Nutrition works wonders

The quality of food makes a lot of difference to your pet’s health. The strength of your pet’s immune system, his resistance to disease and his quality of life all depend on the food that he eats.

Commonly home-made diet of meat and carbohydrate may be deficient of certain nutrients required for growth, good health, lustrous coat, strong bones and teeth. The simplest method of meeting nutritional requirement of dogs is to feed a fixed formula, complete and balanced commercial diet, designed and appropriately tested for dogs. Contrarily, a balanced home-made food may also be formulated.
Start early
Normal birth weight of pups depends on breed and ranges from 120-500 g. The growth rate is rapid in the first few months at an average of 2-4 g/day/kg of their anticipated adult weight. The puppies should be allowed to suckle mother’s milk within 10-12 hours of birth at least till age of four weeks. Early mother’s milk (Colostrum) has necessary antibodies and nutrients which protect the puppy initially. The puppies can be weaned from the mother by 4-6 weeks when they start eating food on their own. If the mother is not providing milk or mother’s milk is insufficient, puppies can be fed with commercially available pre-weaning food.
Feeding puppies
After weaning, small breed puppies should be fed 4-5 times and large breed puppies 3-4 times a day if they are fed with home-made food and 3-4 times for small breeds and 2-3 times for large breeds if they are fed with dry food. Dry puppy feed can be initially moistened with hot water
or milk for a  few weeks, if required. As the pup grows, he can be fed 3 times per day till 1 year and 2 times after 1 year.
Count the calories
Dogs require sufficient energy for optimal body weight, maintenance, pregnancy and lactation. Out of the six nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and fats provide energy while vitamins, minerals and water do not. Caloric requirement of the growing puppy per kg weight is more compared to adult dog. Energy requirement of dogs is ~40 kcal/kg body weight for adults, ~120kcal/kg for puppies and ~200kcal/kg for lactating females.
More protein for pups
Healthy adult dogs need protein ~3g of high biological value per kg body wt/day. Egg and meat have protein of
high biological value and digestibility compared to vegetable protein. Optimal diet should contain 22-25% protein for growing puppies and
8-15% for adult dogs. Most of the commercial foods contain protein of both cereal and meat source of 75-90% digestibility.
Fat essentials
Apart from providing calories, fat also improves the palatability of the food. Fats serve as carrier for fat soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K. Dogs have a dietary requirement of lenoleic acid (Omega 6), an essential fatty acid which is richly found in corn, safflower, sunflower, soya and evening primrose oil. Deficiency of linoleic acid may cause scaly, lusterless coat and reproductive disorders. Omega 3 fatty acids like linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) play a vital role in development of cardiovascular system, nervous system and retinal function. Linolenic acid is rich in flaxseed oil, soya oil etc, where as EPA and DHA are found in a variety of fish, especially fatty sea fish. Dogs’ diet should contain 5-15% fat for adults and 8-20% for pups.
Minerals in right ratio
Apart from calories, a dog’s diet should be supplemented with essential mineral nutrients. Major minerals required are calcium and phosphorus and these minerals are interrelated. Too less or too much of these minerals lead to bone abnormalities. Calcium and phosphorus deficiency along with low levels of Vitamin D3 results in rickets, soft bones and bend in the bones of the forelimbs due to the weight of the dog. Calcium and phosphorus in right balance is essential for formation of strong bones and teeth and Vitamin D3 is essential for absorption of Ca and P into the bones and teeth.
Minerals like Zn, Fe, Mg, Mn, Se, Na and Cl etc are essential in dogs’ diet in minor levels. Zinc improves growth rate and metabolism, maintains integrity of skin and hair, assist bone and cartilage development. Selenium, as an antioxidant, support protective action of Vitamin E by detoxifying peroxides and improves fertility and immunity. Iron prevents iron deficient anemia and Sodium and Chlorine helps in maintaining electrolyte balance. Usage of organic mineral supplements is advisable as they are more bio-available.
Vitamins are important
Apart from these nutrients, dogs’ diet may be supplemented with fat soluble vitamins  (Vitamins D and E) and B complex vitamins for normal health and growth.
Taking care of the elderly and obese dogs
Large breeds, especially aged and fat dogs, may require supplementation of Gluco-samine and Chondratin sulphate which helps in nursing of joint and bone problems. The dog food may be supplemented with yeast derivative mannan oligo-saccharides to promote healthy intestinal micro flora and to reduce pathogenic organisms in gut and these mannans are also a rich source of protein and B-Complex vitamins.
Thus keeping all these nutrients in mind, ensure that you feed a proper balanced diet to your pet.

Tips for feeding  

  • Dry foods are available with different kibble size for different growth stages which help in jaw development, maintaining healthy gums and teeth and also satisfies the puppy’s chewing needs.
  • Water is most important nutrient and at any given time, the dog should have access to adequate clean and fresh drinking water.
  • There is precise impact of environmental temperature on food intake which is more in winter as compared to summer.
  • Control the calories so that the dog is not malnourished and  he is slim and healthy. Excessive calories leads to more weight which causes shorter life span and joint problems in older dogs.

(Dr. Nagesh Reddy, M.V.Sc, is a full-time practitioner at J.P. Nagar, Bangalore and he can be contacted at +91 9886799989 or e-mail at nbreddy2003@yahoo.com)

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