Providing a balanced diet for your dog is very important to keep him healthy. Whether as a puppy to contribute to his positive growth, or as an older dog to help him fight off potential illnesses, a dog will need specific vitamins and nutrients in sufficient quantities to ensure a healthy life.
Carnivore or omnivore, what is a dog’s true diet?
By definition, a diet defines the way an organism can feed itself, and will have a major influence on the animal’s behavior. If it is a strict carnivore, it will have predatory instincts, and conversely, if it is a herbivore, it will have prey instincts.
The easiest way to define the diet of an animal is to observe its jaw, and more precisely its dentition. In the case of the dog, it has molars capable of tearing raw meat, as well as canines (or fangs), which are used to easily penetrate the flesh of a prey to kill it when hunting. This is called a carnivorous jaw.
Moreover, the dog is a member of the canidae family, a family that includes wolves and foxes. Naturally, the dog is a strict carnivore.
However, we can ask ourselves the question, because of the domestication of the dog by man for several thousand years now, if its diet has not evolved. Scientific studies have shown that while a strict carnivore only needs animal proteins and lipids (animal fats) to maintain good health, the dog also needs carbohydrates (substances present in cereals) to maintain an optimal digestive system, as well as vitamins.
All these data show us that the dog, throughout its history close to man, has evolved to become what is called a non-strict carnivore. He will therefore need mainly animal proteins and lipids to stay healthy, but also, in smaller quantities, vitamins and carbohydrates.
Giving your dog a balanced diet
As we have seen above, the dog will mainly need animal proteins, fats and, in smaller quantities, carbohydrates and vitamins. His diet must therefore include all these nutrients, and for this, there are two solutions.
The easiest solution is to feed your dog industrial food. Whether it’s kibble or food, this type of food is easily available in supermarkets or specialized stores. Moreover, this type of food is accessible to all, even if the price often reflects the quality of the product.
However, you should not give your dog just any type of kibble. Indeed, if you give a large dog, for example, kibble for small breeds, he may suffer from protein and lipid deficiencies in the long term, which are less present in this type of kibble. The same is true for puppy food, which contains much more protein than food for older dogs. So be sure to provide the right food for the right type of dog to give him all the nutrients he needs.
Homemade food (the home ration)
Feeding your dog homemade food is possible, but it takes a lot more time and usually costs more. Moreover, you should not give him anything thinking that it will be good for him because it is not industrial. Let’s not forget that food for humans is often too fatty, too salty or too spicy to suit our pets.
In fact, each type of dog will have its own nutritional needs, depending on its weight, age and state of health. In the case of a homemade food (also called “home ration”), we must take the time to find out exactly what our dog needs. To do this, consult a veterinarian or even a dog food specialist, who will be able to give you all the advice you need.
Most often, a balanced household diet consists of fresh meat at every meal (or sometimes fish, especially salmon for dogs with a tendency to have skin problems), which will contain the necessary lipids and animal proteins. For vitamins and carbohydrates, the addition of rice (always served cold) and a few vegetables (such as zucchini or well-cooked green beans) will give him what he needs. For the quantities, you’ll have to consult a professional who will be able to give you the right values according to your dog’s needs.
Dietary transition: a practice to be taken seriously
There are times in a dog’s life when he needs to change his diet. This may be due to age, illness or simply because his previous diet was not suitable. However, this change should not be rushed, as your dog’s digestive system is not yet accustomed to the new food he will receive, and this could cause digestive problems, such as severe diarrhea.
Therefore, a transitional feeding will be necessary, which consists of getting your dog’s digestive system used to the new type of food. This is a practice most often used for a kibble-based diet.
The dietary transition is done in six days. You will need to have the dog’s old food in your possession, as well as the new food. The first two days, two thirds of the old food and one third of the new food should be given. The next two days, half and half, and the last two days, two thirds of the new food and one third of the old food. The dog’s digestive system will have been able to get used to the new food and will be protected from any digestive problems.