Dog breeder’s books say the best food for a fine champion is fresh lean beef. But who can afford it? It is possible to be practical and still provide the most pampered pet with all the nourishment it needs.
It is even possible to provide an adequate diet with no meat at all: for example, today we can buy complete feeds based on vegetable protein, which look like biscuit meal but need only water in addition. However, these are not recommended as a staple diet.
Fresh meat is better given raw. In addition, provide some sort of roughage, stale wholemeal rusks, biscuits, dog meal. Fiber is necessary to help the passage of waste products through the intestine.
Fish, milk, eggs and vegetables are other useful basic foods, but remember that any new food should be introduced gradually. A meal should be of roughly equal parts of meat and of vegetables and cereals for an adult dog. Variety is important, because that way you are more likely to ensure adequate supplies of vitamins and minerals.
Feeding a dog based on weight
The ideal amount of food is just enough to keep a dog in hard muscular condition. You should be able to feel his ribs beneath a thin layer of fat just under the skin. Weigh your dog once a month after giving him roughly the same amount of food every day. If he starts gaining weight, although already fully grown, he is being fed too much. If he loses weight, despite good health, he is underfed.
It is better to underfeed slightly than to give your pet too much. A dog’s appetite should be kept keen. If an obviously healthy and well-fed dog will not eat what you know is a good, palatable and varied diet, then do not tempt him with special titbits: let him go without until his next meal is due. He will eat when he is hungry and a healthy dog will not be hurt by going short now and then.
A dog will usually eat all the food he needs in 10 minutes (and often in two). If he is given too much it may remain uneaten after this period. It is always best to remove it and offer no more till the next meal is due, when fresh food should be given.
Manufacturers of canned dog foods provide helpful tables of the amounts required by various breeds of dog. The general rule for calculating how much food your dog needs is to allow 15g of food per day for every 450g he weighs, with perhaps less for an older dog.
½ to ⅔ of that ration should be lean meat, the rest being made up of cereal foods and perhaps a few vegetables or table scraps. Thus a dog weighing 9kg needs about 285g of food a day, 140g to 200g of which should be meat.
For bitches in whelp, food requirements escalate vastly, and all animals need more food in cold weather.
Most dogs are basically greedy and will over eat if given the chance. Pampered house pets often get too many little feeds between meals: filling them up with cakes and doggie chocolates only shortens their lives and causes them to suffer increasing discomfort.
If a dog is overweight it is almost certainly because he is being given too much carbohydrate or fat, for which a dog does not have an enormous requirement. If such foods are reduced, or even practically eliminated from the diet, then the body will convert stored fat into energy and so lose weight.
Exercise accelerates the process of breaking down fat reserves, providing the nice healthy appetite worked up is not satisfied by a further gluttonous intake of stodgy food.
In some cases obesity is not the result of any great abuse of food but simply a matter of heredity, or even illness.
When embarking on the thankless task of slimming your fat dog, first make sure that the source of the problem is not ill-health. Then gradually increase the protein content of the diet and start to supply energy giving foods only sparingly.
It is wrong suddenly to enforce a crash diet; reduction must be gradual and accompanied by an improvement in quality. It is important to ensure that the animal is otherwise in good health before you start depriving him of food. Over a period of several weeks, a change should be noticeable.
If the revised diet is maintained, this change ought to be permanent.
Because the dog’s digestive system is different from ours, working more slowly he does not need as many meals as we do. One meal a day for an adult dog is adequate, though it may be preferred to give two, a light morning meal and more substantial evening meal which will encourage him to settle down for the night. Small breeds of dog are certainly better fed twice a day.
It is important that a dog’s meals are given at regular times so that a firm pattern is established right from the start. It is better not to feed him at the same time as the family: if he starts to associate human mealtimes with food for himself he will only be a nuisance. Never encourage him to beg at the table. Apart from getting in the way he will only be fed all the wrong things.
The important rules in feeding are cleanliness and regularity. It is bad to feed an animal after strenuous exercise when he is overheated and tired. Allow a half hour rest so that he will be in a condition to digest his food properly.
Finally, it is wise to let one person only be responsible for a dog, and this is the person who should give him all his meals.
Healthy Foods for Dogs
Here are 12 healthy foods you can add to your dog’s diet:
1. Cereal Foods
A basic feed for an adult dog should consist of approximately equal quantities of meat and one of any of the whole grain cereal foods listed. If cooked meat is used, which does not provide much of a chew, it is advisable to use a crunchy cereal food with it, such as the first three on this list.
Dog pellets, dog biscuits, wholemeal rusks; stale wholemeal bread, dog meal, cooked brown rice, flaked maize, barley kernels, cooked oatmeal porridge (good and warming in winter) or any other cooked whole grain cereal food.
Wholemeal flour is used in some of the recipes below (when the cooking time is short it should be previously baked).
A tablespoon of one or more of the following may be added to a meal two or three times a week: onions, green outer leaves from cabbage, spinach or boiled leeks, carrots, parsley, runner beans, celery, lettuce. Avoid potatoes and turnips. If used raw, vegetables should be very finely chopped, or liquidized.
Stocks may be used on their own, they are useful for a dog recovering from an illness, and they are also suitable for moistening dog meal and other dry cereals. Salt and other spices and flavorings should not be used.
4. Basic meat stock
Any unwanted raw or cooked bones are suitable for this, as well as cooked or raw skin, gristle and trimmings of meat, offal or poultry. Never feed small or brittle bones to your dog, as they are liable to lodge in his throat.
It does not matter if the meat is fatty as excess fat may be skimmed off afterwards. Simmer in unsalted water, just over 1 liter water to 450g bones for as long as possible on a low heat with the lid on.
Most of the flavor will be extracted from the meat in the first two to three hours of simmering, though more gelatin and calcium will be drawn out of the bones and meat if they are boiled longer.
After cooking, carefully remove all bones and bone chips, best done by straining.
5. Fish Stock
Any discarded fish bones, heads and skins may be used for this: your fishmongers may be only too happy to get rid of them. Proceed as for the meat stock.
6. Beef and Egg
Any oddments of raw or cooked beef are suitable. Simmer in 1.5cm of stock or broth for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in an egg (which need not be beaten first). Mix well and return to the heat for 3 minutes.
Take about 450g of scrag end of lamb and a calf s foot, both cut in pieces. Place in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover, bring to the boil and simmer for two hours. When almost cool, carefully remove all bones.
8. Liver and Egg
Cut 115g of liver into strips and dip in beaten egg. At the bottom of a greased oven-proof dish, place a slice of stale wholemeal bread. On this lay the strips of liver and a sliced hard-boiled egg.
Cover with a second slice of bread. Pour over a cup and a half of water or stock mixed with a dessertspoonful of wholemeal flour. Cover and bake in a moderate oven for an hour. This may be served as it is or with just a small amount of extra cereal food.
Chop the brains up fairly small and mix with a beaten raw egg and enough wholemeal flour to cause them to adhere together. Mix well.
10. Fish Heads
Boil the fish heads in enough water to cover them until the liquor forms a jelly when cooled. Allow to cool to blood heat and remove all bones.
11. Cottage Cheese and Meat
Cottage cheese, which is low in fat, is a good protein food. If your dog likes it. Try mixing 1 or 2 tablespoons with his meat ration, especially if it is a meat or canned food he is not particularly fond of, the cheese may add some interest for him.
12. Convenience Foods
Mix a can of dog food (one with a high meat content) with an equal quantity of dog meal. Suitable leftovers may be added, and (especially for young dogs or small breeds) the meal may be moistened with warm milk, stock or broth.