When it comes to nutrition, dogs are a lot like people. They’re omnivores, meaning they can live healthy lives while eating a variety of food. Meats, vegetables, and grains all can be a part of a dog’s diet. But also like us, dogs need balanced, moderately-sized meals that fuel their activities, not an overindulgent diet that will expand their waistlines and put them at risk of diseases like diabetes.
It’s important to know your dog’s needs and on this page you’ll find guidance around giving your dog a balanced nutritious diet and the type of food that you should ALWAYS avoid feeding them.
Know Your Dog’s Needs
How much you feed your dog mainly depends on three factors:
- Activity level
- Ideal weight
A young giant Schnauzer, for example, needs a lot of exercise and that means a lot of food to keep him going. A tiny, 10-year-old Chihuahua, though, may be more accustomed to spending her day in your lap rather than building up a big appetite.
Dog food labels often provide some guidance on portion size, but your vet will know best how much food your dog needs to maintain a healthy weight. Diet should be based on a dog’s condition, and it should be tailored to the dog. Happy Hounds recommends that you discuss your dog’s individual needs with your vet.
One of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy coat is nutrition. Hair is mostly made of protein.
The better your dog’s food, the better your dog’s coat. Foods that are rich in essential fatty acids, such as OMEGA 3, are particularly good for your dog’s coat. If your dog is showing signs of trouble with his coat or skin, his food may be the reason.
Dog nutrition is an area most dog owners overlook. Unfortunately, the dog food industry has taken advantage of this. Most dog owners either shop for bargain dog food or simply take the advice of someone else, like a friend. However, if you do just a little bit of research on dog nutrition yourself, you’ll be able to make your own informed decision about which dog food is the best to suit your own particular needs and budget.
It would be interesting to see what dogs would say if they could talk. Would they tell us what they thought of us? What they really like to do? Or just how they are feeling? Dogs can’t communicate with us in the way other humans can which means they can’t tell us if they aren’t well. As owners then it is up to us to determine how healthy our dogs are, and weight plays a big part in this.
In order to help your pet maintain a healthy and consistent weight it is important to keep regular checks. Every boarding, day-care and grooming customer will have their weight recorded so this can be tracked over time to help you manage their overall body condition – and it’s one less trip to your vets!
Dogs suffer from many health problems when they are overweight, just like humans do. While increased exercise is an obvious part of the solution, here are some things you can do for your dog:
Controlling Food Intake
If your dog needs to lose a small or medium amount of weight, you can usually cut back on his current dog food slightly (and reduce or cut out the snacks) to help him lose weight.
Dogs can safely lose about 2 percent of their body weight per week. This is not much weight so you won’t see a dramatic change in your dog’s appearance. If your dog weighs 50 pounds and he loses 2 percent of his body weight, that means he would lose 1 pound per week. (Adjust the amount you aim for him to lose each week as he loses. Two percent of 49 pounds is only .98 pound.)
Switching to Weight Management Food
If your dog needs to lose a medium or large amount of weight, in that case you would do well to choose a weight control dog food to help him lose some pounds. Weight control dog foods should still provide your dog with all of the nutrition he needs, though they are typically lower in fat. They have fewer calories than typical dog food. Many of them use carbs to help dogs keep a full feeling so they won’t be hungry on fewer calories. They may contain vegetables as a source of carbs and fibre. They usually have a higher amount of fibre than ordinary dog food. But they should still contain plenty of good meat protein. Keeping these things in mind, look for weight management foods with good quality ingredients.
Reduce or cut out the snacks. Instead of high-calorie snacks you can give your dog pieces of carrot or apple as a treat. If your dog still seems hungry when you’re trying to help him lose weight, you can add some green beans or another vegetable to his meals. Veggies like this will help your dog feel full without adding fat or calories. It’s an old trick used by dog owners and breeders for years and years to help dogs lose weight.
Measuring Food Intake
You can also help your dog lose weight by measuring his food instead of guessing how much you are feeding him. Keep him on a good feeding schedule. And if you are free feeding, switch to set meal times. Remember that the feeding amounts suggested on dog food labels are just suggestions. If your dog is getting too large (or losing weight), you should adjust the amount of food you feed.
Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Dog
Most dogs love food, and they’re especially attracted to what they see us eating. While sharing the occasional titbit with your dog is fine, it’s important to be aware that some foods can be very dangerous to dogs. Take caution to make sure your dog never gets access to the foods below. Even if you don’t give him table scraps, your dog might eat something that’s hazardous to his health if he raids kitchen counters, cupboards and rubbish bins. Click here to find out the common types of food that you should avoid feeding your dog
|Item to Avoid||Reason to Avoid|
|Avocado||Avocado leaves, fruit, seeds and bark may contain a toxic principle known as persin.
In some dogs and cats, mild stomach upset may occur if the animal eats a significant amount of avocado flesh or peel. Ingestion of the pit can lead to obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, which is a serious situation requiring urgent veterinary care.
|Bread Dough||Raw bread dough made with live yeast can be hazardous if ingested by dogs. When raw dough is swallowed, the warm, moist environment of the stomach provides an ideal environment for the yeast to multiply, resulting in an expanding mass of dough in the stomach.Expansion of the stomach may be severe enough to decrease blood flow to the stomach wall, resulting in the death of tissue.
Additionally, the expanding stomach may press on the diaphragm, resulting in breathing difficulty. Perhaps more importantly, as the yeast multiplies, it produces alcohols that can be absorbed, resulting in alcohol intoxication.
