While puppy foods are all about providing the right balance of ‘building block’ nutrients to promote healthy growth and development, adult foods are much more focussed on achieving and maintaining general good health. But as our dogs progress through their adulthood, their dietary needs will inevitably change so it’s important for us owners to have a good idea on what changes might occur and how the diet might have to be adjusted in response.
Neutering, for both male and female dogs, can dramatically alter the dog’s hormonal balance which can have an enormous impact on their nutritional needs.
In the weeks and months following neutering, the metabolic rates of many females and some male dogs begin to decline meaning they need less calories from their diet. Often, if they continue to receive the same amount of food, neutered dogs will begin to gain weight or will start to experience tummy upsets as the digestive system struggles to deal with the surplus food.
Not all dogs are affected by neutering in the same way so it’s always best to wait and see what changes occur before making any dietary changes but if you do notice either of the above signs of overfeeding, you should start to gradually reduce the amount of food you’re giving until a healthy weight is achieved.
Active and working dogs
Exercise burns calories so the more active your dog is, the more calories the diet has to provide. Some particularly active dogs might need almost double the amount of calories per kilo of body weight compared to their more sedentary counterparts and if they don’t get enough they may start losing weight.
If you notice your active or working dog is struggling to maintain their body weight you really have two options: feed more of the same food or switch to a more energy-dense food.
Simply increasing the amount of food can certainly do the trick. Try upping the grams per day by 5-10% for a couple of weeks and see if the dog’s weight begins to move back towards the ideal. If not, you can try increasing the amount a little more in the subsequent weeks and so on. Eventually though, the volume may get so high that it begins to overwhelm the digestive system and cause tummy problems like runny poo and/or vomiting.
The other option is to move to a higher energy food. Working dog foods have a higher energy density than regular dog foods to help provide fuel for the additional activity. There are a wide array of working dog foods available, ranging from the very good to the very poor so be sure to look for one with a good nutritional rating.
You could also add high energy additions to the diet in the form of meat or fish. As with any changes, introduce these gradually and keep an eye on how they affect the dog’s weight, digestion and condition over the subsequent weeks.
Small and toy breed dogs tend to have higher metabolic rates than their larger cousins. This means that they often benefit from higher energy foods. Many dog food manufacturers produce specific small breed diets but where they are not available, puppy foods can provide a good alternative. Puppy foods are higher in energy and dry puppy foods have smaller biscuits which many small breeds prefer. If in doubt, ask your pet food manufacturer for guidance.
Unlike smaller dogs, large and giant breeds mature later, often not reaching their full size until 15-18 months of age, and then reach old age much quicker, with the average life span of many giant breeds being only 6 or 7 years. Because of their rapid ageing process, and because of the weight they carry, special attention must be paid to the joints of larger dogs. Most large breed dog food formulas contain added supplements to help support the joints like chondroitin, glucosamine, MSM, green lipped mussel extract and so on. You can also buy these supplements separately and add them into your dog’s regular diet.
As dogs get older their activity levels naturally drop and their metabolic rates begin slowing down. Feeding amounts therefore generally need to be brought down slightly as the years go by. When this doesn’t happen, many older dogs begin putting on weight or experiencing digestive problems. Again, if you spot these signs, try feeding a bit less until the dog returns to a healthy weight and healthy digestion.
All sorts of factors can influence the dietary requirements of your dog from what season it is to stress and even how well heated your home is. It’s therefore important to regularly check your dog’s weight, digestion (looking at the poo is the best way) and general condition to make sure everything is as it should be. Too much or too little weight or any form of ongoing digestive upsets are the tell-tale signs that the diet is no longer quite right and adjustments should be made. Tune in next time when we’ll be taking a look at feeding senior dogs!
Author: David Jackson, All About Dog Food