Weight Management

If your dog is overweight, an easy way to help shed those extra kilos is to feed a light or weight management food.

One in three dogs is considered obese. This can lead to many health issues, including heart and respiratory problems, diabetes and arthritis.

Weight control foods have restricted amounts of calories and fat, whilst still maintaining the right amounts of protein, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Weight management foods ensure that your dog receives the right amount of nutrients, whilst losing weight.

Reducing portion size is not the only consideration for effective and sustained weight loss. In fact, your dog could feel hungrier and potentially eat more. Weight control foods are specifically designed to feed the same amount, with fewer calories per bite.

Skin and Coat

Many issues relating to coat and skin can be fixed by diet. Dogs have intolerance to various food, which can cause skin irritation and result in extreme scratching. Many dogs have a low tolerance to gluten and lactose. Foods that contain a good balance of the following can help with food related skin allergies:

  • Vitamin A – this fat soluble vitamin promotes the growth of healthy hair and skin.
  • Vitamin E – a natural antioxidant that will protect skin from damage.
  • B vitamins such as biotin – will help the body promote growth of new skin cells, and keep hair soft and supple.
  • Zinc and copper – these minerals are essential for healthy skin and hair, and deficiencies of either will cause hair loss and itchy and inflamed skin.
  • Omega 3 and 6 – support skin elasticity and a glossy coat.

Sensitive Digestion

Some dogs have sensitive stomachs. They are either genetically pre-disposed to it, or have a high level of anxiety, which causes stomach and digestive issues. Breeds such as Staffordshire Terriers, Boston Terriers, Boxer, German Shepherd, Basenji, Wheaten Terriers, Shar Pei, Rottweiler, Greyhound and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels seem particularly prone to stomach disorder and digestive issues.

Stomach issues often cause dehydration in your dog, which brings the risk of kidney and liver diseases. If left untreated it can compound into “dog IBS”, better known as Inflammatory Bowel Disorder (IBD).

There are simple ways you can change a dogs diet, to help with dietary sensitivity.

Using a food specially formulated for digestive health can help. These foods often contain:

  • Low fat to improve digestive function
  • Antioxidants to protect the delicate lining of the intestinal system
  • High quality, easily absorbed ingredients to ensure that all the nutrients they need are being absorbed
  • High quality, fermentable fibre, to ensure gentle digestion
  • Novel proteins such as duck or venison to reduce the likelihood of intolerances

Senior Dogs

As your dog ages, his nutritional needs begin to change. Generally, mature aged dogs need a diet that will help with joint support and the preservation of both skeletal and muscular health. Choosing the right food can relieve many of the symptoms of old age and keep your dog feeling fit and healthy for years to come.

  • Getting older results in a slower metabolism. Older dogs are more prone to putting on weight, which can in turn make for sore and aching joints. Senior dog foods will have fewer calories and less fat.
  • Digestive irregularities are common in older dogs, and so a food with fibre, prebiotics and antioxidants can help soothe an upset tummy.
  • Dental disease can become more of a problem with age. Some senior dog foods also contain dental benefits to ensure a healthy mouth.
  • Joint health becomes more important with age. Food with fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin will help alleviate joint inflammation.

A number of premium food manufacturers offer specific formulae for senior dog nutrition.

Picky Eaters

There is nothing worse than having to try and persuade your dog to eat. It’s not uncommon with a fussy eater to end up with a dog that needs a special dinner cooking every night. Here are some simple steps to start your puppy eating again:

  • Generally, picky eating stems from concerned owners mixing in tastier food when they refuse to eat.
  • It may be that you’re feeding your dog too often. Many dogs only need feeding once a day. They are designed to eat large meals infrequently, rather than little and often.
  • Pick up any uneaten food after 15 minutes. If they know they can come back to it later, they may hang out in case something tastier is coming.
  • You can try different brands of food to see if your dog prefers them, but the dog needs to trial a food with no other option available, before it can be said that he will not eat it or it does not agree with him.

Joint Health

It is an awful thing to watch your dog suffer from limited mobility and joint pain. There are things we can do to help alleviate any discomfort, inclusive of exercise and nutrition.

Nutrition is one of the key factors in dealing with joint pain and arthritis. Inflammation around the joint occurs when cartilage that is designed to protect it wears down – many ingredients can help ease this process and reduce the pain.

Look for a food that contains:

  • Fatty acids such as those found in fish oils. With anti-inflammatory properties, omegas 3 and 6 can reduce the pain and swelling.
  • Glucosamine – found in the shells of shellfish as well as animal bones, glucosamine has been found to help to repair the damaged cartilage.
  • Chondroitin – found in shark and fish cartilage, chondroitin can slow the degradation of the joint, as well as providing the building blocks to help repair the damage.

Many dogs are more susceptible to hip and joints problems, in particular giant or large sized breeds. Specially formulated large breed foods can help prevent the onset of these problems. Breeds to look out for are:

  • Great Danes
  • Mastiffs
  • German Shepherds
  • Labradors and Golden Retrievers
  • Rottweilers and Dobermans.

