factors (e.g. litter size). For example, German shepherd bitches can produce up to 1.7 kg of milk/day at peak lactation. A high amount of energy is required to sustain this physiological process. On average, bitches will consume 1–1.5 times their maintenance energy requirements during the first week of lactation, two times maintenance during the 2nd week, and 2.5–3 times maintenance during the 3rd and 4th week post-partum. In dogs, early studies reported that bitches with four puppies fed diets containing approximately 4000 kcal ME/kg DM had little or no weight loss during the entire period of lactation, while bitches fed a lower-energy density diet (3100 kcal/kg) lost weight. The most convenient way to reach these nutritional requirements is to offer free-choice feeding of with a highly digestible nutrient-dense diet (e.g. diets formulated for growth or performance). In addition, as milk is comprised of 78% water, the dam’s water requirement increases drastically during lactation. Water should always be offered ad libitum.
Feeding of Geriatric dogs
As a general rule, dogs more than 7 years of age, may be considered to be ‘‘at risk’’ for age-related problems. The ageing process is influenced by breed, size, genetics, nutrition, environment factors so, balanced feeding can play an important role in controlling the rate of the ageing process by improving the quality of life of old dogs and preventing some pathologies associated with age (renal diseases, obesity, rheumatism, dental pathologies, cardiovascular disorders). The three leading non-accidental causes of death in dogs are cancer, kidney and heart diseases According to studies conducted so far cardiac diseases are the second most prevalent cause of death in dogs.
Nutrient need of Geriatric dogs
The main objective of geriatric nutrition is to optimise the quality and the length of life and to minimize diseases. Because of reduced physical activity and the changes in body composition, the energy requirements of geriatric dogs are lower (on average 10–20% less) than adults. In general, dietary fat levels between 7 and 15% DM are suggested for old dogs. An increase (>1%) in polyunsaturated fatty acids (n −3 and n −6 series), which are essential components of cell membranes, is recommended in diets for geriatric subjects.
Most commercial foods of geriatric dogs or pets contain a reduced concentration of dietary fats and calories. Protein requirement increases in old animals but high dietary protein can increase liver and kidneys fatigue. The optimal protein content is around 16 % DM. For this reason, it is important to use protein sources with high digestibility and high biological value. The inclusion of essential amino acids in the diet can improve the health of older dogs. A reduction in the level of sodium and phosphorus in diets for old dogs as compared with other adult subjects (0.2–0.4 and 0.4–0.7%, respectively) could be beneficial to avoid heart and renal diseases. In contrast, an increase in zinc levels (>80 ppm) is suggested. Zinc is an essential micronutrient for the maintenance of an effective immune response. The levels of some antioxidants like vitamins E, C, carotenoids, flavonoids could also be increased in the diet of aging dogs. The level of fibre (>5%) in the diet of geriatric dogs can be increased to reduce the energy density of the diet Increased levels of dietary fibre may be important in older dogs with constipation, but a high concentration of structural carbohydrates can decrease the digestibility of the complete diet and have negative effects on the health of colon-rectum.
Feeding of Sick dogs
The liver is the central metabolic organ of the body. It is involved in the digestion, metabolism, and storage of many nutrients. The liver is also the site of the synthesis and detoxification of numerous substances. The dog with hepatic dysfunction, the goal for nutritional management is primarily supportive since the dog is at risk for developing malnutrition patients are often anorexic and vomiting causing decreased food intake. They may have impaired digestion, absorption, or metabolism of nutrients. They frequently have increased protein catabolism with reduced protein synthesis. Yet their nutrient requirements are equal or sometimes increased compared to healthy dogs.
The calorie intake of the patient should be adequate; this will not only promote hepatic repair and protein synthesis but also minimize the catabolism of endogenous tissue that generates ammonia. Protein plays an important role in hepatic regeneration. Therefore a good amount of protein is required. However, in end-stage of cirrhosis protein should be reduced in the diet.
Homemade diet for liver disease
|Corn oil||2 tsp|
|Iodized salt (KCl)||½ tsp|
Cooking directions: All ingredients except the eggs can be combined and cooked with the rice. The eggs can be stirred into the rice during the last few minutes of cooking or hard boiled and added to the cooked rice mixture. Give one multiple vitamin/mineral supplement per recipe portion fed per day.
Diabetes Mellitus: The most common form of in dogs is insulin dependent diabetes or type I diabetes which occur when the pancreas is incapable of producing or secreting insulin. Insulin injections may be needed to control the hyperglycemia with certain dietary management like quantities of fibrous or Complex carbohydrates should make up more than 40% of the calorie because digestion of complex carbohydrates provides glucose to the blood stream at a slower rate then simple carbohydrates. Dietary fat content should be reduced with inclusion of high quality protein as per the requirement of dogs generally a dry type dog food formulated for maintenance or for less active adults is appropriates for diabetic pet and should be offered as a several meals in days . Inclusion of green vegetables, bran-enriched chapatti, skim milk in the diet also helps in maintaining low blood glucose level
Chronic kidney disease
The objective of dietary management in renal failure is to lessen the metabolic demands on the kidneys and to diminish metabolic end products that cannot be readily excreted. Energy should be provided primarily by feeding relatively more digestible fat and carbohydrates and low protein diet (2g protein/kg BW) should be fed and phosphorus restricted to less than 0.04% of DM in the diet. Calcium carbonate/ calcium lactate is used to bind the intestinal phosphorus if needed to control the P level in blood. Provide supplemental water soluble vitamins if polyuria leads to excessive losses.
Pet owner should have a sound knowledge of nutrition and feeding of dog so, that he can provide a complete and balanceddiet to the dog for optimum growth, reproduction, immune response, health and general wellbeing. The balanced diet can either be prepared at home by utilizing available food resources or commercial available food can be fed depending upon availability and cost