I should like to know a little more about the nutrition of dogs. Can you tell me the basic principles?
The nutritional needs of a dog come under two headings which can best be called the maintenance ration and the production ration. The former represents a bare minimum of feeding, which may be quite enough for the old dog lying in the chimney corner all day; the latter is for active dogs, or very active dogs like racing greyhounds or working hounds, which need a good deal of extra food to keep them going.
Before we can examine different methods of feeding dogs, we must know a little about the constituents of foods. Food is made up of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, not forgetting water, salts, and minerals. Vitamins are present in fresh food but can be destroyed by cooking in some cases. When dogs were still wild animals, they chose the food they required in the natural state, and were thus always certain to get what the body required. But nowadays dogs have to rely on the bounty of their owners and would receive punishment for helping themselves for the fowl yard when they felt they wanted a chicken. Therefore, owners must provide food that is certain to contain all that the dog needs for perfect health. Animals can live for a considerable time without water but suffer in health as a result of lack of water or water given only spasmodically. Therefore the first rule is to see that there is always a plentiful supply of clean water available day and night for your dog. Carbohydrates are chiefly needed for the production of energy; therefore some kind of biscuits or bread is essential in every dog’s diet. Although I have known dogs to keep healthy on a diet of meat alone, how long this would last, I don’t know.
Fat provides heat for keeping the dog warm, as well as energy, but excessive fat is bad for the dog and tends to give it a bad heart and other troubles.
A certain amount of fiber is necessary and helps the passage of waste products in the intestine, though dogs do need less fiber than other domestic animals. Therefore, never mash the dog’s food too much, which would produce a doughy mass in the intestine and cause trouble. Some hard food is essential for health.
Protein foods like meat and fish are used to build up muscle. If given in excess, the strain on the kidneys becomes too much and may cause illness. If too much protein is being decomposed in the intestines, it may cause diarrhea. Thus it will be seen that in every case feeding must be balanced for the good health of the dog. Dogs require concentrated food; they are not like cows, which have four stomachs and can regurgitate and chew again what they have eaten. A dog has only one stomach, which must not be abused. Half their diet should be of meat, with occasional changes to fish.
When puppies are being reared, remember that bitches’ milk is far richer in fats and casein than cow’s milk, and more closely resembles the milk of goats (which many breeders keep for this reason). Cows’ milk can be made more like bitches’ milk by gently simmering it and getting rid of some of the water.
Normally dogs need only two meals a day, at midday and at night. The biggest meal should always be at night when the dog has time to sleep and digest its food. Hounds are seldom fed daily. They get enormous meals three times a week and seem to keep extremely fit on this diet. It would not suit the ordinary dog-owner to feed his dog in this way, although it is quite a well-known custom to starve a dog one day a week. This I have never done, nor would I like to start it. I think regular mealtimes are most important in the life of a healthy dog. The saliva begins to flow at the usual time for a meal, and the digestive juices, if not employed, may cause digestive upsets. If a dog doesn’t get his expected meal, you are letting him down, and his faith in you cannot be as strong as it should be. I never let a dog down in any way if I can help it.
Some people feed puppies like human babies, and give them foods like farina, not to mention orange juice and apples. This suits the puppy very well but is not a necessity. Good raw meat, milk, whole meal bread or biscuits, vitamins, and an occasional egg, and your dog will get everything he needs.