Smaller dogs often suffer from Luxating Patella. It is a fairly serious health issue in dogs, often causing them pain and discomfort. Although larger dogs like Labradors are also prone, it is primarily a smaller dog issue. This is a genetic disorder, causing the knee cap to “pop” off the knee. This condition can be helped with protein and omegas, just as for other joint problems. Dogs prone to this disorder are:

  • Mini & Toy Poodles,
  • Maltese,
  • Jack Russell Terriers,
  • Yorkshire Terriers,
  • Pomeranians,
  • Pekingese,
  • Australian Terrier & Australian Silky Terrier,
  • Chihuahuas,
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels,
  • Papillons,
  • Boston Terriers

Foods that are toxic to dogs

Many of our common foods are toxic to dogs and can cause anything from tummy upset to full blown neurological disorders.

Some of these toxic foods are::

  • Onions and garlic – these cause anaemia, or a lack of red blood cells, and will cause tiredness and a reluctance to move. Left over Bolognese or soups with stock in them are common causes.
  • Chocolate – dogs love chocolate, but it contains a chemical that dogs cannot metabolise. It will affect many areas of the body including the heart lungs, kidneys and the nervous system. If you believe your dog has ingested a significant quantity of chocolate, take him to the vet.
  • Caffeine – can also affect many areas of the body. Hyperactivity is the first symptom, followed by weakness, staggering and tremors.
  • Grapes and sultanas – although the exact mechanism is unknown, there are many accounts of poisoning from these fruits, in particular sultanas and raisins – simply because they are much more concentrated than grapes.
  • Xylitol – this sweetener is used in many things, in particular ‘sugar free’ foods. It is remarkably toxic to dogs and will cause low blood sugar and eventual liver damage.

Food Guarding

Some dogs display food guarding behaviours. It is important to curb these habits for several reasons. If your dog is aggressive around food, this creates a hostile environment for you and your family. Also, if the dog ever picks up something which will harm him if he eats it, it is important to be able to approach him and remove the item for his own safety.

Indicators for food guarding

Approach your dog’s bowl at quite a slow pace, and keep a look out for the following signs:

  • Stopping eating
  • Freezing where they are like a statue
  • Moving around the bowl so that they are between you and their food
  • Staring at you out of the corner of their eye
  • Growling or lifting the corners of their lips.

If you see him doing any of these things, stop where you are and leave him in peace for now – he’s communicating to you that he’s uncomfortable. Not listening will make the issue become more problematic and less easy to solve.

What To Do

We want to work towards them being happy to have you around their food, because they associate you with positive things

  1. At their next meal, be prepared with some of your dog’s favourite food, preferably something smelly and tasty like cheese or chicken.
  2. Approach their bowl slowly and stop just before they become uncomfortable. Don’t move any closer. Throw some of the treats towards the bowl as they are eating. Let them eat the treats, return to their regular food and then throw some more until they are finished.
  3. As he becomes more comfortable with you being there, you can move a little bit closer before throwing the food. Over time, he should be entirely happy with you standing next to him and his bowl, because having you there means treats.
  4. Now can you actively begin to crouch down and toss treats into the bowl. Allow him to take them from your hand, as well as trying a gentle pet on the back with more treats. Finally, you can move down and begin to actively touch their food, always remembering to reward him for being tolerant.
  5. It may seem as if you are rewarding him for the growling, but what you are actually doing is changing how he feels about humans near his bowl.

Diets for Large Puppies

Larger dogs tend to have a slower metabolism and more placid temperament then many smaller dogs, making them need a different type of diet, one lower in calorie and sometimes lower in protein.

  • Fat puppies are cute, but in large breeds, carrying too much weight or growing too quickly can cause a lot of problems. These problems can result in skeletal disorders and joint troubles. Try to feed the right amount of food that keeps them lean and trim – you should be able to easily feel their ribs with a thin covering of fat.
  • Mineral levels are also important – diets specifically designed for large breed puppies will have carefully balanced levels of calcium and phosphorus. An imbalance of these minerals is one of the prime causes of health problems.
  • Feed a diet specifically designed for larger dogs – a small breed kibble will have a greater number of calories per gram. You will need to limit the calories to prevent them gaining weight, whilst maintaining a balanced nutritional content in the food.
  • If you are using a raw food diet, make sure you have carefully researched and planned the nutrient content for their specific needs.

As a special note: Giant Breed dogs often require a special diet with lower protein then even large breed dogs. Their rapid skeletal growth rate, along with slower metabolic rate makes this necessary. Please ask for vet, or breeder advice, if you decide on a Giant Dog, like a Great Dane. Giant breeds are not technically adult size until they are 18 months to 2 years old.

Changing Diet

There are reasons to change your dogs’ food, including weight management, skin or stomach issues, or dental necessity.   Changing diet has a very strong potential to upset their digestion. There are ways to change the food whilst minimising this issue.

Slower is Better

it is better to transition them slowly from their old food to their new food. This means that you start out with adding only 10% new, mixed into their old. Over a period of 10 days, you can gradually increase by 10% each day, until you are feeding entirely their new food. So on the second day you would be feeding 20% new and 80% old, and so on.

Stop if You Have To

If your dog begins to show signs of digestive upset, such as vomiting or diarrhoea, then don’t move on to increasing to the next level of new food until it has resolved itself. And if your dog has symptoms for more than a couple of days, consult your vet.

Helping with Tummy Troubles

If they do begin to have some signs of digestive discomfort, there are a few things you can do to ease the transition. Offer smaller meals several times a day, instead of one or two large meals. Alternatively, mash in some cooked pumpkin or sweet potato into the food – both will help with firmer stools.