In today’s dog food market, you not only find puppy and adult foods, but also senior foods and diet foods. Also on the shelves are bags of dog food specifically formulated for toy breeds, large breeds and giant breeds. This is quite a selection of food types and can be very confusing. So, what do you do? I hope to explain the differences and remove some of the confusion so you can make the right choice for your dog. This article will give you the right information you need to make the best diet decisions for your dog.
Up until a few years ago, the only dog food available for our companions were regular and puppy formulas. The puppy food was generally coated in a white substance, which made you think it might be milk. Then senior diets came on the horizon. These typically contained higher amounts of higher fiber and less protein. A similar formula was made for weight loss diet. These also included higher amounts of fiber, less protein, and less fat.
To further confuse us, or fill us with fear, special diets were developed for large and giant breeds. These formulas, depending on the brand, contained less or more protein and less or more calcium. Moreover, while I am guessing here, the toy breed dog diets were simply made with smaller pieces of kibble designed for the smaller mouth.
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At the end of the day, let’s put the marketing hype aside and examine some of the real facts.
- All dogs are the same on the inside, regardless of their size or age. In other words, all have the same jaw, teeth, digestive tract and nutritional needs. While larger dogs grow slower than toy breeds, they still have the same nutritional needs.
- Lower protein does NOT slow down growth or protect bones or joints. The fact is, puppies and seniors BOTH need MORE protein, not less.
- While calcium may be an issue, especially with too much calcium, reducing it is harmful and adding TOO much is equally harmful. All dogs have the same requirement for the proper calcium to phosphorous balance. This article offers some helpful resources at the end and emphasizes that calcium to phosphorus needs are the same for all dogs. They also emphasize the need for D3, which helps calcium absorption into the system, and to NOT overfeed a large growing puppy:
- Senior dogs need MORE protein than adult dogs. High quality, bioavailable protein helps protect the heart, kidney and liver function in senior dogs. You also need to avoid high fiber diets for senior dogs, as they rob them of protein and they struggle to digest fiber as dogs do not have the ability to process or ferment fiber well enough. A good article on that is found here:
- Toy breeds (typically dogs under 15 pounds) have the same requirements as larger dogs. The one difference is that toy dogs grow and mature faster and often need smaller, more frequent meals due to their fast metabolism. Some toys breeds can have problems with hypoglycemia on one or two meals a day. I recommend 3-4 meals daily if possible, and they need slightly more food than medium to giant dogs. The general recommendation is 2%-3% in body weight daily, but for toy breeds, it is often more like 5%. They just burn calories faster due to their metabolism.
Important points to remember: Spaying and neutering often changes hormones and metabolism in dogs. Spayed and neutered dogs are prone to weight gain because of this. Rather than put them on a weight-loss formula, which robs dogs of valuable protein and fat, just feed slightly less – about 10% less – AND do your work by walking them daily to help keep the weight off.
My best advice is to feed a raw or home cooked diet. You can monitor the ingredients and this diet is ideal for all life stages (puppy, adult, senior) and sizes of the dog. If I want the dog to lose weight, I reduce the fat in the diet. The protein in these diets is very bioavailable and helps protect the dog’s heart, liver and kidney health and also helps senior dogs retain their muscle mass.
So, what is the answer? All ages and breeds have the same mineral requirements. All have the same calcium/phosphorus requirements. Puppies and seniors need a bit more protein for growth and organ protection. Where do you get the best protein? A fresh diet, naturally! That would be a home cooked or raw diet, or at the very least, a 50% fresh to 50% kibble diet. Need your dog to lose weight? More exercise and less fat in the meal, which is easy to do with home cooked or raw. Do you worry about joint issues in your large or giant breeds? Feed a regular diet, but do not over feed!.
Good supplements to add?
- Berte’s Fish Oil Capsules, one per ten to twenty pounds of body weight daily, limit of 6 for the large and giant breeds
- Berte’s Immune Blend. This blend contains good probiotics, vitamins A, B’s, C, D3 (great for helping with the calcium uptake and healthy bones) and E, along with l-glutamine (helps keep a healthy intestinal lining). Half dose for healthy dogs and puppies, full dose for immune compromised and ill dogs.
- Special vitamins for the aging dog includes fish oil capsule, acetyl carnitine and the Berte’s Immune Blend.
Please Remember, all ages of dogs get the same diet as long as the protein has high bioavailability (digestibility, which means fresh and is animal based), do not OVER FEED, and only reduce a diet by 10% to start for weight loss. For puppies and seniors, it is most important they get a lot of high quality, good animal-based protein. Raw diets that contain 50% in raw meaty bones are naturally balanced. Home cooked diets need 900 mg of calcium carbonate or calcium citrate added per pound of food served. In addition, the Berte’s Immune Blend contains D3 to help this overall balance (calcium needs D3 to be absorbed).
Please remember to walk your dog’s daily during this very challenging time! The exercise will help you both and the walk and fresh air can help clear the mind and can be calming.