We are what we eat, we are told. And this is also true of our fury friends. But what exactly should we be feeding our Scotties?
A dog needs 37 essential nutrients to stay in good shape, and balancing the correct amounts of zinc and iron, for example, is very tricky. Canine nutritionists can’t agree amongst themselves what types of food are best for dogs, let alone what the best percentage split is between key nutrients. Whether you feed your dog a premium commercial food, a raw food diet or prepare homemade meals, it is vital that we as dog owners understand the fundamentals of canine nutrition.
Maintaining a low-fat content is particularly important for the wellbeing of Scotties.
The balance of dietary requirements will vary throughout your dog’s lifetime and according to their condition of health. You should also consider your dog’s lifestyle. Working pets require different ratios of proteins and fats in their diets than lap dogs or sedentary house dogs. Pregnant and whelping bitches will need specially balanced food. Ask your vet for guidance.
Absolute no no’s: never feed a dog: onions, grapes in any form, macadamia or walnuts, chocolate, garlic, raw potato or any green part of potato or tomato. Never give a dog a cooked bone and always supervise them when they are eating raw bones. Raw bones help clean teeth, and provide fibre, nutrients and entertainment.
Always check the label on any dog food for the best balance of essential ingredients (see end of article for more detail).
Difficult as it maybe, there are some general principles we can follow:
“Feed your dog the highest-quality, most organic food you can afford.”
Highly processed food (usually the cheap commercial dog food) causes irritation and imbalance in the gut flora, which is integral for positive mood and good mental health. Essential nutrients contribute to better digestion, lower risk of diseases, strong immunity, improved mobility, increased energy, and activity – leading to overall good physical and mental health. Food allergies in dogs can manifest in hives and itchy skin.
“Water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and amino and fatty acids – all in balance.”
Water makes up more than half of an adult dog’s body weight and even if they lose only 10% of it, they can die. So, it’s vital your dog always has fresh, clean water available.
“28% protein in a puppy’s diet, only 18% protein for an adult dog. Low-protein diets have a positive effect in reducing fear and aggression.”
Proteins can be found in fish, meat and eggs (so again choose organic where you can). Levels of protein in the diet can also affect dogs’ behaviours. It is generally assumed that 28% protein in a puppy’s diet, and only 18% protein for adult dogs. Researchers have concluded that low-protein diets have a positive effect in reducing both fear-based territorial and dominance aggression.
“If you want to get your Scottie to twelve don’t give it over 10 per cent fat content.”
Fats are an excellent source of dietary energy and help keep your dog’s skin and hair healthy. The majority of dry dog foods contain approximately 9-14% fat. If your dog is prone to weight gain, look out for foods with no more than 10% fat. The fat should also come from a named source, avoid generic ‘animal’ fat. Fat also serves as a source for essential (unsaturated) fatty acids that dogs can’t manufacture:
- Linoleic acid
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for all body functions and are needed to process other nutrients. Carbs power the tissues in your dog’s body and help keep your dog’s intestines healthy. When your dog eats fruit, grains and vegetables, they get sugars, starches and fibre.
Minerals and vitamins are only needed in small amounts, for many of the chemical reactions in your dog’s body, such as building bones and keeping them strong. Your dog can get all the vitamins and minerals they need in ‘balanced’ dog food, including vitamins A/D/E/K/B-complex vitamins/calcium/phosphorus). Dogs don’t have to have vitamin C in their food because their bodies make it. When they eat nutritious food, your dog doesn’t need vitamin or mineral supplements. In fact, giving your dog supplements can be dangerous.
“Always check the label.”
If you elect to feed your dog commercial food, here’s a summary of what to look for and what to avoid when you’re examining the labels.
- Reputable manufacturers will make it really easy for you to reach them.
- Standalone dog foods need to say they are ‘complete’ not ‘complementary’.
- A good quality dog food will list all the ingredients by their specific name, rather than vague descriptions of ingredients like ‘meal’ and various ‘derivatives’ which indicate low quality.
- If you can go organic: A pre-packed product can only be labelled as organic if at least 95% of the ingredients are organic.
- Percentages: The percentage of the following must be listed:
- % of crude proteins (28% for puppies, 18% for adults)
- % of crude oils & fats (10% max for Scotties)
- % of crude fibre
- % of moisture in the product when it exceeds14%
- % of crude ash (5-8% in dry and 1-2% in wet food)
- Protein: High-quality dog foods tend to contain more meat. The higher up the list of ingredients the meat is, the more it contains. If you see poached salmon listed as the first ingredient, you’ll know that dog food has more salmon than any other ingredient on the list. Dog food that says it is with salmon must contain at least 4% salmon.
- Fats: most dry dog foods contain approximately 9-14% fat. Scotties’ need less than 10% fat. The fat should also come from a named source, avoid generic ‘animal’ fat.
- Carbohydrates: labels don’t need to state what percent of carbohydrates the food contains. Instead look for whole fruit, vegetables and whole grains which contain the entire grain kernel (eg rice rather than rice flour or bran).
- Ash – don’t panic: Ash isn’t something that is added into the mix – it only refers to how much mineral would be found if the food were actually incinerated, which of course it’s not.
- Look for natural preservatives like tocopherols (Vitamin E) and Vitamin C, or antioxidants like rosemary extract.
- In the case of allergies, look for a food that only contains one source of meat, protein or grain (single source) to make food trials easier.
- Avoid: all by-products (from meat, refined grain products and gluten); meat, animal, vegetable derivatives; added sweeteners (which are usually listed as grain fragments); generic animal fat; artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, propylene glycol; and artificial flavours or colours.