Dogs showing mild signs should be closely monitored, and dogs with severe abdominal distention or dogs who are so inebriated that they can’t stand up should be monitored by a veterinarian until they recover.
|Chocolate||Chocolate intoxication is most commonly seen around certain holidays—like Easter, Christmas, Halloween and Valentine’s Day—but it can happen any time dogs have access to products that contain chocolate, such as chocolate candy, cookies, brownies, chocolate baking goods, cocoa powder and cocoa shell-based mulches.
The compounds in chocolate that cause toxicosis are caffeine and theobromine, which belong to a group of chemicals called methylxanthines. The rule of thumb with chocolate is “the darker it is, the more dangerous it is.”
White chocolate has very few methylxanthines and is of low toxicity. Dark baker’s chocolate has very high levels of methylxanthines, and plain, dry unsweetened cocoa powder contains the most concentrated levels of methylxanthines.
Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, the signs seen can range from vomiting, increased thirst, abdominal discomfort and restlessness to severe agitation, muscle tremors, irregular heart rhythm, high body temperature, seizures and death. Dogs showing more than mild restlessness should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
(Also Known as Ethyl Alcohol, Grain Alcohol or Drinking Alcohol)
|Dogs are far more sensitive to ethanol than humans are.
Even ingesting a small amount of a product containing alcohol can cause significant intoxication. Dogs may be exposed to alcohol through drinking alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine or mixed drinks (those with milk, like White Russians and “fortified” egg nog, are especially appealing to dogs), alcohol-containing elixirs and syrups, and raw yeast bread dough (please see the above section on bread dough).
Alcohol intoxication commonly causes vomiting, loss of coordination, disorientation and stupor. In severe cases, coma, seizures and death may occur. Dogs showing mild signs of alcohol intoxication should be closely monitored, and dogs who are so inebriated that they can’t stand up should be monitored by a veterinarian until they recover.
|Grapes & Raisins||Grapes and raisins have recently been associated with the development of kidney failure in dogs. At this time, the exact cause of the kidney failure isn’t clear, nor is it clear why some dogs can eat these fruits without harm, while others develop life-threatening problems after eating even a few grapes or raisins.
Some dogs eat these fruits and experience no ill effects—but then eat them later on and become very ill. Until the cause of the toxicosis is better identified, the safest course of action is to avoid feeding grapes or raisins to your dog.
Dogs experiencing grape or raisin toxicosis usually develop vomiting, lethargy or diarrhea within 12 hours of ingestion. As signs progress, dogs become increasingly lethargic and dehydrated, refuse to eat and may show a transient increase in urination followed by decreased or absent urination in later stages.
Death due to kidney failure may occur within three to four days, or long-term kidney disease may persist in dogs who survive the acute intoxication. Successful treatment requires prompt veterinary treatment to maintain good urine flow.
|Hops||Cultivated hops used for brewing beer have been associated with potentially life-threatening signs in dogs that have ingested them. Both fresh and spent (cooked) hops have been implicated in poisoning dogs.
Affected dogs develop an uncontrollably high body temperature (often greater than 108 degrees Fahrenheit), which results in damage to and failure of multiple organ systems. Dogs poisoned by hops become restless, pant excessively, and may have muscle tremors and seizures.
Prompt veterinary intervention is necessary to prevent death in these dogs.
|Macadamia Nuts||Although macadamia nut toxicosis is unlikely to be fatal in dogs, it can cause very uncomfortable symptoms that may persist for up to 48 hours.
Affected dogs develop weakness in their rear legs, appear to be in pain, may have tremors and may develop a low grade fever. Fortunately, these signs will gradually subside over 48 hours, but dogs experiencing more than mild symptoms can benefit from veterinary care, which may include intravenous fluid therapy and pain control.
|Mouldy Foods||A wide variety of moulds grow on food. Some produce toxins called tremorgenic mycotoxins, which can cause serious or even life-threatening problems if ingested by dogs.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to determine whether a particular mould is producing tremorgenic mycotoxins, so the safest rule of thumb is to avoid feeding dog’s mouldy food. In other words, if you wouldn’t eat it, neither should your dog. Promptly remove any trash or mouldy debris (road-kill, fallen walnuts or fruit, etc.) from your dog’s environment to prevent him from eating it. The signs of tremorgenic mycotoxin poisoning generally begin as fine muscle tremors that progress to very coarse total-body tremors and, finally, convulsions that can lead to death in severe cases.
Left untreated, these tremors can last for several weeks.
Fortunately, they usually respond well to appropriate veterinary treatment.
|Onions & Garlic||All close members of the onion family (shallots, onions, garlic, scallions, etc.) contain compounds that can damage dogs’ red blood cells if ingested in sufficient quantities.
A rule of thumb is “the stronger it is, the more toxic it is.” Garlic tends to be more toxic than onions, on an ounce-for-ounce basis. While it’s uncommon for dogs to eat enough raw onions and garlic to cause serious problems, exposure to concentrated forms of onion or garlic, such as dehydrated onions, onion soup mix or garlic powder, may put dogs at risk of toxicosis. The damage to the red blood cells caused by onions and garlic generally doesn’t become apparent until three to five days after a dog eats these vegetables. Affected dogs may seem weak or reluctant to move, or they may appear to tire easily after mild exercise.
Their urine may be orange-tinged to dark red in colour. These dogs should be examined by a veterinarian immediately. In severe cases, blood transfusions may be needed.
|Xylitol||Xylitol is a sweetener that is widely used in sugar-free gum, as well as in sugar-free baked products.
In humans, xylitol does not affect blood sugar levels, but in dogs, ingestion of xylitol can lead to a rapid and severe drop in blood sugar levels. Dogs may develop disorientation and seizures within 30 minutes of ingesting xylitol-containing products, or signs may be delayed for several hours. Some dogs that ingest large amounts of xylitol develop liver failure, which can be fatal.
All dogs ingesting xylitol-containing products should be examined by a veterinarian immediately